By Akanimo Sampson
Ahead of the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa State, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state, Menas Associates, a strategic and political risk consultancy has warned that Armageddon is looming in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s vastly polluted oil and gas region.
But, President Muhammadu Buhari has been implicated in the political violence that will sweep through the country’s honey comb. In their latest report, the political risk consultancy says President Buhari is turning the oil and gas region into a political battlefield.
Menas which has been helping multinational companies operate in the Middle East, Africa, and other emerging markets since the late 1970s by providing actionable intelligence for its clients, from country entry strategies, to due diligence, stakeholder analysis, political risk reports, market assessments, problem solving and exit strategies, claims that President Buhari’s ministerial appointees are set to make the Niger Delta states a political battlefield.
Ministers from the region include: Transportation Minister Chibuike Amaechi; former Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, who is the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs; and Festus Keyamo who served as Buhari’s campaign spokesman.
According to Menas Associates, ‘’this has been heightened by the appointment of Timipre Sylva, the 2008-2012 governor of Bayelsa State — who was appointed as Deputy Petroleum Minister on August 21. These are political heavyweights who will seek to make their presence felt in the Niger Delta where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Buhari have both had their lowest approval ratings over the latter’s first four year presidential term.’’
Continuing, the political risk consultants said, ‘’unlike the 2019 presidential elections when Amaechi was the only prominent Niger Delta politician in the APC government, the current cabinet includes four politicians in charge of key Niger Delta related ministries. The resources and the political patronage at their disposal will have an impact on the APC’s poor perception in the region.
‘’The immediate impact is likely to be seen in the forthcoming Bayelsa State gubernatorial elections set for November 16. They will want to use their positions to show their relevance in government by capturing the state from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has held Bayelsa since 1999. For them to win the state would be hugely significant.
‘’But for that to happen, they will have to use all the powers of incumbency at their disposal. This means political bargaining, payoffs, intimidation and the full use of the security services. This will result in levels of violence similar to that seen in the Rivers State elections in March 2019 which resulted in many deaths at the hands of the security agencies.
‘’Crucially, Bayelsa’s creeks and waterways are controlled by militants who are usually loyal to the incumbent governor. To take over the state, the four ministers will have to win the loyalty of the militants or create rival groups that can put up a successful challenge. This will lead to clashes and violence that could easily spiral out of control.’’
Adding, Menas Associates said, ‘’where the APC flexes its muscles by using the security agencies, militants will respond by targeting oil infrastructure. This will result in more uncertainty in the sector and the wider national economy.
‘’Immediately after he was named Minister of the Niger Delta, Akpabio told a delegation of supporters that his appointment marks the end of the suffering of the people of the Niger Delta and the PDP’s control of Akwa Ibom, which has been governed by the opposition coalition since 2007.
‘’While the appointments show that the Niger Delta now has a strong voice in Buhari’s government, it has also increased the stakes for political violence in a region that remains critical to the country’s economic survival.’’