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Niger Delta Congress responds to former President Olusegun Obasanjo 

Olusegun Obasanjo

The Niger Delta Congress, NDC, has replied former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his claim that the oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria and not the region.

Speaking through its National Spokesperson, Barr. Ovunda C. Eni, the group said: “On Tuesday 28th December 2021, the Niger Delta Congress received a copy of the open letter from former President Olusegun Obasanjo to Chief Edwin Clark. It is solely on the basis that this public conversation is about the Niger Delta that has warranted this response. 

“Firstly, from paragraphs 4 to 12, President Obasanjo spent time emphasising the constitutionality of what has been the forceful expropriation of the land and resources of the Niger Delta, failing to see the absurdity in centring his arguments on legalities which have all been conceived by members of the larger ethnic nationalities of which Obasanjo belongs to, as a means of controlling the resources of the Niger Delta. 

ALSO READ: I don’t hate Niger Delta: Read Obasanjo’s open letter to Edwin Clark

“In paragraph 13, President Obasanjo, lacking self awareness, not only revealed and admitted that, in fact, it was the control of the land and mineral resources of the Niger Delta that served as the fuel driving both sides during the civil war, but indirectly asked the Niger Delta people to be appreciative of the outcome of the war because our situation would’ve been worse off if the Biafran side had won. We appreciate these revelations, and although they aren’t new to us, in these uncertain times, it is important for the Niger Delta people to take note of this fact that its territory and people are seen by the larger nationalities as war booty won and/or lost and this thinking is what has and continues to influence the relationship between the nationalities of the Niger Delta and the larger nationalities; not neighbours, not brothers, not comrades, not friends, but war booty. 

“In paragraph 18, the former President made it known that he has been a champion of equity and fairness in Nigeria, and in his bid to ensure this fairness and equity believes that it is necessary to ‘suppress’ ethnic nationalities, or ‘tribes’ in his own words, so the state can emerge. What he failed to reveal here but which can be deduced from previous paragraphs is that suppressing ‘tribes’ in a state is, in reality, nothing more than an attempt to create a state where smaller nationalities are silenced, or annihilated so their lands and resources are annexed and controlled by the larger ethnic nations who also make up the state. We have seen the ruthlessness with which this suppression, as a strategy, has been applied, most importantly with the genocide in Odi which left over 10% of the population dead in 1999; a genocide perpetrated by Nigerian troops when President Obasanjo himself was the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. President Obasanjo stating that he would continue to push for the suppression of ‘tribes’ in the Nigerian State until he ‘breathes’ his ‘last,’ is Obasanjo pledging allegiance to a genocidal ideology. Such audacity can only come when a man has successfully carried out a massacre on the scale of Odi. This does not only show the failure of the Nigerian State he swears by, but also shows the complicity of the international community he hobnobs with and whose interests in the Niger Delta he has served, and importantly, this also shows the failure of the leadership of the Niger Delta to stand by and for our people. This itself is noteworthy to the masses of the Niger Delta. 

“In subsequent paragraphs, the former President went back in time to cite colonialism and its legal constructs in different ways to derive legitimacy for the injustice that has been the relationship between the Niger Delta and what is currently known as Nigeria right from as early as the colonial era. As interesting as this attempt to gaslight the Niger Delta is, what is poignant for the NDC is the subtlety in insinuating that what we currently have operable in Nigeria is an extension of colonialism with the larger groups as the new colonial masters. To be clear, we choose to not be colonised, be it by any group or an amalgamation of groups and interests. 

“In all these, most important to the NDC is paragraphs 20 and 21 of the letter wherein Obasanjo revealed moves he and some other collaborators from within and outside the Niger Delta are making to once again short-change the people of the Niger Delta as has been done within the Nigerian context since 1960, and which he has played an integral part of from the civil war till date. In these paragraphs, the former President spelt out the work being done by the Committee for Goodness of Nigeria (CNG) which he is a part, and where apparently, representatives of the Niger Delta are proposing an 18% derivation in what will be recommendations made by the CNG ‘to those who can take action’ as part of moves to prepare a new constitution before the 2023 elections. This is insulting to the Niger Delta, and at this point, it is important to state clearly that the agitations of the Niger Delta people since time immemorial have revolved around economic and political autonomy—or resource control— which is contained in the different declarations and charters that have emanated from the region since the Rumuomasi declaration of 1965.

“At the just concluded South South Zonal Public Hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution in Port Harcourt on 27th May 2021, the NDC presented its recommendations on behalf of the ethnic nationalities of the region to the Senate Committee led by Senator Betty Apiafi where, amongst other demands, a cap of at least 50% was placed on the issue of resource control or derivation as the case maybe. We would like to, for avoidance of doubt, reiterate, that the Niger Delta peoples will not accept any document as law that refuses or limits our right to the total control of our land and resources. We make this as a point of note or recommendation to the so-called ‘those who can take action’ who were referred to by Obasanjo, to clear whatever doubts that may arise on the stance of the Niger Delta, and to prevent future denials or feigning of ignorance.

“The Niger Delta Congress has already begun the process of collating signatures of the representatives of the different ethnic nationalities of the region for the Niger Delta Peoples Charter which asserts the right of the people of the region to control their resources and determine their socio-political future within or without the Nigerian state.

“The NDC would like to use this opportunity to state clearly that it will resist any move to foist any constitution that does not take cognizance of the demands of our people as captured in the Niger Delta Peoples Charter adopted on 8th October 2021 at the Niger Delta Peoples Conference in Yenagoa,” it concluded.

By Chairman Ojumiri

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