By Prisca Sam-Duru
Omolade Adunbi, a Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States of America, teaches environmental politics, politics and political economy. In this interview, twho also trained as an anthropologist, avers that one way to end the crisis in the Niger Delta region is to address the root cause of the problem rather than using military might. He also throws insight on how his book, ‘Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria’ could help solve the country’s economic woes. Excerpts:
Intentions of the book?
Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria which detailed the ways in which many people make claims to ownership of oil in the Niger Delta and when I say many people, that includes multinational corporations, militants, communities who own the land where the oil is extracted from, the NGOs and of course the Nigerian State.
So the claim I make in the book is that oil is a commodity that is visible and at the same time, invisible and with complex actors wherever oil is found. So, it creates complex actors and these actors are the insurgents and sometimes NGOs making the claim to help communities whose environment has been devastated by pollution and activities of the corporations.
So I wanted to move away from that narrative that oil is a resource curse, and focus on the activities of corporations and the Nigerian state within those communities that are rich in the resources.
That led me to theorise the complex actors and oil as an ancestral promise.
What solutions are you proffering?
The book is not necessarily about solutions but an academic book and is about theory and how the theory helps us understand what goes on in the country. But within the theories, you find solutions.
Some of them are already coming to pass and if the Nigerian people had read the book, they would have seen the need to have nipped in the bud every other insurgency that would have reared its head in Niger Delta.
One of the things I said in the chapter on amnesty programme is that you don’t just throw money at something without solving problems and what the Jonathan administration did was to throw money at the problems and did not solve the root cause of the insurgency which is social inequality in the Niger Delta, devastated environment, lack of jobs, amenities in the area and that is why today the Buhari administration is trying to end the amnesty programme due to no money in the country which is due to dependency on oil, brought back the insurgents.
How do we get out of the problem?
It’s simple, the Buhari administration must have the political will to solve the problem. They should decide whether to end the insurgency which is not about using military might. It must be solved by solving the issues that created the problems in the first place. If you’ve been to any community in the Niger Delta you’d see the level of devastation there.
Boys and girls are roaming the streets daily due to high level of unemployment coupled with no unemployment benefits that could support them. There’s loss of livelihood, fishermen can no longer fish and farmers can’t also farm.
Also infrastructural facilities; schools, hospitals, good roads etc are completely absent in these communities, of course the youths will rise up and find an alternative. So a serious government will look for a way to tackle that problem.
So the militants actions are justified?
Their actions are not justifiable because I don’t support any form of violence. At the same time, the government and the multinationals operating in the Niger Delta, created the enabling environment for insurgency to thrive.
Your view on restructuring?
Restructuring Nigeria is a good idea but it’s not going to solve all the problems. If you restructure today and the same kind of leaders are still in place the situation will be worse for the people. So you can’t talk of restructuring without taking into consideration the plight of the people. We need restructuring that is people centred in Nigeria not political elite centred restructuring. What people are advocating for now is elite restructuring.
Crisis in the National Assembly?
In the first place, we don’t need a bicameral legislature in Nigeria. It’s expensive.
Nigeria is twice the size of California in US for instance, if it uses bicameral legislature it’s understandable because it’s a continent on its own. That is why National Assembly is always on recess, now they are on recess and won’t be back until September only to work for few weeks and that’s it.
What is the accomplishment of this Assembly in the last one year in power? They are there wasting people’s money so we don’t need an elaborate presidential system but a cost effective system in Nigeria. The Senate should be eliminated and we stick to the House of Reps.