It has been a little over a month since the oil spill occurred in the United States’ Gulf and words are not enough to express a profound empathy to those who are directly affected by it and have to live with it for a lengthy period of time: the ones who depend daily on the Gulf for their food consumption, income to provide for their families, and for the protection of some of the world’s most unique sea creatures in the area. On no other can you see reflections of the anger, hopelessness, and frustration of the American people, than on the President of the U.S., Barack Obama. One thing is certain, however, and that is the fact that BP will pay dearly for this- with the commencement of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney General, the drastic slump of BP’s stocks, the law suits piling up by the second, the present and future health problems that would become BP’s burden to bear, we know BP will never be the same again.
But, please, allow me to take you on a journey to the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. Join me so you can see what oil spills- caused by not one, or two, or three oil companies- have subjected the people of that region, to, for fifty years and counting. For over fifty years, these people have been crying, now they lack the strength and tears to cry, anymore.
99% of the communities in the Niger Delta region sit on or are surrounded by vast rivers and seas, which makes fishing the invariable livelihood of a vast majority of the people. But the people’s relationship to the waters does not just end there. Given the lackadaisical attitude of multinational companies in the region to provide adequate clean-running tap water for them, the waters have (and always had) become the people’s source of drinking water; the waters are where the people go to launder theirclothes and keep them ‘so clean and so fresh’; the waters are where some of the people go to conduct religious rituals and sacrifices to their gods; the waters are where the people go to take their baths, to urinate, to defecate, and to brush their teeth; and, more than the U.S., the waters are what generate 99% of the wealth in the Niger Delta.
In communities where a third of the world’s oil is being tapped and billions made, daily, the people live on less than half a dollar a day. Sometimes when these spills occur and the corporations feel the need to clean-up a portion of the area just for publicity stunt, the clean-up projects are contracted to other multinational firms/experts, who get paid heavily for it. But the people in the region are saying “give us the job to do, even though we are ill equipped for it (in terms of health hazards preventions) and may end up dying from it; we just want to provide food for our families.”
How many people, in our loving and caring “global community” have come out to speak for the people of the Niger Delta? Who, between the Niger Delta and the Nigerian government, has reached out to the indigenes of Ogoni, Ogbudu, Gana, Adeje, Ilaje, Bille, Amusia, Akwa (with a million gallons of oil spilled in the Akwa community from the ExxonMobil pipelines on May 1st, ’10…within seven days), to say “we are sorry for the horrendous acts we have allowed to happen to you for decades”? Who has been made to bear the brunt of and held accountable for the decades-long disasters that have plagued the Niger Delta? I know who: the indigenes themselves.
The people in the U.S. Gulf (with Louisiana been the most, if not the only, affected state) have, at the very least,
their homes to go back to, clean-running water to drink, cook their foods, and well-functioning washrooms to bathe and defecate; the majority of the people in Niger Delta can only dream of these luxuries- with most of them who live on top of the waters praying for God’s intervention on their behalf, one day.
The U.S. government has said it would only support the Nigerian president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s bid for another term in office, if only his administration would prosecute and/or extradite those that are involved in the alleged $180million fraud that was committed against Harliburton Corporation in Nigeria. It is imperative that the aforementioned information is articulated, because it unravels, all the more, the watchful eyes of the American government- as well as other Western/Asian government- on Nigeria; and it also highlights the implicitly close attention that they pay to their interests in Nigeria.
But it seems almost too glaring that these nations have contracted an ‘oversight deficiency’ when it comes to the humanitarian and natural disasters in the Niger Delta. Would it not have been nice and note-worthy if the American government, in the same fate, had called upon the Nigerian government to also prosecute oil corporations for taking away the livelihood of millions of people, causing their untimely deaths, and turning their kids- who they had high expectations for, at life- into armed bandits and criminals?
This is a region with an abundance of crude oil, yet no good schools, roads, hospitals, food, and even electricity in these areas. But multinational corporations- like Harliburton, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, Agip oil, Elf, Total, AP, etc- continue to “drill baby, drill” and make billions of dollars from oil profits, while their immediate next door neighbors- the host communities and owners of the lands and waters- continue to wallow in an ever-decreasing state ofacute dystopia.
Let me digress here to talk about widely-held opinions about the reason for the continued ignorance of the plight of the Niger Delta and Africa as a whole. And also, about my encounter with indigenes of the oil community and; my faith in Nigeria and the African continent (in brief):
The nations that these multinationals represent care a great deal about the government of and “demo-crazy” in Nigeria, insofar as both favor their interests and enhance their foreign policy agendas. But the human lives and their naturally blessed habitations- for which these oil corporations should be worshipping and kissing their feet, over- is valued at less than a cent. One wonders if maybe part of their foreign policies is to drastically reduce the population of Nigeria. If that is the case, it should come as no surprise then why in recent times, Nigerians in the
diaspora are beginning to indiscriminately get murdered and slaughtered by countries like Poland, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the many others, without any form of explanation or anyone to hold accountable. While those that are in Nigeria are handed with executions by starvation, deaths from health hazards caused primarily by the oil spills, and from poisoned fish, poisoned air, poisoned water, and deadly bacteria and mosquitoes. Some may disagree with this assumption/opinion; but it is why they call it an opinion. In spite of all these, one thing is certain, as far as Nigeria is concerned: a great change will soon come upon Nigeria like a supernova; and it will take the world by surprise.
My encounter with some indigenes- While taking a brief stop at a gas station during one of my trips to the Niger Delta, I encountered a lady and her son begging for food and water at the same location- they had not eaten any good food for almost two days. After a brief chit-chat with them, buying food for them, and handing them a few
naira notes, I bought the lady and her son two bottles of clean water. And the lady, with a tear running down her right cheek, prayed for me and blessed me with the ‘blessings of a mother;’ her and her son had not drank clean water in a long time (much less bottled water which they have to spend money to purchase) that they had almost forgotten how fresh and without taste clean water felt like in the mouth, until their encounter with me.
People sometimes wonder why there is this practice of kidnappings and feeling of hate and/or resentment towards foreigners in the Niger Delta region. But how do we blame them for such ill-feeling and attitude when their God-given human reason allows them to see the injustices of the world, done right in their own front
yards. Indigenes of Louisiana are rest assured that their government as well as BP will do all that must be done to resolve their plight. But the indigenes in the Niger Delta region (who have lost their will to hope some fifty years ago) continue to sit and listen to the many lies and promises of these billion-dollar-making corporations that may see another half a century go by without an iota of fruition.
Who is going to die with the people of the Niger Delta? How can the world remain so stoical while these innocent people die this death, alone, in their millions? The worst thing you can ever do to a human being, or even an animal, is take away his/her source of livelihood and continue to deprive him/her of the ability to provide
for his family. This is the death that has befallen the people of the Niger Delta. I died this death with them…it is a poignant and painful death. It is a death you do not want to die. They die while the world sits idly by with its arms folded. What went wrong with our world?
Let the good and moral citizens of the world not relent in supporting the beautiful people of Nigeria as well as Africa. Although you may not come from this country or continent, although you may have heard horrible stories about this continent, you continue to pour your hearts out for this mother of all civilizations, because you
understand and feel the sorrows they continue to bear. You see past the lies, the prejudices and racism, and you hug your Nigerian/African brothers and sisters when ever you see them, with a clean and well-intended heart. Know that your continued activism and humanitarian support is what this world was intended for, in the beginning; but it is been suppressed, however, by the evil and heartless ones. But good will surely succeed over evil. And always remember this: a people/world united for a good cause, can and will never be defeated. Your reward is imminent.