“Nigeria’s oil belt provides over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s government revenue. The bulk of the country’s overall biodiversity Niger Delta, is a conglomeration of six states, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Awka Ibom and Cross River. Parts of Anambra, Imo and Abia states, by the fact that they produce oil, belong also to the Niger Delta complex, but politically grouped in the South East zone. Geographically, this petroleum oil belt could be measured out of a triangle with the apex zeroing between Ndoni and Aboh, descending eastwards to Qua Iboe River at Eket and westwards to the Benin River, with the base at the Atlantic coast between the Bight of Benin and Biafra.”
See, Blood on the Niger, Gom Slam Books, New York, 2015 page 252
Before Isaac Boro and Saro Wiwa, the Niger Delta, up to the present militancy in the region, lacked a general consensus of the definition of the movement or the region christened the Niger Delta or the South-South bloc.
Before his brother’s death, it was the veteran Nigerian journalist, Peter (Peter Pan) Enahoro’s contention that the South-South regional arrangement was a faux pas. In his address to the members of the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, during the club’s jubilee celebration, Enahoro stated that there was nothing in common between him, an Ishan living in Edo State, and an Annang from Awka Ibom State, nor with the Efik in Cross River State. For that matter, “We don’t speak the same language, do not practice the same religion or culture and have different historical experiences.” Therefore, he was afraid that the region would not entertain the same interests.
Before his death, Nigeria’s world renowned nuclear physicist, Prof. Philip Onianwa, also faulted the efforts of the organisers of the South-South region in doing all to effect the inclusion of Ishanland, Auchi to Ogoja at the furthest areas, not known for their contribution to the oil wealth of the country. At the same time, the late professor disagreed with the leaders of the South-South Conference for carrying on without the same spirit of inclusion and input from the Igbos east and west of the Niger. These Igbos, noted the professor, are the Ikwerre Etches, Ahoada, Egbemas, the Ngwas, the former Ogboli communities and now Ayaemelum communities on the River Niger.
Onianwa emphasised that, from the standpoint of physical geography, the Delta might be regarded as the landmass in that region that surrounded the River Niger’s many routes or rivulets as it empties into the Atlantic. He, therefore, concluded that most of Ilah, Asaba, Ogwashi-Ukwu, Agbor, Ukwuani, Egbema, Ahoada, Abali, etc, all the Igbo towns and communities on the confluences, estuaries, and on the main bed of the great river rightly belonged to the Oil Delta. To him “most of the so called South-South, Niger Delta peoples as presented by their leaders belong, in fact, to the ocean swamps and not to the Delta proper!”
Many years since, the South-South bloc of so many names, many leaders and different congregations have come and gone. One leader, Chief Edwin Clark, has survived the torments, waves and thunder. During the administration of his kinsman, President Goodluck Jonathan, we cannot deny his prominence. former Governor Victor Attah of Akwa-Ibom was most prominent that I covered his American presidential campaign as a member of the Washington Foreign Press. Ditto can be said of Florence Ita-Giwa, the Bakassi lady. Whatever happens, we are happy the peace parley has started in earnest. We have identified the Federal Government, the Niger Delta elements, but not all the principal parties, in that age-long conflict are represented. The governor of Delta State is a principle party but he is a party of the government of Delta, not of the interest of the Anioma Igbos, like Edwin Clark is for the Ijaw nation. The issues and programmes on the table would define the characters of the parties and the future of the Niger Delta, its century-old underdevelopment and its enduring level of violent conflagration. In our NTA Tuesday Live programme, we had advised that the government talked directly to the militants, not to politicians or former ministers, governors and so on, who had the opportunity to impact on their people and failed. We are happy that the talks have started but what is the Brass monarch going to achieve this time around? At 29 he was the Governor of Rivers State, member of the Supreme Military Council. His Majesty was Jonathan’s trusted confidant at the last CONFAB. Mr. President, please insist that young men who sacrificed all for this breakthrough should join the peace talks and they will not start by asking for oil wells.