THE WRITER AND THE NIGER DELTA: A STUDY OF KAINE AGARY’S YELLOW YELLOW AND TANURE OJAIDE’S THE ACTIVIST
It should depress us that the Government and oil companies in the Niger Delta are the cause of the problems facing the people. To expose and deplore this ill is the Kernel of this project. The research is divided into five chapters: chapter one consists, the introduction which shows us where oil was first discovered in Nigeria. Also we have the statement of the problem. Here, we see how the oil producing communities have always been cheated; the revenue allocation process in Nigeria have usually been made to favour the majority ethnic group. Furthermore, we have the significance of study, the scope and the research methodology – this is, the various materials that led to the success of this work. Chapter two is the literature review which includes the various works of writers and comments which are related to the topic of my writing. Chapter three explores Niger delta problems using Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow. Chapter four also talks about Niger Delta problems using Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist. Finally, chapter five summarizes, concludes and gives recommendation to this research work.
The exploration of oil in Nigeria started in 1937 and was pioneered by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria limited which then based in Warri. In the course of the exploration for oil, the first explored well was drilled in 1951 at Ihuo north east of Owerri where no oil was discovered in commercial quantity at Oloibiri in the then Rivers State presently in Bayelsa by Shell. Consequently, there was pipe line connections between Ololbiri and Port Harcourt which enabled the first Cargo of Crude oil to leave Niger Delta on 17th February, 1958 when production stood at 6,000 barrels per –day. The implication of this is that by 1970 the oil industry became responsible for about 95% of the nations foreign exchange earnings of which Shell was the major contributor.
The Niger Delta region the producer of these natural and mineral resources encompasses the swampy terrain of coastal area of the South – South compelled with some parts of the South – West and South - East which comprises the following states Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers as states in Niger Delta.
According to record, creation of Nigeria Delta States, was by colonial masters set in motion the constitutional and legal framework for the future betterment of the Niger Delta. As a follow-up, Henry Willink commission (1957 – 1958) made some recommendation at pg 94 paragraph 27 of its report for the proper development of the Niger Delta region having seen the possibility of how this fertile area endowed by God with rich mineral and agricultural resources could be sapped, exploited, by the actions of man without development. This led to the establishment of Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) in 1960 with a view on embarking on the physical development of the area as an equitable recompense for it’s majority oil reserve which feeds the entire nation.
After the assumption of office in 1999 by the then president Olusegun Obasanjo, he asserted that the neglect of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established in the year 2000. The high hope and security was castrated because it did not leave up to the expectations in terms of developing the Niger Delta Physically and in empowering the people of this area in all it’s ramification. The principle of derivation which started with 50% in 1960 and 1963 constitution was drastically slashed callously to 13% under the 1999 constitution.
In many communities in Niger Delta, there is a wide spread of feeling that much has not changed with the new democratic government regarding state repression, as the military invasion of the village in Ijaw town of Odi in November 1999 and Ogoni, also other areas like Warri.
The Niger Delta Crisis could be traced through in 1990’s then the Nigeria’s military rulers embarked on a policy of pacifying the Niger Delta the oil rich region populated by many ethnic minorities for social economic and cultural rights in a country where years of practicing power is in favour of majority ethnic groups. Notwithstanding that the bulk of the country’s wealth comes from petroleum extracted from the Niger Delta. In addition to that, the petroleum industries profoundly undermine the source of their livelihood, and the ethnic minorities are being ignored. This makes the people look elsewhere or seek violence as the road to salvation.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEMS
The issue of Niger Delta has continued to be on the front burner of writers including critics for some time now. But people have not actually taken enough time to look at the issue of “style being the man”. As a result the style and techniques of our chosen writers here in these two novels have not been critically examined. This research sets out to bridge the gap. In Tanure Ojaide’s
The Activist shows how the manner of thinking of the people have been blurred with the idea that if they steal to survive, it is not a crime because their leaders are also thieves who loot the national treasury. Pere says, “Those who take our wealth must pay dearly for it” (82).
Due to the situation in the Niger Delta, he decides to go into bunkering business, which he saw as a means of making money to provide for him and his family since the oil company did not provide jobs for the people.
This people now treat the inhabitants of the area where the companies are located like criminals without dignity. According to Kimse Okoko and Nna Johnson (1979), they cited the controversy over revenue allocation within the context of National question. They said “the revenue allocation process in Nigeria have usually been made to favour the majority ethnic group”. The oil producing communities have always been cheated.
The prevailing system only serves to siphon their oil resources to the domain of the majority ethnic groups and that the plight of the oil producing areas is as a reflection of their political domination and economic marginalization by the major ethnic groups in Nigeria.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this research is to analyse, evaluate and explore the issue of writer’s attitude to his subject. In other words, what is his point of view and perception of the activities going on in the Niger Delta. This exploration is seen through his handling of themes and literary devices otherwise known as style or technique.
Many Nigerians are ignorant of the issues in Niger Delta. What most people, both inside and outside Nigeria knew was based on media propaganda, which only highlighted the youth violence which made every body talk about Niger Deltans as recalcitrant militants forgetting the situation they put the people into. In Yellow Yellow, Zilayefa Says,
During my second to last year in secondary school,
one of the crude oil pipes that ran through my village
broke and spilled over several hectares of land, my
mother’s farm included…. And so it was that, in
a single day, my mother lost her main source of
sustenance. However, I think she had lost that
land a long time ago, because each season yielded
less than season the before (4)
This quotation explains the sufferings and poverty that await Zilayefa because their only source of sustenance which is the land for farming has been polluted and covered with crude oil.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This research report, the writer and the Niger Delta: A study of Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow and Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist are works that ridicules and satarises the leaders of the community and the military government whom are regarded as the majority. They did not say anything even when such matters on how their land has been polluted by the oil companies are being brought to them. They refused to do anything because they have received ransoms form the whites who work in the oil companies just to keep them quiet.
Due to the environmental degradation, the people in the Niger Delta were affected with sufferings. Their farm lands and water which was their basic means of livelihood were destroyed with oil and brought them into a situation where they could not feed or even work.
The women become idle without jobs to keep them busy, some even went on prostitution, selling their bodies to the white men who work in the oil companies just to better their lives and feed their families.
These works shows the significance of advocating for a change in the society through changing the leadership patterns and also advocating for a change in the Niger Delta through changing the leadership patterns and also encourage young writers to put into writing the effect of such government on the economy and the poor masses. It tends to encourage the youths to fight for their rights no matter the situation they are passing through.
This can be done or achieved through forums with the people as away of enlightening them on the issues and problems the oil companies has cause them.
In The Activist by Tanure Ojaide, Omagbemi joins the Activist in his fight against the Bell oil and had so many forums with the students in a way of enlightening them on the issues and problems the oil companies has caused them. Also, Ebi and some other women forms an organization called women of the Niger Delta forum, their aim is to look for ways to talk to the officials of Bell Oil Company.
,SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This project is restricted to the study of the writer and the Niger Delta using Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow and Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist as primary materials. Other relevant related works of some other Nigerian or African prose writers are used only as commentaries or references on Niger Delta.
The main source of this research is work is textual analysis of Kaine Agary’s Yellow Yellow and Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist. The Secondary materials are form textbooks, journals, Internet information.