Following the recent upsurge in violence and killings in various parts of the country, an environmental and human rights activist, Annkio Briggs has said that if Nigerians can no longer coexist as one nation, they should think of an alternative to the situation.
She said the alternative to the situation is either self-determination or immediate restructuring of the country. In this interview with ThisDay, she spoke on various issues with emphasis on the spate of killings in the country.
What are your reflections on the state of affairs in the country?
When you talk about reflections, it takes one to the immediate past 12 months or thereabout, but even if the reflections take you to the tenure of this present government, Nigeria has moved into what I would describe as very high tension period. It is not getting better.
It is getting worse in the sense that we accept the concept of people that are spiritually and psychologically having a mindset that is optimistic. As you wake up in the morning, the first thing is that you want to set your mind that everything will be alright. That is one way of living your life.
But the other way is an everyday thing which involves the government, democracy and specific people making life-changing, life improving or life threatening decisions on behalf of millions and millions of people.
And in the past one or two years, the process of democracy and the people operating this particular process of democracy today in Nigeria have genuinely failed woefully without any hesitation in all areas of life whether it is in the area of development, security, economy, innovation or whatever.
However you look at it, this government has failed the people of Nigeria. So when one reflects, one is very concerned. Talking as a Niger Delta person and a Southerner, if you look at what is happening in the past two years, and specifically the issue of terrorism, Boko Haram, herdsmen, high level of criminality, corruption and so on, if you look at all of these things, in my opinion as somebody who is really in the Niger Delta, things are getting worse.
And I do not believe that the crop of people that are in government today, has the solution. Some of them do not even want to have the solution. Now when you come to the electorate, I think that the electorate has become so complacent for over a very long time for almost a century.
Nigerians and the electorate even before independence have been so subdued by outside influences that we have succumbed to the concept that what you have is all that you are going to have and that is the best that you can ever have.
So, if we really cannot live together, we must begin to consider an alternative. The narrative has changed to one side now when I watch the television. The type of people that are calling to justify things that are unjustifiable is surprising.
People are being slaughtered and children’s eyes are being gorged; how can you relate that to somebody whose cattle was stolen? How can the lifestyle of one group of people supercede the lifestyle of another group of people? If cattle herders, businessmen want to execute their business, then if you want to do it in Port Harcourt in Rivers State and I say to you that I do not have land, you say that the constitution says that a Nigerian is free to live anywhere.
Yes, that is what the constitution says but the constitution also says that another Nigerian is also free to live in peace. So, if you now say you do not want ranching, if you now say you do not want to stay in a place because it is your lifestyle and you say you do not want ranching, what is it that you want? I really do not see the hope any more.
The North claims to own 80 per cent landmass of this country, why does it then want a ranch in Bayelsa State? They say that Southerners eat the beef, then Southerners should be the ones that would ranch in their own state.
Let the Rivers people or the Rivers State government establish the ranches that would raise the beef that their people would eat. Why must they come here from Niger, Chad and all those places to be killing people. So the analysis of Nigeria today generally in 2018 is that I do not see the future and hope in this country.
People know what is happening that this is a systematic plan that is being executed and people are now reducing it to clashes between farmers and herdsmen. No, it is not clashes but people invading other people.
The people of Benue are in their own state and people come from another country through other states as we are told to Benue State and kill people as they want and you say it is a clash between farmers and herdsmen. You say that 1,000 cattle were stolen and you ask, and taken to where.
But I do not even blame the herdsmen. I blame our people and government. The people sit down, fold their hands and all you are doing is crying and shouting.
If somebody is banging your door down to harm you, even in your fears, you would be wondering how you would escape and save yourself.
In the course of your analysis, you said if we cannot live together, we should think of an alternative. What kind of alternative are you proposing?
We have an alternative like self-determination and it is not necessarily secession. There is an alternative like restructuring the nation.
If you restructure Nigeria and you devolve power in the true federating manner in which federalism is supposed to work, it means that Rivers State is responsible for Rivers State.
It means that Rivers State would build hospitals and provide accommodation and generate employment through whatever way. That is true federation.
In America, one state is not fighting another. Are we the only people that eat beef in this world? See as big as we are, we cannot manufacture anything.
What is it that we are manufacturing here that can provide jobs? What is our education level? What is our healthcare level? Look at our roads.!What is it that the government is wasting time every four years to hold elections? Let us sit down and give ourselves a timeline like say 12 months between January and December.
We must have a roadmap in Nigeria before the election as to where Nigeria is going. This is because what is good for the Imo State man may not necessarily be good for the Lagos State man.
Let people decide their own future. You cannot sit down there in Abuja and decide what is good for me here in Rivers State. There are alternatives but at the very end of the day, anything that would take a life or threaten my life, as a Niger Delta person, there must be an alternative to that.
We cannot keep running away from the fact that the chances are that we can no longer stay together. If you live in Port Harcourt, if you go down to some areas, people’s lands have been overtaken.
If you go to Imo State, Umuahia and Aba, you would see these things and it does not happen the other way round. And these are realities that we must face.
So, if we cannot live together and we are not prepared to sit down and discuss as equal partners in Nigeria, and not some people wearing 10 yards of cloth around them and now insisting that they are more superior than other people, we should find an alternative.
Who is more superior than anybody? We are all equal partners in the Nigerian state. If we are equal, what gives you the right to eliminate another person? And because there is oil in the Niger Delta, it does not give you the right to come and take it because Niger Delta is in Nigeria.
What if Niger Delta is not in Nigeria? Can they go to Ghana and take their crude and oil? If Rivers State or Imo State are no longer in Nigeria, would they be able to come there and take their oil? If Benue and Niger states or Sokoto are not in Nigeria, would they be able to cross to another country. What type of thing is this?
With the seeming chaotic situation in the country today, what are your projections ahead of the 2019 general elections? I ask this question because of the usual peculiar character and tone of elections in the country.
As far as the election is concerned, 2019 is looking like it is going to be the worst election that Nigeria will ever have. I have been in this country since 1960 and I still remember the 1960 independence.
If you look at the different times that we have had elections in this country, 2019 is going to be the worst, because already, the process that would lead to the election of the president, governors and so on have been settled.
The process of how they are going to emerge, who would be there and what they would do to make sure of who wins in a particular state has already been put into action. Therefore, what would happen is that the worst type of rigging would take place.
What is happening in Nigeria today would show you that already, people have made decision for Nigerians in all the 36 states. People have made decisions for them and therefore, as a Niger Delta person, I have been cautioning all my regional governors and also talking about the need to work with our immediate neighbours who are the Igbo people.
I do not want to be misunderstood and I am not saying that we should join Biafra, because we should be specific. That is a different issue. But what I am saying is that the Niger Delta states are the immediate neighbours to the Igbo nation.
Therefore, there is a need for understanding among ourselves so that we can watch each other’s back. That is one and two, we should be aware of the plan to actually do what they want.
I mean the APC cabal including the immediate and religious cabals. The process is already perfected and therefore to make sure that it stands, it is where the government is going to align.
So, whatever electoral processes that are going on and so on, these are all part of the processes including the rampage, killing and destruction by human beings who are supposed to be strangers in Nigeria. People come from other countries to kill people in Benue State.
The killing in Benue is actually to start the starving process. They have set in place the process of starvation of Southern Nigeria.
This is because you have destroyed the food routes from Benue and the Middle Belt to the South, and the people of the South are already not growing their own food because of environmental devastation and laziness on the part of our own governments and also the constitution that does not allow the state governments to do anything else but wait till the end of the month and go to Abuja to share Niger Delta money.
If you look at all those processes, what I see like what I said right from the beginning is that, you would not see any hope in this country because of the evil that they have planned and the bad things that would emerge in 2019.
All the processes have been put in place and what is happening now is the systematic implementation of it, which I believe they have a timeline for.
This is because the significance of the killing on January 1, 2018, in Benue State and the fact that it happened on New Year, a day very important to Christians, for me as a human being and somebody who has brain in my head, this is my analysis of the situation.
These things started centuries ago. The plan to overrun the South started centuries ago. It has always been to take the resources of the South to develop the North because the constitution says so but who wrote the constitution.
The constitution that we are using today was spearheaded by Northern Army generals. So, everything in that constitution is working against the Southern part of this country including the Yoruba, the Igbo and the South-South people.
It is a pity that we are yet to wake up to the idea that even though the Yoruba have issues with other people and vice versa, we have concentrated on those issues that divide us. That is as opposed to concentrating on those issues that unite us.
Annkio Briggs is a daughter, servant, and respected leader of the Niger Delta. She is a leading voice in the struggle for human rights and environmental justice in the oil-rich region. Connect with her on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.