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THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH AND THE MANAGEMENT OF THE NIGER DELTA CRISIS IN GOKHANA- LAND 1931-2010..

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 

1.1   Background to the Study

 

Oil was discovered in Bomu in Gokhana-Ogoni in Gokhana Local Government Area of Rivers State, in commercial quantity in 1958. This really gave hope for a greater tomorrow and hope for a promising future to the people. This was after the WilInk Commission “of inquiry into the fears of Minorities and Means of Allaying them” Report of 1958 had recommended necessary remedies to appease the agitation of the Oil Minority Areas. These remedies among other things included the establishment of a special board (The Niger Delta Development Board) to handle the development of the river-rine areas of the Niger Delta. Unfortunately, these recommendations were never implemented.

 

It was rather, the Ogoni ethnic nationality that was of late plunged into the darkest period in their history. This was a period of social injustice and marginalization, ecological and environmental pollution, and abject poverty. Mitee (2002) graphically described the situation the people of Gokhana found themselves thus:

Since the start of oil production in Ogoni, the traditional people could no longer produce food to feed themselves. The farmlands were destroyed, air and water polluted. Many Ogoni children and animals lost their lives when they fell into large open pits constructed during drilling. Between 1958 and 1993, gas flaring in the area had been going on day and night (p.21).

Thus, Mitee (2OO2:10) maintained that the Gokhana people were wronged for many years and did not know what to do. Therefore, in 1990, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) declared through the Ogoni Bill of Rights (1990), the demands of Ogoni people thus;

 

(a)    For social and economic emancipation.

(b)    The right to self-determination as a distinct people in the Nigerian Federation.

(c)    Adequate representation as of right in all Nigerian institutions.

(d)    The right to use a fair proportion of the economic resources of their land for their development, and

(e)    The right to control their environment.

 

Fruthermore, since the killing of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other eight (8) Ogoni leaders on the 10th November 1995, and the subsequent harassment, detention and torture of the stakeholders in Gokhana and Ogoni of the (Niger Delta), the crisis has not only escalated but has assumed and presented other critical management problems. According to Niboro (2007),

Saro Wiwa’s martyrdom is the metaphor for the raging crisis in the Niger Delta today. Isaac Adaka Boro before Saro Wiwa set the tone for the military junta in the war to keep Nigeria one. Like Saro Wiwa, many years down the line, Isaac Boro believed in the sanctity of the Nigerian State. He only sought for a better deal for the people of the Niger Delta and drew attention to his point of view. But Saro Wiwa went the opposite direction, declaring a nonviolent struggle. This culminated in the enunciation of the Ogoni Bill of Right in 1990. The rolling-off of the Niger Delta crisis has since Saro Wiwa’s martyrdom, taken a life of its own. One of the crucial lessons learnt from his death and that of Boro before him is that the Niger Delta struggle can actually continue without a defined form. Today, we are confronted by militants operating in amoebic cells, and distributed in varying intensities across the waterways of the Delta (p.16)

 

Fundamentally, Niboro (2007), in the above quotation crystallized and underscored the immediate unfortunate concern, struggle and crisis that confront the Ogoni ethnic nationality in general and the Gokhana group in particular. The concerns of the Gokhana people and the role of TAC in managing the crisis however, form the main focus of this thesis. This is so because Government crisis management measures and tools to resolve the conflict appear to be dysfunctional.

 

At this juncture, the study examined closely various government measures vis-à-vis the desperate role the oil-producing communities had played in the national oil economy. It also took a cursory look at the needs, demands, interest and over-all well-being of the Niger Delta especially the Gokhana people as a unit of the federation of Nigeria.

 

According to Suberu (2003:35) Government had used the redistributive policies as a measure of remedy in the management of the Niger Delta conflict. Firstly, the redistributive policies are state decisions that consciously dispense valued resources to one group at the expense of other claimants to state resources. The most important redistribute policy that government introduced involved the assignment of 2 percent and 1.5 percent of proceed from oil, to oil producing areas (Efeni 1992:10).

 

In recognition of the poor state of infrastructure and the harsh terrain of the Niger Delta, successive governments since independence have also established special development agency for the region. First, there was the Niger Delta Development Board in the 1960s, which was recommended by the Willink Commission. Second, in the 1970s, there was the Niger Delta Rivers Basin Development Authority as the principal tool of rural development, not only in the Niger Delta, but across the country. Since then, other efforts at addressing the concerns of the Gokhana people and Niger Delta agitations have included the special fund created by the 1981 Revenue Act for Oil Producing Areas and the special Presidential Task Force for the Development of the Oil Producing Areas which administered the special fund amounting to 1.5% of the Federation accounts created in 1989. In fact, the main intervention of this sort which began in July 1992, by Decree No.23 of that year, gave birth to the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) and committed 3% of Oil revenue to it (Ibeanu, 2008:28). Ibeanu (2008) submitted that “there were high hopes at its inception that OMPADEC will become the driving force behind the regeneration of Gokhana-Land and the Niger Delta. The financial resources that ostensibly were available to the commission bolstered this good will.” But sadly enough that was not to be.

 

The last special development intervention by government in the Niger Delta in general and Gokhana-Land in particular was through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Since January 2001 when the commission took off, and with a projected budget of at least 40 Billion Naira annually, many observers were concerned whether the Master Plan will be implemented. Ibeanu (2008) underscored the focal point of this work when he expressed serious concerns about the result oriented-ness and effectiveness of this measure, as a means of re-addressing the ill of the Niger Delta region.  In his words,

These concerns point to the repeated failure of development in the Niger Delta – the tendency for development to under-develop the Niger Delta and Gokhana-land. In the end, in spite of all these attempts to develop the Niger Delta and after Billions of Naira have been pumped into the region by government, aid donor communities, it seems that the development of the Niger Delta has in fact reversed rather than improved. Infact, it seems that every development strategy that has been developed for the Niger Delta has paradoxically under-developed the region. It is not surprising that a recent survey study of oil revenue governance in the Niger Delta that I did with a number of other colleagues showed that on all accounts, development has tailed in the Niger Delta (p.32).

 

 

Therefore, he adduced reasons for this colossal failure of Government on the development of the Niger Delta. First there is no accountability, transparency and public participation in development programmes and spending. Secondly, development projects have been deliberately and unequivocally exclusionary of vulnerable groups like women, children and the disabled. Thirdly, development projects have been unsustainable, particularly in creating alternatives to the petroleum industry and in environmental protection and remediation.

 

 

The question then is whether these policies were able to really ameliorate the suffering and impoverished conditions of oil-producing communities? Suberu’s observations concerning this management initiative are very helpful for the purpose of this study. Suberu indicts the policies as inadequate or a failure. He posits that:

It is useful to note the increase in statutory allocations to the mineral producing areas and the ecological fund entailed a corresponding reduction by 1.5 and 1 percent, respectively, of statutory allocations from the Federal Account to the Federal and State Government. This is in the nature of redistributive policies, which characteristically involve the gratification of some interest or demands at the expense of others (p.37).

 

Little wonder then, why the agitations have continued. Embarrassingly too, the recent history of militancy, kidnapping of both expatriates and nationals employees of oil companies in Gokhana has continued unabated. Government has not lived up to her expectations in this regard.

 

The second conflict management mechanism employed by the Federal Government is the re-organizational policies. Re-organizational policies refer to state efforts to restructure or reconfigure political or administrative institutions and relationship in order to accommodate group demands or strengthen the efficacy of centralized state power (Suberu 2003:35). He further stated that, it was a decisive instrument of Federal development patronage, since the policy continued with the standard of inter-unit equality in distributing Federal financial resources and infrastructural opportunities to the nation’s constituent communities and segments, while the oil-producing communities did not get direct benefits. In any case, the effectiveness of this conflict management measure did not yield the desired results. For, while the oil-producing units demanded for the creation of state like Oil Rivers and for Upland Rivers State, what they got was the further subdivision of the units into 24 from 14 Local Government Area in Rivers State. Consequently, the Rivers Forum for State Creation eloquently captured the oil-producing communities feeling concerning this policy measure thus:

Creating more Local Government Area is a step in the right direction, but not the only step… states must be created (in Rivers State) because of its disproportionate contribution to national wealth… (and) the equally disproportionate suffering of its people (Efeni 1992:11).

 

The question this study seeks to unravel is, can this unjust situation be allowed to continue to ravage the Niger Delta and Gokhana in particular? Can the Christian church and The Apostolic Church approach to conflict management help resolve the conflict? Can the Christian churches request for a stop action on the oppressed people of the oil producing communities without demanding justice from the government of Nigeria and the multinational oil companies? Moreso, since the church is acknowledged to have the ministry of reconciliation can the church be relied upon by the oppressed and depressed people of the Niger Delta?

 

In terms of reconciliation, The Apostolic Church in Gokhana has used ethical and theological discernment to manage their members and church affairs in the face of the conflict to a large extent. The Apostolic Church Gokhana programmes and social activities provide a transformation model of conflict resolution in a multi-religious and multiethnic society.

 

1.2   Statement of the Problem

Living conditions in the Niger Delta and Gokhana are indeed harsh and difficult. This is due to what Ayoob (2004:90) described as “state failure”. This is a condition where the state has failed to perform her basic civil responsibilities, such as the provision of basic infrastructure, roads, water, housing, hospitals and security of life and property. Furthermore, Ayoob (2004:90) maintains that “state failure” is the product of government over use of power which becomes tyrannical and tantamount to anarchy. This trend can lead to a failed state. “Failed State” is also as a result of the Federal Government inability to provide result oriented management policies in a region. Federal Government’s application of the redistributive, reorganizational as well as the regulatory policies has not been adequate in Gokhana and the Niger Delta.

 

 

 

Where does this ugly impasse lead the struggling but God-fearing people of Gokhana in Ogoni to? Does it follow that because state policies have failed the present silence by government and the oil companies have proffered the solution and resolution to the conflict? The most probable answer is no. For it is clear that Christianity has in the past and in various societies acted as an agent of social change, conflict management and resolution. And this researcher also believes it can do the same in Gokhana and in the Niger Delta. In this connection, we believe that there is a nexus between political action, evangelism and social action. And since there is a relationship between evangelism and social action, it is clear that Christianity as an agent of social change, conflict management and resolution will provide the answer to the Gokhana crisis.

 

The problem of this study therefore, was how to evaluate the strategies of the church (TAC) such as their strong sense of personal responsibility which had attracted meaningful change in their local church communities. The obvious problem that this work endeavoured to unravel was whether the fact that the massive programme of evangelism, redemptive activities or social action and life-style of The Apostolic Churchin Gokhana can provide an alternative tool for management, and transformation of the Gokhana and Niger Delta crisis. Furthermore, the researcher is also dissatisfied with the over-dependence of the Ogoni people on outside aid for solutions to the plight of the poor, oppressed and over exploited communities rather than depend on the TAC strategies. However, the present tendency of resorting to kidnapping, hostage taking and keeping and in some cases the killing of innocent citizens as a redress to the injustices, are also worrisome and therefore not a good omen.

 

1.3   Aim of the Study

The purpose or objective of this study was to critically examine the Gokhana (in Ogoni) of the Niger Delta conflict and attempt to find the right management tools especially from religious perspective; that would provide a lasting solution to the conflict. Therefore, the thesis in particular examined:

  1. The background of the Gokhana-Ogoni conflict/crisis.
  2. The management strategies and tools employed by Government and the oil companies on one hand, and the church on the other in resolving the co nflict.
  3. The level of success The Apostolic Church has achieved in bringing about peace and stability in Ogoni land.
  4. New models to the solution to the Ogoni conflict.
  5. The leadership challenges of the church in Nigeria in general and the clergy (men on the pulpit) in particular. This will also contribute in practical terms to the management of economic and ethnic conflicts in Nigeria.

 

1.4.  Significance of the Study

The main concern of this work is not just with the Niger Delta conflict but with how the crisis can be successfully managed for the well-being of the people. The significance of the study therefore includes the following:

  1. To enable Nigerians and members of The Apostolic Church community in Nigeria, to properly understand the issues, concerns and complaints of the oil-producing communities and the Ogoni conflict in particular.

 

  1. It will help re-direct the church in Gokhana and Ogoni in general to focus on her practical duty of theologizing. In other words they will come to full grip and understanding of their exploits in evangelism and social action as a veritable tool of managing social crisis, especially in Gokhana.

 

  1. The study will help Government and the oil companies harness the capacity of The Apostolic Church in particular and Christianity in general in conflict resolution and management.

 

 

  1. It will contribute to the already existing literature in the field of Religion and Society and enhance further study of the Gokhana people.

 

  1. It will motivate a consistent Christian life of Pastors, elders, and church workers, knowing that their contribution in evangelism and social work can help transform the society.

 

  1. Finally, the research will help immensely in inter-religious dialogue and cooperation between individual believers, church leaders and denominations in Gokhana and Ogoni in general. This will not only enhance religious tolerance, but foster cooperation among church leaders the government and the multi-national oil companies.

1.5   Scope of the Study

The scope of this research starts and focuses primarily on the Gokhana group in Ogoni.  The Niger Delta region comprises the following states: Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Edo, Abia, Cross River, Ondo and Imo State. The Niger Delta has been described as one of the world’s largest wetland covering over, 20,000 square km in South Eastern Nigeria. About 75% of the states is river-rine and inundated with water. In some areas the percentage of flood plain drops to about 50% (World Bank, May, 1995) in Fubara (2002:15). The area is made up of distinct ethnic groups with 26 language groups in Rivers and Bayelsa States only. The Niger Delta covers an area of 70,000 square km and consists of districts and zones. The characteristics of the Niger Delta are large rivers in tropical regions, coastal ridge barriers, mangroves, fresh waters, swamps forest, low lands and rainforests. (Ndes, 1995:15).

 

Among the Niger Delta states the most affected regions by oil exploitation and exploration by ecological degradation, pollution and devastation is Rivers State. And the areas so affected in Rivers State include the whole Ogoni land, Kala, Obagi, Egi, Egbema and Ndoni communities. In Bayelsa State they are Oloibiri, Sagbama etc; in Akwa Ibom, Eket, Iko, Ibeno, Uguo (Esi-urua) and others. They all have the same measure of destruction. These areas have experienced different kinds of acid rain which is detrimental to the ecosystem (Ndes, 1995:15).

 

 

The general focus of this research is Ogoni Land with particular interest in Gokhana land. Ogoni consists of one hundred and twenty towns and villages spread over six kingdoms constituting the nationality. These include Gokhana, Khana, Nyokhana, Kenkana, Babbe and Eleme kingdoms. There are three languages spoken in Ogoni mainly Nyokana languages. The scope is specifically on Gokhana-land where The Apostolic Church in Gokhana in Rivers State Maritime Field has prospered in social transformation programmes for the past eighty (80) years.

 

1.6   Research Methodology

This research employed the descriptive and historical methods of research in which issues were raised) described and critically evaluated in the context of the research.

 

In the process of data collection the primary and secondary sources were used. In the primary source of data gathering some experienced church leaders, government agents as we as workers/personnel of the oil companies were interviewed on the subject matter. In the field survey, the researcher personally visited Bodo-City, the Maritime Field headquarters of the Apostolic Church in Rivers State and other local churches in Biara, Boomu, Lewe, Gbarako, B.Dere and K, Dere; to see for himself what was on ground relevant to this study. On the other hand, the secondary source concentrated on pure library research from where information was gathered from text books, journals, periodicals, newspapers, magazines and materials from both the archives and internet. The data collected through the primary and secondary sources, were collated, interpreted, analyzed and presented through the descriptive analytical style.

 

1.7   Definition of Relected Terms

The following terms will be defined not only within the conceptual or contextual use, but also as used in this work. The term include: The Apostolic Church, Christianity, conflict, conflict resolution, management, conflict management and conflict transformation.

 

  1. The Apostolic Church

This is a Pentecostal Christian denomination which originated in 1904 during the Welish Revival. The Apostolic Church is a common term describing churches and group within the oneness movement. The theological beliefs of The Apostolic Church as summarized in its statement of faith, is known as The Tenets (Turnbull, 1959:5).

 

The Apostolic Church tenents of faith describes the 12 points cardinal beliefs of the church. But the most distinguishing among them is the belief concerning the government of the church by Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, Elders and Deacon (Acts 1- 13, Titus 1:5-9, Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 5:1-4). While the ministry of the Pastor is predominant in other Pentecostal churches, in The Apostolic Church fold, the role of the Apostles and Prophets dominate as church leaders: (Turnbull, 1959:5).

  1. Conflict

Conflict, according to Agbonifor (2000:15) is seen as an inevitable consequence of the operation of a social system. It may disrupt a social system or contribute toward the maintenance of such social system. Conflict is therefore seen as an engine of growth and change in a society. He observed that human societies change as result of conflict.

 

Conflict according to Hughes (2006:51) is a situation in which people groups or countries are involved in a serious disagreement or agreement. It is a violent situation or period of fighting between two countries, a situation in which there are opposing ideals, opinions, feeling or wishes. It is caused by lack of understanding of the position or interest of parties, over issues of common good. Goldthrope (2004:15) says that conflict may take many forms. The word as used by sociologists is a wide one, and includes debate, bargaining, competition as well as violence.

 

  1. Management

The term “Management” has been used in different ways to describe the essential aspects of organizational activities which determine how people should work and the materials to be used in achieving organizational goals. Thus, management process involves the ways organizational resources are used to achieve its goals.

 

Therefore, to manage, says Fayol, is to “forecast and plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate and to control”. Thus, whatever view is preferred concerning the definition of management; the implication is that good management is the key difference between the success and failure of any enterprise (Cole, 1996:13).

 

4  Conflict Management

According to Akpuru-Aja (2007), conflict management basically means the use of dialogue to assist opponents or parties not only to have agreement against hostile images or actions, but to comply with early agreed resolutions and strategies. It is a process that spans through conflict phases from prevention through outright resolution. Best (2006) has also defined conflict management as:

The process of reducing the negative and destructive capacity of conflict through a number of measures and by working with and through the parties involved in that conflict.., it covers the entire area of handling conflicts positively at different stages, including those efforts made to prevent conflict, by being proactive. It encompasses conflict limitation, containment and litigation (p.95).

 

It is very sensitive; it is impartial and gives a lot of leverages and relevant concessions when necessary to achieve desired objectives. It could involve either unilateral or bilateral actors. Dialogue is the most desired medium of solving conflicts. Therefore, the most urgent need of the Gokhana in Ogoni economic conflict is the involvement of both unilateral and bilateral actors; using dialogue as the most desired medium of solving the conflict.

5  Conflict Transformation

According to Nnadozie and Uzuegbunam (2010:35), this means changes in all, any, or some combination of the following matters regarding conflict:

 

  • The general context or framing of the situation
  • The contending parties
  • The issues at stake
  • The processes or procedures governing the predicament or the structure affecting any of the aforementioned.

It entails the coming into being a new situation involving conflict issues, perceptions, relationship and communication patterns (Jeong, 2000). As change, it can be seen descriptively in the changes created by social conflict, and prescriptively in the deliberate intervention by third parties to create change.

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