An albatross is a burden; a burden that refuses to let you be and prevents you from doing something. When that ‘something’ is harmful, then an albatross can be quite beneficial. There is a media outfit in Nigeria that has as its motto, TRUTH IS A BURDEN. Now I’m certain you can appreciate the context in which I employ the word.
Mujaheed Asari Dokubo is a man that needs no introduction. Courts of law usually grant legal privileges to the likes of him on the basis of self-recognition. As founder of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, he has never been too far from the spotlight for nearly fifteen years. Many feel better describing him as an ex-militant, but that does injury to his reputation. In my opinion, Asari has always been a militant, and barring any record-shattering miracles, he will remain one. When you have a preference for using force or pressure to achieve your aim, you are militant and a militant.
Recently, he stirred the hornets’ nest once more by promising war if President Jonathan is not returned as president in 2015. The Department of State Services reined him in for questioning but he has since been allowed to go home. The authorities have consistently warned politicians and the rest of the people to desist from making inflammatory statements capable of threatening the nation’s ‘fragile’ peace. It is either he is oblivious of the directive or he has elected to ignore it. Asari has since made it his life work to disturb the peace (whatever that is).
To many, he is a pest and a nuisance deserving of neutralization. Many would wish he could be locked away permanently like had been envisaged for the voluble Al-Mustapha. Unarguably, he has come to establish himself as the nemesis of the North. They crave the presidency which Asari insists must remain in the South until 2019. If you ask me, I think the battle line has been drawn.
Before you go castigating me as an Asari apologist, here are a few clarifications. I don’t even like the fellow: neither his Body/Mass Index nor his preference for the uncouth. And his beard scares the living daylight out of me. Yet I will not ignore facts and truth simply because it is coarsely presented by one with an avowed aversion to doublespeak.
He had had a run-in with the administration of Obasanjo who had promptly arrested him but was compelled to let him go sometime in 2007. Now hear him, “The last time Obasanjo arrested me, my arrest reduced Nigeria’s oil production to 700,000 barrels per day.” I do not know about the figures but I can confirm that when Obasanjo was purporting to fight militancy in the Niger Delta, oil production dropped significantly. He adds ominously, “This time, we will reduce it to zero (oil production) and we will match violence with violence. We are ready for them. Jonathan will complete his tenure of two terms whether they like it or not.”
So what makes this fellow so rambunctious and cavalier? Why does he speak with such impunity; as if taunting and daring the rest of us? The answer is as simple as a b c. Nigeria is a one-legged structure; so to threaten her, all you require is capacity to hurt the leg. For now, oil is our only leg and last time I checked, the bulk of the oil still flows from the Niger Delta from where Asari and Jonathan hail.
You can spin all manner of nationalistic tales and engage in unparalleled cognitive dissonance. You may even throw in the centenary argument that seems to be trending in official quarters. If we have survived together for a hundred years, then nothing can separate us. But you will still come back to the sobering realization that everything about us – our peace, our economy, our cohesion, and our politics – is fragile; and one-legged.
Maybe that is what the man formerly known as Melford Dokubo Goodhead Jr. before converting to Islam, seeks to remind us of. If we do not honestly and expeditiously deal with Nigeria’s structural defects, the words of Asari and legions in his mould will continue to haunt us.
When the late Kenule Saro-Wiwa was carrying on his own crusade from a more intellectual platform, Abacha would have none of it. In spite of pleas from those who should matter, he had him hanged. Maybe if Abacha had bowed to superior logic, Asari in all his crudity would not have been created. But he’s already here with us and if you can believe anything, then believe that he speaks for millions of the criminally deprived in the Niger Delta.
Jonathan’s National Conference presents us a unique opportunity to re-negotiate Nigeria along the lines of justice and equity. Predictably, many are already complaining about the proposed structure of the conference that they suspect will be tilted to favour the official position. The only position I’m aware the federal government has taken is the declaration of Nigeria’s disintegration as off-limits. For me, that is good enough. If we sincerely and conscientiously apply ourselves to the conference, I believe a better nation will emerge whose fortunes can quickly be weaned off the uncertainties of a mono-product economy. No segment of the polity should be required to pay so much more to keep us balanced and moving forward.
Then and only then can we be rid of the irritable ranting of Asari and his ilk. But if we persist in collective deceit and grandstanding, let us be assured that the whole landscape will soon be crawling with Asari wannabes making us wish we had done the needful.
He who reminds us of what must be done may seem like an irritant but he is certainly not an enemy.