In this revealing interview, Cynthia Whyte, who is the Spokesperson of the Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC) which comprise the Central Command of Alliance Units of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, The Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force and leading groups of the Agitation and struggle for the liberation of the Niger Delta, restate their support for the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme under Prof. Charles Dokubo.
There have been recent petitions against the Presidential Amnesty Programme and its current Coordinator, Professor Charles Dokubo. What are your views?
We are not in a position to verify the integrity of the petitions, largely because we have not not seen any of the petitions BUT it will be very difficult at this time, to truly question the capacity, ability, and pedigree of the Professor.
I am sure that if you conduct true due diligence on those petitions, you will find out that they originate from mostly disgruntled contractors and staff of the programme. It rarely goes beyond that. It is always about a troubled contract, a troubled contractor, a troubled staff (or former staff) and a troubled collector.
All the same, it is difficult to truly fault Professor Dokubo at this time. Those who made his appointment possible played a smart one. They understand that temporal peace can only be achieved in the Niger Delta through diplomacy. And so they brought a Professor of International Diplomacy, Defence, and Peace Studies.
The fact that he is not tied to the apron strings of the short-sighted and hugely divisive political players in the Niger Delta is also a plus.
The Professor is from the Niger Delta, has written extensively on the Niger Delta, has spoken at many international conferences and clearly understands the fundamental issues at stake on the matter of resolving the Niger Delta question. He will be committing a career suicide if he fails. That does not look possible though. He can only fail if his employers refuse to give him the quality and quantity of support required to get a good job done.
The Federal Government has simply called him to come and practice what he has been teaching for over a decade at various leading research institutions across the globe.
General Paul Boroh failed because he came to the appointment with a military hangover. You cannot be successful as Coordinator of the Amnesty Programme when you think you can push our boys around with a garrison attitude.
Do not forget that it was Obasanjo’s garrison mentality that provoked the last measures of militant agitation in the Niger Delta that saw Nigeria’s production reduced to about 700,000 barrels of oil per day. Analysts even predicted that Nigeria’s production levels may fall down to even 200,000 barrels per day.
It was the dilemma of that reality that created the political algorithm that produced Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The death of President Yar’Adua almost damaged the Amnesty programme. The pace and energy with which the Amnesty proclamation was made were dampened after his death. The vision and mission of the programme became disrupted, adulterated, contaminated and corrupted.
Billions of naira earmarked for the programme found their way into the private pockets of ‘sudden billionaires’ many of whom did not translate the sudden wealth to driving growth and enterprise in the Niger Delta.
Before now, the mandate of the programme had been abused and distorted. ‘Strange fellows’ became sudden billionaires at the expense of the former combatants and agitators who the programme was initially designed for.
The Amnesty programme suddenly became a resource center for the financial placation of friends and well-wishers of politicians and their cronies.
The Amnesty programme suddenly began to look like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where patronage, privilege and absolute corruption has become the order of the day.
So we should not be surprised about petitions and petition writers. What did you expect?
The current administrators of the Amnesty Programme have returned the programme to the service of its original mandate, which is to cater for the tens of thousands of young men who put down their arms and decided to follow the path of peace so that the rulers of the Nigerian state can have unfettered access to the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta.
A new administrator who seeks to do things differently has been appointed. In seeking to do things differently, petitions will fly. Corruption will always find a way to find back. In this case, it is grim corruption that is fighting back.
While we try to adopt a cautiously optimistic approach to the Presidential Amnesty Programme and its new Coordinator, we are also monitoring the programme with respect to how former combatants who were previously under our command are being rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society.
It has not been an entirely pleasant story but we have continued to have faith, not in the Federal Government, but in the commitment of our former combatants to pursue the path of peace, honor, personal development, and human achievement.
While we agree that without peace there will be no development, we also know that without development, there can be no peace. That goes without negotiation. No region on Earth has been as shortchanged as the Niger Delta. None.
Recently the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Professor Charles Dokubo stated that Amnesty programme cannot end now. Are you in agreement with the Professor?
In many ways, the Professor is right.
Before the Amnesty Programme, crude oil production fell to about 700,000 barrels of oil per day. Today, it is well above 2,500,000 barrels per day. You do the maths.
It is a good thing that the Presidency did not appoint a career politician to run the affairs of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
It is important to have someone who will not pander to the whims and caprices of politicians.
Let us be frank here, with the exposure that Boko Haram has provided our people, any new unrest in the Niger Delta will definitely not be good for the Nigerian state.
Let us consider the following assertions.
If the Nigerian State can summon the energy to fix the challenges of the Niger Delta in quick time, then there may be no need to continue the Amnesty Programme.
If the Nigerian state can use the billions of Nigeria which is daily harvested from the Niger Delta to fix infrastructure, fix health care, fix education, provide potable water and good education to the people of the Niger Delta, then maybe the Amnesty programme can be quickly brought to an end.
We are all witnesses to the activities of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen across certain regions of the Nigerian state. You can then imagine what would have happened if the oil and gas resources which are today found in the Niger Delta was in the trouble-spots of Northern Nigeria.
Nigeria would literally have been run aground. Oil production facilities would have been destroyed and burnt to the ground. Personnel of Oil and Gas companies would have all been killed and maimed. Community people, men, women, and children would have been abducted and maybe forgotten.
The catastrophe that Boko Haram and Herdsmen have brought upon Northern Nigeria cannot be anyway compared to the agitation that we enforced in the Niger Delta. We did not unleash the kind of massacre and satanism that those infidels unleashed in the North.
We did not unleash such measures of wickedness, treachery, and satanism upon the Niger Delta and its people.
Imagine if Bama, Gwoza or one of those troubled Communities in Borno State was an oil producing community. Tell me, which oil producing company will be able to maintain their operations in such a hostile environment?
Any new agitation in the Niger Delta will not be good for the Nigerian state. Nothing much as changed in the Niger Delta.
We will continue to watch evolving and emerging realities.