The noise from gas furnaces burning across the Niger Delta make it impossible for parents to whisper to their children. Whispering may sound conspiratorial, but parents cannot even speak normally to their children – a thing people take for granted. The explosive noises and hisses from the infernal fires make shouting the only way to hold a conversation. This anomaly has become the norm for two reasons: they must speak louder than the thunderous flares or shout to overcome the challenge of many persons slowly going deaf. Sometimes monologues appeal in the oil fields, because then you only shout at yourself.
Dialogue in the oil fields require keen attention because much of what is communicated is more in what is not being said than in what is said. Tears and sorrows, groans and gnashing of teeth speak louder than speeches or songs. Rivers coated with crude oil or bursting in flames at the whiff of a naked flame, say more than words can convey. And how about the fishes popping up belly up? The whale or the dolphin washing ashore and attracting machetes, saws and hammers as malnourished fishers hack away at the hope of a meal. They tell tales of feasting in dangerous pots.
Living in the oil field has been a disaster. And the many-tentacled roots of the ecological crisis require deep considerations. At one end is the willful irresponsibility of the oil companies who simply rake in more profits as they externalize production costs by heaping harms on the hapless communities and ignoring their groans. At the other end are the complicit governments who are trapped in the false hope that extractivism can extricate their nations from the carefully engineered grip of poverty.
Joint Ventures easily turn into misadventures as the oil companies take the driving seats and determine how much of the revenue goes into production costs and what crumbs are shared as profit. Taking the measly shares coated with promises of rising production to the bank, the governments suddenly become “credit worthy” and get enticed by financial institutions to start a borrowing spree and sink into the quicksand of debts. Oftentimes, they borrow their own cash stowed away in foreign banks. Indebted and addicted, communities and their environments are sacrificed so the companies can keep up the rapacious binge.
Oil wealth flies above the heads of communities. Just like power lines take power elsewhere leaving us in the dark. Communities farm and endure rotten harvests. Fishers fish, but the fishes are banished by crude. Fishes eat imported iced fish. Communities live by the riverside but may well have been in parched deserts. Riverine communities drink pure water!
Oil spills are waved off as inconsequential. And no matter how much is spilled, the volume exported is never affected because the export volume is a twisted piece of fiction. Whether on land or in the deep sea, no one knows exactly how much oil is extracted. When NEITI blew the whistle concerning offshore oil the government agency responsible for ensuring responsible behaviour among the oil companies squirmed and provided some specious denial. Oh, we know how much is taken! Really?
The oil spills that turned farmlands into an oily lake at Ikot Ada Udo in 2006/7 was ignored for many months. The spill attracted media and NASS’s attention and became a tourist attraction before Shell adjusted the cap on the well. The Niger Delta holds so much crude oil that hundreds of thousands of barrels of the resource can be spilled or stolen daily and no one would bat an eyelid. Community farms get destroyed. Forests get incinerated. Rivers get suffocated by blankets of crude. The big shots directly committing this ecocide are safely hidden away in air-conditioned board rooms onshore and offshore.
At Ororo-1 oil well at OML 95 off the coast of Ondo State, a blowout-induced fire has been burning for almost one year with no one lifting a finger to stop it.
And over a period of two years (2018-2019) NOSDRA registered 1,300 oil spills or 5 spills a day.
Oil spills are readily classified as being caused by sabotage even before officials get to the scene of the incident. The poor community people, the victims, are labeled criminals while the actual criminals are safely ensconced in stately mansions and are serenaded by wailing sirens as they dash between the bank and their stuffed bars and pepper soup joints.
Dialogues in the oil fields have to be hurried because our communities are basically open isolation wards of the forgotten. Territories of the sick and forgotten. The toxic air loaded with volatile hydrocarbons give visitors a headache within a few minutes of arrival there. For the locals, the fumes produce breathing diseases that make their whizzing sound like dull dirges and their voices crack like overstretched funeral drums.
Will this state of affairs continue for ever? The answer is a resounding NO. Soon the income from crude oil will dry. Soon, crude oil will become a stranded asset. The signs are in. At the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, the price of oil went below $40 per barrel. The Nigerian government struggled to meet budgetary needs. The struggle continues today. While the world charts ways out of the oil pit, we dig deeper into it.
Our healing will come, and it must come soon. Now is the time for the process to begin. As we sit at the banks of our rivers or in the middle of our forests, let us remind ourselves of stories of times when we could drink water from our streams and never needed to buy water hawked in plastic sachets. It is time for us to reflect on what went wrong and who we accepted should exploit our land in exchange for a dream that has become a nightmare. It is time for reflection as to what went wrong that our land would be so polluted while the polluter walks away free. It is time for us to reflect on what must be done so we can live in our land with dignity and enjoy the gifts of nature with no hindrance.
It is time for us to hear ourselves again, to hear the crickets chirp and the birds sing. It is time to quench the evil flames and allow the moon to light our night sky again. The time it is for us to flush away the polluting crude and toxic wastes from our steams, creeks and rivers and once more see our faces in our waters.
The future begins with an open whisper, an open dialogue. An open dream. An open conspiracy where people hear each other and whispers ride on the waves of our hopes.
Our future begins today with dialogues, not monologues, on our struggles, visions and hopes.
My talking points at an Oil Field Dialogue at Ikot Ada Udo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria on 20.04.2021.
One thought on “Oil Field Monologues”
If you are following the economic news in Germany, you will see reports of joy almost every day that the economy is picking up again after the pandemic. Finally, what economists have been longingly expecting for months, that the global economy can continue to grow, is happening. These economists have learned in the universities that growth is a law of the market economy and they await the return of growth like on a god.
But Germany is also very proud. Proud to the fact that there are more and more electric cars. Nobody asks where the raw materials for the batteries come from. Germany is also very proud that more and more fossil fuels are being replaced by renewable energy sources. But nobody asks, however, whether the rainforest is disappearing so that soya and palm oil plantations can be created. Or whether the oil is transported from Nigeria to China, where the energy-intensive production processes for the products take place, which are then transported to Germany.
If we hold on to this market economy any longer, it will get worse. Growth always comes at the expense of the weak. If it weren’t for that, we would have a perpetual motion machine. We need a new economic system that works without this instrument that creates so much suffering, without the money.
When there is no more money, all debts are gone at once and mainly the countries of the global south can breathe freely. Oil companies can no longer make a profit because there is no more money. And there doesn’t have to be any more growth because investments are free. There is no longer any stock exchange trading in food and humanitarian aid is also free.
In this thanks-society, greed slowly disappears and competition turns into helpfulness.
It is not difficult to create such a new society. We just need a global referendum on monetary devaluation, in which the majority of the people will vote for it. The sooner the better.
Economy without money is possible. Here there is more information about the thanks-economy: softsystemreset.earth