Urhobo Historical Society
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA INVADES BAYELSA STATE

November 20-24, 1999

Most Nigerians apparently did not believe that President Olusegun Obasanjo would order deployment of military troops into a state of the Federation on the mere grounds that the Nigeria Police Force, under his control, not the State Governor's, lost some men. The 14-day ultimatum had generated a good amount of debates, with varying degrees of fervor. Obasanjo's administration is known to be very sensitive about foreign views of his performance. There was not a great deal of attention to the ultimatum by the United States and European nations, apart from a very strongly worded verbal reaction, essentially defending the oil companies,  from the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the Nigerian diaspora was passionately involved in discussing the ultimatum, with most views opposed to it. The ultimatum itself generated much less discussion inside Nigeria.  The editorial by Guardian was important. Remarkably Guardian waited to the end of the ultimatum before it issued its strong editorial opposing President's Obasanjo's approach to the problem. By then it was too late. Indeed, Federal military troops were already deployed before the end of the ultimatum.

There are several views of why President Obasanjo invaded Bayelsa State. Many people from the Niger Delta see him as a bully, picking on a weak ethnic people, the Ijaws, and a politically disadvantaged region, the Niger Delta, for demonstrating his military prowess. They point out that he would not dare address the problems posed by well-armed and dangerous youth of Oodua Peoples Congress from his own ethnic group nor would he dare confront those who were threatening the Nigerian Federation with constitutional chaos by declaring an independent and extra-constitutional regime of Muslim Sharia laws. A second view shared by many, even non-Deltans, is that the powerful international oil mining corporations needed reassurance that President Olusegun Obasanjo was up to the task of protecting their interests against local opposition. It is instructive that he called them to Abuja for such reassurance even while his military invasion was under way. Third, there are many supporters of President Obasanjo who contend that there was need for a decisive example of military lessons to be taught to the youth of the country. If the Niger Delta was the first to suffer from it, so be it. There is a fourth view which holds that President Olusegun was closely monitoring the debate in the Nigerian diaspora as well as in the Human Rights community. The old soldier in this former General inclined him to move quickly, even before his own ultimatum was up, before these noisy protests grew into strong international demands for restraint.

The entries in this section are intended to convey the rush of events as the military operations were under way. The military conquest and destruction of Odi were done without the benefit of any witnesses. The Nigerian military is not fond of allowing its operations against civilians to be watched by peeping journalists. The scantiness of the report of the military action is a result of the fact that the Federal Government controlled whatever information came out of the invasion zone. What little evidence we have comes from the traditional boasts of commanding officers who frequently mocked civilians they mowed down in their operations.
 

BBC's and Reuters' Accounts Of
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S INFORMATION ON THE INVASION
GOVERNOR OF BAYELSA STATE DECLARES SUPPORT FOR PRESIDENT OBASANJO'S INVASION OF HIS STATE
THE MILITARY IN ODI, IN THEIR OWN WORDS

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