Who Is Fighting With The Economist? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Who Is Fighting With The Economist?

MajiriOghene Etimeku
Posted: Jul 19, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Majiri Oghene Etemiku

In the weeks which had just passed, I have read two very curious publications. I often come across curious publications every now and then, and ultimately, the decision to join issues with one or two of them and take them any seriously often does not depend on the fact that the publications are curious. What determines my level of involvement in any curious publication is often the curiosity of the themes in the curious publications. Sometimes as well, what makes a response, and in particular with the publications in question a bit hard to interrogate, is the fact that we presently live in a Nigeria wherein the government is unable to absorb a little constructive criticism as much as it threw when it was in the trenches.  To that extent, and with the topic at hand, it would not be difficult to be seen as holding a brief for a dog the government wants to give a bad name to hang.

But we must interrogate the issues irrespective of the centrifugal forces at play. I refer to the June 25th-1st July edition of The Economist Magazine which wrote two editorials on the Niger Delta on pages 12 & 29 titled Danegeld in the Delta, and Avengers Unite! I have read The Economist Magazine for more than a decade and not many times have I seen it write two editorials on one issue and on one country. Both articles in The Economist Magazine were written apparently to discuss the fracas in the Niger Delta. The first article more or less urged Mr. Buhari to dump discussions with the Niger Delta Avengers, and crush them outright. It cited the anecdote of a certain King who paid for peace with the Vikings invaders only to discover that monetary inducements set a dangerous precedence for him. But the other article was very different from the first one mostly because of its trademark detachment, and dour tenor, imprimaturs of The Economist. It merely described the problems in the Niger Delta from a somewhat objective perspective, citing why the Avengers are fighting and proffered a couple of solutions.

After reading that first ‘editorial’, I was sure this was the handiwork of a hawk and that this article which hardly bore the signature of The Economist looked like a plant.

And yet, just after I absorbed the twist within both ‘editorials’ of The Economist, I ran into this curious article written by President Buhari’s spokesman on the Independent newspaper of Thursday July 7, 2016. It was titled ‘President Buhari Sharpens Focus on Niger Delta’. In it, the writer quoted copiously from the first ‘editorial’ on The Economist referred to above, and curiously adopted the same tenor and tone of the first ‘editorial’.  The writer said that the agitations in the Niger Delta had come ‘from the blues’, and that the government had been negotiating with so many militants, and that these agitators were killing soldiers and policemen. Before he ended that article, the writer said he didn’t know why the agitators were agitating and that they shouldn’t mistake Mr. President’s ‘efforts as a sign of weakness.’

I’m not overly surprised at this. The tendency of a lot of government appointees is to pull the wool over, and appear to be in spirited alliance with their paymasters. I dare say as well that part of the reason why our beloved president hardly has a fair grasp of issues in Nigeria and in the Niger Delta is that so many political appointees mislead their principals with derring-do.

Yet in life and in all our dealings, we must never reduce the bar of the truth even by hair’s breath. In his very first paragraph, the writer unfairly accused the agitators of killing policemen and soldiers. This is not true. From reports which have not been controverted by local and international media, these militants are blowing up pipelines unfortunately. As a matter of fact when the soldiers raided Gbaramatu kingdom recently, the soldiers were the ones who went on a killing spree, maiming and looting. They had no concern for the aged, children and pregnant women. I want to add as well that the writer is right that Mr. President seems uncharacteristically ‘patient’ with the Avengers. We had thought that that kind of patience meant that he has been listening to a lot of the calls we have been making that he should do everything he can to avoid a military resolution of the issues in the Niger Delta. A military option took out Adaka Boro, Kenule Saro-Wiwa but didn’t resolve the problems. Going by Mr. President’s antecedents, we know that by now the whole of the Niger Delta would have been flattened. Against that background we thought as well that he has held his hand.  But we were all dead wrong. Gist in the market square is that Blackwater, a mercenary outfit in the US has already been mobilized to do the dirty job of taking out the agitators in the Niger Delta.

In spite of this gist, we insist that the spokesman should not take the Niger Delta for granted by feigning ignorance of the issues. If indeed he does not know what they are, here’s a summary. About 90% of the income of Nigeria comes from the Niger Delta. Yet the forms of poverty there do not correspond with this wealth, and contrasts sharply with development in places like Abuja & co. We know that there’s a 13% derivation fund, and that there’s the NDDC, the Ministry of the Niger Delta and all the other agencies of government with mandates to develop the region. We also know that a lot of the politicians in the region and Abuja are getting a tidy percentage from these funds to the extent that Mr. President is also reducing budgets for the Niger Delta agencies. What Mr. President should do to make sure that the monies are used for the purposes they were meant for is for him to pursue those stealing the monies. A contract with Blackwater against the agitators is not the answer. On page 182 of Gandhi, an Autobiography (1957), the Mahatma says that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party. Let the presidential spokesperson work towards making sure that there is justice in Nigeria instead of whipping up sentiments that could inflame the polity.