Thursday, April 14, 2011

Communication and Resistance: A tale of Nigeria’s Niger Delta

The intersection between communication, resitance and social change is a key point that strikes me as unique in this week’s readings. I am intrigued by this overlap because of incessant conflict between oil corporations and indigenous communities over seismic operations in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The contexts may seem somewhat divergent on the surface in that the readings highlight resistance in health-related contexts. By contrast, the resistance in Nigeria is tied to marginalization with respect to dearth of basic facilities in indigenous communities despite several years of oil exploration and concomitant environmental pollution. Given the overlap between structural marginalization and health, both scenarios provide opportunities for convergence. I use convergence here to mean similarity of prevailing /unfavorable circumstances that trigger agency or resistance from indigenous communities.

Nigeria’s Niger Delta region represent the eight oil producing states in Nigeria globally reputed as notorious due to persistent conflict between indigenous communities and the oil exploration corporations over the absence of basic facilities and the marginalisation of the indigenous communities. The conflict recently became prominent in global media due to the increasing kidnapping of personnel of oil corporations in the region by ethnic militias purporting to be resisting further marginalization.
My intent in this reflection is neither to support the violation of the rights of innocent personnel, who are caught in the web of the crisis, nor to defend the marginalization of the indigenous communities by the structure, but to illustrate the role of communication in the resistive process.

First, the emergence of various ethnic militias acting as resistive agents against marginalization in the region is of interest. Also intriguing is the emergence of intra-ethnic militias that resist internal structures suspected of complicity in the marginalization of indigenous communities is worth noting.
The resistance in Nigeria’s Niger Delta is particularly intriguing in that the militias have become strong source of cover stories for major news media. Perhaps a stunning dimension to the scenario is the role of new media, e.g, Internet, facebook in the conflict. The militias often email media organizations to claim responsibility of disruptions in oil pipelines, and the kidnap of personnel of the oil corporations.

The resilience of the militias compelled Nigeria’s government to create a Ministry of the Niger Delta, aimed at addressing the needs of the communities. Also more recently, the government started an Amnesty Program aimed at providing restive youths in the region with skills to better their living. Despite the challenges in the implementation, both schemes fundamentally exemplify Dutta’s (2010) argument about the intersection between resistance, communication, and social change.

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