By Joseph Erunke
What is your reaction to the renewed insurgency by militants in the Niger Delta?
In the first place, what were the offences committed by these people before they were pardoned? Are they not criminals? If I were the president, I would jail them.
So, are you ruling out dialogue as proposed by some people as a way of resolving the problem?
What kind of dialogue? Let them bring to table what they want. Let them do what they are doing, they will also suffer it. Are they also not suffering when they ruin the economy? Are they not facing the same problem like you and I? They are talking of marginalization today.
If you create Biafra today, is Biafra solidly Igbo’s? It’s not. When you go there, you would find a southern minority who will tell you that they don’t want to be part of it, even among the Igbo. Some Igbo will tell you that they don’t want it. If there is definitive kind of discrimination against certain segments of the country, that needs to be addressed because injustice creates dissatisfaction. If there have been injustices against one particular group in this country, let’s address it and not by taking the law into their hands.
That is criminality. We are also affected but we want to take it in a matured approach. You cannot go and begin to destroy state apparatus in order to achieve your agitation, it is against the law. I am not in a position to talk about which contract was revoked because I am not involved in that.
If those contracts were illegally awarded without going through the due process and the current administration wants to follow due process, what is bad about that? Go and do your investigation on that contract to see whether the old law that qualifies one for such contracts were made. What do you award contracts to militants for? In the first place, the name ‘militant’ is criminality. It is only this country that somebody will come back and say I am a militant and then ‘you award him contract.’ If they claim to be agitators as they are saying, then let them come out with their demands and not by holding the state to ransom.
Now, how would you want the government to handle this situation?
My advice is that you can’t take government for ransom. If their livelihoods have been damaged considerably by the pipelines and they have nowhere to go, let there be adequate compensation to them. It is not to take laws into their hands. And by the way, let me be honest with you, this is natural resources; nobody owns it and nobody farms it but by virtue of the location that you find yourself. If there is ecological diversification and you need to do something for your livelihood, then you table this issue to the federal government so that there would be amicable resolution
Giving the adverse effects of their actions, will it not be better to seek dialogue?
What do they need? Let them come out and tell government that ‘this has been our farmland, it has been devastated, we have no land to farm anymore’ and then bring a proposal to the federal government. This is how it should be done than issuing threats. If I were the president, I would have ended that thing by now.
How would you have done it?
Yes, by closing the whole thing down. Before oil came, didn’t this country exist? So, what are you talking about? We have been blindfolded and Nigeria became so lazy, a nation of cheap money. Before the oil, we had cocoa, we had palm oil, groundnut and pyramid, and those were the things that actually helped to develop the oil.
At a point, we in Benue challenged them that okay,’ let them go and drink their oil, we would eat our yams and then see who will survive.’
Read full interview on Monday Vanguard