My junior year of high school I took an AP Comparative Politics class in which we studied the political systems of six nations: The US, Russia, Mexico, China, Great Britain, and Nigeria. I remember, very clearly, learning about the history and current political issues in Nigeria and we focused a lot of time and energy talking about the Niger Delta and the impact of oil on the region whether it be socially, economically, or environmentally. Something that struck me while watching “Sweet Crude” was Sandy Cioffi’s discussion of MEND. As we all saw, she particularly attacks the American media for portraying this group of people as a violent terrorist organization with the central leader, Jomo Gbomo. I learned about MEND in my AP comparative politics class and I am horrified to say that in my textbook they were portrayed in much of the same light. Though my teacher at the time helped us to sympathize with those in MEND, they were portrayed as violent, vindictive, and a angry group of men who would go to whatever length to stop oil companies from taking advantage of the people of the Nigerian Delta. It’s terrifying o see in this documentary another side of MEND and know first hand that this biased view is not only in the media but has been institutionalized and will be taught to any American high school student taking AP Comparative politics.
I have so many mixed feelings about this oil issue. First of all I feel extremely guilty realizing that I have known about these problems for four years now and haven’t tried to get more involved. Secondly, I think that globally we should start moving away from oil because it has such terrible environmental repercussions at not only levels of production but also through its use. It’s very easy for me to sympathize with the people of the Niger Delta as it is also very easy to vilify giant corporations, but from what I understand, these corporations often do pay significant amounts of money to the Nigerian government that are meant to be used to help support the communities of the Niger Delta. It’s due to corruption that the money never trickles down. I hate the Nigerian Government for protecting these foreign oil companies but also understand their incentive to do so being that Nigeria without money from oil exports would really struggle as an independent economy. I guess my point is that this situation is more complicated that it may seem at face value.
My last comment is about a fact stated at the end of “Sweet Crude.” The film stated a fact in the credits that oil pollution in the Niger Delta is equivalent to one Exxon Valedez spill every year for 50 years. In this spill 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (11-32 million gallons) of crude oil were spilt into the Prince William Sound of Alaska. Even today my mom avoids Exxon gas stations because of this spill. When thinking about this in relation to Nigeria… it’s really infuriating that more isn’t being done.