Monday, July 20, 2009

MEND, Lagos State and Atlas Cove Jetty Attack

Like most people, I have been following the public reaction to the recent bombing of Lagos Atlas Cove jetty. As we all know, this recent action is totally different from what we have experienced in the past. Since the start of the militancy, actions of groups such as MEND, NDVF have been limited to the Niger Delta region. However, the recent bombing of the Atlas Cove jetty signals a massive change in momentum. It is the strongest indication so far of the threat we are facing as a nation, if the Niger Delta crisis is allowed to escalate. Public reactions to the bombing have been very interesting, particularly from the State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola and the so-called “Lagos Elders”.

Following the attack, Governor Fashola was quoted in the media saying “If this (Atlas Cove Jetty bombing) was a mistake, we expect that it must never repeat itself as we will respond to this new security threat appropriately”. Also, a group of traditional rulers, politicians and community leaders in Lagos state, “warned” the Niger Delta militants against further attacks in the state. According to the Elders, “……the incident must never again be repeated as any attempt to do so would be met with serious consequences which attackers will live to regret”(!).

The impact of any form of attack on the Atlas Cove jetty cannot be over-emphasized. Especially in a country that is largely dependent on imported fuel products. Being the largest fuel import terminal, any attack will have a huge impact on fuel distribution and supply. Such attack is also threat to the security of Lagos State and it status as the nation’s business capital. However, I am still at a loss with the meaning of the statements credited to Governor Fashola and the Lagos Elders.

As the Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, I appreciate that the onus is on Gov. Fashola to ensure peace and security in the state. But the question is, does he really have the power ensure peace and security in the state? Let’s even assume the Niger Delta issue escalates and more bombing is carried out in Lagos, how does Gov. Fashola intend to responds to such threat “appropriately”? The fact remains that he neither controls the police nor the military? The Commissioner of Police receives his orders from Abuja and not from any state governor. The Commandants of the military formations in the state are only answerable to their khaki masters.

The same can also be said about the comments of the Lagos Elders. Are would they deal with the threat from MEND? Are they intending on using the OPC or what? Or perform some traditional rites on the militants? Or will they start killing all Niger Delta citizens living in Lagos?

I’m sorry to say, but comments like these encapsulate the problem of this nation. We are sometimes myopic in our thinking. People don’t really care what happens to their neighbour as long as they are not affected. The state Governors are happy to travel to Abuja at the end of every month to collect their share from proceeds of Niger Delta oil, but are not interested in the problems of Niger Delta. As the Yorubas say, “owo epo ni aye ba ni la, wo nki ba ni la owo eje”.

So what am I saying? The Niger Delta crisis should not be politicised. Although, attacks have been limited to the Niger Delta region, it is not just about Niger Delta. This is a national issue. I’m sure the militants are not interested in destroying innocent lives in Lagos or bringing Lagos to its knees.

It is okay for the Elders to say Lagos is not Niger Delta. It is okay for Lagos residents to be considered as innocent civilians in the Niger Delta crisis. However, what about innocent lives that has been lost in Niger Delta as a result of the militancy? Are we now saying that they deserve to be bombed because they live in the Niger Delta? God forbid but if the Niger Delta crisis turns into a “civil law”, will Lagos state be immune?

Whilst I’m not in support of the recent action on the Atlas Cove jetty or destruction of lives and properties in general, I don’t think it is right for anyone to trivialise the Niger Delta issue. Instead of making inflammatory comments, the whole nation should be united in condemning the ineptitude and insincerity of the Federal Government in dealing with the Niger Delta issue.

We need not to x-ray the Niger Delta crisis through a tribal microscope. It is a national issue that deserves a national solution.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your view, I would like to add that the issue of Niger delta is direct consequence of the govt failure to listen, do what is right and to make oil companies both local and internaional to pay the price duel to the people in that region. It is sad that as result some people have chosen to destortive way to express themself. We should allow this to excalate to a civi or tribal war. Lets talk, learnt to built the culture dialouge fro this. May God grant us the grace to do just that.

Anonymous said...

Hard as l tried,l couldn't place the position of the writer in correct perspective. You seem to me like speaking from both sides of your mouth ;blowing hot and cold.
Your article clearly mirrored what your reaction would have being if you were the Governor of Lagos State. You probably would have rolled out the drums and declared public holiday in solidarity with MEND for bombing Atlas Cove !.
Governor Fashola did what a concerned,proactive and reasonable leader would do. I hope you don't expect him to fold his arms until this people come to blow up 3rd Mainland bridge because it was built with oil proceeds.
In fairness,the only region who has been very outspoken against the injustice and more sympathetic towards the course of the Niger Delta in this country is the South West. It is therefore an act of ingratitude for MEND or any militant group for that matter to think of destroying the headquarter of their MOUTHPIECE.
Bear it in mind that,if this thoughtless act extends fully into Lagos,your relative or even that of the militants may not be spared because Lagos is a multi-ethnic,multi-religious and multi-cultural state where every living Nigerian have at least a relative/friend.
As requested by some civil organisations,Lagos State deserves an unreserved apology for this dastardly act if MEND don't want to paint their agitations with politics and insensitivity.
For your information,Lagos State too had been a victim of injustice in the hands of Obasanjo. But with patience,doggedness and not giving in to intimidation,the state succeeded. Would it have made any sense for Lagos State to begrudge other states whose allocations were been paid?
Agreed,the Niger Delta debacle is a national issue,MEND should not trivialize their agitations if they still want to enjoy public sympathy.
While advocating for urgent attention and pragmatic solution to this crisis by the Federal Government,MEND should hold their leaders(past and present) accountable for some of their woes.
Condolences to the families of the dead both in Lagos and Niger Delta. Nigeria O Ni Baje O.....

Heal said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Gov. Fashola shouldn't be proactive on matters of state security. But as I pointed out, if push comes to shove, he doesn't really have the power to deal with the militants.

My concern is with the way, the ND crisis is now been tribalised. Drawing tribal lines shouldn't be the response from the Governor or the Elders.The Governor and the Elders should have been more cautious in their response, and not just replying with threats. And I can assure you that if the Niger Delta issue persists, we may start seeing attacks outside the Niger Delta.

4weplace said...

In War the first victim is truth. WE are in a war but we pretend that its a localized conflict. Are we to assume that MEND listens to Elders or Governors. They will take any action that fits into their own goals whether legitimate or otherwise. To prevent this tragedy from escalating and spreading WE need to think seriously about what are the things that are wrond with this country. Fashola and co's comment will only agitate a man with a gun and bombs. And you dont argue with a man with either. SO if Fashola and co really have any sense then they wouldnt go and goad these folks with such careless words and create more collateral damage if these guys decide to lash out. These guys have nothing to loose so if they come after Fashola and co and turn Lagos to Gbaramatu what can anyone do? Its okay if they blow up pipelines in the ND but not okay to blow up one in Lagos. Like Lagosians built it? The bottom line is this country is a failed state. No true federalism. No real land rights. Fashola and co should speak about those and leave what he doesnt understand and cant deal effectively with alone. What army, what OPC, what police does he have....who would die for him? After all historically Lagos or Eko is an appendage of the old Niger Delta Benin Empire. They founded the place. If they decide to bomb 'their' territory who are we to complain. All this pointing to OBJ as neglecting soo myopic. If we had true Federalism would he have been able to?! Go back to 1914 when the South, the North and the Lagos Territory were merged. Go back to Gowon who in order to break the spirit of the Biafra revolution created 'states' and dissolved the regions. Go back to the Land Use Act. Lef matter jo!