FEATURE ARTICLE

Augustine C. OhanweMonday, July 7, 2008
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THE NIGER DELTA IMBROGLIO: MILITARY SOLUTION, AN UNWISE STEP

hat is going on in the Niger Delta region is a manifestation of violence as a strategy of attracting the attention of the federal government for what they, the people of that region have defined as relative deprivation. That is, deprivation of what they perceive as their entitlement. They are in the third stage of their frustration. First, it started as discontent after their push met with a brick wall. The second stage was the polarization of their discontent. The third stage is the actualization of their discontent in a conflict style - employed proactively to obtain their demand. It is a horizontal attack against the vertical power in order to provoke the central government to react.


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The nation’s warship laden with troop is alleged to have set sail towards that volatile region. If the purpose of the federal government's decision is to use military power to achieve peace in that region, it will have the opposite effect.However, in the short term, such approach will usher in an ad hoc ”armed peace.” A type of peace that will culminate in the region’s violent action being buried beneath the political surface where it simmers waiting for when a fortuitous time will lend itself for further violence, perhaps with renewed vigor and brutality.

The theory that the use of military strike will prolong the prospect of achieving an enduring peace should not be downplayed. The warship stationed in that territory should be ordered not to unleash its canon bombs for the purpose of achieving peace. Let it be there for only psychological reason just as a nuclear weapon without a nuclear war head could not be said to constitute a threat. But it does command an aura of fear.

The Niger Delta conflict is not fought along a well drawn battle line or sectors. It is an organized, grass root militants that employ guerrilla tactics. They strike and melt into the murky circuitous terrain. They plant bombs, set booby traps and engage in kidnapping business. It is pertinent recalling that the US, in spite of its superior air powers, sophisticated naval warships and well equipped ground troops could not defeat the Vietcong guerrillas of Vietnam. Guerrilla warfare is hard to win.

The same guerrilla tactics have resurfaced in Iraq and Afghanistan in their respective bids to frustrate and humiliate the ”Coalition of the Willing” forces. With the employment of guerrilla style, one can observe that the conflicts in those two countries have dragged on more than expected.

While the above examples are external wars involving direct external powers’ participation, the Niger Delta conflict is a domestic one with international ramifications

What do we do to lower the political temperature generated by the Niger Delta conflict? In searching for a solution in a situation where remote factors have intertwined with the present to produce an amalgam of complex web of challenging problems, efforts should be devoted to identifying and isolating the major bone in the entire jigsaw. Once this can be achieved and tackled, other peripheral factors will wither away.

The federal government should therefore, refuse to define the ongoing conflict as ”The Federal Government Vs The Militants,” but rather appraise it from a wider perspective. In actual fact the militants are the mouthpiece of the Niger Delta region. Yes, a twittering bird that dances on the branch of a tree has an invisible orchestra playing the musical cord that releases the grooves it is responding to.

The Niger Delta conflict is premised on what the people of that region had defined as relative deprivation as stated earlier. This is the genesis of their grievances. Military power does not obliterate emotional attachment or grievances.

The solution should be sought within the nation's cultural peculiarities. A round table meeting should be summoned where the representatives of the militants, chiefs, elders, influential sons and daughters of the Niger Delta region should be in attendance to mingle and cross-pollinate ideas with the representatives of the federal government.

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