ED KASHI
ArchiveCategory
April 15, 2009

Conor chose “Forms of Resistance in the Niger Delta” as a title for his essay.


He comments on the photograph above which “…depicts a ‘disgruntled employee’ confronting oil extraction head-on. An arm of the oil rig…tower[s] over the man in his small boat. He is isolated in a seemingly boundless body of water with nothing to grasp but a metal skeleton spewing flames. The caption reveals that he intends to take over the rig, but he seems to have little power over the vessel. It looks as though he needs rescue. His face seems relaxed, and yet, his is the smile of a man in utter desperation, with nothing left to lose. Amongst a scene of gray skies, murky waters, and diabolic flames, a strange bit of irony can be found inscribed inside the boat: ‘Holy Paradise’. A sticker visible between his legs reads, ‘Fear Not’, driving the point home that this man shows uncanny fearlessness in confronting the behemoth rig.”

Conor: “An analogous moment of confrontation is depicted…[when] [a] group of “disgruntled locals” stand purposefully near an apparatus at the site of an oil spill. …a [S]hell employee wields a machete…behind his back, still leaving it visible to the protesting men. This image illustrates the menace of a militarized oil industry. From an American perspective, it is chilling and bizarre to see the Shell logo coupled with brutal weaponry. It is the ultimate irony that after exploiting the land’s resources and polluting the land by spilling oil, Shell is the only entity showing force in the image.”

Conor has sited examples where “The locals confront the industry peacefully, as opposed to the violent tactics of MEND.” But he goes on to suggest we ponder the question “…are they freedom fighters or criminals? There is no clear answer, but it is important to note that Nigerians are fed up and ready to fight back in any way they can.”

Conor asks us all “…how can these people show their anger and make positive changes without bloodshed?” He comments that “It is easy to see the frustration that can build in a circumstance where legitimate forms of refusal are ignored, or worse, extinguished.” And he notes that while “…an apology from Shell won’t rebuild the Delta’s infrastructure, perhaps it will help to heal its soul.”

Conor, thank you for your thought-provoking observations.

The essay can be read in its complete form by clicking below.

Conor Mendenhall
CAAS 247: Modern Africa
Curse of the Black Gold Paper
4/7/09

Forms of Resistance in the Niger Delta

Dimieari Von Kemedi’s piece, “Nero’s Folly,” delves into the topic of resistance against the Nigerian oil industry. Kemedi tracks the history of MEND, a group that has used violent force to disrupt oil extraction in the Delta. Kemedi notes that Nigeria is in a condition of chaos, the result of “years of criminal neglect, exclusion, and repression,” and is now ripe for revolution. He argues that the emergence of MEND was inevitable in a climate of growing bitterness.

MEND’s outward appearance has ranged from unexpected power and confidence to uncoordinated attacks and internal struggle. The question arises, are they freedom fighters or criminals? There is no clear answer, but it is important to note that Nigerians are fed up and ready to fight back in any way they can.

Kemedi enriches his explanation of MEND-type resistance with the anecdote of David Independence. As an unemployed engineer, qualified with a master’s degree, he decried the oil industry with ethnic discrimination, and the Nigerian government with long-standing repression. Independence turned to the militia to give him something worth for, worth living for. People like Independence are stripped of their humanity, which results in their creative abilities giving way to destructive activity.

The photograph on pages 4-5 illustrates the discussion of resistance in the Delta. Kashi’s image depicts a “disgruntled employee” confronting oil extraction head-on. An arm of the oil rig juts into the frame from the right, towering over the man in his small boat. He is isolated in a seemingly boundless body of water with nothing to grasp but a metal skeleton spewing flames. The caption reveals that he intends to take over the rig, but he seems to have little power over the vessel. It looks as though he needs rescue.

His face seems relaxed, and yet, his is the smile of a man in utter desperation, with nothing left to lose. Amongst a scene of gray skies, murky waters, and diabolic flames, a strange bit of irony can be found inscribed inside the boat: “Holy Paradise.” A sticker visible between his legs reads, “Fear Not,” driving the point home that this man shows uncanny fearlessness in confronting the behemoth rig.

An analogous moment of confrontation is depicted in the photo on pages 18-19. A group of “disgruntled locals” stand purposefully near an apparatus at the site of an oil spill. In the foreground, a shell employee wields a machete. He holds it behind his back, still leaving it visible to the protesting men. This image illustrates the menace of a militarized oil industry. From an American perspective, it is chilling and bizarre to see the Shell logo coupled with brutal weaponry. It is the ultimate irony that after exploiting the land’s resources and polluting the land by spilling oil, Shell is the only entity showing force in the image. The locals confront the industry peacefully, as opposed to the violent tactics of MEND. We are left to ponder, how can these people show their anger and make positive changes without bloodshed?

The political route is entangled with corruption and riddled with injustices. Ledum Mittee explained in Watts’ interview that MOSOP’s efforts for governmental transparency and accountability were stifled by military force and the underhanded dealings of opportunistic politicians. It is easy to see the frustration that can build in a circumstance where legitimate forms of refusal are ignored, or worse, extinguished. But what is the difference between Mittee and Independence? Why does Mittee’s confidence in the political system prevail while his fellow Nigerians persistently sell out their own people for a cut of the loot? He understands that the anger fomenting in Nigeria can be harnessed by anyone for any range of purposes. This is exactly the problem that MEND saw as it began to splinter internally. We can see that there are opportunists in politics and militias alike.
Mittee explains that the MOSOP and the Ogoni people need to hear an apology from Shell more than they need monetary compensation. Although an apology won’t rebuild the Delta’s infrastructure, perhaps it will help to heal its soul.

Categories: Educational, Shout Outs

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