Virtually every adult is familiar with the old tale of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. He has been celebrated by Hollywood, with such greats as Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner, Cary Elwes and, more recently, Asari Dokubo, taking on the role of the man in green tights.
For those who are unaware, I'll give a brief synopsis of the story. Robin Hood was born Robin of Locksley, to a rich landowner in medieval England. Against his father's wishes, he ran off to war, and fought in one of the crusades where he was captured by the Turks, and spent some years in prison. On his escape, he returned to England to find his father had been murdered by the Sheriff of Nottingham, who was plotting with the King's brother to overthrow him. Robin wouldn't stand for treason, and turned to a life of crime. He began stealing from the rich friends of Nottingham, and distributing their ill-gotten wealth among the poor, oppressed masses. You could say he was the first English Communist. Of course, the authorities didn't find his actions amusing, and duly put a price on his head and tried mightily to capture him, but always failed. Ultimately, he triumphed over his enemies, and blah blah blah. Or he was betrayed by a woman and killed. The end of the story is rather murky.
Which brings me to Naija, and the spate of kidnappings of white men in the Niger Delta. The kidnappers claim to be acting out of righteous indignation over the blatant neglect of their communities by the government, and the rape of their land by the multinational oil companies. Since they can't get their hands on the perpetrators in Abuja, they resort to kidnapping expatriate oil workers, and making demands that the oil companies should leave their land and so on and so forth. Some people step in, negotiations are carried out, money changes hands, and the hostages are released.
Now, since the criminal act was carried out for the greater good- namely Justice for the people of the Niger Delta, we would have expected news crews to be invited to videotape the kidnappers returning to their villages as heroes and sharing the ransom money equally to each and every home. Or purchasing medicines and sharing them. Or paying a firm to carry out a clean-up of the environment.
We are still waiting.
Rather, what has occured is that more and more "militant groups" are springing up daily. Each trotting out the same hackneyed slogans. Then they go out, grab a white man, and wait for their share of the booty. For, make no mistake, this has turned into no more than a lucrative criminal venture. Had these people been acting out of truly altruistic motives, we'd have heard about it by now.
Asari Dokubo, who styled himself a freedom fighter, was no more than a political thug who assisted in the greatest rape of the people's mandate ever witnessed in this country, and was well paid for his efforts. None of those proceeds went anywhere outside his immediate family circle. He became a "freedom fighter" when the governor refused to take his side in a turf war. It was at that moment, we are expected to believe that his conscience awoke from its coma and began directing his affairs. Suddenly, his middle name became Mujaheed, and he and his army of thugs and layabouts quickly adopted some nice sounding slogans. When the Federal Government offered to pay him 250,000 Naira for every gun he surrendered, he rapidly turned in some 85 AK47s. By my admittedly horrible mathematics, that computes to about 21 million naira and some change. Not a kobo went to his community. When the government invited him to wine and dine in Abuja, he went gleefully, perhaps expecting to wash down his new friendship with Baba with some oil contracts. (He was already engaged in illegal bunkering by the way.) Baba wined him, dined him, then asked him to return. On his return, he was swiftly arrested. He now cries foul. Tell me, did Che Guevara ever agree to wine and dine with the government? Of course not. Any true freedom fighter knows in his gut that the government is only out to destroy him. A criminal kingpin, on the other hand, only sees the next big score.
DSP Alamieyeseigha (aka Alams), erstwhile governor of Baylesa State, famous for his immortal statement "What is 100,000 pounds to a whole governor?" (that's pounds sterling, not biafran pounds), went on a jamboree to Europe. While he was governor, his only exercise was the systematic looting of the public till, so much so that he had a million pounds (sterling) in cash in his house in London. Upon his arrest, he claimed he was being victimised for fighting for the rights of his people. For fighting for more derivation. What had he done with the vast sums already at his disposal? I once had cause to visit Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, while Alams was guvnor. I found only one tarred road, which stopped immediately after government house. The billions of naira accruing to his state every month had done no more than pad his foreign accounts. Yet, after being arrested and charged with corruption, he's suddenly a "victim".
The numerous militants in the Niger Delta today have displayed guts, and daring. They're young, cocky, unemployed, and naturally, restless. They've seen a lucrative opportunity and are scrambling to get involved before the gravy train stops rolling.
But, modern-day Robin Hoods, they most certainly are not.