Book review: Remaking the Niger Delta

Est. read time: 9 min

At the launch of his latest book – “Remaking the Niger Delta: Challenges and Opportunities” – in the Nigeria city of Lagos, Kingsley Kuku thanked Professor Gus John for editing the manuscript and helping to get it ready for printing.  Prof John delivered the following public review of the book:

Your Excellency Mr Vice President, Your Royal Highnesses, other distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, I greet you in Peace and with Hope.  I say ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and not the usual ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ because some of us men are not so gentle and some women not so ladylike.  Be that as it may, we nevertheless remain ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and in this audience particularly I feel much more comfortable with that.

Let me begin by reminding us that the problems in the Niger Delta are man-made.  They are not the product of natural disasters.  Typhoons and tidal waves did not despoil the once lush environment and mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta, bringing crippling poverty from one generation to another in their wake.  No! So, if those problems which have acquired a stubborn permanence were made by man, they could be remedied by man.

The renowned scientist and philosopher, Albert Einstein, once famously said: “The problems we have created cannot be solved by the same thinking that gave rise to them“.

Kingsley Kuku is calling for a new mindset in the Niger Delta and Nigeria to address in a sustainable way the problems of the Niger Delta that have been 60 years in the making.

25th June 2012 marked 3 years since the late President Umaru Musa Yar‘ Adua signed the Amnesty Declaration that ushered in a period of peace and stability in the oil and gas producing communities of the Niger Delta.

"Remaking the Niger Delta" by Kingsley Kuku (Cover)

“Remaking the Niger Delta” by Kingsley Kuku

Remaking the Niger Delta – challenge and opportunities  (right) is the product of three years of research and reflection by Kingsley Kuku, a son of the Ijaw Nation, a Niger Deltan born and bred.  One who in his youth was inspired by the courageous struggles led by Isaac Adaka Boro and by Ken Saro-Wiwa;  one who himself engaged in peaceful mediation and conflict resolution and was influential among his generation.  He was a signatory to the Kaiama Declaration in December 1998 and became the spokesperson of the Ijaw Youth Council in 2001.

In 2007, he was appointed Special Assistant/Head of Conflict Management Unit, at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and later that same year as Secretary of the Presidential Committee on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Niger Delta representing the NDDC. This was at the height of the insurgency in the oil producing areas, a time when there was a toxic mixture of politically motivated targeting of oil installations by agitators and a high level of opportunistic criminality for which innocent residents in oil communities invariably paid the price, especially as a result of armed reprisals. In 2009, he was appointed a Member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty.

His experience with the Ijaw Youth Council across the region and his knowledge of the various groups engaged in agitation for environmental remediation and for greater investment in oil producing communities by the oil companies, State and Federal Governments stood him in good stead when it came to mobilising support for the Amnesty Proclamation and encouraging agitators to lay down their arms.  In January 2011, he was appointed Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta, taking up the baton from Timi Alaigbe.  His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also appointed him Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Office.

The Hon Kuku says of his reasons for writing the book:

‘I have written this book in order to place all the above in its proper perspective and to highlight the opportunity the peace secured by the Amnesty Declaration and the Demobilisation, Demilitarisation and Reintegration (DDR) process has given us to ‘Remake the Niger Delta’. The book identifies and discusses the challenges and opportunities involved in ‘Remaking the Niger Delta’

‘I have given the book the subtitle A Development Handbook because in it I offer prescriptions for the development not only of the Niger Delta region but of all of Nigeria’

‘At a time when the nation faces unprecedented internal threats from extremist and separatist tendencies that are hell bent on promoting strife, taking innocent lives and sowing fear and divisions in the polity, it is essential that the whole of our vast nation take ownership of the challenges faced by any part of it, irrespective of ethnic nationality or religion/belief and work together to build a common future and refashion this nation with the hallmark of ‘Equality and Justice’

‘I have written the book because I believe that the Amnesty Programme represents a unique opportunity to reintegrate agitating youths of the Niger Delta into mainstream Nigeria while addressing the root causes of the problems that led to protests and violent agitation in the oil producing areas, so that the revenue from oil and gas can be put to improving the standard of living of indigenous Niger Deltans and all Nigerians’

The book contains 10 chapters and a Preface which provides a helpful nine page summary of the context in which the author is writing and of those chapters.

Key messages from the book include:

  • The relative peace and stability in the Niger Delta region that was won by the Amnesty Programme should not be taken for granted.  Oil companies and other stakeholders cannot continue with business as usual while we make strenuous attempts to re-orient and reintegrate former agitators.  The historical grievances that gave rise to the militancy and insurgency have got to be addressed.
  • It will require all stakeholders working very closely together to resolve real problems that threaten common interests in the Niger Delta region.
  • While there are three principal stakeholders, namely, the people in the oil producing communities, the multinational oil companies and the governments (Federal, State and Local), plus a chain of subsidiary ones, the first of those have been left out of the picture by the other two main sets.  The author argues that they now need to see themselves as all having to play a part in finding a lasting solution to the protracted situation, especially if they do not wish to see indigenes’ impatience for change lead to renewed turbulence.
  • Specifically, he calls upon oil and gas producing companies to exercise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an acknowledgement and demonstration of the need to marry social investment, the building of social capital, the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of social inclusion with economic development and wealth creation.
  • Crucially, the post-Amnesty situation gives oil companies the opportunity to begin to invest in communities and particularly in the future careers of ex-agitators in the Amnesty Programme.
  • The book explores the role of bodies such as the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, as well as State and Local Governments in the post-Amnesty environment, arguing that the opportunity now exists to coordinate the activities of existing bodies set up by government to bring peace and stability to the Niger Delta and to develop the region. This requires increased and focused collaboration between stakeholders in the design of community led development initiatives to stabilise the Niger Delta.
  • Again, to underscore the intrinsic connectedness between the Niger Delta and Nigeria, the book seeks to demonstrate how achieving success in the Niger Delta will give a great boost to Nigeria’s national security aspirations both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts.
  • We owe it to the present and future generations in the Niger Delta and Nigeria to put environmental remediation on the agenda.
  • Nigeria has the potential to become a great and cohesive nation, a great economy to match if not surpass that of India and Brazil.  It is blessed with many more natural resources in commercial quantities than oil and gas, including fertile and verdant agricultural lands.  Oil revenue should be used to diversify the economy, which has been over dependent on oil and gas, create employment and a better standard of living for its large and predominantly young population.
  • Nigeria needs to imagine a time when it will not be able to draw upon its oil and gas reserves and begin, now, to build a mixed economy that can engage the talents and creativity of the masses of its people rather than the relatively few that are employed in the oil industry.
  • In order to achieve all of the above and more, there needs to be a change in mindset on everybody’s part, politicians, other national and local leaders, police and military, educators and indeed all Nigerians.
  • The book argues in favour of Professor Patrick Utomi’s position that we need to think along the lines of economic and development zones in which zonal competition in the production of goods and services is encouraged.  The book emphasises the need to invest in our education system and make our universities great once more; the need to invest in Science and in Research so as to underpin innovation and growth.
  • One of Nigeria’s greatest assets is its people. A creative and entrepreneurial people with high ambitions and with supreme self-confidence.  We have the capacity to learn from our past and not visit upon succeeding generations the costly mistakes of the past and the catastrophic results of our failure to learn lessons from them.

That is why we need to apply those lessons in taking Nigeria forward, away from the cosiness and corrupting potential of oil rent, and  build a brighter and more ethically framed future for our children and for generations yet unborn.

A future that bears the hallmark of corporate ethics, commonly shared values, ethical conduct on the part of individuals and institutions, corporate, social and religious, all acting with moral purpose in an environment in which rights are safeguarded and extended, and in which citizens discharge their responsibilities to themselves, their families, their communities and the society.

It is an established fact that the Ijaw Nation and the Ijaw Youth Council played a major part in bringing the problems in the Niger Delta to national attention and challenging the oil and gas companies and the Federal Government.  But, through the Amnesty programme and this book, Kingsley Kuku is demonstrating that he is not just a statesman for the Niger Delta but for Nigeria.

This book deserves the widest possible circulation.  It deserves to be launched in London and in New York.  There are some 18,000 Nigerian students in the UK and an estimated 7,500 of them pursuing courses in international development, financial management, or some related fields of study.  They all should read this book as should students and staff in schools and universities in Nigeria.

Kingsley Kuku is to be congratulated on this project and I strongly commend the book to you.

Purchase “Remaking the Niger Delta” from Mandingo Publishing’s website.

Picture (home): “The Niger delta often shows fairytale-like scener” by 300td.org (Flickr – CC BY 2.0)

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