Nothing proves Nigeria’s status as an oil alcoholic like the 50 dead bodies of the NNPC oil exploration team to Maiduguri. The scent of oil had us staggering into the killing field, with our eyes open: hence, the slaughter at the tryst of the country’s thirst for oil and Boko Haram’s bloodthirst.
It’s an open secret that the death cult is holding out in the Maiduguri axis. Their bestial predation in that zone is a staple of the news and a travel advisory in its own right. They are vigorously contesting the single story of their extinction.
They launch expeditionary raids. They dispatch suicide bombers. They perpetrate cruelty to shock.
Yet, Abuja decided that the task to beard the lion in his den could not wait. The spoil of oil must be sampled even if the occupied enemy territory that harbors it is one of the most dangerous spots in the world. It had to be done now.
Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ‘embarked on the venture despite the risks in order to grow the country’s crude oil reserves’.
Affecting the demeanor of grief, he proceeded to announce the suspension of the fool’s errand, a fait accompli already imposed by the terrifying death toll. He said: ‘’Certainly, we will not go back unless the military give us a clearance, just like we didn’t go in before they gave us a clearance.”
The ‘’we’’ Kachukwu in that remark, mind you, is the royal we: the self-exaggerating plural that is the preserve of the proud nobility. Its invocation did not imply that the minister was eager to rush into the frontier where the 50 were slain. He was not part of the flock of sacrificial lambs that went into Maiduguri. If he were part of the ‘’we’’, he would have partaken of the massacre. And it’s precisely because he was not a physical casualty in that bungled essay that he could afford to threaten to try his luck again based on another military ‘’clearance.’’
Kachukwu abandoned his discretion and authorized the Maiduguri (mis)adventure because his own life would not be on the line. He knew he would watch the doomed safari from a safe distance. He would relax in his gorgeous office while the lesser mortals venture out to taunt Abubakar Shekau.
Now, if the oil seekers had managed to make reasonable progress under gunfire and returned safe, Kachukwu would have appropriated their sacrifice and owned the success. But he has refused to take responsibility for his misjudgment and their resultant massacre. He explained away the tragedy as if it were a trivial loss.
Kachukwu is the typical Nigerian Oga-at-the-top. They regard your human value as inferior. They conceive of you as a guinea pig, born to serve the experiment of their fantasies. You are the means to their end.
Kachukwu neither resigned nor apologized. Instead, he promised to repeat the foolish attempt. ‘’Certainly, we will not go back unless the military give us a clearance, just like we didn’t go in before they gave us a clearance.”
Ibe Kachukwu has blood on his hands. If he is normal, he should have murder on his conscience.
The man in the street knows that, under the circumstances, traversing Borno state involves a high element of risk to life. Kachukwu cannot claim not to know that Maiduguri and environs are not congenial to oil exploration activities. The odds were that the team would be ambushed by Boko Haram.
But he chose to embrace a go-ahead that flied in the face of facts on the ground.
For over a year, the Nigerian military has been beating its chest over the ‘’degradation of Boko Haram’’. They tout ‘’degradation’’ as ‘obliteration.’ They talk dismissively of Boko Haram as a vanquished rebellion; defeated, demoralized and demobilized.
The ‘clearance’ they issued to Kachukwu was consistent with the tenor of that evidence-free propaganda.
Kachukwu should have had enough common sense not to suspend his disbelief. The reality he saw on the television every day affirmed that that part of the Lake Chad basin consumed people like the Bermuda Triangle. And he knew the Nigerian military better than to put much stock in their boast.
This is the same military that rained bombs on the IDP camp at Rann. It had presumed the sanctuary of the hapless refugees to be the hideaway of the terrorists. The erroneous bombardment wasted 54 persons.
Six months and an inhouse inquiry later, the Defence Headquarters confirmed that the error was indeed due to ‘’lack of appropriate marking.’’ In order words, they bombarded on a wing and a guess: they unleashed death on the off-chance it would hit the right target.
Nigerians deserve to know the real reason why Kachukwu signed off on that suicide mission. Was he really motivated by the need to grow Nigeria’s crude oil reserves at a time when production level has climbed to 2.2 million barrels per day? Or was trying to ingratiate himself with President Buhari? Was the junior minister too desperate to report good news to his boss who ordered him to ‘’intensify’’ the exploratory work in the inland basin on the Chad Basin and Benue Trough areas?
The Maiduguri mission reeks of sycophancy. Kachukwu, the first class grade graduate, seemed to be scrambling to win the prize of the highest performer in the class of ministers. The oil of the Niger Delta is at the crux of the chaotic ‘’restructuring’’ altercation troubling the polity. A token of success from the oil search in the North would have sufficed to calm down the agitation.
He wanted to perform the miracle of sensual pacification. The murmurs of the Israelites ceased when Moses struck the rock and water gushed out. Likewise, the agitations of Nigerians would cease if he struck oil in Shekau’s backyard.
The daredevil stunt has sadly created a new set of widows and fatherless children.
Nigeria hung the Ogoni Nine for the sake of oil. Nigeria fed the Maiduguri 50 to Boko Haram for the sake of oil. Nigeria would rather shed blood to gain oil.
Nigeria is that country that defines itself by its crude capacity. Our existence is validated by oil. Nigeria is an oil arrangement just as a river is a body of water.
The rest of the world is weaning itself of oil and transitioning to a green economy. The west is racing towards the normalization of the electric car. Nigeria, the spoiled and retarded adult suckling, wanders off on a different track, searching for another virgin oil reserve to suck, another Oloibiri to rape.
Acting President Yemi Osibanjo ordered the same generals who manufactured the fake clearance to relocate to Maiduguri. He mandated them to effect real clearance of the area.
The carnage that had been going on in that place for a long time did not elicit a presidential directive to relocate. But the generals must redeploy now. Because we need to win the tug of war and get crude flowing from that place as soon as possible.
We can’t have enough of crude oil. Though, the more of it we drink, the more we perish like the broke village drunk.
Too bad there is no Oil Alcoholics Anonymous to help Nigeria!
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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