“Governors must restore the human dignity of Ijaw and Niger Delta people” by Bobo Sofiri Brown

“Governors must restore the human dignity of Ijaw and Niger Delta people” by Bobo Sofiri Brown

Dignity is what makes us human beings, not wealth or power or lack of social enablers. Interestingly, human dignity can only be upheld and preserved i

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Dignity is what makes us human beings, not wealth or power or lack of social enablers. Interestingly, human dignity can only be upheld and preserved in a gathering, community, state or country that creates conditions to ensure that each person’s dignity is protected from birth, no matter the person’s colour, creed or religion, ethnicity, gender or status.

Thus, it behooves us as a people to tackle conditions that fundamentally deprive anyone of dignity. There are conditions that deprive Ijaw and Niger Delta people of dignity and tend to compel the people into anti-social behaviour in order to merely survive or as rebels against an unjust system.

Our people are deprived of hope by a system that cannot say how many industries will be built in a particular budget year or next, to create employment and business opportunities. It is a system that enthrones injustice because it is uncaring for the majority. It deprives us of dignity.  Only the handful that benefit from it, have any reason to defend such a system.

Currently, we are trapped in the politics of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) as we are being cajoled to register and vote for this party or that party. Each party ends up oppressing our people and robbing us of dignity. We should be asking that the political parties must make our dignity the priority of our democracy, not making PVC more important than the citizen.

Have you noticed that no state in Nigeria is enforcing a minimum efficiency framework in terms of matching provisions for operation of every school or hospital facility in its territory to agreed performance level? It is so because those who make the rules are allowed by us to send their families to schools and hospitals overseas at our expense. Our PVC alone doesn’t change that.

For instance, how much is the salary of our President, Governors, Ministers, Legislators, public appointees and Civil Servants for any one of them to afford to pay one year’s school fees or medical bills overseas from his or her legitimate earning? It means that all those among our political leaders who paid or are paying to train their children or get medical care overseas, did so or are doing so at our expense. It is an act of corruption to pay fees that are beyond one’s legitimate earning!

This is a system that robs the majority of citizens of their dignity. This is not done to us by Abuja or by the Federal government. It is done by our own kith and kin that maneuver themselves into political offices. We are being crushed by mass unemployment and poverty, which tend to provoke incidents of robbery, drug abuse, kidnapping, etc. At the root of this condition is whether or not each State Government is using its revenue to create a better future for its citizens.

The fact is that since 1999, our States and Local Government political elite spend more of our revenue on themselves than on the majority. We do not invest state revenue to create opportunities that can positively encourage our people to be creative and enterprising in a productive and sustainable manner. How can people have dignity when they can’t feed?

What we see is that only families and friends of top politicians get cheques or “Ghana-Must- Go” from funds that belong to all of us. They take all the opportunities for meaningful career work or business deals. Their children come from school and get connected to juicy jobs or live on fat allowances from public funds. They experience the selective miracle of turning into millionaires, after one handshake with the man who keeps state funds. They alone enjoy the protective warmth of well- armed security personnel that should work for all of us.

Can you imagine that our state can become exemplary, if we demand that no public office holder should be entitled to more than one Police orderly? Politicians will be forced to pay more attention to general security. If we convert “security votes” to “economic emergency fund” to build two industries per Senatorial District each year, we will have more productive citizens, more revenue, more viable assets and less crime. Because we are not pursuing such goals, we are actually guilty of letting those in power to indulge in gross misuse of state revenue and power of office. It is not done by Abuja or Federal Government. It is done to us by our kith and kin.

Our political leaders even carry our state revenue to beg for friendship with the same Hausa / Fulani. Yet we are told that the Hausa / Fulani have made mediocrity our masters.   Meanwhile our states which are ruled by Christian Governors and Christian legislators do not have better economic foundation and dignity of citizens. They are as poor and uncaring as those run by the Moslem North. We are a common population of the deprived and it helps the purpose of our kith and kin in power.

To lord over us, they need people without dignity. We will do anything we are told as long as we remained poor. They yell at us to get PVC or die. We just obey.

Ask yourself:

  1. a) Did the primaries for selection of ward Councilors since 1999 allow you to make a fair and free choice?
  2. b) Do the costs of forms and campaign for elective positions, not RIG the selection process ahead, in favour of those who have money or who agree to submit to self -seeking mafia now called God- fathers?
  3. c) Does the electoral system present to us candidates we chose or those chosen for us?

What we should do to regain our dignity?

We need to organize ourselves into an active Stakeholder group to demand a system that will guarantee our dignity by removing social conditions that leave us deprived of dignity. Politicians don’t want us to go in this direction because it threatens the present system that makes them privileged.

Recently, by organizing to demonstrate against the abduction of Chibok girls, ordinary Nigerians put it in the front burner of political agenda. By demonstrating and speaking up against “black soot”, ordinary Rivers people led by a knowledgeable few are pushing government at state level and even the Federal Government to pay attention.

Let us push to place the restoration of the dignity of our people at the front burner of political agenda now. The political elite and their affiliate agents or organizations prefer to talk about regional structure or resource control (that is the slogan of “re-structuring”). It is their way to bargain to give their political class more access to public wealth at the expense of the majority.

Should we allow the agenda that deprives you and me of dignity, to continue? The choice is ours. Dignity is everything. Once the government is run in ways to restore, respect and enforce the dignity of every citizen, then we will be recognized as human beings. Since 1999, only those in government see themselves as human beings. That is why they alone deserve all the comfort of life paid for from public funds.  That is also why they talk down on us and they don’t think they should listen to us.

In 2013-14, an agency (GRAIN Consulting) did a survey in the Niger Delta on people’s top concerns? The 5 top concerns picked by respondents who were professionals and ordinary Nigerians, were identified as: lack of economic opportunities and growing unemployment, poverty, corruption, insecurity and disrespect by people in power. Though not in this exact order, but those 5 concerns came tops. Another survey was done between November 2017 – May 2018 and part of the data reinforces the issue of disrespect by people in authority.

Do you know for instance, that in the Niger Delta our Civil Service retirees spend more than a year in misery and daily anxiety, before their files can be regularized?  Yet they will be summoned every month or so to produce one document or another at cost to themselves.

But for former Governors, Deputy Governors, Speakers, etc. they get instant attention for bloated packages they have given to themselves. Compare that to the Private Sector where it takes less than a month to regularize your pension status. Even more, each retiree is treated with respect. This is happening in companies within the Niger Delta. Consider the principle behind the package in the private sector versus the public sector. A CEO or top officer of a private sector organization that is retiring gets a pension package informed by how well the officer helped to improve the viability of its business.

In Niger Delta states, even those who are currently in office admit that conditions have become worse.  Former leaders left the states they presided over in poorer and less viable conditions than they were in 1999, yet they rewarded themselves with an “Emperor’s pension” bonus. This is not done to us by Abuja or Federal Government. It is not by Muslim North or Fulani herdsmen. No! It is done to us by our Christian kith and kin who find themselves in power.

When shall we ask questions? We can really do a lot of good for our society, if we address the issue of fairness and dignity.

They are the reasons for gross corruption, high cost of governance and lack of unity among our people. Everybody sees the cheating and wants to get part of the action. That is why our politics is nothing but warfare, in which winner takes all. If we establish fairness and dignity as core principles of governance, we will reduce social tension, insecurity and underdevelopment by 50%. We will place our states among top 10 growing economies in Africa, not just Nigeria within 4 years. It was achieved after the Civil War by Alfred Diete-Spiff, Samuel Ogbemudia and Uduakaha Jacob Esuene governments from 1970-75. Let’s set that as our target.

By Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown

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