Title: Step-by-Step Strategic Re-orientation, Reformation and Rehabilitation of Cultists, Militants and Restive Youth
Author: Albert K. Horsfall
Reviewer: Boye Salau
Volume: 95 Pages
Since the discovery of oil in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State in the 1960s, the Niger Delta region has been a key player in the economic development of Nigeria. Ironically, the positive impacts of this oil resources to Nigeria have neither earned the Niger Delta the desired political justice and recognition, nor brought about the much expected socioeconomic development to the region. This political injustice and economic deprivation which the citizenry suffer in the face of environmental degradation has therefore led to a long-drawn agitation in the Niger Delta.
Although, political agitation in the Niger Delta could be traced to 1934 when some Niger Deltans, mostly Ijaw elites in Lagos demanded a State for the Rivers people, it was not until 1966 when Isaac Adaka Boro led a band of youngmen to declare a Niger Delta Republic that agitation through armed struggle started. Since then, armed struggle has been a major tool of demanding for political sovereignty and economic justice in the Niger Delta.
At least, three of these armed struggles which claimed hundreds of lives stand tall: The Gideon Orkar’s abortive coup of 1990, the late Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Ogoni rights struggle in 1994 and the 1999 Odi Massacre in Bayelsa State which was preceeded by the 1998 Kaima Declaration.
Today, these agitations which could be said to be anchored on social justice have assumed a more deadly, criminal dimension. Some criminal elements, aided by some corrupt politicians and anti-social groups, have taken the advantage of the violent milieu in the region to cash in and satisfy their selfish, criminal interest. This has made many Nigerians and the international community to dub the Niger Delta a crisis-ridden zone where militancy, youth restiveness and other acts of lawlessness have become the order of the day.
Those who share this opinion have strong indicators to support their arguments. Within the last 10 years alone, several cases of acts of militancy and youth restiveness have been recorded in the region. Worst, all the measures, mostly half-measured and cosmetic, taken by the Federal Government, including military actions, to tackle this monster have yielded no positive result.
Given the failure of all these measures to nip in the bud the acts of insurgency in the Niger Delta, the questions now are: What is the lasting solution to the Niger Delta problems? Or should the Niger Delta continue to exist under the ambush of extraneous, criminal elements? These are some of the questions Albert K. Horsfall’s Step-by-Step- Strategic Re-orientation, Reformation and Rehabilitation of Cultists, Militants and Restive Youth tries to proffer answers to.
Considering Chief Horsfall’s profile and experience as a lawyer, security expert, administrator and elder statesman, one can conclude that he stands a better position to proffer lasting panacea to the longdrawn violent conflicts and crises in the Niger Delta. And in fairness to his approach, Horsfall does not deal with the issue at stake in the realm of theories. He leads in a practical way. He metamorphoses what happens around him, his experience and efforts as a former Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta and chairman of the Rivers State Social Rehabilitation committee, to plausible literary text.
Horsfall’s book traces the historical path that led to the nightmare the Niger Delta people are experiencing today to the region’s long standing agitation for political and economic autonomy, poor and bad political leadership with its attendant problem of high rate of unemployment, general lack of social and economic opportunities in the region, socio- infrastructural paralysis and environmental degradation. 1t also blames the problem on the docility and unnecessary cowardliness of the Niger Delta populace in the face of injustice, as well as on poor and bad upbringing of children in the region which, according to the author, plunge many of the youths into cultism, militancy and other social vices.
Horsfall highlights how the Niger Delta nationalism struggle was hijacked by those he described as “extraneous, self-seeking elements such as cultists and thugs supported by politicians and anti-social groups” to further their own selfish net. He writes: “Many of them latched on to the central purpose of Niger Delta nationalism and used it to further their selfish interest”.
One can not but agree with Horsfall’s position that the option of garrisoning the Niger Delta or keeping it under heavy military surveillance and attack can not provide lasting solution to the problem of cultism, militancy and youth restiveness in the region; just as the option of leaving the matter in the hands of ill-equipped law enforcement agencies is inadequate to confront such challenges.
Horsfall’s clear-cut solutions to the long-drawn-out-state of violence, cultism, militancy, political unrest, youth restiveness and other forms of unrest in the Niger Delta should rather serve as a wake-up call to Nigerian leaders.
Besides canvassing for the creation of two or three additional States in the Niger Delta, as well as a clear-cut policy that would give the security and defence services proper directives as to the policy of the Federal Government on the Niger Delta crises, Horsfall suggests that the political agitations of the Niger Delta, stretching way back to 1934, and especially since the Adaka Boro revolt of 1966, must be carefully addressed without any further equivocation or political sophistry.
One of the ways to address this is for the Federal Government to adopt Chief Horsfall’s “step-by step strategic re-orientation, reformation and rehabilitation of cultists, militants and restive youth” blueprint which he had initiated through the Social Rehabilitation Committee set up by the Rivers State Government to nip in the bud the problem of cultism, militancy and insurgency in Rivers State.
On the economic front however, Hosfall’s recommendation of a step-by-step increase in revenue allocations to the South South region might be considered justifiable given the place of the region as the goose that lays the golden eggs. But considering poor and bad leadership and the high level of corruption in our society, can the increase in revenue allocation be transformed into considerable better living standard for the Niger Delta populace?
Meanwhile, one lesson to be drawn from Horsfall’s book, especially from some of the measures he identifies as necessary for the reformation and rehabilitation of the restive youths in the Niger Delta is that no one is an everlasting never-do-well because change is the only constant thing in life.
And unlike many authors whose target audience is limited, the audience of Horsfall’s Step-by-Step Strategic Re-orientation Reformation and Rehabilitation of cultists, Militants and Restive Youth cuts across all ages and genders, and all the political and socio-economic strata of life. It is not only for the youths, but also for adults – the led and the political leaders in Nigeria.
The 95-page book also achieves a milestone with regards to diction and simplicity, especially the use of simple words that would appeal to a large repertoire of audience. It should therefore come in handy for all and sundry.