Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Visual Essay: Current Debate

"We want oil here. It will make everything better."

I've decided to carry out my visual essay on the ongoing issue of the conflict in the Niger Delta. It might seem like the obvious choice, but for a while I have felt pretty strongly about it for a number of reasons. I have tried to tackle the issue before in some of my other classes and work, but no attempts have come close to expressing my opinion as effectively as I intend. There are so many subjects to address withing the scope of the issue, but I've read more extensively about the subject and believe I've realized the core of my voice in the issue.

I first heard about issues relating to the Niger Delta about ten years ago. At the time the country was undergoing serious governmental transitions, there was hope as Nigeria was finally free of the unyielding tyrannical thumb of military dictatorship. Everyone's eyes were on the government and the dire need for deep rooted change. While we all waited for things to improve, certain things gradually regressed. Ongoing reports of inter- tribal war, Northern Nigeria conspicuously adopted Sharia law and more or less isolated themselves from the rest of the country, and gradually the Niger Delta became a trouble spot. There were continual reports of desperate poverty stricken indigens of the Delta cracking open pipelines, tapping oil to sell on the black market. Of course there were instances where the pipes would explode, killing hundreds and contaminating the environment. These were all events spurred by decades of maltreatment to the indigenous Ogoni and various people of the Niger Delta.

The issue has since taken center stage today because of its obvious ties to a more global problem; crude oil. The region has become, poorer, more environmentally unstable, and even more serious problems have risen in the form of militant groups claiming to fight in the name of justice. Their activities first came known to me while listening to the radio in Lagos in the summer of 2007. The radio host was talking about hostile groups in the Niger Delta kidnapping children of expatriate oil workers demanding a ransom to repair some of the damage done to the region and its people. He spoke about it as if their actions were a valid subject for debate, which shocked me because I thought the answer was clear. Of course two years later and a militant group now called MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) have begun resorting to terrorist activities, bombing oil rigs and raiding convoys of oil company workers. As far as anyone knows they use the money they extort from the oil companies to further their own personal gain, buying more weapons and recruiting. The sad truth is that these groups utilize the frustration of the youth in the region as their fuel, ensuring a constant stream of manpower to aid their 'just' cause. You could argue that its an extreme reaction to an extreme situation, but history and current events have shown that these groups always end up detrimentally transforming the physical landscape into a wasteland and perverting the spirit of the people that live in these regions.

My visual essay will focus on the effects militant groups like MEND and the Ogoni Youth Council's perverted doctrines and the effects they have on the youth of the region and how they are obviously deteriorating the situation in the Niger Delta. I am considering making a series of satirical recruitment posters.

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