The American Philosopher and activist, Walter Lippman once expressed concern over the overbearing nature of politics and the degrading of public morality, when he stated that, “the balance of power in our society has turned dangerously against the peace forces”.
Lippmann’s postulation has today, become evidently manifest, with the society drifting into unbriddled anarchy.
However, the preservation of the peace forces in the society remains a moral responsibility of critical stakeholders. Pperhaps, in recognition of the famous historian. Will Durant’s observation that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”, not a few concerned stakeholders are earnestly seeking a collective and strategic approach towards addressing the challenges of security and promoting sustainable peace and development in the society.
One of such critical stakeholders in Rivers State, is a group known as the Association of Retired Military and Para-Military Officers of Ogoni.
Recently, the group paid a courtesy call on the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt.
During the visit, the body expressed concern over the security challenges in Rivers State, particularly in Ogoniland which is their primary constituency, and offered to use their wealth of professional experience to promote peace in the area.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Tide, political correspondent, Beemene Taneh, leader of the delegation, Rear Admiral Nicholas Bakpo (rtd), disclosed that the idea of forming the body arose out of the urgent need to address what he described as “the growing spate of politically motivated violence in Ogoni land”.
He said as retired military and para-military officers, the group must not turn in their tongue alongside their uniforms but have a moral responsibility as patriots to contribute to the promotion of peace and development of Ogoni and by extension Rivers State.
Bakpo who retired from the Nigeria Navy in 2014 as a Rear Admiral, decried the growing instinct for violence on the part of youths, and cautioned against the use of Ogoniland as a breeding ground for politically motivated violence and cult related activities.
He pointed out that it would be unpatriotic and a disservice to remain on exile after retirement from active service, noting that as retired military officers, they have a moral sense of duty to return home and serve the people with their wealth of professional experience.
Bakpo recalled with nolstagia, that as a growing child in Ogoni, he enjoyed a life of communal bond and bliss, but such sense of convivial existence has today been replaced with communal crisis and a penchant for aggression and self destruction, mostly on the part of the youths.
“It is important that after serving the nation, you return home to give encouragement mentorship and a sense of leadership direction to your people.
“Most Nigerian leaders such as former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, and even the serving President Muhammadu Buhari, retired from active service and returned home to give leadership backup to their people.
“It is regrettable that Ogoniland has been made uncondusive as a result of politically motivated violence, chieftaincy wraggling and unbridled crisis.”
“We have a duty to protect the land for posterity, and if we falter, generations yet unborn will not forgive us. We have the experience to mentor the youth, and shield them from being used as pawns in the political chessgame.
“Any politician that wants to engage in election rigging should use his children and stop using the blood of other people’s children. We can’t afford to be loosing our young ones,” Bakpo said.
He added that most of the crisis in Ogoniland are externally motivated, as the youths in the area,were vulnerable and prone to a wrong doctrine sold to them, as against the “ideals of hardwork, patriotism, honestly and hospitality for which Ogoni is renowned.”
Commenting on the Neigbourhood Watch and Safety Corp Agency recently established by the Rivers State Government, Bakpo applauded Governor Wike for his vision, describing the initiative as an expansion of the frontiers of operations of military intelligence.
“I think the Neighbourhood Watch Agency is a step in the right direction as it will complement the efforts of security agencies. Any person that have a contrary opinion on the creation of the agency, on personal reasons, should have a rethink and support the vision of the Governor.
“The beauty of the Agency, ofcourse, is its intense grassroots involvement. It is easier to detect the criminals within us. These criminals have parents, relatives and we know them. Our collective liberty is at stake, and we must work collectively to restore public order by providing information on security, we must improve our intelligent gathering by getting the people involved, all strata of the society such traditional rulers, Community Development Committees (CDCs) religious leaders, among others must play active roles in the security of our communities.”
He cautioned against the politicisation of traditional and religious institutions, noting that such tendencies make the revered institutions to lose the respect of the people.
The security expert who called for sustainability in government policies and programmes also urged the people to assert themselves and participate actively in the electoral process to check the abuses of power by politicians, noting that real authority belongs to the people.
Speaking on the United Nations Environment Project (UNEP) report implementation in Ogoni, the retired senior naval officer noted that Ogonis are not effectively represented in the process. He called for a strong political will on the part of the Federal Government to carry out the clean-up exercise based on international best practices.
He also cautioned against the polarization of Ogoniland through the existence of splinter groups, noting that, “environmental pollution should not be reduced to oil spillage,” as all Ogoni communities suffered the hazards of environmental pollution.
He said Ogonis have over the years suffered the brunts of oil politics which has compounded the crisis of development in the area.
According to him, the only Panacea for sustainable development in Ogoni and other Niger Delta communities is for the people to resist the politics of divide and rule which is the hallmark of multinationals operating in the Niger Delta.
He also called for re-orientation on the part of youths to embrace the culture of resilience, creativity and hardwork as the foundation of their livelihood.