#TrueFederalism; The Minorities, Their Resources and the rest of us
Ndokwa is a minority ethnic nationality in Delta State of Nigeria.
Ndokwa is supposed to be one the richest ethnic groups in Nigeria. They have abundant natural resources beneath their soil.
Ndokwa has one of the highest reserves of natural gas in Africa. It has in abundance crude oil and natural gas and has contributed more more than $2billion in revenue to the federal government of Nigeria from the sales of natural gas and crude oil. Ndokwa contributes more than three million Dollars monthly in revenue to the federal government, Ndokwa contributes more money to the federal government than three Nigerian states combined together, yet what the three local governments of Ndokwa gets every month from the same federal government in the name of allocation is peanut compared to their contributions.
The little peanut that gets to Ndokwa every month through allocation gets into the hands of local politicians who by the defects of our feeding bottle unitary system are unable to carry out any meaning project in Ndokwa land. Ndokwa politicians by default are the local beneficiaries of our skewed unitary system and are therefore corrupt just like every other politician in Nigeria.
Over 90% of Ndokwa people are farmers and have lost hope in ever benefiting from their natural wealth which the federal government has stolen away from them. Their rivers are polluted by the multinationals, their soil degraded and their health threatened. Yet they have moved on as a peaceful people believing in the Nigerian Project.
Ndokwa hosts the first and one of the biggest gas powered plants ever built in Nigeria and supplies over 15% of Nigeria’s electricity, yet, Ndokwa is in darkness. In 2005, the federal government led by Olusegun Obasanjo commissioned the 480MW gas power plant (with expansion capacity of up to 960MW) in Ndokwa land and promised the Ndokwa people that a fair share of the electricity will be stepped down to the Ndokwa people and communities. Eleven years after, the federal government of Nigeria is yet to fulfil that promise. Ndokwa Nation is still in darkness as I write.
The gas which naturally belongs to Ndokwa people is used to generate electricity for Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Anambra and many Nigerian states, yet the people of Ndokwa have no electricity in their hometowns. Only very few communities in Ndokwa now have electricity courtesy of a multinational firm and their CSR effort from their operational gas plant and not of the federal government.
One of the supposedly richest local governments of Ndokwa and of Nigeria as a whole- Ndokwa East, is actually one of the most underdeveloped local government n Delta state today.
Many communities in Ndokwa have not had public electricity since electricity was invented in the world. Many communities do not have access roads to their villages. Some communities do not yet have secondary schools and have to send their children to neigboring communities to get basic education. Some communities in Ndokwa have no access to telecommunication networks. 99.9% of Ndokwa people depend on their individual hard work (mostly farming and trade) to survive. There are no jobs in Ndokwa land. There is little or no government presence at several Ndokwa communities and the little government presence through projects are either unsustainable, abandoned or designed to fail from the onset. Despite being an ethnic group situated along the Niger River, there are no clean water in Ndokwa land. Several communities in Ndokwa are currently endangered by coastal landslides caused by the annual Niger River flood. A particular community called Onyah has lost more than 10% of its residential area to the landslides. The communities have no funds to embark on shore protection projects and the government has gone deaf to their plea. The dredging of the Niger River by some oil companies without proper EIA is also contributing to this disaster that is eating up riverine communities in Ndokwa land.
In early 2014, Ndokwa youths launched a campaign tagged #StepItDownOrShutItDown, demanding from the federal government that they deserve a fair share of the electricity generated with their natural resources. They were only demanding that the federal government keeps to its initial agreement of stepping down electricity to Ndokwa communities upon commissioning of the IPP project, a promise Olusegun Obasanjo reiterated in 2005. The federal government responded to the campaign by sending more troops to secure the gas plant environment and threatened to deal with any youth that attempts to shut down the gas plant for whatever reason. The youths have remained civil and diplomatic in their campaign.
Ndokwa continues to generate millions of Dollars in oil & gas sales to the federal government of Nigeria monthly and yet remain in abject poverty. Ndokwa is not the only minority group being oppressed and exploited by the federal government of Nigeria. Isoko, Urhobo, Ijaw, Ishekiris, and many more minority groups of the Niger Delta are constantly being cheated and exploited by the federal government.
If the youths of Ndokwa land go violent by becoming militants tomorrow and decides to blow up the 480MW gas plant and every pipeline in their land, many Nigerians will rise up to call them names without understanding their grievances and what they have gone through in the hands of the federal government.
Whatever is happening in Ndokwa land is equally happening in many lands in Nigeria that is blessed with natural gas, crude oil or one resource or the other. The federal government is not only exploiting them but also suppressing their voices by using the divide and rule tactics.
The federal government of Nigeria is responsible for all the crisis in Nigeria and will continue to be responsible for the many more crisis that would come up in the future.
Every ethnic group and community (no matter how many or small) must be allowed to have a certain control of their destiny by having a community based democratic autonomous government that would manage the basic needs of their people and also benefit from their natural resources (if any). This is the foundation upon which federalism is built and why Nigeria should embrace true federalism.
Ndokwa land cannot be generating the wealth upon which Nigerian oligarchs survive on and yet the Ndokwa people are in misery and poverty. The natural gas of the Ndokwa people cannot be used to generate electricity for the rest of Nigerians while the Ndokwa people people live in darkness.
Nigeria is not working and will never work. The unitary system that we practice is evil and takes everybody backward. It does not just underdevelops us but also generates tension and crisis. The earlier we restructure Nigeria and entrench true federalism, the better.
May we not be overwhelmed when the revolution begins. The real change will come at any cost, we must all be prepared to survive through it. There is no other way out of this mess without altering the skewed, corrupt, feeding bottle unitary system that we practice.
The real change will come not by the ballot but by our collective will to restructure the system. Its a matter of time.
May those who oppose restructuring not be overwhelmed when the real change comes.