On Monday, March 15, a huge explosion rocked Warri, straining the already tenuous thread of temporary calm in the oil(y) city. It was a bomb blast planted at the venue of a conference on amnesty with leaders of the oil producing areas and some of the governors in attendance.
It was aimed for maximum effect and it succeeded in aborting the conference, with all the important dignitaries scampering for safety. Still, about 3 people were reported to have died and a few others injured.
It signals a new dimension to the militant struggle in the Niger Delta for control of their own God-given resource and force the pace of fiscal federalism on a country that has for decades exploited the oil of their land but in turn wrought colossal havoc and devastation on the land and its peoples.
It is a frightening dimension for us all as bomb as weapon of civil protest or resistance has not been common to our land. Other than the few occasions during General Abacha years when bombs went off here and there, that turned out to have been planted by the very same military government as a stratagem of roping and containing the pro-democracy activists of the time, bomb has not been our lot. We would, of course, remember too that the same military government in the time of General Babangida utilized a parcel bomb to dispatch the thorny journalist, Dele Giwa, out of this world.
There is a subsisting amnesty in the Niger Delta region for the militants who have hitherto ferociously waged guerilla war against the Federal Government. The disarmament for amnesty saw hundreds of militants turn in their arms and artillery in return for government “pardon”, “restitution” and “rehabilitation”. The bomb blast has just demonstrated what we knew all along that the arms and ammunitions surrendered by the militants meant little or nothing when and if the government reneged on the pact or when and if the militants feel rather short-changed in the deal. The international sources of arms, of even far more sophisticated kind, remain open to the militants and their sponsors at all times, and in a porous country of errant security forces, smuggling in of fresh supplies can only be a piece of cake.
I shake my head and shudder to think of the implication and the ramifications of this new dimension to the struggle in the Niger Delta. It forebodes ill for us all. Whatever Nigerians “discover” and adopt, they abuse and over-indulge in. Those who know what is happening in even security-efficient developed states like Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan, Iraq, etc, know that were Nigeria to suddenly adopt bombs as a weapon of protest and resistance, it will spell the end to Nigeria as we presently know it.
While I beg my Niger Delta brethren to give peace a chance, it is now doubly incumbent on the government to hasten the process of genuine development in the Niger Delta region. The amnesty arrangement must not collapse. Government must bend over backwards to absorb all the restive youth of that region. The resources with which Abuja was built overnight came from the Niger Delta; the billions that successive military governments stole and enriched a few pockets belong to the Niger Delta. Nothing that is given back to them that can be too much. Me I talk my own o!