President #Jonathan’s last minute change of mind on EPZ trip bad for his status as C-in-C
President Goodluck Jonathan’s failure to commission the groundbreaking of the $16 billion export Free Zone facility in Ogidigben has further raised questions about his administration’s commitment to development, fairness and justice. The project, billed to position gas as an alternative to over-reliance on oil as source of revenue for the country, is expected to generate jobs for the youths and sharpen the skills of indigenous professionals to wean the nation off dependence on expatriates to run the oil and gas industry.
Unfortunately, the project is now mired in the local Ijaw-Itsekiri conflict. The Ijaw have raised query over the location of the project, claiming that the land acquired includes a large portion of Ijaw territory, especially the Gbaramatu Kingdom of Warri South West, while the Itsekiri insist that it is wholly sited on Itsekiri land.
We find it disheartening that President Jonathan allowed militants long used to threatening the peace of the country to frighten him away from performing a statutory function to which he had committed himself.
Government Tompolo, one of the Ijaw militants who received pardon during the presidency of the late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua was breathing fire and brimstone if the President dared step down from his jet to perform the task. And, the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and symbol of the state lent credence to the suggestion that
it as more powerful than any rabble-rouser or ragtag army.
We find it difficult to appreciate the recent decline in the honour and power of the state. In the battle field of the North East, the Boko Haram scourge keeps raging. Territory after territory keeps falling to the insurgents and strange flags are being hoisted as if to show that our armed forces cannot rein in the terrorists. In the Second Republic when a similar sect, the Maitatsine, attempted to confront the nation, the fire was quickly quenched. The might of state was demonstrated and honour restored.
No other sect attempted to test its strength against the Nigerian military. And, when forces from Chad made a move to annex Nigerian territory, the Third Armoured Division rose to the occasion by pushing them back far into Chad. It was reassuring.
Nigeria has invested so much into resolving the Niger Delta crisis than to have this latest challenge of state power and authority. The project itself would have helped to assure the Niger Delta people that the course of reconciliation had not been abandoned. One of the grounds of the unrest in the region was that money being made there was being invested elsewhere; that the oil companies merely despoil the land of the South South, pollute the rivers and then build up Lagos and Abuja.
In coming up with a project the size of the proposed EPZ, the Nigerian state was taking steps to correct the impression. But then, the likes of Tompolo and Ijaw irredentists have chosen to throw spanner in the works.
We accept the submission of the Niger Delta that the region desires closer attention from the state and thus, investment in oil and gas should impact positively on the land. But, steps by men like Tompolo would not advance this cause.
Tompolo who had earlier been touted as contractor handling the security of the waterways in Lagos, without the needed competence and experience ought to have been called to order by Dr. Jonathan who should have shown that no Nigerian President could be deterred from pursuing the just cause. It is high time Tompolo, who is fast becoming a Frankenstein monster was cut to size. Unless this is done, other militants would rise against the state in pursuing sectarian interests. Tompolo himself could begin to imagine that he is a Commander-in-Chief of the same stature as the Nigerian Head of State.
We also call on Ijaw and Itsekiri leaders and governors of the zone to call their men to order. They should conserve the energy being exerted in this war of attrition for the war against poverty. The Nigerian state deserves honour from all for so long as we all belong to it. The symbols of state must be preserved and whoever challenges the country’s territorial integrity, sovereignty or stands in the way of development is a common enemy and should be treated as such.