Ethnicity, Identity and the Amnesty Programme in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region
Catalogue Vol.26 No. 1 Ethnicity, Identity and the Amnesty Programme in Nigeria’s... Niger Delta Region



This paper evaluates the questions of ethnicity and identity in the region, and the intro- duction of the amnesty programme by the Nigerian government from 2009-2015 in an attempt to placate the restiveness within the oil-rich region. The study discusses the crisis within the context of the UNESCO definitions and policies in relation to culture. Adopting Gurr's Relative Deprivation theory, the study provides relevant data to examine the causes, and measure the impact of the cataclysm on Nigeria's culture and economy. The paper concludes that perceived injustice occasioned by the lack of political will by the political class and the failure to clearly integrate the place of ethnicity in national policies account for the persistent crisis in the Niger Delta.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has since 1945 been making efforts to improve global well-being through cultural communication and integration. Nigeria, as a member of the establishment, is blessed with very rich and diverse cultural practices which are capable of enhancing the economy and thereby promoting the desired wellness of the populace. This desire however, is challenged by incessant crises in various regions of the country hampering the expected development. The Niger Delta Dunkirk, as a case, has been significant in crippling cultural activities and the economy of Nigeria.

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The multiplicity of the world with respect to language, culture, ethnicity, community, state, country, religion, gender, race etc. creates the beauty and dynamism enjoyed and celebrated today. Thus, the existence of these diversities accounts for the joy of existence. This beauty in diversity also comes with its challenges which vary from the concept of racism, bigotry, tribalism, to extreme exhibitions of crises and wars in various parts of the world. The 2009 UNESCO framework for cultural statistics records that one hundred and ninety-three (193) countries and seven (7) associate members are in this partnership. According to the framework, the main objective of UNESCO is to promote peace and security through education, science, culture and communication for the purpose of justice, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedom without racial, sexual, language or religious discrimination (UNESCO, 2009: ii). Nigeria seems to be lacking in not only peace and security, but also in justice, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedom.

The country projected to become the 3rd most populous country in the world by 2030 is estimated to have over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups and more than two hundred (200) languages and various religions, and described as the most populous African country (Pontianus and Oruonye 136, Ingiabuna and Uzobo 89). Faced with intertribal, religious and political upheavals, the country keeps nose-diving into political anarchy, economic recession, abject poverty, and is currently faced with secessionist cries. These account for the earlier projection by analysts that Nigeria as a country may not last beyond 2015. While Nigeria has lived beyond 2015, scepticism over the survival of Nigeria for longer years keeps increasing due to the religious and political tensions in which the country is submerged. The Boko Haram insurgency, the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, the demands of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Niger Delta militancy, the inter-tribal and communal crises within various states of the country account for the fears. There is therefore the need to understand the ideology behind the struggle, which militates against the success of the UNESCO programmes in the Niger Delta region.

The intention of UNESCO to establish a regional 'multisectoral' office in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria was suspended due to the bomb blast of 26th August, 2011 at the UN office in Abuja (UNESCO, 2014: ii). Nigeria has witnessed several other violent protests and agitations beyond the Abuja blast. The state of insecurity is detrimental to cultural preservation and the attainment of UNESCO's development goals in the country.

This study thus becomes imperative to mediate the place of amnesty in the attempt to palliate the restive environment. It analyses the implication and functionality of the 2009 UNESCO framework for cultural statistics in Nigeria and examines the challenges that insecurity in Nigeria poses to the attainment of sustainable development goals. The paper emphasizes the correlation between Drama/Theatre Arts and policy-making/implementation towards achieving development objectives, and suggests way forward in an attempt to checkmate unresolved setbacks within the Niger Delta (and other related crises) as enumerated in the study.

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