Long before the creation of Bayelsa State on 1 October 1996, the Oloibiri oil museum tower was built by the federal government in conjunction with an Italian consortium ahead of the construction of a world-class oil museum complex. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1 October 1979 to 31 December 1983, had laid the foundation stone for the building of the museum at the Oloibiri oil fields, ostensibly to appease the long-neglected people of the Niger Delta region.
The federal government and its allies, the International Oil Companies (IOCs) are not unaware that the region has continued to suffer the adverse effect of oil and gas exploration and exploitation for the past 67 years or so. Yet no tangible remediation measures to salvage the badly damaged environment and possibly marshal plan to accelerate the socio-economic and infrastructural development of the area have ever been contemplated.
67 years after, having become established as the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’ for Nigeria, southern Nigeria remains poor, backward and neglected, as echoed loud and clear by the Sir Henry Willink Commission of July 1958. It would be recalled that the Southern Minorities Movement in 1996 represented by Dr M.T Akobo, Prof. Turner T. Isoun and Mr Solomon Asemota, Esq., SAN had lamented the marginalisation of the region by ‘greedy despotic big tribe hegemonies’. They regretted that this tripod (wazobia) has continued to monopolise the reins of power in Nigeria since independence.
Till today, the situation in the Niger Delta region has not changed much. The people remain poor, neglected and backwards. The only hope they have is the promises for a better lease of life and white elephant projects such as roads tarred with gold and airconditioned cars riding on air. The region is left piqued by these numerous unfulfilled promises by the federal government, its allies, and IOCs. The people’s hope and expectations have for so long been dashed.