Sunday, August 19, 2007
Before darkness falls
By Dr. Gary K. Busch
Things are far worse than the news reports coming out of Port Harcourt. At an important meeting of the leadership yesterday and this morning it has become very clear that the situation in Rivers State is already out of hand.
Soboma George may well be dead but Farah is still taking his anger out on his foes. There are already over forty dead in the fighting. The creeks are crowded with fighters from several groups and the sound of army helicopters and automatic firing is incessant. There is talk from Yar’Adua of declaring martial law in Rivers. The locals, especially the militants, have said this would be an act of war against the people of Rivers. They said, in the meeting, “You want to put some more Hausa boys in charge of our region again? Never. You will not get one drop of oil out again.”
They added, “We did the bunkering for you. We did this for the army boys and the politicians. You politicians gave us the ships; you gave us the guns. You kept the money but gave us guns. We stuffed the ballot boxes for you in that wuwuru election. Is this the gratitude for our work? You now come here to kill us, to shoot us down like dogs? We will tell the world what nasty business you all have been doing in the Niger Delta. The world will know!”
Others muttered about how Yar’Adua had not kept his promises. He had turned against Ibori; he turned against Odili; he left them nowhere to go. They put in Goodluck to look after the Ijaws and to keep them from joining up with the others, but the locals paid no attention to his efforts. The removal of the two GOCs in the area removed two of the key figures in the bunkering business and the field was open for a new constellation of power.
Everyone agreed that Yar’Adua had fooled them. He didn’t follow Obasanjo’s lead but stood on his own. He already has money; he’s not a well man; and he feels he is not beholden to the PDP’s rattling structure for his success. He may be the one thing everyone in the Niger Delta fears – an honest man.
There was much discussion of whether it wasn’t time for Nigeria to have a military ruler again, but the military leadership, with their new Yar’Adua promotions have little stomach for this. They don’t see a solution in martial law; they don’t see a solution in a coup; and they fear a continuation of the killing and gang warfare. Whatever the outcome, until Yar’Adua can come to some form of compromise with Ibori and Odili Nigerians will be walking ever closer to the abyss.
There are many who have looked over the edge and are afraid of what they see. What is sure is that substantial quantities of oil are being ‘locked in’ and production will decrease. On the other hand, with oil over $72 a barrel it probably doesn’t matter as much; so this is a good time to fight it out if they must. It may also put a temporary hold on bunkering for a while. Many more will die before this is settled.