THE INTERVIEW: Why The Niger Delta is Undeveloped By Abai Francis

Image: Niger Delta map
updated 08 Jun, 2024

NOTE: This work is imaginary and the identities of persons that feature in it are not real. However, the message it contains is not farther from the truth. Enjoy reading.…

Good day to our audience as we welcome you to today's explosive interview session on My Public Discourse Live Show. We are going to be speaking on the topic: Why The Niger Delta Region Is Underdeveloped. I remain your host, Mr. Discourse (Mr. DC) and with me here on this programme is our guest, none other than the one who has been so much talked about. Please meet Mr. Niger Delta (MR. ND). Sir, you are welcome to this show.

MR. ND: Thank you. It is an honour and a pleasure to be here.

MR. DC: Now, let us get down to the action and not keep our audience waiting. First, may we meet you?

MR. ND: I'm a part of the territory that is known as Nigeria. On the geographic map I'm situated in the southern part and under the South-South geopolitical zone of the country. My terrain is hugely dominated by mangrove swamps and the rain forests, and then habited by various ethnic groups, some on the hinterland and others on the coasts. However, I'm popular not because I'm named after the River Niger which transverses my terrain but because of just one thing: crude oil. If I had happened not to have this resource domiciled in me, I guess nobody would've taken any importance in me or that I exist in the first place. Unfortunately, all over the world, while I'm known to habit this energy resource, I have also become synonymous with violence and pollution, no thanks to those who exploit my naturally endowment of crude oil.

MR. DC: Now, talking about crude oil, so much money especially in dollar terms have been earned from the sales of your endowment but yet the terrain and the people in the Niger Delta are lacking the vital infrastructures that are supposed to transform their lives positively. Sir, why is this so?

MR. ND: First of all, the correct question I believe you should be asking is: "Are the Niger Delta people willing to be developed?" In other words, "Do the people really want the development you're talking of?" You see, when developing the Niger Delta is often talked about, the focus is mainly centered on the government or investors who come to the region. However, if Europeans or Americans don't want development, they wouldn't have it. Today, they are not only developed, they are also more advanced simply because they desired it and laboured for their development and advancement.

MR. DC: So, what are you inferring sir?

MR. ND: All I'm saying is that the reason the Niger Delta is underdeveloped is simply because those who desire its development are overpowered by those who don't. These are the two sets of people in the region. In terms of numbers, those who desire its positive transformation are much but are lacking the power to act, while the second set of people are very few but they are the ones who hold the power to bring about her transformation. They are the ones who are diverting and amassing the resources of the region to themselves; they are the ones who are aiding foreigners to exploit the other set of people; they are the ones who are conniving with and even discouraging investors from doing what's right.

MR. DC: Please sir, can you elucidate on what you're saying so the audience can understand your views clearly?

MR. ND: How many Niger Deltans who were given contracts to develop their territories or the region ever executed those contracts, and of course, in line with quality standards? Today, the region is flooded with either abandoned projects or projects that are poorly executed. Is it Northerners, Westerners or Easterners that were awarded those projects? Certainly not! If there's one thing that the majority of Niger Delta leaders are good at, it's living a luxurious life. As soon as they come of means they run mad: they begin to marry wives and have in their possessions a lot of concubines; they love to flaunt their riches in public and take great pleasures when paupers in society worship them; they begin to buy properties and invest abroad while their own communities are left deteriorated. These set of Niger Deltans are actually the problem of the region contrary to the widely publicised notion that the government or the companies are the problem.

MR. DC: Talking about the government, many believe the government has power to prosecute offenders of the law. But the people haven't seen that happen yet.

MR. ND: Yes, the government has the power to punish offenders. But remember that we are talking about the development of the Niger Delta. You don't expect an indigene of Kaduna state to be more interested in developing the Niger Delta than a Niger Deltan himself. The truth is that, since the habitants of the region themselves (those who have the power) don't desire the region's development, there's nothing anyone can do about it. Instead, the non inhabitants would gladly join to underdevelop the region. When a stranger first enters your abode, he observes what you do. If you're someone who's unhygienic, the stranger will join you to turn your home into a filth. That's exactly what's going on in the Niger Delta.

MR. DC: But isn't the government expected to play a role in developing the Niger Delta?

MR. ND: Remember, in Nigeria there are two governments, in fact three. Sadly, the third one is dead. And so, the two major ones are the federal government and the state government. Both have a role to play, but the onus lies more in the state government because it's its territory that's being talked about. However, within the Niger Delta, we have a situation of bias and disunity at play in its leadership. Despite all the noise made about the neglect of the region, when it comes down to the action, the people themselves are not united on how it should be developed, infrastructure-wise. Sadly, these have impacted negatively on the region's development. Note also that at present, the governments of the oil producing states in the Niger Delta have been receiving from the federal the 13 per cent derivation in addition to monthly allocations. And then, there are the intervention agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission known popularly as the NDDC. Over the years trillions of naira have been released but yet, what's on ground in the Niger Delta states is not commensurate with released funds. So, who's not playing its role here? While the clamour for resource control is a good one, however, even the blind knows fully well that if the Niger Delta have 100 per cent access to its resources, nothing will still change. There's a saying that if you can't manage little, you won't be able to make any difference with much. This is why I opine that this development of a thing lies more in the hands of Niger Deltans and not on some foreigners.

MR. DC: So, what is the solution to the problem of underdevelopment facing the Niger Delta?

MR. ND: Nigerians are very good at making laws but very poor at implementing them. And that's where the problem lies. The solution to the problem is ever before the people but the will to act isn't there. For example, just recently, the forensic audit in the NDDC has been completed but its findings have not been made public. Many of the big names in the region have been allegedly implicated. Remember, these are the set of people who are the few but have the power of influence. There are insinuations that the findings might be used to blackmail those implicated as the election year 2023 draws near. If not, why do an audit and then keep the findings to yourself and not make it known to the stakeholders who are the Niger Delta people that have the right to know? And so, the reason why corruption will continue to thrive regardless of all the noise making about the fight against corruption is that Nigeria hardly makes an example out of those who are guilty. Rather than start from the top, they focus on those who are at the bottom, or those who are merely crumbs of bread on the table, while leaving the main culprits free.

MR. DC: So, what can be done to eliminate the set of people that are undermining the development of the Niger Delta?

MR. ND: It is only for the other set of Niger Deltans that make up the majority to uproot those who don't mean well for the region, through a revolution or call it a takeover. But then again, it will be very difficult for that to happen simply because majority of the people eat from the tables of the few who are the powerful. The fear's that you don't fight a man that puts food on your table, or else you'll starve, that's the belief of many. And so, you have a dicey situation where even some among the majority are ever ready to betray those who desire the wellbeing of the people of the region. As it is now, the virus of fear has eaten deep into the fabrics of society such that the majority have become too weak to do anything. Therefore I'm afraid that the Niger Delta will continue to remain underdeveloped for a very long time going by the current mental state of the people.

MR. DC: That is a sad one there. Thank you once again for honouring us by your presence in today's edition as we look forward to more engagements some other times.

MR. ND: Thank you. Like I said, it's an honour.

MR. DC: While we draw the curtain here on today's show, the audience are free to drop their opinions in the comment section below. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic with us. God bless you as you do so, Amen. Thank you for giving us your attention.

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NOTE: First published October 12, 2021

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