By Joshua Amarachi
(Patriotic Crusaders Initiative)
The striking of oil in commercial quantity at Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State in 1956, and its subsequent boom and slump with attendant issues ranging from its dwindling and non renewable nature signaling threat of depletion, to the environmental hazards and socio-economic perils associated with its exploration and exploitation without adequate and commensurate compensation to host communities, have not only agitated the Niger Delta and its people, but have also raised awareness, sown seeds of discord, calumny and resulted in chaos among other numerous vices. The summation of these concerns does not change the obvious fact that, oil remains pivotal to Nigeria's economy today and even in the near future.
Albeit there have been efforts at diversifying the economy at various times, the result has been, and is still too insignificant to positively reflect on the economy of an estimated 180 - 200 million population. Despite this, there is scope and hope for economic growth and improvement; while we take our sluggish next level limp into a realistic and significant economic development, sequel to the anticipated diversification of the economy as promised by the government at the center.
The onus then lies on responsible State governments in the Niger Delta to take advantage and make the best use of every single opportunity presented by the oil industry and its allied bodies, which is why when the Executive Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike broke the good news in his state broadcast of Monday 30th September, 2019 on the full acquisition of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria 45% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11, all well meaning people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta at large celebrated this profound giant stride towards economic advancement and independence for numerous reasons apart from those captured in the crystal clear, transparent, and unequivocal detailed speech typical of a focused and people-oriented government.
The Governor went ahead to demonstrate an uncommon magnanimity and inclusiveness by graciously ceding some portion of its 45% equity interest to oil producing communities within OML11 for the purposes of mutual ownership, participation and equitable sharing of the benefits. This could be best described as a State Government joint venture with host communities of OML11 without a joint investment from the host communities. Should this hybrid model of a joint venture be adopted by International Oil Companies (IOC), the Niger Delta will experience swift exponential development; peace, security, and prosperity.
Another uncommon feat in this arrangement is the governor's directive to relevant governmental agencies with no specific reference, interest or preference, which clearly mandates the agencies to within 15 months from the 30th of September, 2019, source for financially capable corporations to liaise with the state government for a smooth take off. There is no doubt that the potentially positive multiplier effect of this laudable economic feat will not only remain an indelible milestone in the economic history of the state, but also an evergreen fortune for posterity.
The Niger Delta has over the years groaned in pains of deprivation, inequitable distribution of oil proceeds, socio economic despair due to environmental degradation, outright discontent of oil well distribution, consequently resulting in agitations and restiveness which has claimed lives. Today, this laudable acquisition by the government of Rivers State is a worthy step towards actualizing our dreams. However, it is disheartening and sad that our collective prosperity which should have been a paramount factor for unity regardless of our brick-wall partisan divide, is today degraded, insincerely criticized, trivialized, and even ignored to the extent that cynics display their posture and vocalize their negative positions with partisan coloration and contraption which obviously eclipse rationality, Intelligence Quotient (IQ), constructive criticism and common sense; most worrisome is the fact that some radio stations aid and abet the advancing of such cynical posture thereby misinforming the public, desecrating the alter of our collective prosperity and unity instead of edifying it and building bridges for unity.
Such radio stations are offenders, in flagrant violation of section 3 sub section 2.1 and section 3 subsection 2.2 of the Draft Nigeria Broadcasting Code 2016 6™ Edition, which clearly prohibits hate speech, and any broadcast that encourage or incite public disorder or hate; or be repugnant to public feelings or contains offensive reference to any person or organization, alive or dead or generally disrespectful to human dignity, or even that which shows intense dislike, serious contempt or ridicule to a person.
One wonders why any radio station should repeatedly violate the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission's (NBC) Code of conduct by repeatedly hosting a self acclaimed Ogoni activist who identifies himself as Chief Gani Topba. The height of Chief Gani Topba's display of cynicism, complete lack of decorum, and outright insults to the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the Rivers State Government, and by extension the good people of Rivers State was in full display on Saturday, 12th October, 2019 between 8.15 am to 10am, when he (Chief Gani Topba) told the public that OML11 was a proposal dead on arrival, in his words "there was never to be a time Shell had 45%, Shell have no access to OML11". Chief Gani Topba's articulation of issues and communication has always been unguarded, and as such his repeated appearance on a radio station that is being regulated with clear guidelines by the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is worthy of query.
He as an Ogoni man and a genuine activist should have as a mark of patriotism, called for an authorized peaceful demonstration to protest the death trap status of the only federal road that leads to the nation's premier oil refinery, his village, as well as other Ogoni communities. When the National Assembly members from Rivers State protested against the death trap status of the only federal road leading to Ogoni land where was Chief Gani Topba?
Should Chief Gani Topba's incoherent arguments and poor grammatical presentation be used as a measure of his intellectual capacity, intelligence quotient, and wisdom, then he should be excused for ignorance and a total lack of understanding of what an open and transparent government directive to source for corporations with financial capacity as potential partners to liaise with the government meant. If he had understood this he would not have said on radio that the governor wants to buy OMLs 25 and 11.
In his words, "the governor wants to divert the two blocks to the company they have interest in. I don't know whether the governor wants to buy the head of Saro Wiwa, the rest of the people who died in Ogoni, or he wants to buy oil in Ogoni or in OML11". This statement is clearly empty, with no substance, and can at best be described as a mere volunteer of ignorance, and misconstruing rascality for activism. In furtherance of Chief Gani Topba's ignorance, he went ahead to call on the Security Agencies to investigate the governor for a treasonable offence. Quoting him, "we will not allow anybody to truncate the peace of President Muhamadu Buhari". According to him, the peace in Rivers State was at the instance of President Muhamadu Buhari.
Now the obvious comical ignorance of Chief Gani Topba is beginning to show a clear blend of partisan coloration. Chief Gani Topba who unequivocally accused the Rivers State Government of the killings in Ogoni, should know or be advised on the implications of a baseless allegation of genocide and felony on the government of Rivers State.
It is pertinent to ask, when, and how did we degenerate to the extent that the executive office of the governor no longer commands respect anymore. Radio stations and OAPs no longer adhere to the guidelines spelt out by the broadcast code, as apparently, gratification supersedes or trumps ethics and standards. Without mincing words, the Rivers State Government's acquisition of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria 45% interest in OML11 is a good omen not only for the host communities and Rivers State, but the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.