Sustaining the Unity and Peace of Nigeria through Corruption
Corruption was the major strategy used by the PDP to sustain the peace, stability and unity of Nigeria since the time of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. President Buhari needs to understand how this strategy has worked out well and might probably end up retaining the strategy if he must succeed in governing a criminal and skewed country like Nigeria. Corruption sustains corruption.
Let me explain what this mean.
At the peak of the Niger Delta Militant uprising during the time of President Yar’adua, the federal government was faced with three options. First, continue the military confrontation while the economy remained ruined. Second, meet up with the demands of the agitation by giving back the resources to its rightful owners (the Niger Deltans). Lastly, corrupt the agitators and rent peace for as long as the agitators can remain corrupted.
The first choice of continuos military confrontation was counter productive. The military had been badly injured and embarrased, the terrain was not in their favor. And besides, some prominent Niger Delta politicians were sympathetic to the agitation thereby making it difficult for the federal government to penetrate the creeks and gather intelligence without been bursted by local collaborators. This first option was no longer sustainable. Continous military confrontation was therefore not a good choice.
The second option was as difficult as the first. Giving back the resources to the Niger Deltans would portray the FG as weak even though it was the right thing to do. It would also likely create secessional tendency and make the Niger Delta politicians and people more powerful than the rest of the country. This option is obviously not in favor of the Federal Government policy of unitary central command. It could not accept it. The federal government was left with the last choice; corrupt the agitators.
Corrupting the agitators was a smart choice but it needed to be carefully executed. MEND was no childs play. They meant business and where determined to emancipate their people from the colonization and exploitation by the Federal Government. They had foreign support in both finance and arms. Corrupting such a group will certainly not be easy.
To cut long story short, the FG succeeded in its ‘corrupt the agitators’ strategy by first, infiltrating the militant camps and destroying their international reputation and integrity. And also by offering them amnesty and some ‘feeding bottle’ commisions. The infiltration of the militant camps was a brilliant idea by the FG. The plan was to commit all manner of atrocities (including kidnapping and killing of expatriates) in the name of MEND and giving them a bad image in the international community. This plan worked. While this strategy was in motion, the FG was equally making its amnesty offer to various camps that were willing to end the fight. MEND became polarized. All manner of crimes were committed in their name, their integrity was at stake. They were losing the control of the media. The FG sponsored media propaganda was working.
On the other hand, the FG was still offering them its amnesty package which would guarantee the safety and well being of the agitators, no matter how many they are. Also, the FG was willing to consider creating new commissions to increase the level of federal government presence in the Niger Delta Area.
MEND became highly polarized. Some wanted to end the fight, get the package and move on, others wanted to fight on. It was a dilenma. No camp could accept the offer without compromising the other camps. Part of the amnesty offer was that the militants will also now secure the Niger Delta to further forestall future uprisings. This meant that if one camp accepted the offer, it would become their duty to expose other camps. This became a major set back to the struggle.
Meanwhile, the FG had tactically avoided the main reason for the militancy which was resource control. Through diplomacy and persuasions, the Yar’adua presidency was able to get prominent Niger Delta statesmen to intervene in the crisis.
It worked. Amnesty was accepted. Ministry of Niger Delta was created and many more interventionist approaches were adopted by the FG to appease the Niger Delta.
Goodluck Jonathan, a Niger Deltan became President by accident. Rather than genuinly address the main issues which the Yar’adua govt had ‘corruptly’ resolved. Jonathan decided to continue with the ‘corrupt the agitators’ strategy after much threat from MEND that they would renew attacks. Jonathan brought the agitators closer to Abuja, gave them more money, juicy contracts and used them to maintain the peace of the Niger Delta forgetting that the peace which his govt enjoys from the region was rented by amnesty and had an expiry date. Again, the agitation suffered a set back. The region was pacified by the very fact that their son was the head of government. They relented in their struggle and enjoyed the dividends of corruption. In 2015, Goodluck Jonathan lost his Presidential re election bid to a Northerner by the name Muhammadu Buhari, coincidentally, the amnesty procured peace was billed to end within the same period. There are other cases where Jonathan tried to rent peace by bribery, for example, Jonathan gave out millions of dollars in bribe to Boko Haram for the release of the Chibok girls. He was duped!
Buhari, having been away from govt circle for over thirty years, decided that it was time to end the amnesty program. Indeed, the amnesty program was billed to end. Buhari who is acclaimed to be an incorruptible no-nonesense man, decided to quickly provoke the Niger Delta agitators by asserting that the amnesty program would end as planned. This announcement in his inaugural speech was an unnecessary provocation which many believe the agitators felt was an insult on their sensibility. They were yet to recover from the shock that their son had just lost a re election bid. They felt betrayed and considered the rest of Nigeria as ungrateful. And here was a Northern President saying the ‘corrupt the agitators’ strategy will now end without providing an alternative solution.
President Buhari was right in planning to end the amnesty program, however, many considered his utterances as insultive and reckless and even unnecessary. Buhari was in a haste to end the amnesty (probably because he considered it as corruption) but he had quickly neglected the historical perspective and origin of the amnesty-corruption. Buhari probably felt that it was wrong for criminals (ex militants) to be this wealthy. He was right in the same way he was wrong to consider the militants as criminals without first considering the FG as the biggest criminal who is the grandfather of all criminality in Nigeria. The situation is a contradiction. It was a circle of criminality in which both the FG and the ex militants were partners.
Today, history is about to repeat itself. President Buhari is now faced with the same three options which President Yar’adua was faced with; military confrontation, meet the demands of the agitations or corrupt the agitators.
The right thing to do is certainly to meet their demands by giving them back their resources. But since this might not be in the interest of a greedy skewed unitary federal government, I suspect that Buhari will end up going for the last option of ‘corrupting the agitators’ as the first idea of military confrontation already seem to be a failure.
Will President Buhari (an acclaimed incorruptible man) now the use the strategy of ‘corruption’ as used by PDP/Yar’adua/Jonathan to sustain the unity, stability and peace of Nigeria? Will this acclaimed incorruptible former General have the boldness to do the right thing by giving back the resources to its rightful owners?
It is already rumored that President Buhari through his assistant minister of Petroleum is already willing to offer bribes to the new militant group in the tune of millions of dollars.
How long will corruption be used to sustain the peace of Nigeria? When will the govt do the right thing by restructuring the country and bringing permanent peace?