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Your Excellencies, Ijaw Leaders, IPA President, Invited guests, Fellow IPA Members, Ladies and Gentlemen.


AH!  IZON!!!

I am particularly delighted to make a speech for this year Late Major Isaac Adaka Boro’s Remembrance Day for the year 2008. I am an Ijaw (Ezon) by tribe from Sagbama local government of Bayelsa State of Nigeria. I believe in the sovereignty of Nigeria as a country just like my people do. However, let me emulate, Late Chief Bola Ige, who said he was a Yoruba before he became a Nigerian, in the same respect, may I say, I am an Ijaw before I became a Nigerian. Therefore, if there is a conflict between the two, I have no other options to take than the first.

A critical analysis of the Ijawman in the present day Nigeria will be incomplete if I do not look at the past, the present and the future. Therefore, let me quickly run you through the Nigerian history in relation to the Ijawman and analyse to the present day and future actions the Ijaws need to take to remain in this country called Nigeria.

When the Nigerian Civil War started, the military intentions of the coup plotters were not that of tribal, but tribal sentiments came in as a result of some sections of the country being more affected than others and therefore, there was a counter coup. These counter coups were still expressions or fears the tribal leaders had expressed before the independence. The resultant effect of these tribal sentiments finally resulted into the Nigerian Civil War. The Nigerian Civil War was fought primarily on tribal sentiments, and each of these tribes played different roles in order to protect their own tribal interest.

In the case of the north, their primary objective was to ensure that leadership remains with them and the protection of their groundnut pyramid industry. While in the case of the west, their primary objective is to ensure that their cocoa industry do not fall into the hands of whosoever comes into power and as such they were trying to balance between who should win at the end of the day. In the bid of this, they ended up agreeing with both Biafra and the North. While in the case of the Igbos, since they were already in the civil service in large numbers and also knowing that geographically the oil producing area is within their territory and as such they could easily protect both the oil and coal industries. While in the case of the minorities, since they do not have strong representation at the centre, they were constrained to fight along their various geographical representations.

The Ijaws who are the fourth largest tribe were grouped into the Western and Eastern Regions of Nigeria. However, they felt, the Igbos could not be trusted. They convinced Chief Ojukwu to call a meeting between the various tribes that will form Biafra as an independent state.  The essence of the meeting was to discuss the parameters by which these tribes will be recognised as a state if they win the war. The response the Igbos gave was that, the status quo remains the same, meaning that, if you were a minority in the former state (Nigeria) then, those tribes will still remain minorities. The Ijaws were not comfortable with the response. This led to the Ijaws pulling out of the Biafran state. The Igbos had under-estimated the determination of the Ijaws and even considered them as insignificant. This misunderstanding finally led Port Harcourt being captured by the Nigerian troops with Boro. The Ijaws action relates to Late Chief Bola Ige’s statement ‘The relationship between Nigerians should not be like that of the big fish and Jonah in the bible, rather it should be symbiotic’. This statement simply reminds me the actions of the Ijaws. The implication is that no Nigerian should be treated like a second class citizen rather everyone should be treated equally. Furthermore, the Ijaws cannot leave the stomach of the big fish and jump into the stomach of the Lion, who will first chew them before swallowing. This implies that we rather remain with the devil we know than the angel we do not know.

In Article 3 of the Kaiama declaration stated that, “The division of the Southern Protectorate into East and West in 1939 by the British marked the beginning of the balkanisation of a hitherto territorially contiguous and culturally homogenous Ijaw people into political and administrative units, much to our disadvantage. 

The fears expressed by the Ijaws before and after the independence are still the same today. The only difference is that, other tribes have overcome their fears and now consolidated a new position and have further compounded the issues with new groups struggling for the resources of the Ijawland. However, their new fear is let the Ijaw’s not realise that they are being exploited by the elite Nigerians. The various fears expressed by especially the majority tribes have been protected and they are now capturing new grounds and resources. They have effectively used the centre as a pretext to re-allocate the resources from the Ijaw land.

If Nigeria is a country with history and conscience, then the parameters in which proceeds from cocoa, groundnuts and coal were shared in the 50s and 60s, should have been the same parameters in which the present day Nigeria oil wealth should have been shared.

The gimmick immediately after the Nigerian Civil War was to keep Nigeria one, as one indivisible sovereign country. So, after the war, Gen. Gowon declared that ‘there was no victor and no vanquish’. This comment pleased Nigerians and it was expected that the government will abide by our words by ensuring that all tribal sentiments or fears being expressed before the civil war will be catered for. However, the contrary is the case up till this present day. The military did not only create chaos but rather fully implemented a tribal agenda by ensuring that major appointments go to the North while secondary appointment goes to the next strongest opposition who fought along with them i.e. the Yorubas. The Yorubas have not forgotten their rivalry between the major tribes and as such used Lagos as a pretext that it is the federal capital and so allocated most resources that goes to the centre to develop the west while continue to blackmail any other tribe person who might struggle appointments with them except those strong rivals from the north. The Igbos constantly struggle to remain in the Nigerian state even though defeated as a Biafran state, took their third position as a major tribe.

The implication of this kind of classification of tribes affected the Ijaws tremendously. They suddenly became an enemy to the Nigerian state because their considered to be Igbos and they also became an enemy to the Igbos because they [Ijaws] fought alongside with the Nigerian state. Today, the psyche of Nigerian has suddenly turned that oppressive word, ‘WAZOBIA’, to represent Nigerian tribes.  This concept of classification of three major tribes led to the word ‘WAZOBIA’ which simply stands for “come” in the three major languages, “WA”, “ZO”, “BIA”. However since the word was formed through western press, it simply placed the Yoruba word first. Obviously, the Nigerian state today has never change from the pre-independence days up till today.

As Late PA Awolowo said “Nigeria is simply a geographical expression and not a country”. This observation was highlighted again during formal British Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher in 1985 when she visited Nigeria and later wrote in her book, The Downing Street Years, “It is not easy to govern a country like Nigeria and it is somewhat artificially created, divided into Muslim, and Christian and pagan south.  I do wonder if there is any Nigerian in this country (Nigeria) who does not agree with this expression. However, there are strong binding factors and fears of the last Nigerian Civil War. The binding factors are the common resources of the Niger Delta oil being re-allocated to them at the centre while ensuring that resources of the victor of the war are kept for future development. The implication of this is that no single Nigerian tribe is willing to forgo, forfeit or negotiate with the resources of their areas. Therefore, various tribal leaders simply wait at the centre (FGN) for proceeds from oil revenue to be shared among themselves.

YES! General Yakubu Gowon (retired) had declared that the war is over, but is it really over? Even if the average man on the street accepts that the war is over but those tribal leaders who fought, have they agreed to drop their positions?  The same leaders today have taken up traditional, ministerial, political, ambassadorial, senatorial and all kinds of appointment from the Federal, State and from all government parastatals and commissions. When they retire from appointment or service, they simply need to re-declare their ages and pick up another appointment or their stooges and children taking up those appointments. Some have to serve the military for a number of years, retire and after 20 years become president at the age of 60 years.

Immediately after the civil war, the military played a very important role in the present day crisis, rather than being an impartial judge of what happened, they [military] consolidated the position of the victor. In so doing, censor figures were manipulated to favour the victor, states and local governments were created to favour the victor, national identity was based on the victor, tribal leaders were promoted and propagated as national leaders, religion was manipulated to favour the victor, national dressing was manipulated to favour the victor, appointments were manipulated to favour the victor, the present day Nigerian currency also carries the faces of the victor(Tribal leaders) and virtually all national identities and characters were geared toward the victor. Today, these issues are becoming prominent and therefore some have presented themselves as Nigerians while the rest are appendixes. The victor now had a lot of bargaining power and a lot of wealth to influence the society at large. Those who are in love, have to create states on behalf of their lovers just like in the case of Delta state, where the Ijaws of Delta state have to pass through Benin (Edo State Capital), to go to their state capital in Asaba (Delta State Capital-considered to be an Igbo land). In the same Delta state, the Ijaws do not have local governments based on geographical area (No maps) but towns and simply associated with a particular local government area, based on passed tradition. Port Harcourt had virtually fallen into the hands of the Igbos while the Ondo state radio station which used to broadcast news in Ijaw has totally been dropped.

Today, even though they have tribal agenda, they still parade themselves as national leaders. The present day Nigeria, the creation of states and local governments are major issues that cannot be treated with levity. This is because it is based on these parameters that various leaders can be represented at the Federal level and resources are also being allocated based on states and local governments. For example, Kano state has 43 local governments; Lagos state has 38 local governments while Bayelsa state has only 8 local governments.

This is an Ijawman from Kaiama town of Kaiama local government area in Bayelsa state of Nigeria and a Christian with a military background. He fought along with the Nigerian troops to ensure that Nigeria was kept as one country. He died at the age of 30 years, and betrayed by some tribal leaders who presently are still parading themselves as national leaders. His 12 days revolution was killed by either General Obasanjo or General Adekunle (black scorpion) who are all Yorubas. This is not surprising because the Yorubas have continue for a long time betraying the Ijawman, using various means as cover including the use of Land Use Decree, the western press, bombing of Odi town, using the Benin and Itsekiri’s as fronts to struggle for land while ensuring that oil companies’ headquarters are located within their territory. Boro was married and had children and his principles were primarily national but they were not recognised and up till today, they’re still not recognised. His concepts were influenced by his home upbringing, which is, identifying with the truth just like any other Ijaw man. He had friends across every tribe irrespective of religion and sentiment; primarily his beliefs are that “what goes to the goose must go to the gander”.  The implication of this is that Boro felt, if resources of the major tribes are sent to the centre at the rate of 50% while the remaining 50% is retained for the development of that area where the resources come from, why are the resources from the Niger Delta shared without consideration of the area that produces it?  Does Nigeria have two types of constitution, one for the major tribes, while other for the minority tribe? Likewise states and local governments were created on tribal sentiments and he realised that the Ijaws had no state. His observations later led to the creation of the Mid-western state and later Rivers state and presently to Delta and Bayelsa states. However, these states were re-absorbed either by the major tribes or minor tribes that are organised and represented at the Federal level.

Boro as an Ijawman and a fair minded human being looking at the Nigerian scenario could not comprehend why the Ijaws are treated so badly considering their population as the 4th largest in the country and making significant contribution to the economy. All attempts to make the Nigerian state understand the plight of the Ijaws went into deaf ears; therefore he had no option than to act. However, he was misconstrued by both the Ijaws and other tribes as a rebel. Today, do the Ijaws realise what Boro was fighting for? How can we represent him properly as a people he died for? Have the Ijaws today achieve those objectives he has been fighting for? Is it better now or worst with the balkanisation of Ijaws into various states with no central administration? Presently, Are the Ijaws a dyeing tribe with every dialect proclaiming to be a tribe of its own? For example, the Apos claiming to be Yoruba’s from Ondo state, the Kalabaris of Rivers state claiming to be a tribe of its own, the Opobos of Rivers state claiming to be Igbos, the Nembes claiming to be a tribe of its own, the Ogbias claiming to be a tribe of its own, the Okirikas claiming to be a tribe of its own, etc. SO WHO ARE THE IJAWS? According to the Vice President in his speech delivered last year at the Boro Day event, “This year, I intend to draw attention to the urgent need to get things right so that the sacrifices of our leaders and elders will not have been in vain. Among other things, I would also serve a reminder of the seven great cultures that have kept the Ijaws and their neighbours as one people under God.” Does the Vice President who is from Ogbia dialect agree to be an Ijaw man? The remaining ones have dialects of their own like the Mein of Delta state, the Tuburu of both Bayelsa and Rivers state, the Ogbe-ezon of Delta state, the Arogbos of Ondo state, etc are still presently representing the Ijaws but I wonder how the language will be if each one of them claim to be a tribe of its own. Ladies and Gentlemen, you can tell the remaining story. In the same vain, like other Nigerian tribes, they have various dialects. The Yoruba’s have Egbas, Ijebus, Oyos etc, while the Hausas have various minor ethnic groups like Kanuri, Fulani,Gwaris, with strong dialectical differences but yet have close associate with the Hausas and finally the Igbos have the Anambra Igbos, the Imo Igbos, the Abarkaliki, etc but yet they all have a central dialect that they speak. What is the difference between what the Ijaws have and the rest of the major tribes? It is simple, a common central dialect which should be coined out of all the various dialect of the Ijaw language.  Today we gather here to mark Boro’s Day; Does the Boro Day represent a tribe or a group of tribes? Please let each one of us analyse ourselves and see what category we fall into. If we are on the wrong side , for the sake of BORO let us represent him by not only marking his day but also carrying out his ambitions or wishes by ensuring that we are united as a people.                

There are many factors that constitute our great leader Late Major Isaac Boro’s failure. Some of these factors include --- Government at the centre, the other major tribes, lack of communication, ignorance of his people and finally lack of central leadership of the Ijaws. May I kindly expanciate some of these factors that led Boro to fail.  In the case of the government at the centre level, there was a deliberate attempt to divide and rule the people by means of creation of states and the local government areas which created new identities for the people.

The quota system which was created then was to balance appointing leaders from various tribes and finally to ensure that resources coming to the centre were fairly distributed.  However, when the victors realised that they could absolve everything without the consideration of other tribes, they were only implemented where they are disadvantaged. Presently, quota system are no more respected because those who agitated for this type of system have consolidated their position as a result of long period of military rule. In implementing this system, schools and ministries were located based on the north and south of the country. The press really influenced a lot of these issues, thereby, anything that comes to the southern part of the country goes to the west, anything that goes to the federal capital goes to the west and the north was simply contented with the position of being leaders only.

In the case of traditional rulers, some tribes have promoted their various traditional rulers as first class chiefs, emirs, obas, olu etc and being recognised by the Federal Government while others are being portrayed as puppets of those first class traditional rulers. It is sad to know that a government at the centre which is supposed to be impartial towards every tribe has now become a tool of oppression. In the same vain, it has become a caricature that a government in the centre now re-creates another government in the name of traditional rulers to oversee all other tribes.

Therefore, the western press did a lot of damage by always placing the Ijawman as an Igbo man. The western press had always reported quarrels on the street among people as part of the struggle. Even if you are unduly treated in an office, when you react, they say that is Niger Delta struggle. Local government area which was created for the Ijaws were taken by the Itsekiri, by moving the Headquarter to their town outside the Local Government but when they say no, they say, it is Niger Delta struggle. So, when you graduate from their oppressive Universities with quota system attached to it to be admitted as a student (with 0.001% privilege as non-indigene even if you score 90% in JAMB) and you seek for a job, they say, it is Niger Delta struggle. The Ijaws are tramped by Yoruba’s, the Benin’s and Itsekiri’s (common history and background) from the western part while the Igbos is strongly contending with the Ijaws at the eastern part. In all these, the Ijaws are losing out because they are not represented properly at the centre.

For example, in the case of the Igbos, because of the Ijaw man’s culture of a child born by a slave or a bought woman becoming the head of the community, King Jaja of Opobo became the King of the Opobo’s with a bought woman from Igbo land. Today Opobo land is being considered as an Igbo territory. In similar type of story, the Yorubas had claimed that their ancestral father ‘Oduduwa’, came to Ile-Ife with a chain from above and conquered some minor tribes that were there and later ruled over them. Who were these people? Were they the Ijaws? Is it the same spirit ‘Odudu’ which the Ijaws fear up till today? Just like the Vice President had observed in his last speech that, “Some of our traditions are dying may not be news to those who care less of our collective survival as a people.”

Boro also failed as a result of ignorance of the Ijaws and the challenges they were facing. Even now I wonder whether the Ijaws have learnt their lessons. While they were in their comfort zone of plenty fishes and little agricultural support, the present reality have shown that nothing lasts forever.

Today, the Ijaws could not fish anymore because of pollution caused by exploration of crude oil and gas on their lands and rivers whose proceeds are being shared by other tribal leaders who are still parading themselves as national or traditional leaders. The price the Ijawman is paying cannot be quantified. For example, when Bayelsa State was created, it had just only one filling station even though it produces oil, or when their children look for work within the oil fields in their backyard, they have to travel all the way to Lagos or Abuja because the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) is located in those cities. This reminds me of what Former President Obasanjo did when he came into power, within six (6) months, he changed Nigeria Ports Authority and the maritime Headquarters back to Lagos and at the same time, was bombing Odi village.  He [Obasanjo] never waited for any legislation or consultation to move these Headquarters’ back to Lagos knowing fully well that it will not benefit his people if they are sighted in Abuja.

Reference to retired Major Umar Article in the Daily Independent Newspaper of 15 July 2008 where he stated that, “I also want it to be on record that the essence of fighting in that area is because the Nigerian Navy is at the vanguard of bunkering of oil in that area. They don’t want stability in that area so that if there is stability, the amount of money they are siphoning out of this country through illegal means will be stopped completely. This is why the Nigerian Navy is completely from a particular tribe, the South West, tutored by Obasanjo.”

However, the same government refused to move neither the NNPC Headquarters’ nor agree for oil companies to move their Headquarters’ to the Niger Delta area because jobs which are presently enjoyed by the Yoruba’s will be taken by the Niger Delta people. When the issue of the formation of the NDDC was requested, it took the National Assembly two years to pass a legislation and the headquarters’ was sited a year after in Port Harcourt instead of Yenegoa to ensure that the Ijawman does not have anything at all. Even when the NDDC was given funds to start; it was given 700 million naira (about 2.5 million pounds) which was far less than the money given to the reconstruction or repairs of Ogunpa River/ stream in Ibadan town of Oyo state. Both Ogunpa and Lagos beach were given 1.5 billion naira respectively in sharp contrast to what was given to the NDDC to start. Even more painfully, a house confiscated by the Federal Government from Late Gen. Abacha which was auctioned at 950 million naira in Lagos. If a house could cost that amount of money, what does Obasanjo expect the NDDC to do with 700 million naira? Is it for building tents? Or photocopying of documents? Or is it meant for sharing?

The Niger Delta area is one of the most backward areas of the country today with degradation, pollution, environmental oil spillage, gas flaring, acute unemployment, extreme poverty, no schools and industries and no sign of Federal presence, even though 90% of the Nigerian economy depends on this area. It has nothing to show for it, for example, the schools and Federal industries in Yaba (part of Lagos) are far more than all the schools or Federal presence in the whole of the Niger Delta. This is a sharp contrast to the case when the Western Region was using cocoa (whose house is located in Ibadan, Cocoa House). Today the Ijawman is still making the same mistake of building houses in Lagos and Abuja after they have been compensated with peanuts for making noise about the Niger Delta. I wonder who is going to develop the Niger Delta if we cannot do so as a people from that region. According to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijawman from the Niger Delta in his opening remarks of last years Boro Day speech that, “... Today, the Almighty God has kindly changed my designation to Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and my residential address to Aso Rock Villa...”

 Let us make absolutely clear that today the resource control struggle is perceived to be a struggle of the South-South but in reality it is the struggle of the Ijawman, its resources, lands and rivers and its existence as a tribe. This is because the crisis and the killings are happening in Ijawland and no other place in the South-South. It is at the point whereby the Federal Government wants reconciliation or there is a little compensation or payment, that you will see the rest tribes surfacing themselves as part of the struggle. It is also in Ijawland that soldiers are presently stationed in the South-South and killing our people.

Most sadly, there is no edifice or infrastructure which could be used for conferences in the Ijaw land. When we want to gather, we are always at Lagos or Abuja or London talking about the South-South. I have never seen where AREWA or ODUA meetings are held in any other part of the country except within their geographical area.

We thank God that Nigeria is practicing democracy today after a long period of military dictatorship and adventure with unitary system of government. According to Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, “Democracy simply means the Demonstration of craze” we can say that this is a layman’s interpretation of democracy and I hope Nigerians are not laymen. In analysing this issue, the military has consolidated the position of the North and the South-west and also compensated the Igbo’s by recognising them as the third major tribe. In this scenario, the Ijaws are the Guinea Pigs whose resources are still being shared among these three tribes. As retired Major Umar remarked in his article, “Secondly we must not forget why they don’t want stability in that area. All the Generals in the Armed Forces of Nigeria today, all of them have oil blocks in that area. Are the oil blocks in their own states of origin? But then they are disfranchising this people and the same constitution made us citizens of this country. We have the same equal and moral rights to be citizens of this country. So there is no justification whatsoever to fight the Niger Delta. If we want to fight, the Chadians have been infiltrating this country, let’s go and fight the Chadians. But the Niger Delta people are fighting for their own rights. They are not saying they don’t want to be Nigerians what they are saying is that they should be given equal rights like any citizen of this country. What is Borno State contributing to this country? What is Sokoto State contributing to this country? You are using their money to develop the Sharia States. All the governors of the 19 northern states have been accused by the then Chairman of the EFCC to have looted their states treasuries. And the money actually came from the Niger Delta area. So what moral justifications have we to war with them? Let’s arrest these corrupt people first, try them, retrieve this money and see what we can do to that area. There is no development in that area. This people have the moral right to agitate. And I am one who is saying that they have every right to agitate for what they are doing and we have no moral right to send any troop there.”

The constitution is created based on these parameters, states and local governments were created based on these parameters. As Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti said, this is a clear demonstration of craze by the constitution towards the Ijaw people. This is because the Ijawman is neither here or there in any of the states and therefore cannot be represented properly at the federal level.

Now asking the Ijawman to follow constitutional means is like a scenario where there are nine thieves and one owner. The ten men constitution in this scenario says that, the owner should look for legal means of ensuring that he has a majority vote among them. Obviously, it is an impossible scenario. Therefore, stealing will become a legal entity just like Nigeria.

The June 12 struggle of 1993 led to Obasanjo becoming the president of Nigeria, despite all the condemnation of his administration by Nigerians, the major beneficiaries were the Yorubas. The Ijaws whole heartedly supported the struggle by boycotting the constitutional conference organised by Late General Sani Abacha. However, the Yorubas were properly represented at that conference. The Yorubas never left the struggle for street protest only but almost everything which were controlled by them were totally crippled because the elites and technocrats along with the street boys joined the struggle. Today, Ijaw leaders are still looking for constitutional means of addressing the Niger Delta struggle. Where the youths have struggled and some people are given appointments then they will say, please, I do not want any problems but they end up being stooges to other tribal leaders. How long can the people of this area bear this?

 Another action taken by the Yorubas was that of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC), a youth organisation formed to protect the Yorubas interest was not only supported by the street boys, elites and technocrats but was supported by the Obasanjo’s Administration. Funds were raised and arms were also given to them by the administration. Today those who parade themselves as Ijaw leaders are still negotiating in Abuja and Lagos. I wonder when we will learn our lessons. I am disturbed because our children are still going to fight because our fathers refuse to fight for our rights and we are also refusing to fight for it. Let me make reference again to Umar’s article when he said, “Very good. Now there is nowhere in this country, in the world where a peaceful agitation brings out results. We have seen in the past what happened to Moses in Egypt. The Israelites agitated peacefully for 430 years and they were oppressed y the Pharaohs. And what God did was to destroy the Pharaoh and his troops. And this is exactly what has been happening in the history of the world. Those who fight peacefully end up being brutalised. Zimbabwe got its freedom not on a platter of gold, but by violent agitation. Namibia got its freedom not on a platter of gold but by agitation. South Africa got its freedom not on a platter on gold. They got their freedom by violent agitation. We must not forget that the people that are supposed to protect these individuals are the same people that are oppressing them. The only way they can be heard is by agitation. Ojukwu came with agitation and he was heard at the end of the day. That was why more states were created in the Eastern part of the country so that it would be developed. But what has happened in the Niger Delta? The area is completely creeks, just oil area. The Niger Delta area, the oil it produces is much more than what is produced in Dubai. Today, Dubai’s development is much more than what is happening in the Niger Delta. So I foresee that a peaceful solution cannot bring about changes, then automatically violent revolts can bring about changes.”

No matter how we negotiate, oppressing the Ijaw man looks constitutional and so they will never accept it. They always maintain their position until the Ijaws give up. Negotiation is all about give and take. We are always giving and they are always taking. When you ask, they say it is for the general interest of Nigerians. General interest is a collection of individual interest and so if that interest does not include the Ijaws then how can it be a collective interest? Remember, every creature gives birth to its kind.

For example, Odua People’s Congress (OPC) was operating very freely and their leaders were coming out publicly in TV and radio stations announcing that they (OPC) will protect the Yorubas at any given cost. The Obasanjo Administration had not seen that as a threat to the Nigerian sovereignty. The Ijaws was forced out of Ajegunle and Mile 12 in Lagos while the Ilajes were busy capturing Ijaw lands in Ondo State. The Bakassi boys from the Eastern part of the country were busy bullied along with Ijaw Youths Congress (IYC) from the Niger Delta by the Government; the OPC and Arewa youths were operating freely. Sharia was a no go area for Nigerians to openly and freely discuss but the Niger Delta issue is a general issue discussed, without representation from the Niger Delta.

Today, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is not only targeted by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) but other countries like Britain is being invited to join forces with the Nigerian Troops to properly colonise the Ijaws for the rest tribes of Nigeria. I do not blame these tribal leaders because the Ijaws are not organised like the rest. Even if the approach taken by MEND today seems wrong to so many Nigerians, we the elites, democrats, technocrats, colonised traditional leaders, government stooges etc must remember to join forces with these youth groups to stop this colonisation. The approach might be slightly different but we must be focused. Today, most people who are showing signs of interest in the struggle are not coming with clean hands because they know the source of the problem. Today, Tribal leaders are looting the Niger Delta resources pretending to be government officials. If they are government officials, is the Niger Delta not part of Nigeria? If so, why does the government show blind eye to the development of the area? Even, out of 52 weeks of a year production of crude oil, if one week production is committed to the development of this area for 5 years the crisis will stop, rather, they prefer to play politics with it.

The Ijaws who are the fourth largest tribe in Nigeria although balkanised into several states as minorities, covers Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Ondo, Edo, Akwa-Ibam, Lagos and Abia States. In all these states, they are only partially recognised in Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers alone, while in the rest they are almost completely absorbed.

To avoid this evil day, the Vice President in his remark at last years Boro day event, had spoken of a seven great cultures, that is, ‘... Collective action, courage and community spirit; Hard work; Love, friendship and brotherhood; Respect for elders; Peace and harmony with the environment; Knowledge and wisdom; Culture of positive resistance.’

This should be a thing of concern, to those who parade themselves as Ijaw leaders and traditional Heads. You cannot be a leader of militants without being one.  Today, Nigerians are saying, it is Ijaw leaders who have stolen the money that came to that place. I doubt this position very strongly because if wealthy Nigerians are counted in that country, I wonder whether any so-called Ijaw leaders could be counted among the first 100. Obviously, they had used their names to steal. Otherwise, from where the Emirs from the north, the Obas from the west and Owelle/ Igwes get their monies from, to become one of the richest men in the country today? Are they the Niger Delta chiefs who we are hearing of? Is that the reason why every president, general, minister and ambassador who retires from active service, wants to be one traditional ruler? Is that the reason why, those strong first class chiefs wants a representation at the centre always to ensure that, the looting of the Niger Delta do not elude them? The way oil blocks (lands) are being shared in the Niger Delta to Nigerians, is it the same way lands from the north, west and east are being shared among Nigerians? Is that the reason why the land use decree is still being used despite the so-called democracy we are practicing? Is that the reason why, the traditional institution is booming today with every household producing princes and princess?

The Boro legacy is better remembered if we can recognise ourselves as a people with the same culture having the same type of difficulties. That is oppressed and its resources being reallocated by other tribal leaders under the pretext of one Nigeria.

Nigeria is a multi tribal society with multiple interest and several reclassifications. The leaders of other tribes have known this as a problem and since the military rule has positioned them properly, they want to retain that position the military dictatorship had placed them. The western press has to be controlled and the Niger Delta people have to be continuously blackmailed so that the wider world will not see the truth. If the Nigerian Government is confident of what they have done for the Niger Delta people, let them show it on video to the whole world; an area which makes Nigeria to be the six largest producer of crude oil (all from the Niger Delta) in the world.

Today, when the Ijaws talk, most Nigerians will tell you, it was the cocoa, groundnut, and coal money that was used to start the oil industry. This is a complete fabrication and lies. The Nigerian Government had never used these monies anywhere neither was these monies reserved for any development. The oil companies used their monies for everything while Nigerian Government officials simply sat and shared the money the oil companies claimed to have realised from the sale of these products. Up till today, the Nigerian Government does not have any means of measuring the quantity of crude oil that leaves the Nigerian shores. When this money comes, they simply divide it among themselves as government officials, traditional rulers etc and wait for the next, the oil companies will declare.

In most cases, crises do not start overnight. Always, it starts in the form of grumbling, rumours, skirmishes, clashes and then political agitation. If not properly handled, the resultant effects are terrorism and finally to war. In most cases, the longer these issues are not resolved the bigger the wound and even where it is heeled, the bigger the scar.

It is a common belief that issues are easily resolved at their early stages than waiting for the appropriate time. The appropriate time of doing anything is the earliest possible time of rumour, clashes and skirmishes and then political agitation. Once issues are not resolved after these stages, the after-math of such silence or pretence is simply the postponement of the evil day.

Modern war-fare neither knows size nor might. The elements of good propaganda and surprise are lethal tools that cannot be eliminated. Moreso, the world order does not have permanent friends but permanent interest. Grouping of interest are everywhere. The days of clear distinctions of classes, tribes and colour are long gone and the whole world is a reclassified-simple-global-village of classes of group of people with common interest.

Man has used centuries to build civilisation up to the point he is. It will take him less than 1% of the same time and effort he used to build to destroy. Every man has the potentiality to destroy but not to create. While man takes conscious effort to guide where he has found himself, create and own property, capture and re-allocate resources, he must also be conscious to reach out to those he has deprived. For those who are deprived, the struggling process is a daily affair which he cannot ignore. For those who had re-allocated resources to themselves, they continue to look out for those who will oppose their new acquisition. Life is a rolling stone, for those who are on top today could be below when it turns down on their side. Man had continues to try to put a wage on this stone but it must roll on. That is why change is the only constant thing in life. Some had decided to put a wage on change, so that, they will only be on the better side of life but God is perfect and this change is a reflection of perfection.

The Niger Delta crisis is all about the Ijawman, there is no other tribe who is strongly agitating for the Niger Delta. That is the more reason why the Nigerian troops are stationed in Ijawland. The proposed  British troops for the Nigerian Army are further actions taken by the Nigerian Government to enslave and continuously colonising these people with stooges from that area as retired Major Umar had clearly remarked in his article that, “The Chief of Defence Staff is from Niger Delta. The Inspector- General of Police is from Niger Delta. The Vice President himself is from the Niger Delta and was among the people who destroyed the region. After all when the former governor of Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta, Alamesiegha was accused of stealing so many billions, the Vice President was his deputy. What did he do to revamp the situation? Why didn’t they agitate for their people when they were there in power as governors of Niger Delta area? … Because what is happening there is exactly what is happening in Darfur, Sudan. It is the same thing happening in Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran and Palestine”. This reminds me of the presentation given by Alpha Building Services and Engineering Training in London during the Bayelsa Business Forum held at the Kensington Hotel in June 2006, in respect of Alpha Affordable Homes and Vocational Training Courses. This was meant for training youths on various skills acquisition in the Niger Delta Area and was presented to the Bayelsa State government for implementation. However, till today, nothing has been done.

The British government has forgotten the American revolution of 1770s where they were imposed with various taxes like, New taxes 1764, Stamp Act 1765, Tea Act 1773 etc which finally led to the American Revolution in 1776. Today, Scotland is benefiting from the North Sea Oil in their geographical territory whereby the income per head of Scotland is at a ratio 5:1 compared to England and Wales. Today, Scotland has their own parliament and are still agitating for a break-away from the United Kingdom. This is a sharp contrast with the present day Niger Delta Crisis, where they do not have access to any of their resources.

The Ijaws represents the Niger Delta oil whether by the political or geographical definition of the Niger Delta. There is no other ways by which the Niger Delta crisis can be resolved if the Ijaws are not included. This is the main issue Boro was fighting for, 40 years ago. The Nigerian state had always used various tribal leaders to represent the Ijawman and it has never worked out and they are still struggling to do so.
The way forward for the Niger Delta crisis is simple and can be grouped into the following:

  • Implementation of the Kaiama declaration.
  • Resources relating to the Ijawman MUST be controlled by the Ijaws.
  • Fair distribution system where individual state will be contributing to the centre (confederation)
  • States and local governments MUST be created to reflect our size as a people.
  • Nigeria MUST not be seen as an occupying super power over the Ijaws, but they must be seen as Nigerians and must be given the deserved respect like any other tribe.
  • Traditional rulers claiming to be first class and third class which is not part of the Ijawman’s culture should be totally removed from the centre to where they are only applicable.

In all these Federal Government should allow the Ijaws to have a central governing body that will control and oversee the activities of Ijawland and his people, just like the way the Emir of Sokoto represent the Muslim of Nigeria though contested by the Yorubas.

Boro as a leader had envisaged this kind of problem that was coming in the future, because he knew that Nigeria is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-interest with strong cross marriages will be faced with a lot of problems if we continue to conduct ourselves this way. What he highlighted then was seen as being rebellious and Obasanjo/Adekunle took the opportunity to blackmail him and finally was killed. Today the misery is till not solved as to who killed BORO?

For now the Ijaws must carry Boro’s legacy forward irrespective of the side distractions and manipulation by both internal and external forces. The Ijaws must be united and set a goal to achieve i.e. controlling our resources and moving forward as people in a multi tribal society.

On the part of the Ijaws for us to move forward, we MUST re-classify our objective in hierarchical order:

  • The Unity of the Ijaws as a tribe of people should be paramount. That is, every Ijaw dialects must identify themselves as Ijaws for us to move forward as a people in Nigeria.
  • Communication – We must have common central Ijaw language and information systems like TV, Radio, Internet, Newspaper etc to inform our people to continue with the struggle to ensure that victory is achieved.
  • Political Activities – Political activities that will lead us to the centre and redefine the situation, either to accept the Nigerian state as a legitimate State of ours, in which our interest is also protected as other tribes or….
  • Development – Conscious efforts should be made by individuals or government representatives, who have Ijaws interest at heart to make little contribution to the well being of the Ijawland while the struggle continues (ALUTA CONTINUAL).
  • Youths/cultural activities – I categorically state here that it would have taken us another 100yrs or if possible eliminated by the other tribes if not for the present youths activities in the Niger Delta area. We as elders present here today from Ijawland representing about 60% of Ijaws in Diaspora and the homeland representatives should make conscious efforts to either redefine some of the activities of the youths since we do not know what to do. We should support the youths and stand as elders to advise them on how to move forward. I categorically state here that most of the activities of the youth today are out of frustration either because we do not represent them fairly, as elders or various Federal Government representatives.

The Ijaw People Association (IPA) as been in the vanguard of promoting and bringing Ijaws together to create awareness to the world at large. Just like the way, the IPA President has observed in some of his recent comments relating to the Niger Delta issues that “... Therefore, we appeal to you to persuade the Nigerian Government to do the right thing for the people of the Niger Delta. The people of the region have suffered in silence for over 50 years. ... Every successive government during this period treated the Niger Delta and its people as ‘spoils of war’. The people are now saying enough of this oppression and slavery... ”.
As I have said earlier on, the Ijaws had not learnt their lessons. We are being used by other tribes especially the Yorubas who continue to milk us dry while pretending to be our friends. The Obasanjo’s Administration is one the Ijaws should never forget in a hurry. According to Dr Okadigbo’s remarks, “Obasanjo’s Blunder- In the biggest internal military operation, Nigerian soldiers destroyed an entire village in the restive Niger Delta, igniting local and international condemnation for President Olusegun Obasanjo.”
I wish to add what Mrs Adaka Boro said in relation to the oppression of the Niger Delta People in which she declared that, “A million Obasanjos cannot stop us, the struggle continues.”

Well, let me finally rest my case here with what the IPA President has commented relating to recent issues of the Niger Delta that “They insisted that the people of the Niger Delta are not criminals or a lawless bunch. We are very peaceful and tolerant. Niger Deltans will always choose life so that they and their children may live. But the Nigerian Government has mistaken this great virtue of peaceful co-existence as weakness”.

Sam-James Miriki Hebden
IPA Member
15th August 2008