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7 Proclaiming Amnesty, Constructing Peace: Oil and the Silencing of Violence

Omolade Adunbi Indiana University Press ePub

Militant—75k/month,
Boko Haram—100k/month,
NYSC—19,800/month,
Minimum wage (civil service)—18,900/month.
Choose your career wisely

REMARK COMMON ON THE INTERNET
AMONG NIGERIANS, SUMMER
2013

ON A HOT Sunday afternoon in June 2011 at an elementary school in the Rumuola area of Port Harcourt, many youths had gathered for a soccer game between two opposing teams. The elementary school, like many in the region, is decrepit. There are no windows in the classrooms, the science laboratory exists in name only, and the soccer field is dilapidated. The game was organized by a group of youths, and I had been recruited as a coach for one of the teams. Soccer is my favorite pastime, and I played with many of the good friends I made while doing fieldwork in the Niger Delta. It is extremely popular throughout Nigeria, and often renders ethnic alliances irrelevant. It is only during soccer games that many Nigerians rally around the national flag. Politicians and militants both use soccer games to promote their causes, and games serve as organizing platforms. At the end of every game in the Delta, youths will gather to discuss the conflict in the region.

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1 Sweet Crude: Neoliberalism and the Paradox of Oil Politics

Omolade Adunbi Indiana University Press ePub

ON A HUMID afternoon in February 2008 in Abuja, the federal capital, I attended a conference organized by a major Nigerian news outlet, Tell Magazine. The event, “50 Years of Oil in Nigeria,”1 was a weeklong celebration drawing participants mostly from the government and the private sector, and particularly all of the major players in Nigeria’s oil industry. The vice president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan; the Senate president, Mr. David Mark; and other government functionaries had agreed to attend.

Before the conference, individuals, corporate organizations, and government departments placed advertorials in the major newspapers, congratulating the government and the people of Nigeria on the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of commercial oil exploration. Glossy pictures displayed paved roads, beautiful hospitals, well-tended schools, and robust and healthy children being attended to by well-dressed teachers. These images were superimposed on oil pipelines, flow stations, wells, and platforms. Congratulatory television messages also appeared from organizations, corporate bodies, and elite individuals wanting to warmly thank the president and his deputy for “proper management” of the oil revenues, enabling Nigeria and Nigerians to take “giant strides.”

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2 The Spatialization of Human and Environmental Rights Practices

Omolade Adunbi Indiana University Press ePub

THIS CHAPTER FOCUSES on NGOs’ culture of engaging in practices that create human and environmental rights awareness both within and outside resource-rich communities. NGOs devise programs intended to provide relief for communities whose human and environmental rights have been violated by the state. They present themselves as able to “rescue” the communities from the marauding state. In creating awareness of and promoting human and environmental rights, they not only rely on the language of international human rights declarations, but also use local narratives. In many oil-rich communities, there are narratives that emphasize that oil is a source of wealth promised by the ancestors. In an attempt to gain access to such communities, NGOs have devised ways of inserting this belief into the practice of human and environmental rights. They thus connect local communities to national NGOs, who are in turn connected to the transnational network of NGOs promoting human and environmental rights.

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3 Mythic Oil: Corporations, Resistance, and the Politics of Claim-Making

Omolade Adunbi Indiana University Press ePub

THE NIGER DELTA, particularly the Ìlàjẹ area of the western Niger Delta, can be situated within a historical tradition that produces and reproduces narratives of unjust marginalization based on claims to own land and resources. These claims are embedded in histories that cause those making them to see themselves as the rightful owners of the land and its resources, on the basis of their ancestral lineage, in ways that challenge the colonial and postcolonial basis for ownership. The consequence of this challenge is a high level of contestation among multinational corporations, the Nigerian state, and oil-producing communities such as Ìlàjẹ.

The core problem is that the oil economy is structured by excluding resource-rich communities from the benefits of the oil’s exploitation. This exclusion, which began during the colonial era and continues in the postcolonial state, is implemented through land reform, usage laws (such as the Land Use Act), zoning restrictions, Nigerian army maneuvers in the region, and security forces set up by the multinational oil corporations to protect their operations. Such exclusionary practices deny communities access to their land, create high unemployment, and cut off communities from oil revenues. As a result, many communities, including that of the Ìlàjẹs, have organized politically against corporate control of land and oil in the Niger Delta. The conflict between regional belonging and national resource control is at the heart of this chapter. A good understanding of how the physical presence of oil drilling platforms, flow stations, and pipelines represents a promise of widespread wealth while at the same time excluding local people from the benefits of oil-related modernity illuminates the link between ancestral claims of ownership and protests against corporate and state control of land and resources.

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Conclusion: Beyond the Struggle for Oil Resources

Omolade Adunbi Indiana University Press ePub

AT A COLORFUL ceremony on February 4, 2013, in Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria, the secretary to the government of the federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, nicknamed Mr. Centennial by the Nigerian press, inaugurated the centenary celebration of the amalgamation by the British, on January 1, 1914, of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria. The celebration is expected to begin on January 1, 2014, and, with a variety of activities planned, to last the whole year. At the inauguration, the former military head of state, General Abdusalam Abubakar, presented the theme song of the centenary celebration to the public. Composed and performed by Onyeka Onwenu, a popular musician, in collaboration with other famous Nollywood artists, the song, titled “This Land: Celebrating 100 Years of Nigeria,” honors “this land of mine, Nigeria on my mind, born in diversity, standing tall, 100 years of unity, one nation, strong, indivisible and here to stay.”1 The video of the song, posted to YouTube with more than a hundred thousand views,2 features key figures in Nigeria’s fight for independence, such as Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Ahmadu Bello; cultural artifacts; rich agricultural produce; Abuja and Lagos skyscrapers; and oil rigs, platforms, and wells.

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