Agitations and Intergroup Relations in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

AuthorNwobueze, Chibuzor Chile
PositionEssay

Introduction

The Niger Delta is a region that has witnessed series of agitations. Such agitations have positive and negative effects on intergroup relations within and outside the region. The people of Niger Delta are naturally peaceful, resourceful and hospitable. The turbulence being witnessed in the region are traceable to internal and external factors, some of which have links with the dynamics of power relations and perceived economic injustice or deprivation of basic human needs. Some scholars have argued that various groups agitate in the Niger Delta as a result of the situation they find themselves, that of "suffering in the midst of plenty". The existing literature on the region has concentrated on oil exploration, cultural crises, instability, disarmament, amnesty, and corporate social responsibility.

These include Onuoha (2006), Okolie-Osemene (2007), Aghalino (2009), Oboreh and Aghalino (2010), Obi (2010), Davidheiser and Nyiayaana (2011), and Okolie-Osemene and Tor (2012). But most of the studies have not linked agitations in the region with intergroup relations. According to Oromareghake, Arisi, and Igho (2013:47), the "Niger Delta region is one characterised with violence and disharmony of various dimensions from ethic to religion, economic to political patronage and accommodation."

In all parts of the world, people agitate for various reasons. Some groups agitate to express their displeasure for perceived government policies that are not people-oriented or to compel government to rethink its policies or rescind decisions taken on political, social and economic issues against a political leadership or any leadership that cannot see it has gone wrong. Others also agitate through peaceful, nonviolent or violent protests or domestic demonstrations to call on stakeholders to debate issues of national, regional and community concerns.

Agitations are accompanied by social, economic and political costs, especially when not properly managed. As responses from leaders vary, individuals or groups also exhibit different actions in the process of agitating to get their demands addressed. For instance, the political instability in the Arab world occasioned by demonstrations against leaders in 2011 with mass violence and crackdown on agitators by governments that followed marked a watershed in international relations. Similarly, prior to the Arab spring, many lawyers were wounded in Pakistan on 5 November, 2007 when the police descended on them for protesting against the state of emergency declared by the country's president, Pervez Musharraf (The Guardian, November 6, 2007:1).

In Africa, various governments have had to adopt a confrontational approach to containing violent agitations while some adopted peaceful means of addressing both violent and nonviolent agitations either in the form of protests or peaceful demonstrations.

In the case of Niger Delta, the disjuncture between government's intervention programmes, in the form of human and material resources, oil companies' corporate social responsibility projects and oil-producing states, is responsible for the agitations in the region (Udeke and Okolie-Osemene, 2013). The following issues inspired agitations in the region: state creation, resource control, oil exploration and exploitation, environmental degradation, underdevelopment, insecurity and militarisation. According to Ibaba (2011), "agitations in Nigeria's Niger Delta dates back to the colonial era when the fear of domination and neglect by the major ethnic groups in the country, inspired demands for state creation, seen by people of the Niger Delta as a guarantee for development and a shield from ethnicity-based political domination."

Ozekhome (2007:239) attributes agitations and youth restiveness in the Niger Delta to "the lack of development programmes, lack of youth participation in decision making, poverty, practices of multinational companies, unemployment, oppression and marginalisation, government's insensitivity, unitary nature of Nigerian state, mistrust of elders, lack of resource control, domination of minorities by major ethnic groups." Oluwaniyi (2011) notes that there was increase in the spate of violent agitation despite the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000, leading to the establishment of Joint Task Military Force (JTF) to protect oil companies and their facilities in the region.

It has been observed that the root cause of hostilities/agitations revolve around the issues of resource control and socio-economic development of the region (Eze et al., 2009). The responses/attitudes of individuals and groups in every society towards resource use are conditioned by time, location and culture (Jimme, Kagu and Yahya, 2010). For instance, the people of the Niger Delta now respond aggressively through protests and litigations to environmental pollution and ecological damage occasioned by the operations of multinational oil companies. In terms of location, they are aware of the strategic nature of the region in global oil market. In addition, the culture of the host communities does not appreciate environmental abuse because land is sacred to them.

Some questions are pertinent here: Why must stakeholders, including policymakers, wait until the people agitate before addressing their basic needs in the region? How have the agitations influenced intergroup relations? Therefore, this paper focuses on the effects of Niger Delta agitations on intergroup relations in the region and Nigeria as a whole.

Theoretical Framework

Agitation refers to a mental state of extreme emotional disturbance or disturbance in the form of protest by individuals and groups. Agitations and intergroup relations are the features of interaction in every society but the approach to handling any agitation can influence the intensity of such agitation. Intergroup relation refers to the interaction that exists between different groups that have different historical experiences, backgrounds, among others (Muojama, 2012). Intergroup relations also mean that cooperation in form of socio-economic and political exchanges that characterise interactions between various groups, associations or classes of people in society. This study is anchored in the theories that inspire agitations by neglected groups in every society. Faleti (2006) posits that various theories are used to explain the causes, nature and effects of conflicts. Most conflicts are underpinned in, realism, frustration-aggression, and human needs theory. The theory of horizontal inequalities by Frances Stewart (2002) is also an important.

The situation in the Niger Delta finds its roots in different theories, especially...

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