Elder Cyril Harry
Years ago, there was a very instructive presentation made by Club 401 Port Harcourt to the Federal Government Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, which was headed by Leedum Mitee. I had the privilege of being part of that work and seeing its relevance to this gathering, I wish to quote from it.
They opined inter alia:
“In our view sustainable peace in the Niger Delta rests on a tripod with the following legs:
- Significant step-change in the sense of wellbeing of the common man on the street.
- Significant step-change in Government presence and,
- Genuine reconciliation”.
On genuine reconciliation they had this to say, “a general amnesty should be declared as happened after the Nigerian Civil War; there are deep grievances which infrastructure development and money in the pocket cannot solve”.
This was rather prophetic! It was therefore, a thing of joy to witness the declaration of Amnesty for Niger Delta militants by the federal government by the President Musa Yar’Adua administration. Fast forward to 2020, and alas, what do we have? Subterranean squabbles over who should be primus inter peres in the pursuit of a just and fair deal for the people of the Niger Delta!
So, if I describe this gathering as a bitter-sweet occasion, it should be understandable. Sweet because of the recent appointment of Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo, former acting director of Research and Studies at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, a renowned scholar and authority on peace studies ,to head the Presidential Amnesty Programme for former Niger Delta militants, who is eminently qualified.
Bitter because peace which is one leg of the ‘tripod’ stand to the development and eradication of poverty in Nigeria’s Niger Delta , appears to be facing challenges that could turn the aspirations of us all into a pipe dream.
In these challenges, I see strong elements of a ‘zero-sum-game’ mindset. For those of us who may not be familiar with the concept of ‘zero-sum-game, it refers to an attitude that views the loss to another or others, as the only way one can gain or benefit; meaning that it is not possible to find mutually beneficial grounds for two interested parties.
In order to counsel against this mindset, I wish to refer us tone of the 16-point agenda PANDEF placed before the government of President Muhammadu Buhari: “a review of the Amnesty programme’s core mandate of providing a robust exit strategy to ensure that those trained have jobs to return to or are given stipends”.
For as many as wish that the Presidential Amnesty Programme for former Niger Delta militants succeeds, this is a good common ground. And to this end, all and sundry of Niger Delta extraction should rally round Prof. Charles Quaker Dokubo and his team, by giving helpful advice that would help towards realization of this laudable objective, for which Prof Dokubo’s team has single-point responsibility-if this important aspect of the Amnesty programme fails or succeeds, is their responsibility.
On the part of the new leadership, the following measures should be undertaken as a minimum:
*Open –door; not having a closed view of life.
* An email-based suggestion box for helpful ideas on programme design and execution by the management. A personal assistant that has the ears of the chairman could be appointed to make this work.
*Great organisations work on systems and processes that function well. To ensure the health of these feedback systems, an internal technical auditor may also be helpful.
Going forward, as Niger Delta people, we have a great opportunity to own the Amnesty Programme and to make it work. Let’s join hands with Prof Charles Quaker Dokubo and do just that. God bless the Niger Delta and her peoples.