Friday, May 11, 2007
My Brent Executed by Ijaw Infight
Ijaw never disrupted Nigeria's oil industry on a large scale. After all, if the oil stopped flowing, so would the money they were after. This is what made MEND different. MEND's goal was to not just be another gang after payoffs (or demanding social justice). They set out to change the underlying political order, that is, institutionalize the "sharing" of oil revenues. Thus, not only did the normal taboo against inflicting substantial damage on the oil industry not apply, the damage was the goal. The strategy worked and Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw, got elected as vice president. But on May 9, something fell apart. On that day, MEND's spokesman flat out labeled Jonathan as the group's political patron and warned him that if he did not provide them with sufficient income, their attacks against the Nigerian oil industry would most certainly continue. Leading up to Jonathan's outing, MEND carried out a week of attacks that took 200,000 bpd off line. The challenge for the incoming administration will be to find a way to give the Niger Delta states more resources without unduly upsetting the various power balances in the rest of the country. Currently, the oil-producing region shares 13 percent of the federal government budget in special "oil derivation funds," on top of the region's regular budgetary allowance from Abuja; some militants have demanded that the oil derivation fund amount be boosted to 50 percent. This is a sore point for other regions of the country -- especially the north, which feels it is time for it to have more power and resources after the eight years of rule under Obasanjo, a southerner from the Yoruba tribe. The only unanswered question now is why MEND decided to out Jonathan when it did. That is unclear, but one thing is sure: Nigeria's president distributes the country's oil money by a host of informal means; Obasanjo's impending departure means that an entirely new set of informal means has to be set up, and MEND has no intention of being on the outside for another eight years.