The pages of ‘The Riddle of the Oil Thief’ open with the deeper undertones of the book and the subject matter in discourse, with the Niger Delta map beautifully dotted into the Nigerian map, and the Nigerian map, holistically emptied into the map of Africa. Though intentionally there to depict the geographical location where this riddle plays out, it reflects a larger sense of loss and emptiness – the construct of which the Niger Delta falls under in the grand scheme of things.
This brilliant historical novel starts out as a journey by the CTF OPSD to the Presidential Villa to present a time sensitive report of the level of destruction effected by years of exploration and exploitation of the Niger Delta oil.
Remarkably gifted in a unique form of storytelling, the author engages the reader on a journey, as if this journey were deeply personal and the mandate by General Dan Buba personal as well. Through General Dan Buba’s journey, the author presents salient arguments and unearths factual evidence underscoring his arguments.
In this journey of different realms, the author progressively embeds issues that have posed a challenge to the Niger Delta people for over seven decades, unravelling bit by bit, the problems of underdevelopment and its causes. He courageously fingers the perpetrators of oil thievery, questioning issues like ‘legal pollution’, ‘militarization’, ‘corruption’ and ‘mis-education’, of which he exhaustively addresses in forty-two chapters.
The author states in clear terms the price of peace in the Niger Delta, and at what cost the peace has been given, since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Itokopiri/Oliobiri. He argues that the deployment of military personnel – army, navy, air force – to secure the Niger Delta, was indeed to secure the most important assets in the Niger Delta – the oil, and the oil facilities that enable the rich elite to keep eating fat. This militarization that has continued even over a decade after amnesty was granted and militants had been de-armed.
Another salient issue raised is the slow but effective ‘disease of oil pollution’ and the constant activities that continue to endanger the environment of the Niger Delta man. Without doubt, this narrative reveals the complacency of both the IOC’s and the Federal Government in the continuous depletion of the Niger Delta environment.
The most outstanding of these arguments is the one about the deployment of a non-gender sensitive personnel to the ‘oil bearing and facilities hosting’ communities, and the resultant effect of this to the population. The recorded harassment, abuse and rape of women in these communities, as well as the fate of the female population given the sex and demography, are an injustice that King Dakolo has carefully pointed out.
The first realm presents General Dan Buba who has just been posted as the commander of the CTF OPSD, an organization for the maintenance of peace and security in the Niger Delta, and on a trip to see the President with a report of his findings during the course of his stay.
The second realm presents Wokolo and the Niger Delta Hall of (Shame) Fame, with a long list of crimes committed against her people, attached with images of untold stories that have remained untold until the publication of this book.
This riddle no longer remains a riddle, if you embark with him on this journey that has defined and is still defining the livelihoods and realities of the Niger Delta people. You see clearly the perpetrators and grand masterminds of the Niger Delta under development with this narrative. You also see the victim and state of victim hood that the people of the Niger Delta suffer and will still suffer even in thirty to fifty years to come – you see that they are all effects of the discovery of oil in commercial quantity and the eventual scramble for oil wealth from Oil Well 1.
While these arguments finger the perpetrators of oil thievery and highlight the causes of our underdevelopment, the author does not entertain the debate that the Niger Delta underdevelopment for a lot of years has been a construct of Niger Deltans through interventionist agencies. He argues instead, on the importance of Ijaw nationalism, when deployed in service, and that such agencies have never been manned by true Ijaw men.
For young people born not more than two decades ago, this literature is a historical time piece to instruct and to guide, an archive presenting the ills of the Niger Delta, while stirring the mind towards a cataclysmal solution.