By Davidson Iriekpen
Aflip through the book, Remaking the Niger Delta: Challenges and Opportunities, convinces the reader that this is an eyewitness account. Indeed, the area called Niger Delta spawned the author, Hon Kingsley Kuku, the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs. He was not only born in the region, he also grew up there. As an eyewitness to the hardship and suffering of the people, he is able to document the travails of the area in this book.
Kuku, a veteran of the struggle to emancipate his people from environmental degradation, equally played a critical role in the government’s amnesty programme. The programme led to the disarmament and empowerment of the youths in the region. He is riled by the rapacious exploitation of the crude oil in this area by the federal government through the multinational oil companies.
The book offers a national vision from this child of the Niger Delta conflict. Kuku, a former national spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council, seeks to place in both historical and contemporary perspective the relevance of the amnesty programme for Nigeria’s future.
Remaking the Niger Delta: Challenges and Opportunities highlights the often forgotten point that instability in the Niger Delta causes the very foundations of the Nigerian polity and economy to shudder. That is why the strategic direction and the many concrete proposals set out in the book for building on the amnesty programme and taking Nigeria forward are worthy of the most serious consideration.
It also provides a summary overview of the history of Nigeria and the Niger Delta. The introductory chapter examines Nigeria’s development in the context of the rest of Africa and its importance on the world stage because of oil. It focuses on the Niger Delta in the context of oil and demonstrates how stability of Nigeria and its economy is inextricably linked to the stability of the region and its oil producing communities.
In the book, the author not only chronologically examines the contextual basis of the problems of the region but assists readers in having better understanding of the problems in the region and the root causes of those problems. He also offers some perspectives that should inform and shape policy direction of governments and various agencies to effectively resolve immediate problems and bring lasting solution, peace and progress to the region as a legacy for sustainable development from which other parts of the country can learn and benefit.
Also not left out in the book is the role and responses of various stakeholders since the region came to the attention of the rest of Nigerians and the rest of the world in the 1950s when oil was discovered. The author also tries to bring to the understanding of readers the dynamic relationship between stakeholders as being a principle causes of the problem.
To sustain the peace being enjoyed in the region since the introduction of the amnesty programme, Kuku looks at the oil and gas production and the social and economic development of the Niger Delta region. He calls on oil companies to exercise corporate social responsibility as an acknowledgement and demonstration of the need to marry social investment, the building of social capital and alleviation of poverty and promotion of social inclusion with economic development and wealth creation. He even wants the governments to extract CSR commitments from the oil companies as part of the Joint Venture Agreements with host communities.
Kuku in the book writes from inside of all those experiences and demonstrates statesmanlike abilities as a peacemaker with a bold vision for Nigeria, a vision that can be realised only if the entire nation deals with the Niger Delta issue.
The book points to the way forward and provides a comprehensive road map for Nigeria, carefully crafted by the true son of the soil. It also highlights the need to integrate the Niger Delta and Nigeria, having regard to what led to the amnesty proclamation, the amnesty programme itself and intervention and sustainability issues. He also looks at the work and recommendations of a number of commissions established over the years to consider the reason for the continuing agitation in the region and the process that led to the amnesty programme.
He also examines the economic potential of the Niger Delta and the implications it has for Nigeria vis-à-vis the oil and gas exploration and production in the region within the context of enabling the full value-chain of other economic activities. He concludes that this approach will create employment, conserve the eco-system, create more wealth for the region and the country in general.
In of the chapters, the author explores the role of bodies such as the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, as well as state and local governments in the post-amnesty environment. He argues that the opportunity now exists to coordinate the activities of existing bodies set up by government to bring peace and stability to the Niger Delta and to develop the region.
To underscore the intrinsic connectedness between the Niger Delta and Nigeria, Kuku tries to demonstrate how achieving success in the region will give a great boost to the country’s national security aspirations both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts.
As somebody who has seen it all, the author carefully looks at what the future holds for Nigeria and the Niger Delta region and emphasises why the country needs to quickly diversify its economy, leveraging on oil and gas revenue from the region, adding that failure to do it will result in continuing heavy dependence on oil and gas revenues and exposure to dwindling fortunes in volatile oil markets at a time of actual and projected population growth. He notes that this has potentially very serious consequences for law and order, peace and security in the country
The author further examines the reality of multiculturalism in Nigeria and argues that there will be increasing plurality and complexity in society and that young people will continue to cross artificial boundaries and claim the world. He concludes that if the country longs for economic growth and development, and is creating the environment for investment and for attracting foreign investors, it should also be better prepared to manage the challenges of plurality.
Having seen the positive wonders the amnesty programme of the federal government has brought to the region in the last four years, Kuku concludes that it presents stakeholders a unique opportunity to stabilise the region and that the country’s ability to forge a future of peace, economic, social and political stability and prosperity for all Nigerians will depend on how well we can learn from the painful lessons of the region and how we respond to the great possibilities that the country offers.