Niger Delta Crisis: Soyinka Tells Buhari to Engage Militants

  •  Kachikwu, monarchs reiterate commitment to peace

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Thursday urged the federal government to engage the Niger Delta militants and respond positively to their demands in order to engender lasting peace in the region.

The Nobel Laureate, who said he had been contacted to intervene in the Niger Delta crisis, spoke as the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, met in Abuja with traditional rulers from the coastal communities of the region and agreed to recommit to a peaceful resolution of all the issues in the oil rich region.

Although Soyinka was not forthcoming with details of the intervention in the crisis that had injured the nation’s economy decisively, he lashed out at the Nigerian media, accusing them of extreme invention and distortion of facts that had escalated the dispute.

He said at a press conference in Lagos that he would no longer be speaking to the local media over issues concerning Nigeria’s efforts to end militancy in the Niger Delta.
News reports had quoted him as saying that the services of international mediators would be sought to mediate between the federal government and militants to resolve the Niger Delta crisis.

Soyinka had met with President Muhammadu Buhari on August 11, and when approached by journalists afterwards, he said they had discussed “national and international matters, general matters, that’s all”.
He, however, promised to schedule a press conference later to give further details about the meeting.
Soyinka said thursday that he would rather discuss a Lebanese-Nigerian partnership involving his Wole Soyinka Foundation.

He said: “I know that when I was – to use the press expression – ambushed at the Villa the other day, I did say that I would answer questions about my visit to the Villa at a press conference that I‘d already planned, which was this one as a matter of fact.

“But I always fulfil my word, and so I’m going to speak very briefly about that visitation. And what I have to say about it is that today is not the day for talking about that visitation.
“And the real reason is this, let me tell you media, the real reason is that I had a meeting in London in the House of Lords. The meeting was not about the main subject that took me to Aso Rock which is the problem with, among other things, the problem we have in the Delta.

“But I used that opportunity to meet a certain number of international figures, parliamentarians, royal heads, etcetera, to pass on a message internationally to prospective interveners to what’s happening in the Delta at the request of some of the militant groups here.”

Soyinka said the meeting in London was reported in the media and was badly distorted.
“Let me make a plea, it is bad enough distorting whatever happens, events, statements on certain subjects, bad enough. But on an issue like the insurgency in Nigeria, the Delta in particular, we are on very, very delicate grounds and the media has a huge role to play in that,” he said.

He added: “And the immediate role people like me must demand of the media is accuracy. There can be no invention in this kind of situation. There can be no adumbration, there can be no extrapolation, not even second guessing. You have got to be accurate. Otherwise, there’s a loss of confidence and therefore a lack of solution. People must be confident that what they say to you is what you translate and transmit to those to whom you are sent.”

It was not the first he would criticise the Nigerian press.
Last May, during events marking Buhari’s one year in office, Soyinka described a media report quoting him as declaring his support for the president as a “disgusting forgery”.
Yesterday, he said media reports that he was part of an international group mediating between the federal government and the Niger Delta militants was an extreme invention.

“You cannot publish a statement to me saying I’m a part of an international group when the international group is not even in existence, there’s no international intervention group which has been formed,” he said.
According to him, “I think to go further and attribute to me a statement that the international group has already contacted Buhari, what kind of extreme invention is that? How can a group which does not exist meet with the Head of State? And how could I, who just happened to be meeting with the Head of State, say that the two entities have met when one of them does not exist?

“So please I implore you, media, in fact, I’ve taken a decision not to speak about the Delta situation publicly; just to carry on any assignment which I feel I can carry out on behalf of a resolution.
“I will not be talking to the press any longer, because I cannot spend my time correcting falsehood. I’m not responsible for the falsehood, and that burden should not be placed on my head.”
Soyinka, however, appealed to the federal government to hold positive negotiations with the Niger Delta militants in order to solve the crisis in the region.

“I wish to make an appeal publicly to the government, and please report me accurately, to respond positively to the outrage from the militant groups,” he said, adding: “That is the request which has been made by some of the groups who got me into this interventionist role in the first place.”

Soyinka said at the moment the militants felt that Buhari was not seriously responding to their own outrage.
“I wish to make a personal appeal to the government to respond positively and let us see where it ends us,” he said, explaining: “But I’m not part of any international group, I was approached personally and I’ve been responding personally to some of these groups just as I did when President Jonathan was in power and MEND was the umbrella group of the insurgents.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to give fillip to the federal government’s quest for peace in the Niger Delta, Kachikwu met with traditional rulers from the region in his office in Abuja yesterday and took the monarchs’ conditions for normalcy to return to the Delta.

In a statement, which was read at the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Abuja by the Bolowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Wellington Okirika, the traditional rulers listed six things the federal government should do in order to build confidence and stop the destruction of the country’s oil assets by militants in the region.

They said: “Having acceded to the call for a ceasefire by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on August 4, 2016, the buck has now been passed to the table of the federal government as driven by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources – a representative of the federal government.
“For the purposes of building confidence in the system, we wish to state here that as a matter of urgency the federal government should appoint/constitute a federal government dialogue team; release the 10 innocent school children arrested by the Nigerian Army on the 28th of May, 2016 in Oporoza and others in detention on trumped up charges.

“Return the Golden Sword, being the symbol of authority in the Gbaramatu traditional institution; return the three traditional council speed boats in custody of the Nigerian Army; cessation of hostilities perpetrated by the military in the Niger Delta region; and equally important, the federal government should make a categorical statement about the opening of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State for academic activities in the 2016/2017 session.”

Speaking, Kachikwu said about $40 billion was spent in ‘papers’ to develop the environment and infrastructure of the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the last 10 years with no tangible results to show as evidence for such huge financial commitment to the region.
He explained that the $40 billion was part of allocations to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), derivations shares of the states, as well as financial commitments on developments by oil companies operating in the region.

He also said the government was committed to taking advantage of the ceasefire to negotiate a lasting solution to the Niger Delta issues, and that Buhari has not authorised any military action in the region.
“If you look at the amount of money that has been put into the Niger Delta over the last 10 years in paper is over $40 billion. These have come from the NDDC, derivation, and oil companies’ investments,” Kachikwu said.

He further explained: “But as I go to the creeks, I see no single infrastructure that you can point to as the result of these investments and what it means is that we must now begin to do a soul-searching within ourselves and ask where did all these monies go to, who took them, what were they applied for, what were the roles of our own people and others not necessarily from the region.

“Unless you solve the governance and transparency issues in terms of spending this money, it doesn’t matter how much money you put into this place, you are going to go back to square one and so we must begin to ask fundamental questions about how these institutions are run and what roles our traditional rulers play in the decision making process on how these projects are run, there is a lot of home truths that must happen.”
Kachikwu noted that there must be accountable developmental projects tied to the Niger Delta and not the old ways of doing things. He added that there are lots of interests in putting money in the region as long as there is peace and good accountability structure.

He stated that while the government begins to set up a dialogue team with formalities, stakeholders in the region must also separate criminality from their genuine agitation for development.
“We must also going forward separate criminality from the genuine demands of Niger Delta because once you throw criminality into it, individuals who are self-serving disrupt the message we are sending and there is a good message you are sending but must be delivered very aggressively on the negotiation tables and not the field of destruction,” he said.

He said Buhari had been patient in following developments in the region, adding that the president has also avoided the call for a military action in the region.
The minister however warned that the government would not resist the temptation of coming against wanton destruction of oil facilities and lives in the region.

According to him, “To the best of my knowledge, President Buhari has shown a lot of patience and calm and has not so far, despite over six months of very intensive militancy activity, asked anybody to go in and engage in a military action. He has always said there is a need to engage the communities and that is his first model and he is consistent with that.”

  • Bassey Ndem

    I thank Prof Wole Soyinka for advising President Buhari to engage the Niger militants positively. This is a move in the right direction and I believe that every legitimate Nigerian should benefit from this positive engagement, either Niger Delta Avengers, Boko Haram Jihadists and other others . The Nigerian Government may review the Alaska Permanent Fund which was constitutionally established as a permanent fund managed by the state-owned corporation, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.It was designed to be an investment where at least 25% of the oil money would be put into a dedicated fund for future generations, who would no longer have oil as a resource.This does not mean the fund is solely funded by oil revenue. The Fund includes neither property taxes on oil company property nor income tax from oil corporations, so a minimum 25% deposit is closer to 11% if those sources were also considered. The Alaska Permanent Fund sets aside a certain share of oil revenues to continue benefiting current and all future generations of Alaskans. Many citizens also believed that the legislature too quickly and too inefficiently spent the $900 million bonus the state got in 1969 after leasing out the oil fields. This belief spurred a desire to put some oil revenues out of direct political control. The current change mantra by President Buhari will checkmate politicians from looting money from the government coffers. Any financial assistance to all Nigerians of voting age will deter criminal activities. The exercise will enable Nigerian citizens to have faith, love and hope for the country because many members of the three tier of government are the ones reaping benefits from the country.

  • Auta62

    Why did Soyinka not counseled PMB to open channel of discussion with the militants during his recent visit to the President? What does he want to achieve now? Some of these our so called elder statesmen are mere hypocrites, pretending to be trustworthy personalities.

  • vincentumenyiora

    [Although Soyinka was not forthcoming with details of the intervention in the crisis that had injured the nation’s economy decisively, he lashed out at the Nigerian media, accusing them of extreme invention and distortion of facts that had escalated the dispute.

    He said at a press conference in Lagos that he would no longer be speaking to the local media over issues concerning Nigeria’s efforts to end militancy in the Niger Delta.
    News reports had quoted him as saying that the services of international mediators would be sought to mediate between the federal government and militants to resolve the Niger Delta crisis.]

    Look ladies and gentlemen I said earlier that sometimes I feel aghast and flabbergasted reading some of the things happening in the country hence my use of expressions like – “Nigeria in a QUANDARY afflicting even PhD holders, Nigeria – a CONUNDRUM hoping to be unraveled, and moreover – “Who do you tell in Nigeria and he/ she is ready/willing to act that early about the multifaceted problems!” And so you’ll find my contacts and solutions listed on my website; they speak for themselves folks! i want to see any of the special advisers to the Presidency that has this kind of contributions in Nigeria it is a challenge!

    To say more that the solutions for Nigeria was handed in that early – 1983, 1986 – 1993 and throughout the 1999 to 2014 Dr. Jonathan’s administration and importantly in my 4th June correspondence to the President Buhari. There is avery important contribution in this particular letter to the President which could have solved the problems you have in Nigeria if they had adopted it – they have not acknowledged the letter and we are talking about corruption in Nigeria folks, and solutions contained in it have been pronounced one of which is the (TSA) policy!

    All those listed to deal with Niger Delta problem do not know where Bayesls is or do they know much about the zone and I have asked to be involved somehow! I was in the zone as a pioneer student as far back as 1957 to 60 I said this times without numbers now such that if they want the problems attended to at least somebody of Vincent’s caliber should (need to) be involved in the consultations!

    To say that you left out somebody who knows more about Bayelsa being pne of the pioner students of Demiary Grammar School 1957/8 for the full 5 years period – went to Yenagoa from the three routes to the town – from Onitsha river side trough Amasoma, on land from Ahoada crossing Nbioma river riding on ‘bicycle pillions’ and from Port Harcourt through Abonima, Degema, Nembe into Yenagoa!

    I had on both the news papers and the NTA commend Rev. Mbaga for commending President M. Buhari for his administration’s actions against corruption – very good commendation indeed, looking at the solutions mentioned above in the website Vincent provided Nigeria solutions for the crime that early far back as 1991 – 2001 even acknowledged by UNO – am sure Ghana is using the solution because a staff in the administration has copy of my publication sent to the UNO’s – I said this earlier and there has not been any disclaimer!

    To tell that all these will be explained in my publication so that the public and the universe will see what it is really the problem we have about African leaders most of whom (ex-military men) not trained about economics or politics for the people – you give them solutions that can and, in fact, has helped in areas like the election matters in Nigeria, they do not think about the owner of the solution rather they will engage their friends whom you discover muddle up the solutions because they were not privy to the ‘conception’ of the solutions in the first place!

    Yeah, everybody knows about the effects of Niger Delta and corruption in Nigeria from time and the President commends the Reverend for speaking out! I am saying what about the person who prescribed the effective solution – how to curb the crime of corruption, and he also proposed need for (TSA – common pool policy) for how to check the pillage! What about a commendation for the concerned Nigeria and he even went as far to proffer the solution ‘Option A-4’ and need for finger/ name readers machines used for the President’s election in 2015? What about the Nigerian, ‘Who done all these” very important solutions – what do you say about his contribution, folks?

    I agree with Prof. Wole Soyinka and to add that solutions compatible for Nigeria for the politics which could – well, bound to affect the economic outfalls had been handed-in and like I said, your problem is mainly for the leadership you elect to lead you through your electoral processes not only to be able to comprehend what the recommendations are but doing so first-hand ‘on his own’ volition before he/ she calls in advisers who in most of the cases, going by that report on Alhaji Abba Kyari, will muddle up the good intentions of the advice handed in!

    Another solution very important is the one I submitted to both the GSF and the Senate President’s office on the 2nd February 2015 to help you deal with what Secretary of State John Kerry came to tell you – I did not know about his visit before hand – think about the time 2nd Feb. 2015 and 2016! All those you engage do not all have any knowledge of what is at stake to find solutions for and so you carry on in circles not treating the causes of the problems in most of the Ad-Hoc Committees e set up (established) in the country!

  • bbr