His Royal Majesty, King Bubaraye Dakolo Agada IV, the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom in Bayelsa State, has charged President Muhammadu Buhari to be firm and decisive in his promise to end the oil theft in the Niger Delta.
Dakolo, a retired soldier, insisted that the problem of oil theft in the Niger Delta is not perpetrated mostly by the people of Niger Delta but by outsiders, including politicians, stakeholders in the oil industry, security officials and even international businessmen.
In an interview with LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU, the traditional ruler who is also Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council as well as Chairman, Conference of Ijaw Traditional Rulers and Elders stated: “The real thieves have been stealing in barrels, while the local boys only take a pinch. The world has been looking at the boys as the menacing rat jumping up and down, instead of going after the international companies that have been partnering with security agencies and NNPC officials to build illegal pipelines.”
He also spoke on other issues, including why Nigerians must ensure that they shun religious and tribal sentiments and vote for the right person as President next month. He also spoke about the kind of President Nigeria needs at the moment.
Buhari has ordered the security agencies to end oil theft in Nigeria. As a traditional ruler who is leading the people that are close to the rigs and pipelines, what is the atmosphere like in the Niger Delta at the moment?
The truth is that the activities of Bayelsans or Niger Deltans that are tagged oil thieves, even though they have contributed to environmental crises in their little acts that may pass as thieving, have been of no consequence. The stealing of Niger Delta oil can be argued to have been done by the country. Some may argue that it is the Nigerian state that has been the thief of the Niger Delta oil, but I don’t want to bother you with that today. The volume of oil lost per day is quantified to be several thousands of barrels, and, in recent times, with local security arrangement, you must have seen that a 4.5 kilometre pipeline into the high sea from where oil was taken at will, was discovered, aside that other loopholes have been found. And all this would not have been done without the collaboration of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), security complacence, governmental power and international collaborators. Every oil has its own name. What some call signature. Niger-Delta oil is known around the world, but people have bought this oil everywhere in the world, which is being stolen in thousands of barrels by politicians. The real thieves have been stealing in barrels, while the local boys only take a pinch. The world has been looking at the boys as the menacing rat jumping up and down, instead of going after the international companies that have been partnering with security agencies and NNPC officials to build illegal pipelines.
The Nigerian public does not understand the riddle of the oil thief. It has been an international propaganda going on for decades, painting the people of Nigeria in a bad light. Last year, there was a loss of about $6 billion worth of oil. In 2021, it was $3 billion. In 2020, we lost $2.77 billion. If you come to the Niger Delta today and you take a tour, you will not see the 3 billion dollars and other sums of money. Then, where does the money go? We have been answering the bad name for a while, because the Nigerian state never bothered.
There is nobody that has a ship in my kingdom or in the entire Bayelsa State. It means that the best the indigene could take are in a few cans, and not in a clean manner. But ship owners have been coming with vessels to take delivery of millions of barrels. If the presidency wants it to stop in 24 hours, it is a good charge. I know it is possible, any way, but I don’t see it happening, because the persons involved are still among them. Because, since the Joint Security Taskforce was formed 25 years ago, there has never been a report of jailing any oil magnate-thief. It is clear who the oil thief is.
You mean the government has no will power to eradicate this menace? Now with the 2023 elections around the corner, who we can vote for that can solve this problem?
Nigeria needs a Nigerian-centred president. A president who will put Nigeria first and understand the importance of ‘Nigeria First.’ It has to be Nigeria-centric, as opposed to Igbo-centric or Yoruba-centric or Hausa-centric. We, as traditional rulers, are not partisan; so each time we receive political guests, we should, as elders, interrogate them so that we will hear what they have for us, so that we and the subjects can make informed decisions on election day.
Right now, the political gladiators have given us very limited choices, and the political atmosphere so far has been such that ordinary people cannot aspire for political positions; they have to be in the political corridor, because a lot of resources are involved in the politicking in this country.
An honest man who has the knowledge of what to do might not get the number of votes to get in there. He might only get a vote from his immediate community or group of friends. So, the best brain might not be in the few choices we have, but we will still have to choose from them. You also know the problem of zoning and federal character, but these parties still could not follow the rule they laid down by themselves; they were not able to hold on to their resolutions, and they gave us very limited choices.
We have Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu to choose from. It is not because they are the best; it is because the political system has presented us these ones. I think Nigerians should be smart enough to give their votes to the best candidate. More so, I believe that, going forward, with the change of naira, cashless policy and electoral policy, when there is not so much money in circulation, money politics would reduce. If the BVAS is used as it is being said, political violence and intimidation will reduce to the minimum, and if political offenders are properly prosecuted and shown the right way, I believe that after this, the election and subsequent elections will be transparent and the citizens would be inspired.
Are you saying this election won’t bring immediate change?
There is not going to be a spontaneous solution. It is going to be a process. It is actually left to Nigerians. I believe that some choices would be better for us than some others, but, again, it is going to be based on if the 93 million voters will vote wisely. If they do, whatever the outcome is, I believe it is going to be the right one.
Do you think Nigerians can have that patience to wait for the process?
I can tell you that Onitsha was not built in a day. Port Harcourt was not built in a day. Kano was not built in a day, just as Rome was not built in a day. Whether we like it or not, we cannot perform a political miracle in Nigeria overnight. We have choices. I know a choice that I consider will be a better choice but because I feel a particular choice will be a better choice does mean that it is a better choice for another person. Nigerians should put it in their mind that the outcome of this election is based on their action and inaction. What I consider the best choice may not be the best choice for someone whose uncle is contesting and who thinks that, if his uncle wins, his life would change. For him, that is his best choice. It is different for a woman whose husband is contesting: definitely, her husband would be a colossal failure, but her bread would remain buttered. All of these sentiments are there; some would be based on religion, friendship and tribe, but the wish and the desire is that more people would see the bigger picture and make an informed choice.
At my young age, it was 66 kobo to a dollar. Later, it became N1 to one dollar. From there, the dollar increased. Today, one dollar is N900. In those days, there were fewer graduates, but, today, we have an all time high number of graduates. If you plot a graph of the number of graduates we have and the fall of the naira, you will see that the higher the graduates, the lower the value of naira. The more universities we have, the worse our economy.
How did we get here and how can we correct it?
Some years ago, some people thought that Buhari would have saved Nigeria with his magic wand that some even wanted to kill for him. They decorated him, believing that everything would change for the better if he came on board. Unfortunately, these guys are regretting it now.
But the fact is that we have lived with it. It was our creation. Either those one antagonising Buhari did a good job or the ones promoting Buhari did a better job. So, this time around, we feel that, even when there are these options, Nigerians are jostling for their preferred choice to come on board. At the end, the level of their worth will show in their result. I hope that the result will change to a better economy and better security.
In what areas would you say the Buhari regime disappointed you the most?
The rate of the free fall of naira is very disappointing. The fact that every corner you turn, you feel very insecure. These two are the ultimate disappointments. It has never been this bad. The last time it was like this was during the civil war. This time, it seems to be worse than the civil war. There cannot be anything worse than this. People felt safer during the war than now. The war was very brutal, but this is more brutal.
What about the incarceration of Nnamdi Kanu?
I believe that we should be governed by the rule of law and by the laws of the land. I expect the executive to respond to the pronouncement of the judiciary. Judgment until it gets to the Supreme Court is not final. As far as I am concerned, everybody should respect court judgment. I am not part of the presidency, so I may not know why the government is still hesitating to release him.