Why can’t influential people from the HYPPADEC states buy sophisticated weapons to terrorise everyone to submission and threaten the country with secession? Perhaps they are not wise enough to sponsor dissent and organised resistance in their region to get the government to quake under the weight of such activities. These are conjectures, but If the people of this region do not venture into any of these, they certainly have a long way to go. Don’t they know how to seek international assistance to fight their cause? Why can’t they produce a Ghomo Jomo, an Asari Dokubo, a Henry Okah or an Ateke Tom to destroy and maim in the name of resource control and environmental degradation and then, get presidential handshake, be rehabilitated and become government and maritime contractors?
Some years ago, the Odua People’s Congress ruled the roost in the South west. Despite all the killings and harassment that were carried out in their name, the OPC and its members were rehabilitated into the high echelon of the society. Today its leader, Gani Adams, sits among revered and honourable Yoruba elders. He was never charged to court nor prosecuted. He has been appearing at public functions after a N50 million ransom was placed on his head by the then IGP, Tafa Balogun. So, how can we make progress when criminals are rewarded with chieftaincy titles, political appointments and government contracts? In saner societies, these vices do not go unpunished but they are the norms, to attract government’s attention here. While there is no action taken on HYPPADEC and such regional matters as they concern some parts of the country, Niger-Delta seems to be the central focus of this administration and the place is bustling and booming. One quarter of the nation’s budget is today dedicated to the region with the Ministry of Niger-Delta, NNDC and the amnesty programme to boot. A recent revelation by Daily Trust indicated the federal government’s budget of N305 billion to the Niger Delta region, in addition to a ‘statutory transfer’ of N54.69 to the NNDC, N60 billion to the Ministry of Niger-Delta, while the amnesty programme will receive N74 billion.
But with HYPPADEC, the file is gathering dusts somewhere. An indication that HYPPADEC will be in the doldrums for a long time is the fact that there is no mention of it anywhere in the recently passed budget. A sincere government would think of even distribution of projects. But not so with President Jonathan who is equally dilly-dallying about the dredging of (especially) the Upper River Niger after it was begun by his predecessor.
The ‘decades-in-the-making’ dredging of River Niger, on completion will make the waters around the River-Niger navigable to transport goods, improve water-flow for hydro-electric power plants, haulage of goods, help to decongest the Lagos and Port-Harcourt ports, create employment, increase economic activities, reduce pressures on roads and control floods. The problem with us as a nation is that we only talk of fairness and equity as they relate to us and as defined by our contextual circumstance. Our actions and deeds are laced with sentiments, and do solemnly reflect our thinking and perception about other people. A dispassionate glance at Jonathan’s administration would reveal easily how low this country has sunk, yet because “it’s our turn and it’s our son” syndrome afflicts the nation, critical minds have withdrawn from commenting publicly on his style of governance to avoid being profiled as anti this or that.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that those who take the part of civility and decorum in their approach to issues of shared patrimony; those who do not aggressively agitate for what is rightly theirs, or do not have the means to fight or to engage in media warfare or out of ignorance sit on their rights, are hardly harkened to. Not surprising therefore, that so many divisive groups capable of threatening the corporate existence of the country have sprung up. And more will spring up because the authorities indulge some and those not so lucky, shout blue murder and injustice.
Back again to our HYPPADEC discourse. Now, if the president had any reservation, why did he sign it into law? It is, therefore, apt to to conclude that the government is not too keen on committing money into the project because the people it affects are not combative and can, therefore, be taken for granted. At conception, the affected communities are to get 30 percent of the revenues generated by power stations. They are equally to receive 50 percent of money due to member states of the commission from ecological funds. Who is collecting this money and how is it disbursed?
From these observations, the affected people need to take their destiny into their hands. And if there is still anything left of the collective north, the HYPPADEC question and the delay in the dredging of the upper River Niger should be seen as an affront on the whole of the north. Failure to do so would mean a self-fulfilling prophesy in which the north is considered a region of disparate groups with Babel of voices of people who only romanticise the past. It is worthy of note that apart from Kebbi state, the beneficiary states of HYPPADEC are all from the North Central. It is the more reason why we must rise as a group and stand up to fight for its take-off. Again, failure to do this would give the impression that some leaders of the region do not defend these projects because the states concerned are ‘not north enough’ or are not ‘core north’, whatever that is.
That again would give vent to Jonathan’s divisive politics. The HYPPADEC board doesn’t have to wait for other dissolved boards, to be constituted because it is going to start as a new project. Here is an opportunity for Jonathan to redeem his image, again.