Our Lands Must Bleed No More is an activist’s plea and determination to end the cumulative and inimical genocide of people of the Niger Delta in the name of “oil extraction” and “national income”. Nnimmo Bassey’s essay is a worthy effort in the remembrance of the “Umuechem Massacre” of the Etche people in Rivers State, Nigeria on the 31st October 1990. Massacres entail grievous human rights abuses especially when security agents get bonuses for doing so. It appears October is a bad month for proximate communities to “oil extraction hotspots”; the 18th of October was the remembrance of the Jesse Fire Disaster. It maybe more than coincidence that both incidences are the raison d’etre for our respective interests in Niger Delta activism, the former his [Bassey’s] and the latter mine.
Nnimmo Bassey’s essay concludes “Our national anthem declares that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. Today, be assured fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, that your labour, as you mark this day, will not be in vain. I salute your courage. I salute your determination. Onward we go, until victory!” My response to this conclusion as much as I admire it is it appears “One Nigeria” was a mistake.
There are those Nigerians who make light, even create jokes of the massacres, disasters, pollution, ecocide and damage caused by oil extraction. The victims are heinously blamed, the oil companies energetically praised, the government patriotically qualified as “no-nonsense”, politicians and soldiers handsomely enriched, the cause and consequences of the problems effortlessly forgotten. Usually it is the indigenes of the Niger Delta that worry about these problems, sometimes on a community-specific basis. People from elsewhere in Nigeria tend to be insensitive and dismissive of such events or turn them into sport.
I was utterly amused when having decided to tweet consistently about the very evil and revolting Southern Kaduna massacres of mostly women and children (even a crippled child) as graphically represented in numerous photos that I would be “identified” as a Northerner. When I questioned President Jonathan’s approach to Niger Delta Clean Up and Desertification issues I was, on twitter, called a “Janjaweed” who should complain about the massacres and the desertification of land to my Northern governor who was adequately funded for implementing water conservation, irrigation and forestation projects within my state, not Goodluck Jonathan. I had also been vocal about the recent floods in Nigeria and it was the same thing. That Bassey and I are from the Niger Delta is probably to be expected in the country. Does one have to come from a specific locality to fight for its environmental survival?
If Nigeria was a nation and a not the convenient pastiche of land and people it is, when a man-made disaster or massacre or natural disaster occurs in Bornu, Katsina, Kogi, Ogun, Adamawa, Oyo, Ebonyi, Sokoto, Abia, Edo, Cross River, Benue or Yobe it should be of concern to all Nigerians. Concern is not activism but sometimes can have greater impacts. Unfortunately, this is not the case and “strategically” the disasters and massacres tend to only happen to and in minority communities in Nigeria. Maybe such is “mere coincidence.” Allowed to happen with impunity, is such the stuff of justice? When is it ever wrong to ask for justice, particularly on behalf of an ignored people?
The theme of Our Lands Must Bleed No More, appears to be the concern of the few. When the majority Nigerians (mainly due to economic justification of exploitation and support of non-existent law enforcement) visibly appear support or at least be unconcerned with the bleeding (exploitation, massacre, pollution and destruction) of the communities of extraction hotspots and other vulnerable communities around Nigeria it can only necessitate more blood to flow in the land. Niger Delta militancy arose when the youth of the land decided to bleed those bleeding their land in an unrestricted manner.
Bassey commends the peaceful and untiring resistance and struggles of the Etche people. We all who are concerned join him in his commendation and offer our support to Etche people, they are not alone. I hope the Government of Nigeria listens to Bassey carefully; we are truly tired of the bleeding.