by Uduak Umo
I’m simply going to update what Itoro Cyril has written in this article.
Let’s start with this:
It would take just 1500 signatures on an online petition to activate a injunction to compel ExxonMobil to move their administrative HQ to their base of operations; Akwa Ibom State. But after 3 weeks, with broad reaching promotion online, the petition has just about 400 signatures to it.
Just a simple petition.
ExxonMobil has heard calls for relocation back home from Akwa Ibom people for ages. They’ve always had an unannounced budget for handling all such crises. It is not a problem for them. They believe it’s just a function of money, or do they not. How insulting!
They have studied this very public and they know how best to manage them.
Itoro Cyril wrote:
“Though unfortunate but we cannot completely salvage it. There has to be complete awakening. I was in Mobil house the other day and eventually I heard a Steward greeted me in Ibibio “Bro mokom o” and I staged a smile at her. I felt unhappy but what could she have done? Stay hungry? No, she needed to work and survive in a city. Walking down the lawn I quickly peeped on the petition initiated by Cavil Uduak Inwang and just about 400 had signed at that time.
Sincerely what I do not know is if this petition hasn’t got wide popularity. I then looked up Cavil’s Facebook page surprisingly he has over 1000 friends with 95% being Akwa Ibomites. I also realized several people shared the post, many reposted on their wall.
Sadly it will take Akwa Ibom almost 1 month to raise 1000 of the 1500 signatures required to help compel ExxonMobil to relocate its HDQ to Akwa Ibom State.
What I do not know and among the question that has disturbed me is…
1. Is it because Cavil raised the motion?
2. Are Akwa Ibomites not aware of the immediate and long term benefits of EM having its HDQ in Akwa Ibom?
3. Why is the Government not so viciously interested in this movement?”
My brother, even ExxonMobil should be wondering what kind of subservient people they have in Akwa Ibom, both in leadership and everywhere else. I bet you EM would choose to drill and spill oil in Akwa Ibom again and again.
I blame the Akwa Ibom people first. We’re simply too easy to ride on. We’re easily content, easily passified, laid back and easily frightened.
This is not to suggest violence at all. Did Ken Sarowiwa fight anybody to kick Shell BP out of Ogoni land? He engaged his intellect, firmness, use of facts, consistency, passion and leadership.
Before we blame EM for Our Woes, We look inwards, thus:
1. We blame the Host Communities first.
Let’s isolate Ibeno here, though there’re other oil producing local government areas in Akwa Ibom. ExxonMobil have their terminal at Ibeno.
If you ask, how has ExxonMobil been able to keep drilling oil in Ibeno despite decades of frequent protests by the community?
The answer isn’t far fetched: visit the youth leaders of Ibeno and you’ll get the answer. Visit their traditional rulers and you’ll understand.
At this juncture, I invite the Paramount Ruler of Ibeno to declare his assets. Then he can help us with the source of his stupendous wealth – his mansion even has an elevator, sitting in the midst of abject poverty and oil spillage.
I heard the story of Gani Fawehinmi who was asked about his consistency and fearlessness in opposing Nigerian governments, to which he responded that he had made it a policy never to take gifts from any of the politicians, not even in peace times. He even cited an instance when ex-governor of Lagos Marwa sent him a ram to celebrate sallah, and he returned it unscratched.
As long as our leaders keep receiving gifts from ExxonMobil – I don’t care if these are innocent souvenirs – they’re being bribed to work for EM. No hope.
2. Blame Our Political Leadership.
Ibeno leaders succeed to keep their people subdued under EM, and Akwa Ibom’s Political leadership has succeeded to keep Akwa Ibom people subdued under EM, either through inaction, accruals, favours, ignorance, apathy or all and more. There’s no other way to defend that we could have taken it up with the Jonathan administration, which we had favour with, yet we treated it with casual ease. The reason? We had too much to eat then.
The present administration has come to revive calls for EM to relocate their HQ to Akwa Ibom; the House of Assembly has begun to engage EM over the issue. They’ve had seatings and hearings, and this is the first time an Assembly is going this far over the same subject (I stand to be corrected). These efforts are, however, too weak; simply too limb. What is this? Aren’t we joking? If we can’t get it now, we better forget it completely.
Cyril further wrote:
“Talking about Government involvement I realized Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) was compelled to build their industrial area in Port Harcourt. Many thanks to the Govt at that time. Today the citizens are benefiting.
Sometime in May I asked about the progress of EM Relocation to Akwa Ibom State. The response I got was positive though from a press man in this forum. I asked because when I was in Port Harcourt. I witnessed NLNG building their HQ in port Harcourt. What tripped me was the fact that this project is done day and night solely because they need to meet up dateline.
Truth is in this same NLNG construction sites you’ll notice remarkable sons and daughters of Akwa Ibom State working as Architects, Consultants, Supplier of goods, and others as labourers but none seem to have thought of compelling the Government by just signing a petition or raising placards.
As for the Government of Akwa Ibom State… I know that any serious Government can draft laws that would make EM relocate to AKS in 6 months. We have everything they need so it’s no point deceiving us with…”
I won’t say the Government should rush to use extreme measures against a visitor that’s doing business on our land. But we must realize that governments come and go while ExxonMobil stays. Through the government’s body language, Mobil can already know what to expect. They’re familiar with all this weak, seemingly unserious engagement. Give them something robust and they’ll comply.
3. Let’s blame Other Akwa Ibomites.
If Mobil agrees to relocate to Akwa Ibom, it will be to Uyo most likely. Not Ibeno, not Mbo, not Eket. The new landlord would then experience a hike in economic activities, with immediate effect on the GDP. Yet, how many Akwa Ibom people have joined the movement to bring EM where they ought to be?
We have influential individuals in various industries and sectors, all over the world. But they sit and watch, because this is the typical Ibibio man.
Let me quote Kashim Shettima in the famous taped phone call he’s now denied:
“The plan of APC is that they’re going to make alliance of North-West Economic Development. The West has the ocean, the North has agricultural produce. The government is going to develop all the agricultural and mineral resources in the North. They will put primary industries here and then go and finish them in Lagos and South-West and export them and bring back the money and share it between the two regions.
Let them drink their oil (referring to South-East/South-South Nigeria)”.
What does the above imply? Can’t we already see that the Federal Government has gone ahead to furnish Lagos with all the support they need to keep building, while also ignoring regions that require even more urgent attention? At what stage is Ogoni clean-up if I may ask? Where’s Ibom deep seaport? Why has Lekki Deep Seaport started while the even cheaper and earlier proposed one at Ibaka remains on queue?
If Akwa Ibom people can appreciate the extent to which they are being enslaved by the system they’ve chosen to cooperate with, they won’t keep mum anymore.
This isn’t the spirit with which our fathers won us State creation in 1987. This is not the spirit with which Attah won the battle of the 13% derivation. Then, few people engaged the powers that be. Today, we need numbers.
Nigeria doesn’t care about your struggles; they never have, just the same way we don’t care what’s going on at Southern Kaduna. Everyone must seize his and her destiny.
We are not cursed, sentenced to endless servitude. But as long as we allow timidity and subsistence living remain our attitude, everyone else will think we’re cursed.
The proverb says it all: “you cannot stop a bird from flying, but you can stop it from perching on your own head”.
Uduak Umo practices Public Relations, and is a Public Interest Researcher