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Internal Colonialism In The Niger Delta?

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The heartless, irascible child who keeps his mother awake all night long will himself not know sleep throughout the night. Yoruba proverb. In all the essential details, the Niger Delta in the last half of a century since Nigeria became one of the big oil exporting nations of the world remarkably resembles the Portuguese ad Belgian colonial possession in Africa in the heyday of Western imperial domination of our continent; in particular, the Niger Delta most especially resembles the then called Belgian Congo. Compared to the French and British colonies, in these Portuguese and Belgian colonies, Africans were far more exploited, far more arrogantly and brutally governed. In the economic sphere, the colonial territory was literally and effectively mined for all its most highly valued natural resources and nothing much was put back to develop there land and the people to whom it historically belonged. In fact, in most cases, the land and the peoples I these Portuguese and Belgian colonies were left far worse by the super-exploitation of the colonizers than they had been before the arrival of the colonial overlords and their mining and trading companies. In the political sphere, the kinds and levels of self-governance and self-rule that the British and the French gradually introduced in their colonies were near absent in the Portuguese and Belgian colonies; the only kind of self-rule that was tolerated was any kind that could make the exploitation of the land, the resources and the people more effective, more profitable for there colonizer. Any Nigerian who does not know that these are the same sort of things that have been happening in our Niger Delta in the last fifty years is grossly and tragically uninformed. In the last fifty years since oil prospecting in the Niger Delta not only became big time oil exportation but also became overwhelmingly the country’s main source of revenue, physical and environmental degradation of the region has risen to levels unknown in any other apart of the planet: much of the land laid to waste and made less and less available for arable farming; the waters and the air polluted; the villages, towns and cities made some of the rosst areas for infrastructures, employment opportunities and security of life and possessions in our country. And with regard to the sphere of political empowerment, since Nigeria struck it rich through the oil extracted from the region, the Niger Delta has remained one of the most marginal areas of the country in terms of effective distribution of power and influence within the nation’s political class. In some other aspects, our Niger Delta is also comparable to another colonial experience in Africa of the long night of the colonization of our continent, that of the so-called Bantustans of South Africa I the period of apartheid control of Black South Africans by the White minority Afrikaner and English communities. These Bantustans were the poorest areas of South Africa, with little or no infrastructures, little or no employment opportunities, little or no access to the economic and political centers of the national territory. Of course nothing like the forcible control of movement into and out of the Bantustans that the Whites imposed on Blacks in apartheid South Africa exist in the case of our Niger Delta, but there is a clear similarity, in each of these two cases, in the fact of severe economic, material impoverishment compared tot eh rest of the country. Considering all these details and realities of the shocking similarities of the Niger Delta to the worst cases of Western colonial exploitation and domination of Africa, it would seem both reasonable and justifiable that many individuals and organizations that are struggling for the just cause of the Niger Delta should –as they have done and no doubt will continue to do – use the term internal colonialism to describe the tragic experience of the region in the last fifty years. Which is why it is very surprising that many knowledgeable and progressive Nigerians from other parts of the country have either been indifferent or even hostile to the use of the term “colonialism” both to describe what has been happening in the Niger Delta in the last fifty years and to mobilize action to end it. What is implied, what is at stake in this indifference to or refusal of the term “internal colonialism” with regard to the Niger Delta, especially now that the region is in the explosive, violent epicenter of the nation’s struggles to come to terms with our crippling endemic political and economic crises and problems? How far, and with usefulness will comparisons between the Niger Delta and the worst cases of Western colonialisation of our continent take us? These are the questions I wish to address in a series of essays over the next few weeks in this column. I personally think the use of the term, together with the comparisons it enables with all those cases of Portuguese, Belgian and Afrikaner colonial possessions and practices in Africa re very, very helpful in that many things that are otherwise extremely baffling, extremely strange in the politics and economy of our country become comprehensible and therefore hopefully more amenable to progressive change once we clarify the grounds of the comparison. But I am mindful of the fact that, for many reasons, many Nigerians would find the comparison unacceptable. Since I believe that much is at stake and much will be gained if the issues involved in this comparison are clarified, it is with great seriousness and objectivity that I will explore some of the reasons for the refusal of, or the indifference to the use of the term “internal colonialism” with regard to the Niger Delta. Colonization, whether it is “internal”, external, or “neo” – as in neocolonialism – has been one of the most persistent and tragic economic, political and cultural means of domination in the modern history of hteneire planet in all its constitutive hemispheric regions in other words, colonization provides much of the explanation for why some nations and peoples became “developed” and “advanced” while others became “underdeveloped” and “backward” in the course modern political and economic history, Colonialism achieved its “classical” or prototypical form during the period of Western imperialist domination of the world, an age that is now clearly and effectively over, even if its ramifications and legacies are still very much with us. With the passing of that age, it has become far less easy or even logical to invoke the term “colonialism” in cases which seem to reproduce some of the essential or prototypical features in contexts other than Western domination of non-Western parts of the world as in the case of the Hutus and the Tutsis in Burundi and Rwanda, Darfur and in Sudan – and the Niger Delta in Nigeria. In next week’s column, I shall directly address some of the reasons why many Nigerians especially self-identified Nigerians, would be indifferent or hostile to the use of the term “internal colonialism” with regard to the Niger Delta. But for now, let me conclude this week’s essay with some observations on why the comparison is helpful and hwy therefore all progressive Nigerians should at least pay some attention to it. These are preliminary observations that I will give further elaboration and clarification in the course of the series. The over-centralised state, with its seat of ower in the almighty presidency in Aso Rock, is possible at all because of the super-exploitation of the Niger Delta. If this super-exploitation of this particular region ends, the over-centralised state which is so resistant to true federalism will not last one year, at the most. The over-concentration of wealth in a few hands in our country, one of the most extreme, obscene and unproductive in the world, is also dependent on the super-exploitation of the Niger Delta. How all this relates to the issue of internal colonialism will be the subject of next week’s column, together with all the objections of the comparison of the Niger Delta crises to all those abominable cases of Western colonialism at its very worst on our continent. Biodun Jeyifo

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Opinion

Tribute To Colin Powell

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The brotherhood of man is not determined by blood relationships, but by the celestial latitudes and life-waves that human consciousness operates – Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881)

O’ Hare Airport, Chicago, USA, December, 1980. Visiting America from London, even with a return-ticket but with not much cash in hand, and even after a confirmation from my host, as well as my status as a post-graduate student, US Immigration personnel insisted on deporting me back to London, from O’Hare Airport. Then stepped in a tall, handsome man of awe-inspiring countenance, intervening in the situation and asking politely if I was from Barbados or Nicaragua. The man whom I told that I was a Nigerian studying in U.K, turned out, after many years, to become US Secretary of State, Colin Luther Powell.
Born April 5, 1937, Powell was reported dead, October 18, 2021. A 4-Star General of the US Army, he became a politician and served as the 65th United States Secretary of State. During the George W. Bush administration in 2008, Powell was succeeded by Ms Condoleza Rice, another African-American that did the Black race proud. He also served as the 16th US National Security Adviser (1987 – 1989) and the 12th Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff (1989 – 1993).
The Powell family moved to USA from Jamaica when Colin was young and then attended the New York City Public School and the City College where he had a bachelor’s degree in geology. He was a professional soldier for 35 years and held the highest military position in the Department of Defence, during which time he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989. Also Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq (1990 – 91) .
What is known as the ‘Powell Doctrine’ was a US military policy which limited American military activities within the framework of American national security interests. Especially vital in that policy is the provision of conditions of ‘Overwhelming force and widespread public support’. His tenure as the 65th US Secretary of State was controversial because of inaccurate justification from America’s Iraq War in 2003.
My American Journey is the title of Powell’s autobiography (1995). As a prolific writer, despite his busy schedule and activities, Powell wrote other books: It Worked for Me … being lessons which he learned practically in life, and Leadership (2012). In line with the political philosophy of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Powell shares the truth that: “A country that allows its rulers to revel with impunity and reckless abandon in the worst form of corruption and misrule, cannot hope to be blessed with the grace of light”. Light shuns dark places!
Nigerian retired Generals should, like Colin Powell, invest in writing motivational books on how to build up their country, rather than building hotels in each of the state capitals. One retired General Jibril Musa Sarki, in his Born to Rule, threw some light into the lifestyle of the top hierarchy of the Nigerian military. What great differences, reading Powell’s books!
After retirement from public services, Powell pursued a career as a public speaker, addressing and motivating diverse audiences across America and other places across the globe. His mission was to spread the philosophy of how to turn personal adversities and liabilities into rewarding assets and legacies. As Chairman of America’s Promise — the Alliance for Youths, that non-profit organisation is dedicated to mobilising people to build up noble character and personal competence. No idleness!
Rather than sponsor and finance gangs of bandits who cause mayhem across the country, let retired Nigerian Generals emulate the life-after-retirement of General Powell. What men do, especially in old age, is usually a reflection of the values and ideals which they stand for and cherish. No matter how a man may have lived in the past, there is nothing more demeaning in old age than to pander to narrow, mean, ethnic and clandestine interests. Especially when such agenda do not add value to the status of collective humanity, then such project cannot be a worthy or ideal legacy to foster.
Retired General Powell is so popular, especially among the American masses, that even when he did not seek to contest an election in 2016, he received votes from Washington D.C. for the Office of President of the United States. He received numerous awards and decorations in the military circle, both in America and foreign countries, as well as civilian awards, including Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Citizens’ Medal, etc.
Powell was such a role model that students in schools and universities would invite him to come to give inspiring lectures in campuses. Hence, several schools and universities honoured him across the country. Neither did he look back on his Jamaican root, but inspired and encouraged struggling youths, except that he would not condone hashish or any form of gangsterism or hooliganism. Naturally, with age, the human body begins to degenerate towards feebleness. Powell was treated for blood cancer, and died October 18, 2021, from complications of COVID-19, close to 84 years of age.
No human is perfect; neither does it pay to wear the garment of sanctimony. It is also true that “Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water”. But Powell’s virtues would live in brass and gold, largely because of his concern for those that the establishment seek to oppress. Powell was neither an Immigration officer nor an advocate, but a ‘busy-body’ who played an advocacy role for a distraught student at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, USA, in 1980.
The pride of USA lies in picking and using the best, no matter where found, but the plight of Nigeria, in the words of one Abagba Ndubuisi: “Mediocres who otherwise should hide away in shame now become not only leaders, but cynosures and political fulcrums… We should come out of our lethargy rather than watch apathetically from the side while a few gluttons glibly talk us into another war, with their seemingly arrogant and trenchant dispositions” (Daily Sunray of 1/9/94). Colin Luther Powell, please stride on in the hereafter as you did here on Earth – boldly!

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

BRACED For A New Start

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It is exactly 21 days since governors of states in the South South geo-political zone of Nigeria rose from a BRACED Governors’ Council meeting in the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, with a communiqué outlining some bold and far-reaching resolutions taken by the body.
One of the decisions as contained in the press address by the Delta State Governor and Chairman of the South South Governors’ Forum, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, is the floating of a regional security outfit. Recall that, at one of its recent meetings, the Forum had mandated the BRACED Commission to draw up a plan for the establishment of such regional vigilance group.
For those who may not know it, BRACED is an acronym coined from the first letters in the names of the six states that constitute the zone; namely Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta. It embodies the collective determination of these states to pursue a vision for the social and economic development of the region with the aim of providing better living standard for its people.
This Commission is an outcome of recommendations made at the maiden South South Economic Summit by the chief executives of these states at the Tinapa Complex in Calabar, Cross River State, in April 2009. Seriake Dickson, Chibuike Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, Liyel Imoke, Adams Oshiomhole and Emmanuel Uduaghan, respectively, were the sitting governors then.
Records have it that an agreement for the Commission’s establishment was signed in 2011 – one year after the opening of its headquarters in Port Harcourt and the appointment of Ambassador Joe Keshi as the Director General. This was also amidst concern that the individual states were yet to enact laws backing the agency’s establishment.
Simply put, BRACED was raised to foster the integration, socio-economic and infrastructural development of the South South region. It was to achieve this by adopting the principle of comparative advantage as to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and waste of resources among member-states. For the avoidance of doubt, agriculture, industrialisation, power, roads, education, human capacity development, tourism and environment were some of the principal areas of interest. Also among its ideals was the peer review mechanism so that no member-state was left behind.
Indeed, a keen look at the Commission’s initial programmes would leave no one in doubt of its serious intentions. However, it is also pertinent to point out that, besides the few alternating jamborees it hosted in the names of summits and retreats, only little else can attest to its nearly 11 years of existence.
In terms of funding, it is doubtful that BRACED received anything meaningful from its member-governors before partisan politics tore them apart. To be sure, the defection of then Governor Amaechi from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 had resulted to bickering in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) of which he was the chairman.
It was alleged that Amaechi often capitalised on his NGF position to deride President Goodluck Jonathan at every forum, including BRACED events. And so, he needed to be checkmated at all cost. This led to Governor Akpabio’s emergence as the arrowhead of plans to stop Amaechi’s return for a second NGF chairmanship tenure. The rest, as they say, is history. But more than anything else, the bad blood this created among the region’s governors became so apparent that it destroyed the basis for any more BRACED summits.
Until 2015 when Governors Nyesom Wike, Ifeanyi Okowa, Udom Emmanuel and Ben Ayade were elected for Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, respectively, it is doubtful if the Commission ever got a mention in any South South government house.
Permit me to point out here that while a similar agency in the South West, known as the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), cannot be said to have been unaffected by its own internal politics, after all Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State was never of the dominant Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); but such diversity hardly hindered the collective pursuit of their regional development agenda. A recent demonstration of this was by Seyi Makinde of Oyo State who came to power through the PDP; the rest five governors of the region being of the APC. As reports had it, when it came to contributing funds and equipment for the newly founded regional security outfit, Amotekun, no governor rose to the occasion more than Makinde – not even his Lagos counterpart. He was said to have donated more than his state’s fair share of some of the items on demand.
My point here is that the current South South governors have acted in the region’s best interest, going by their present resolve to revive the BRACED Commission. The only fear is that none should act in a manner that would dampen this new spirit. Though, as things stand now, any sincere mind would be wondering what the governors hope to accomplish for the Commission in the 18 months remaining for most of them; and considering that a new election season is already by the corner.
Yes, it is widely believed that with clearly defined objectives, funding and sincerity of purpose, a lot can still be achieved even in less than one year. If only the governors will afford the institution a legal backing and subsequently assign it funding provisions in their respective appropriation bills; they will have established a foothold for it.
Surely, the BRACED blue print was drawn up when the nation’s economy enjoyed better health. Recall that in their Asaba meeting of 2017 where they resolved to revive BRACED, the South South governors were said to have also agreed to build integrated transport facilities in the region through a balanced development of airports, roads, rail and waterways infrastructure. Even as good as this had sounded, one would assume that the governors may have foreseen a progressive post-recession recovery. That not being the case, the next best option would be for the state chief executives to go for the low-hanging fruits in the rather robust blue print.
BRACED has never been a bad concept. Apparently, what its Commission requires in order to blossom is a good embrace from its owner-states. The initial outing was obviously truncated by overzealousness, exuberance and unnecessary politicking. Let us pray and hope for a better demonstration of maturity this time around. At least, to allow for an eventual take-off.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Opinion

Policing The Police

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But for my intervention a few days ago, a woman in distress, alone in her car and a police man, with finger on the trigger of the gun he had, and sitting in the front of the woman’s car, would have had a forced labour. What was the woman’s offence? – “Driving one-way”! The police man was so inexperienced and naïve that he was unaware of when a monitoring device was inserted in his uniform. A pregnant woman driving into the Rivers State University (RSU) campus was held up by an armed policeman for driving “one way”, resulting in the police man getting into the car, amidst traffic jam.
The policeman’s name-tag indicated the part of the country he came from and his behaviour spoke eloquently about his level of perception. Despite telling him that the person he was interacting with was a CSP, the policeman insisted on all of us driving to his “superior officer”. The empathic superior officer who knew the identity of the intervening civilian, advised the gun-carrying policeman to make an apology and let the matter end there, sans brown envelope. The distraught woman drove into a clinic less than fifteen minutes after.
This matter is being brought to public attention because of rising estrangement between the police (who should be friends of the public) and the civilian population. The sad image of the police has become such that many of them wear the uniform only in their offices when on duty, so as not to be identified as policemen or women. Similarly, ex-police officers feel ashamed to admit that they were once police officers. What accounts for the odium?
Firstly, to cut off one’s nose, to spite one’s face, is a great folly. Despite the “no victor, no vanquished” slogan after the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), the best-trained and most highly experienced police officers in Nigeria were cleverly frustrated and weeded out from the job. They were replaced with quickly promoted, poorly trained and local authority police personnel. The result was a drastic fall of the status and professional efficiency of the Nigeria Police. So, we deserve what we have currently, since a smooth transition was not allowed to take place. You can’t have your cake and eat it!
Secondly, there are glaring evidence and proof of “toxic” postings and deployment of police personnel across the country, whose ulterior motives are not lost to discerning Nigerians. Recently there was a private investigation involving statistics of deployment of divisional police officers in the southern part of Nigeria. The result of that enquiry was quite instructive, nor could the motives of such postings have been accidental. One flaw in our management system is that we do things believing that no eyes are seeing or watching. A good example of this obtuseness is the inability of a policeman to be aware of someone installing a monitoring device on his uniform. Yet he was busy threatening, finger on trigger!
Thirdly, long years of military rule obviously altered the psyche and attitude of Nigerian masses. Soon, the belligerence and attitude of impunity, which are associated with military culture became a standing lifestyle of the Nigerian masses, generally. This aberration has not ceased to be a devouring cancer in Nigerian social culture. The results of this anomaly include growing militancy, brashness and lawlessness bearing a common name of indiscipline.
What we call corruption in Nigeria has a unique history and development, and, like a cancer phenomenon, infects and seeks to destroy remaining healthy parts of the society. Without mincing words, the civil war provided great and unstoppable opportunities for various aberrations to have strong foot-hold and anchor in Nigeria. The euphoria of victory did not allow what lurked behind that national experience to be discovered. The military, unwittingly became the midwife for the enthronement of a cancerous anomaly.
A few people, who saw the dangers ahead, did propose the adoption of diarchy or combination of military and civilian government as a solution to the Nigerian dilemma. When that proposal could not be accepted by the Nigerian masses, the military top hierarchy devised what it knew best — setting up of a booby-trap! As astute strategists and tacticians, the military allowed Nigerians to have a “toxic” 1999 constitution, designed by astute spin-doctors. Like the gift from voodoo masters, Nigerians received a parting zombie-gift that transmogrified into our current political economy. Serves you right!
The standard-bearers of the “Greek-gift” of the outgone military, are the Nigerian security and intelligence apparatus, which politicians and their various parties cannot do without. There is also a need to give the hint that the matter was not solely a Nigerian affair, thanks to global oil and gas politics and capitalist economy. When we add these antics and shenanigans to the growing influence of Islamic global brotherhood, what we have can be interpreted best with reference to Afghanistan experience.
Apart from contending global power blocks and interests, the Nigerian political economy is caught in the web of vicious global politics and economy. With oil and gas as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, we should be asking why, for example, the value of the Nigerian money, the Naira, should continue to decline; Why over 80 percent of Nigerians are poor and hungry, in the midst of obscene affluence for a clever few! Why is there growing state of insecurity in Nigeria, and why such hypocrisy! Are there no sponsors of insecurity! Why! Who?
With a gun-carrying policeman earning less than N80,000 as monthly salary, and having perhaps two wives and five children to cater for; how does he cope with the current economy? Are some parts of Nigeria not bearing a heavier burden of supporting the nation’s economy? Would a policeman not lobby to be posted to a greener pasture or juicy duty-post? In the peculiar economy of the nation, can those who hold the power of command and postings not be selective who is posted where? Why are there oppositions to restructuring, sane dialogue and state police, among other agitations?
Policing the police would require more than mass protests against police brutality, public complaints commission, etc. Neither would monthly lectures for police personnel and pontification connected there with, help matters. Apart from total restructuring and overhaul of the entire security network, all personnel should be posted to serve in their home states for the next two years. Later the police, security and intelligence organs of the establishment must face some probe. Defective structures collapse eventually! Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

By: Bright Amirize

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