The importance of history in human evolution can never be over emphasised. Those who forget the dim past with careless abandon are surely going to repeat the mistakes of the past. Mistakes repeated are more costlier and dangerous than the lose of a genuine war. When a people looses a lifeline struggle through the neglect of diligence and adherence to the rule of engagement, their station in life becomes more pathetically dehumanizing than before. Nothing is more painful than being a captive in a war of justice and equity, especially when justice and equity are in your favour in the temple of judgement.
The struggle for Mobil producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN), a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, to relocate its Corporate Headquarters from Lagos to its operational base in Eket started as far back as 1979. At that time, the company was doing two flights daily from Lagos to Eket and back, bringing its workers, contractors and every material from Lagos. By then, Onna, Esit-Eket and Ibeno Local Government Areas were under Eket jurisdiction as one Local Government.
The Community felt that Mobil’s unfriendly and doubtful romance was very suspicious, costly and wasteful. They went on protest which forced Mobil to relocate some of its offices to Eket and compelled them to acquire land to build its Housing Estate which some of its managing staff will stay.
It was then that Mobil began to build Infrastructure facilities around the community when the negative effects of its operations were glaringly noticed in all ramifications of the people’s life
The people’s sources of livelihood began to shrink. Drinking water from streams became poison. Mortality rate increased, the ecosystem started rejecting normal existence but Mobil’s profit was growing, its workers were well paid and lived in affluence, drinking bottled water packaged from Lagos while the community felt neglected.
By 1989, another protest demonstration took place. The demonstration was to call Mobil to relocate its headquarters to Eket, involve more indigenes in its activities and raise its staff from Akwa Ibom to higher levels of responsibilities in the company and provide more infrastructure in the community.
The oil giant responded by building more roads, renovating schools, providing water and electricity and generally improving welfare in their communities.
Ten years later, in 1998, there was a massive protest by the communities against a pronouncement by the then military administrator of Akwa Ibom State, late Navy Captain Adewusi who averred insultingly that Akwaibomites only study history and Religion in the Universities and therefore are not technically qualified to work in Mobil.
The protest disrupted operations long enough for them to sit with the community in a round table for negotiation and leaving the Military administrator with a red eye from the slap of Mrs Ema Brown, the first woman journalist in Nigeria, an aborigine of Eket.
During the negotiation, the joint study team of the community was led by the late Prince Udo Edukere, late Peter S. Ekpe, Mrs Dorothy Thompson, late Daniel Nwaenone, Chief Nduese Essien, Ukut T. Ukut, Emmanuel Ibok, Victor Akpaneka, Hon Isaiah Abia, late Mbong Okon Mbong, Engr A. A. Etukumoh and late Obongawan Mary Attah.
On the opposite side of the table, the Mobil team was led by Engr Ita Stephen and C. D. Sampson who was the Joint Venture Manager of the company.
It was through the joint study team that the first Memorandum of Understanding, MOU with the community was signed with the above names as signatories.
Among the provisions of the MOU was that “MPN operational headquarters are currently at QIT were most of her employees totaling over a thousand Five hundred are based”.
Another condition for the relocation exercise as enshrined in the MOU was that there should be improved and adequate infrastructure such as Airport, good network of Roads, Communication and security on ground.
Akwa Ibom State as of 1998 lacked infrastructure for such a movement. But as of today, all the requirements for Mobil relocation is in place, giving room to no excuse.
As a back up to the MOU, the Nigerian Local Content law also compelled the oil giant to relocate to its operational base. The law considered many things before ordering the company to move to the core oil producing Areas.
Exxon Mobil is ready to comply with the legislative directives and the presidential order but as a bad habit that takes time to die, the powers that benefits from the status quo are ready to frustrate the movement.
Governor Udom’s offer to build a 21 storey building in Uyo for the company to relocate to Akwa Ibom is one of those political manoeuvres. It is good politics played in a dangerous way. But he does not need to trade the right of a people for his personal ambition, a second term. The Ibibios would still have endorsed his second term without such a betrayal of trust and aberration of the law. As it stands, Eket Federal Constituency doubts the usefulness of his second term to the area. The mood in the area is as good as passing a vote of no confidence on the Onna born Banker turned politician.
From the look of things, the 21 storey building will turn out to be another white elephant project, adding to the litany of abandoned projects in the State.
Inside source in Mobil has hinted that the company will not accept the offer from Udom because of the fear of dining with an unknown angel. The source revealed that Mobil is comfortable with the devil they know than playing into the waiting hands of over four strange bedfellows.
“Management has concluded plans to relocate to Akwa Ibom within the shortest possible time but I don’t think they will accept the State capital, Uyo as base”, the source said.
A child who causes trouble at home will not have peace outside. Governor Udom Emmanuel has stirred the hornets nest. He has murdered sleep and sleep will elude him. He has lost the favour and blessings of his “parents” and will remain outside the “home” until his prodigality fades into late regrets. Jacob never found peace when he betrayed and stole the birth right of his brother Esua until he was renamed as Israel.