Just yesterday, a previously unknown retired soldier, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo while being interviewed on Channels Television alluded to the possible leveling of Niger Delta Communities for harbouring ex-militants responsible for blowing up pipelines in the region. Col. Labo particularly referred to the Odi Massacre and advocated a repeat of the genocide there.
But that is not the point of this piece. The retired unknown soldier justified his position by claiming that the Military was following laid down protocols that he referred to as RULES OF ENGAGEMENT.
On the same day the retired Sabo was on air preparing the ground for a possible military invasion of Niger Delta Communities, the Spokesman of President Buhari, Femi Adesina, while admonishing Ijaw communities to produce the said culprits, was quoted to have said: “There are rules of engagement for every operation, and you can be sure that the Nigerian military will do what is right.” He actually referred to an operation; a yet to be known operation, which by mere deductive reasoning confirms its existence.
From the foregoing, it is almost obvious that the Federal Government has made up its mind on moving in on innocent Niger Deltans, invade and militarise their communities in the guise of looking for militants who blew up oil installations in the region. While no attempt is being made here to justify economic sabotage, one needs to remind the unsuspecting public that the bombings of oil installations in Delta State coincided with the loss of the Bayelsa election by the All Progressives Congress and as such credible intelligence would have directed the military hierarchy, if indeed its intentions are patriotic and noble, to the political elements that were responsible for the crisis during that election.
Since that loss, even communities in Rivers State have been invaded by masked military men. Stalwarts of Peoples Democratic Party have been attacked, their homes ransacked and their properties destroyed. In all of these, regardless of the outcries of the victims and all people of goodwill, the military has maintained a deafening silence. In the face of these happenings, the allusion by the military to following RULES OF ENGAGEMENT can at best be termed cosmetic excuses.
To even make matters worse, one wonders why the same rules of engagement haven’t been deployed in the troubled North East of Nigeria, a known Boko Haram flash point? How come communities within that region have not been given ultimatums to produce the terrorists, who recently, were said to be locals by the Chief of Army Staff recently? Do the rules of engagement not apply to all in same measure?
There appears to be a determined plot to militarise the Niger Delta and subjugate the wills of her people by the present Federal Government. If that plot is true, it will be no different from the fundamentalist posture of the Boko Haram terrorists who seek to conquer territories for religious reasons. The Federal Government is advised to build bonds of trust among Nigerians and shed the toga of divisive and selective governance. If Nigeria must make progress, it must be on a collective and communal front rather than that of sectionalism and divisiveness.
There’s currently an uneasy calm across the Niger Delta based on the rhetoric of the Federal Government. Such a situation will not enhance peace and development. The perception among the vast majority of Niger Deltans is that there is a plot to conquer their native lands and resources for vain political glory, using compromised elements from their fold. Whether this perception is justified or not is not really the issue but that the Federal Government is not making any attempt to clear it. That’s even more troubling because that perception is a reality that the Niger Deltans will not allow to see the light of day.
Oraye St. Franklyn is a barrister-at-law. He is senior special assistant to Governor Nyesom Wike on Social Media. He is a strategic communicator and good governance advocate, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He tweets from @RealOraye. He is also on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.