United Ijaw * Welcome to United Ijaw on the web. Our preference is national self determination, the independence of Ijawnation as a Sovereign State. A state that promotes sustainable economic and social development, democratic principles, liberty, free enterprise, equal rights and justice. This is our story, this is our struggle. **** On Kaiama Declaration We Stand **** United Nations Under Secretary-General, Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, in Abuja condemned the theft of Nigeria's assets by past corrupt leaders. He said that kleptomaniac leaders stole more than 400 billion dollars from the Nigerian treasury between 1960 and 1999. **** IJAWNATION THINK! THINK. **** Almost $170 billion of the country’s wealth disappeared and ended in the private accounts of individuals between 1999 and 2003 alone... Priye Torulagha ****Nigeria has failed Niger Delta – Nnamani **** Resource Control: Niger-Delta governors are traitors – Evah **** Only the fear of a volcanic social eruption from below can stop barbaric behaviour by holders of political power – Gani Fawehinmi ***** “ if the Confab and Nigerians are not willing to heed to Resource Control, they will take it by force” - Oronto Douglas We Dare To Be Different.
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Democracy and security in the Gulf of Guinea: Regional challenges

Speech by Atiku Abubakar, Vice President of Federal Republic of Nigeria at the Conference of Security in the Gulf of Guinea organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C on Wednesday, 20 July 2005.

NIGERIA looks forward to working closely with the United States, within a coherent bilateral and multilateral strategy and framework, to ensure the security and good governance of Nigeria itself and of all Gulf of Guinea states. We will, through our current and future policies, democracy, transparency and good governance, security and development in Nigeria. It is also in our short and long-term strategic interest to help address these key issues in our sister states of the Gulf of Guinea.

The Gulf of Guinea, consisting of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon and Angola, at once symbolises in a rather vivid if not spectacular fashion, most of the dangers, the contradictions and the promise of the African continent. The Gulf harbours one of the biggest reserves of oil and gas and one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity, but also one of the most potentially explosive cocktails of poverty and underdevelopment, organised crime, and unstable regimes.
The Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea, consisting of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon and Angola, at once symbolises in a rather vivid if not spectacular fashion, most of the dangers, the contradictions and the promise of the African continent. The Gulf harbours one of the biggest reserves of oil and gas and one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity, but also one of the most potentially explosive cocktails of poverty and underdevelopment, organised crime, and unstable regimes. It consists of countries with diverse historical backgrounds, ranging from English speaking Nigeria to French and Portuguese speaking countries with their unique colonial legacies.

In Nigeria alone, the Niger Delta region that borders the gulf is the third largest wetland in the world, and covers over 70,000 square kilometres, or 7.5% of Nigeria's landmass. Over 20 million people from more than 40 ethnic groups in about 6,000 autonomous communities, speaking 260 dialects, live in the area. The harmonisation of diverse national interests and effective channeling of intra-state rivalries and competition for the exploitation of the region's resources for the benefit of its citizens, and the strategic interests of fellow nations, present perhaps the single most challenging foreign policy engagement of Nigeria in the years ahead.

The promise, however, lies in the institutionalisation of democracy and good governance across the sub-region. With the strengthening of democracy, transparency and accountability, and zero tolerance of corruption, Nigeria, and indeed governments of the Gulf of Guinea states, can address the burning issues of poverty and depravation that breed violence, organised crime, and the potential of terrorism within our borders and beyond. Nigeria recognizes its responsibility and the urgency to provide leadership in integrating the sub-region, improving its governance and security, curbing criminality, and improving the general conditions of living for the sub-region's vast and growing population. We believe Nigeria's stability and leadership of the Gulf of Guinea is crucial to the future of the sub-region.

Democracy and Governance

Democracy and good governance are very vital and necessary to all our efforts to provide stability and eradicate poverty in the Gulf of Guinea. There is no security and certainly there will be no energy security in he Gulf of Guinea without good governance and democracy in the sub-region. The foundation of U.S. policy in the Gulf, therefore, must be based on providing assistance for the establishment, deepening, and institutionalising democracy in all countries of the sub-region. As you know, Nigeria is facing a crucial election in two years. The 2007 elections will be a watershed in Nigeria's history; it will be a crucial election in much the same way as the 2003 election was, but more crucial as it will witness for the first time in Nigeria's history an orderly transfer of power from one individual to another. However, the process needs all the commitment we all can muster, and hands-on guidance and assistance by our friends everywhere in the world. Other countries in the Gulf, including Angola and Chad, are facing a similar impending test in their democratisation process.

In the case of Nigeria, the most immediate and serious challenge to democracy is our ability to keep the process open, free and fair, with a level playing field for all candidates. We also must strengthen the capacity and independence of our Electoral Commission. It is, therefore, important for us to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission is truly independent and its capacity to conduct impartial elections strongly enhanced. For elections to be credible, rules and procedures regarding polling, counting of votes and collation and reporting of results must be clear, transparent and fair. They must not be designed to give advantage to any one of the parties in the electoral contest.

To this end, we will work towards reforming the conduct of candidates, educating their supporters and squarely addressing all forms of electoral misconduct. We will require the assistance of the United States and other countries to help strengthen our civil society groups to improve their capacity in the areas of human rights and transparency as a way of strengthening the foundations of free and fair elections.

For our elections not be perceived rightly or wrongly to favour any candidate or party, we are debating how to impose limits to campaign spending and contributions to political parties and candidates, as well as ensuring strict enforcement of the electoral rules, including rules about access of parties to the mass media, security and election monitoring. And, to help discourage electoral fraud, all election disputes are to be resolved promptly, and prior to the date of assumption of office of the eventual winner. We will ensure that elections themselves take place in a safe, secure atmosphere, free of intimidation, coercion and illegal inducement. If we can do that, on our own initiative and with the help of our friends, I am convinced our conduct of the 2007 elections will be significantly better than that of 2003, and Nigeria's democracy will take firm roots. Securing democracy in the Gulf of Guinea. In short, leaderships in the Gulf of Guinea must form a partnership with the international community, particularly the United States, to ensure that governance within the entire region improves and democracy is entrenched as a matter of urgency.

Poverty Eradication/Economic Reform

Africa's enduring poverty is one of the greatest impediments to the internal security of our countries, and in the long run, poses a real and dangerous threat to global security. Where poverty endures, democracy is always in danger. Democracy to our people will remain meaningless if there continues to be no discernible and progressive improvement in their living conditions. The sustenance of democracy therefore depends largely on the ability of democratic governments to alleviate poverty and depravation and give hope and opportunity in the face of rising expectations.

Nigeria indeed suffers from extreme poverty. Approximately 57 per cent of our 130 million people live in absolute poverty. 25 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans live in Nigeria; the GDP per capital is just over $300. Over 70 per cent of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day. Less than 60 per cent of primary aged children attend school, with over 7 million primary school age children not in school. One birth in a hundred results in the death of the mother; in some parts of the country, maternal mortality is much higher. Less than 50 per cent of the rural population has access to clean water. Yet, Nigeria is the most under-aided low-income country, with net transfers, including grants per capita, amounting to minus $9 in 2003, compared to an average of $37 for low income countries.

This level of poverty is unacceptable. Its alleviation squarely depends on our ability, our resolve, and commitment to reform our economy and our polity in order to cut down on waste and corruption and devote our resources to investing in and improving our social services. We believe in the necessity, and indeed the inevitability of a massive, radical and innovatory reform of our economy as, we firmly believe, there is no alternative to economic reform in Nigeria as much as there is no alternative to democracy and good governance. Believe that the same holds true with all countries of the Gulf of Guinea.

The first step we took in instituting a credible economic reform when we came to office in 1999 was to admit the failure of government to inspire, much less lead the way to economic development.

We therefore embarked on a difficult but necessary deregulation of the economy and privatisation of government controlled enterprises, including the petroleum and gas sector, and ports and transportation. Under the leadership of President Obasanjo, Nigeria took very courageous and forward-looking steps to institutionalise our economic reform programme and make it a permanent endeavour even after the current dispensation. The talented and committed men and women that constituted the economic management team are among the finest Nigeria can offer. The team, chaired by the President himself, has been guiding the economic reform process with an outstanding degree of success, and there have been very positive and noticeable changes in many aspects of the economy and the society at large.

Our overall macro-economic management is being conducted with great commitment and resolve. There is a discernible new philosophy that the overall interests of the nation and our people are paramount, over and above the interests of a relatively small clique of corrupt bureaucrats in partnership with private sector speculators and rent seekers who have hitherto held the economy hostage. Nigeria needs to ensure the institutionalisation of the present economic reform and imbibe its principles in future generation of policy-makers. In my judgment, the greatest threat to the current reform efforts lies less in the likelihood of policy reversals but more in the lack of expanding its client base. Any national and informed administration that succeeds the Obasanjo government can find it neither realistic nor expedient to change or reverse the current reform. However, the reform process today is in the hands of only a small group but very competent technocrats that we carefully selected to engineer the process.

To sustain the reform requires additional help from our friends and the international community not only to carry it to its logical conclusion but also institutionalise and diversify its acceptance. I believe the reform, to be far-reaching and long lasting, must appeal to engender enthusiasm in and gain the commitment of a wide constituency beyond the current circle of its architects and implementers. We must devise the means of making the average Nigerian, if not indeed every Nigerian, a direct stakeholder in the reform process. We will appreciate the assistance of the United States in this regard.

There is no doubt that we will prosecute the reform agenda vigorously and studiously beyond 2007, as we recognise that it represents one great window of opportunity for Nigeria to realise its full potentials for greatness, stability, peace and prosperity. If the 2007 elections were to be fought and won on the platform of real issues, the issue of reform and its continuity will certainly occupy a central place. We cannot pay a greater tribute to the legacy of President Obasanjo better than to ensure a faithful and uninterrupted implementation of the reform during and beyond 2007. We are equally keen and eager to see that the success of our reform sets an example to other countries in the sub-region and impacts directly on the long term security, stability and progress of the Gulf of Guinea. The United States and the international community can best applaud our reform by helping us strengthen our internal capacity (which remains weak), expanding the cadre of capable administrators (which remains small), strengthening our poverty reduction mechanisms, and supporting civil society groups to support the reform and encourage its popularity within the overall body policy.


Across the Gulf of Guinea sub-region, echoes of corruption and theft of public resources echo laud and clear everywhere. Corruption is a criminal economic sabotage, but it is even worse that. The prevalence of corruption is a direct threat to regional security as its feeds into money laundering and violent crime. We cannot progress in working together as sister countries in the sub-region, and with our development partners within the international community, if we are perceived as no more than a motley group of kleptocratic small states who, by accident of geography, happen to be oil-rich, but equally richly endowed with a particular specialty of stealing those resources only to squander them on habitual ego trips to the great detriment of our people and our nations.

Part and parcel of the reform in Nigeria is our onslaught on corruption, graft, and other vices such as money laundering and advanced fee fraud. AS a Nigerian, it beaks my heart every time I hear or read about the association of the good name of my country with corruption and fraud, as if Nigeria is a synonym of avarice and graft. I am sure it equally breaks the heart of every true Nigerian. In certain cultural backgrounds, including the one that I come from, stealing is such a despicable and intolerable crime.

However, corruption and its persistence remains part of the most shameful features of our public life. The cankerworm has eaten deep into the fabric of society and corrupted even the most scared and sacrosanct aspects. No noble policy of government or any laudable program stands the chance of success if we tolerate a situation in which pubic resources are habitually and brazenly frittered away and pilfered with impunity by those entrusted with them. Indeed, corruption has over the years distorted planning and implementation of policies, prevented equity and even distribution of opportunities and resources, hampered economic growth and development, and gave Nigeria an overall bad name everywhere. For these reasons, one of the ways in which all genuine friends of Nigeria can help its development is by helping us to fight against corruption in all its manifestations. In the words of President Obasanjo, "corruption must be fought to the standstill."

Part of the most serious aspects of the corruption, and one with far-reaching implications to regional security and the future of the Gulf of Guinea, is the "crude stealing of crude oil" that grows ever increasingly in the region. Estimates vary as to the extent of the epidemic, which is seen to have its epicentre in Nigeria's Niger Delta, from 80,000 to 300,000 barrels per day. Allegations also vary as to those responsible, ranging from the loose-cannon armed militias operating in the Delta, organized local crime syndicates with collaborators in the oil companies and corporations, politicians operating thug groups in search of resources to fund thuggery and election rigging, high ranking Naval officers, arms traffickers, and even allegedly high ranking officers of government. I even read somewhere that an overseas mafia is responsible for a lot of the oil theft.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the security situation in Nigeria's Niger Delta is serious and compelling. It assumes a more complex and dangerous dimensions and therefore requires urgent attention and help if, as is alleged, high-ranking government officials are directly or indirectly involved in illegal trafficking of stolen crude. We cannot ensure the long-term security of the Niger Delta or the Gulf of Guinea without containing and eliminating this dangerous development. If the current trend in the Niger Delta is left to spread to other countries of the Gulf, the implications to international energy security and the negative fallout on our prospect to develop can only be imagined.

If the allegations of involvement of high level public officers are credible, the region and the international community must brace up and face the threat more directly. On our own part, our anti-corruption war will be extended into the private sector. Anti-corruption agencies must be empowered to delve deeply and directly into the activities and finances of private sector companies. I intend to convene soon a roundtable of heads of major corporations and companies in our private sector to look critically into business ethics and way sin which we would ensure the full integration of their practices into the philosophy and objectives of our economic reform and anti-corruption policies.

At the public sector level, we will reconsider the immunity clause in our constitution, which shields a category of officers of government at the highest level from civil and criminal prosecution. At a point in our nation, it became so easy and many found it so convenient to stick the label of corruption against serving leaders, and it distracted attention so much, that it was deemed necessary to protect a particular category of them with an immunity clause in the constitution. However, immunity from criminal prosecution has come to mean impunity for many of our elected officials. And after the flurry of recent allegations, some of which border on criminal economic sabotage, I am convinced that it might be time we reconsidered the immunity clause. President Obasanjo has taken the lead in this direction, and part of our effect to amend the constitution has to do with the need to remove the immunity clause.

Indeed, despite reasons borne out of experience, the immunity clause does not speak well of the principles of equality before the law, for a certain category of our public officers to be automatically and fully immune from prosecution for all misdeeds. Our system must devise a way of protecting such office holders from frivolous litigations, but not through automatic and total immunity. Corruption and the practice of liberal democracy cannot co-exist. We will not leave it to history and posterity to judge us for our actions while holding public trust. One way or the other, our laws must be made such that public officers in the highest offices of the land are protected from mischievous litigations, but they must be held accountable by the same laws that send to jail a common man who steals what does not rightly belong to him. Not only must we all be equal before the law, we must be seen to be equal before the law. We cannot and we will not condone corruption, in whatever form, including the so-called oil bunkering, and continue to demand that we are taken seriously by the international community.

We will sustain the fight until we triumph against corruption in Nigeria, we will defeat the oil bunkers and their sponsors; we will continue to tackle the root causes that fan armed militia activities and illegal arms importation in the Niger Delta, including a structured and sustained demobilisation of armed groups. We will wage a sustained war against organised crime syndicates wherever they operate in the sub region. We cannot allow violence to thrive anywhere in the Niger Delta, as the impact on our communities and economic interests is unacceptable. We call upon the international community to help us put in place better mechanisms for tracing, identifying and prosecuting those involved in organised crime, oil bunkering and money laundering at any level of our public services. Crude oil fingerprinting technology is well advanced, we must be assisted to employ such technology, among other means, to track stolen oil and bring to book those who launder its proceeds. We are ready and prepared to work closely with the United States and other countries and organisation to help us build capacity in governance and constructively address the question of security throughout the West African region. International cooperation is vital to our success.


The spirit of such international cooperation was shown last month when we concluded a debt relief arrangement with the Paris Club of creditor nations. By this, Nigeria's 36 billion dollar debt was reduced by thirds its face value. We were able to repay 6 billion dollars in arrears and pledged to eliminate the entire debt within three years. We thank those who made the debt deal possible, and thank hem also for the agreement to cancel 40 billion dollars in multilateral debt to 18 poor countries in Africa and elsewhere. We particularly thank President Obasanjo for his untiring efforts that have yielded dividends. Nigerians of the present and future generations will remember him for the reliance of his efforts and statesmanship in securing the debt deal. I have no doubt that any future administration in Nigeria will implement faithfully the terms of the deal and ensure that we leave for good the company of heavily indebted nations.

We applaud the debt initiative as, across spectrum of countries that benefited from it, it is estimated that over 5000 million people would be lifted out of extreme poverty. Thirty million children who would otherwise die before their fifth birthday would be save, as would more than two million mothers who would otherwise dies have died during pregnancy and childbirth. The resources that were so freed would also educate hundreds of millions of women and girls, and millions would have access to clean water for the first time. For the debt relief to endure and produce the results we expected, the developing countries deserved improved global terms of trade. That is on the part of the international community. On the part of beneficiaries of the debt relief, we have a great moral responsibility to put in place enduring mechanisms to ensure that the relief proceeds do not fall victim to the corrupt practices of the past. The proceeds must be concretely invested in social services, health and education and the proof of such investment, in terms of concrete results, provided to the international community as and when required.


I wish to conclude this short address by re-emphasising Nigeria's determination to live in a secure, stable, friendly and co-operative neighbourhood. To this end, we concluded a number of mutual treaties and agreements with all our land and maritime neighbours in the sub-region. We entered into a joint development treat with Sao Tome and Principe in February 2001 when out mutual efforts to reach agreement over our common boundary reached a deadlock. We have also successfully negotiated agreement with Equatorial Guinea and Togo. We will continue to abide by the International Court of Justice ruling on our dispute with Cameroon. We no longer have any source of contention on our boarders with Chad. Indeed, we have no boarder conflict with any of our neighbours. We took the lead in establishing the Gulf of Guinea Commission to promote mutual co-operation, confidence and trust, and serve as a platform for the promotion of the economic, political, environmental and security interests of member states, which include Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Conscious of our position as the most populous country and the biggest economy in the region, and the potentials for suspicion of our intentions, it is imperative that we took the lead in promoting cooperation and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

We are ready to cooperate with the international community, with our friends, particularly the United States, to ensure peace and security in all countries of the sub-region. We will remain steadfast in addressing the important issues of human capacity, democracy, transparency and good governance, regional collective security, and development. With the increasing importance of the Gulf of Guinea to the world economy, there must be an increasing political will on Nigeria's part to ensure security in the area. We are determined to turn the area into a viable, democratic, stable, and a violence-free source of oil for the international market and for the development of our own countries. And we shall continue to work closely with our friends, especially the United States, to achieve this objective.

Thank you all for your attention. God bless Nigeria; God bless the United States of America.


The Gulf of Guinea, consisting of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon and Angola, at once symbolises in a rather vivid if not spectacular fashion, most of the dangers, the contradictions and the promise of the African continent. The Gulf harbours one of the biggest reserves of oil and gas and one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity, but also one of the most potentially explosive cocktails of poverty and underdevelopment, organised crime, and unstable regimes.

Daily Independent Online.         * Sunday, June 27, 2004.

Stay away from Niger Delta, Ijaw group warns MASSOB

The Ijaw self-determination group, Ijaw Rebublican Assembly (IRA) and their Igbo counterpart, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) are set to clash as a renewed war of nerves over the control of the rich resources of the Niger Delta escalates.

The source of the escalating crisis between IRA and MASSOB, is the alleged moves by the Igbo group to annex part of the Niger Delta area into their proposed sovereign state of Biafra.

The Ijaw group alleged in their general assembly meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, at the weekend that the Biafra flag is already being hoisted in some Ijaw communities. For the IRA, the action of MASSOB is seriously provocative.

The group spokesman, Ms Annkio Ourum-Briggs, told anxious reporters at the meeting venue: “We wish to inform the Igbos that though we do not begrudge them a right to aspire to statehood, we seriously resent and find insulting the attempt at including parts of the Niger Delta in a fictitious nation without our consent”.

“Not even an inch of our territory (Ijaw) would be conceded to the expansionist dreams for the statehood of Ndigbo as represented by MASSOB or the Yoruba in quest of Odua republic”, she warned.

Later in an interview with Sunday Independent, IRA’s Secretary-General, Mr. Charles Hary, said the Ijaw people will protect and defend their patrimony and heritage with the last drop of their blood, pointing out, “any further encroachment and disrespect of our territorial integrity would be viewed the moral equivalent of war, and responded to appropriately without notice”.

“The inclusion of Ijaw land in the Biafras is unacceptable, the map including us is fraudulent and must be withdrawn, flags misrepresenting our aspirations must be removed from our land, and on no account should any tribe or organization, by whatever name, without our consent, do anything or purport to do any thing as would denigrate or retract from our sovereignty as an independent people”, he warned.

According to the IRA, the ancestry of the Ijaw people never surrendered their liberty; neither did they ever bequeath their sovereignty to anyone. We are not slaves and can never be enslaved. We shall overcome, they said. Meanwhile, Mr. Chilos Godsent, an Ikwerre and pan-Igbo activist, in a swift reaction, said he believes that MASSOB would respond appropriately to the challenge posed by the ijaw group.


Daily Independent Online. * Thursday, July 15, 2004.

Odili: The making of an enigma

Odudu Okpongete, Reporter, Port Harcourt

At the peak of the political animosity between Dr. Peter Odili and the late Chief Marshal Harry in 2001, public sympathy appeared to have tilted in favour of the latter. In those trying moments for the estranged politicians, Harry had virtually turned his farmed plaza, situated at the end-point of the notorious Abonnema Wharf, in the 'Garden City' into a melting pot for politicians of like-minds.

Almost on a daily basis, Harry, deeply saddened by the twist of events, was receiving condolences, either from individuals or groups. On this day, this reporter had gone to the plaza in the company of a phony right activist who it was discovered, was looking for an opportunity to break into Odili's camp.

Harry's liability as a politician had been his undiplomatic temperament and irritating frankness, especially when pushed into political quarrels. Perhaps, he so much trusted the 'activist's political leaning' that he immediately ushered us into his bedroom. We were not long into the discussion before the late Kalabari politician opened up. Harry spoke of how he laboured to convince the political mafia in the state to accept Odili's candidature. He made reference to a day he brought Odili before the grandmaster, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, and begged for the latter's endorsement. Of course, Graham-Douglas’ acceptance was a bit more important that the others. Empowered by the military cabal for years from where he was elevated to become one of the financiers of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the Kalabari High Chief was a great factor in the Rivers State politics.

Anybody who listened to Harry's piteous tales would always end up with one impression: that he made Odili what he's today. Harry had every reason to claim the status of Odili's godfather. In the political intrigues leading to the PDP governorship primary in late 1998, Odili in terms of pedigree could not be said to have rivaled Chief Sergeant Awuse. The latter's popularity and political machinery could have scared any politician stiff. It is therefore to Harry's credit as the state party chairman to have successfully out-maneuvered Awuse, and placed Odili in the spotlight. But even in death, Harry knew too well that he could only claim to have been Odili's mentor at that point in time.

Otherwise, the governor had already attained some height in the political turf even before nursing a governorship ambition, which Harry helped to actualise. For, while Harry was the state chairman of the defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM), Odili at that phase was national secretary of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN).

Who therefore dragged Odili into national politics? In the beginning, Odili was orphaned politically. Bred in the tiny town of Ndoni where geckoes are deified, it was unthinkable for a politician of Odili's calibre to emerge, let alone dominate the politics of the entire state. And within the former Ahoada Local Government area, which altogether makes up what is known as the Orashi region, Odili remains a minority’s minority. But even at that, the medical doctor-turned politician had always shown flashes of somebody who could pull a crowd and shape it to fit his individual and collective vision. It is exactly this trait that drew the likes of Chief Geofrey Ake, the deputy speaker of the House of Assembly in the Second Republic; and Eze Clifford Nwuche to prepare Odili for his current political career.

When Odili was still probably playing 'campus' politics, Nwuche was already active in the politics of the First and Second Republics. He had attended the pre-Second Republic Constituent Assembly, and gathered political weight as state chairman of the defunct Nigeria People's Party (NPP). Ake on his own, as far back as 1983, had won a seat in the House of Assembly and climbed to the seat of speaker. These are the most prominent of Odili's political godfathers who helped him take a shot at the 1986 Constituent Assembly, his eventual emergence as deputy to Governor Rufus Ada-George in the botched Third Republic, and his membership of the 1995 Constitutional Conference. Thus, when Odili reportedly snatched the House of Representatives ticket for Ahoada East/Abua-Odual Constituency from Charles Ihua-Maduenyi and gave it to Chibudom Nwuche who, later emerged Deputy Speaker in the first leg of this administration, it was more like a pay back to his political godfather - Eze Nwuche. When, also Ake was put in charge of the strategic Land and Survey Bureau, it had all the elements of a payback. And for a man whose political philosophy tilts towards welfarism which in ordinary parlance could be interpreted as ‘Chop-I-Chop,’

Odili's support base widened as the godfathers and followers alike never attempted to question or undermine his political ideal. Significantly, Eze Nwuche was only active as a godfather till only 2001. That was the time the Ekpeye monarch convened a meeting of Upland Rivers when it was apparent that the riverine areas were bent on making things difficult for the governor. It is largely contestable whether Nwuche's initiative actually fitted into Odili's political agenda. The governor's recent image is that of a person who's determined to abolish the upland-riverine divide in Rivers State politics. Nwuche effectively crashed out of the team around the same period his son nursed an ambition to challenge Odili’s second term bid. Apparently, the Upata monarch was forced to support his son's stillborn ambition, a situation which triggered a series of rancour between both families. There may have been many face-mending efforts to bury the hatchet, but it's doubtful whether Odili can easily forgive the Nwuches, considering the political trauma he experienced during the period. Insiders in Odili's camp say the governor has a way of tossing you around as soon as he discovers that you cannot be trusted any longer.

Ake, probably survived as a godfather till date because of his priggish mien and fast amenability to whatever political vision and course Odili feels like undertaking.

The big Poach

While Dr. Ombo Isokrari was still grieving over his loss of political weight (despite his status as Board of Trustees member of the PDP) , a group approached him for support.

Those were the days when the infamous Rivers Democratic Movement (RDM) was recruiting Odili's opponents silently to form a strong coalition against his return to power. Before now, the erstwhile NAFCON boss, who had been battling to establish his political dynasty (even if it started and ended in Kalabari land) had hooked on to the Odili agenda.

He was forced to do so not necessarily because he was enchanted with Odili's clout. After Awuse, who he lent some support had lost out in the primary election, Isokrari appeared to have looked back on his past experience when he was hunted on false charges of plotting to oust the late Head of State, Sani Abacha in league with NADECO. He knew that opposition politics in a Third World country like Nigeria was an easy route to obscurity and troubles. Thus, when the RDM led by Graham-Douglas, his political rival, came to recruit him, he was quite suspicious. Of course during the infamous Abacha transition, Isokrari was shocked to the marrows after the former minister had picked one of the senatorial seats on the platform of the all-conquering United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP)-an election he was sure of victory. Of course, Graham-Douglas who was in far away London never filed nomination papers for such a seat.

Isokrari till date has remained one of Odili's key men, not really because he has found some level of satisfaction remaining there. Most pundits believe the Kalabari chief has not really gained much as a strong financier of the party.

And that's largely attributed to the fact that Odili does not really see him as a true loyalist. During the last nomination for ministerial appointments, some people believed Isokrari had jostled for a position but did not really get the support of the governor. What probably came in the form of a consolation was his appointment as chairman of the Governing Council of the state-owned university.

Isokrari, despite the wedge put in his race to attain a comfortable political position has remained Odili's ardent supporter.

And like his elder brother, Chief Ebenezer Isokrari could not really be counted as Odili's loyalist from day one. He needed not to be at all. As Odili's opponent in the 1999 governorship race on the banner of the then All People's Party (APP), the younger Isokrari was expected to lead the opposition - something he never did for a day. His explanation then was that having been a civil servant all his life, he was trained to support the government of the day. Many people knew, however, that there was much to it than that. After he was reportedly threatened with the revocation of a juicy contract he maintained with an oil firm on the prompting of the government, Isokrari was forced to throw his weight behind Odili. The result of that pact was the formation of the Rivers Truth Option (RTO) which was quite active in campaigning for Odili's re-election in 2003.

In the same pedigree with Ebenezer Isokrari is Mr Adawari Mac Pepple-a man Odili often eulogizes as the biggest private sector employer of Rivers State origin. During the RDM days, Odili's opponents often took pride in the belief that ADAMAC as he was fondly called, was in their camp. That for them meant that the shrewd businessman would deploy his wealth to chase out Odili from the Brick House. They got it all wrong. ADAMAC shocked all of them at the fund-raising dinner for Odili's re-election when he donated a whopping N250 million to oil the campaign machinery. Nobody really knows how much Mac Pepple whose business empire is said to be crumbling reaped from that heavy investment. Many are hoping he will resurface in 2007-propably when Odili must have won the much touted vice presidential ticket.

Both the late Chief Aminasoari Dikibo and Chief Precious Ngelace were recruited into Odili's camp just about the same time. After steaks of failures in picking the governorship ticket, Dikibo was almost in a political limbo before he was approached to join the restoration team. And an arrowed rival of Awuse House, the 'Dede Ukwu', had no hesitation in joining the Odili camp. A real jolly good fellow, Dikibo was the joker who Odili played on the late Harry. In fact, it's believed that Dikibo really wanted to vie for the position of National Vice Chairman of the PDP, South-South zone, but was prevailed upon by the governor to forget it, and allow Harry to go. When Harry eventually ran into a fix with the party and resigned his position later, many believed his troubles fitted into Odili's hidden political strategy.

Odili, they believed, often saw Harry's rashness and boastfulness as a pain in the neck, and, therefore, plotted his subtle removal as state chairman of the party. Dikibo was immediately brought in to fill that void after Harry's exit. And he did a wonderful job projecting Odili's image throughout the re-election campaign period. Many saw Dikibo as someone who would never rock the boat as far as Odili's ambition was concerned. That entire notion changed perhaps with Dikibo's death on February 6, this year. There are those who believed that Dikibo was at the point of freeing himself from Odili's grip before he was shot dead. There were talks of his disagreement with Odili over his future political ambition and that of his loyalist, Dr Abiye Sekibo. Nobody could really substantiate these claims except for what seemed a lacklustre involvement of the state government in Dikibo's burial.

Ngelale reportedly came on board through Ombo Isokrari’s persuasion. Neck-deep in the Awuse camp, the Eleme-born politician was almost isolated politically until he was convinced to join the Odili train. His appointment as Minister of State for Water Resources and later, in charge of Commerce at full cabinet level showed that he was highly regarded within the governor’s camp. It is not however known how much support Ngelale gave to Odili during his re-election bid. What is probably known is that the former minister never got any of his loyalists through, either through elections or cabinet appointments. And he probably suspected the governor's hand was soiled. He therefore took a silent disposition to avoid an open confrontation with the governor. Suddenly, nobody hears of this Odili's man again and Ngelale seems not ready to make any provocative pronouncements. His kinsmen say he's contented cooling off in South Africa for now, all in a bid to avoid troubles at home.

The henchmen

About two and a half years into his first tenure, Odili was faced with a strong public opinion: to effect changes in his cabinet. Somehow, many people, including lobbyists for cabinet positions, thought the commissioners were not performing optimally. Indeed, the feelings were that the commissioners’ performance had to do with the fact that they were occupying portfolios which did not tally with their professional backgrounds. Yet, many who felt that way never reckoned with the fact that these cabinet members did not make the list by ordinary recommendation. Most were campaign managers in their respective local governments for Odili before his election in 1999. Besides, they stood with the governor firmly during his period of trials before his re-election. Otherwise, there is no way Odili would have considered Ene Dateme, his former information commissioner, for a ridiculous position as executive special assistant on new FM station. Dateme is alleged to have messed up Odili's plan to commission a new radio station before his second term. Yet, he remains as one of the governor’s loyalists.

Imagine Odili kicking out Abiye Sekibo, the then Secretary to the Government; or asking Pwariso Samuel- Horsfall, Akeodi Oyaghiri, Kenneth Kobani, All-well Onyesoh, David Briggs, Reginald Wilcox or probably Stephen Ezekwem to quit his cabinet, the entire house could have fallen. If you realized that these personages have all been returned to cabinet positions currently, reshuffled as it were, then you could not question whether they qualify to be called untouchables.

Take Sekibo, now the transport minister, for a start. The medical doctor-turned politician had been quite ruthless in suppressing any opposition to Odili in the Okrika-Ogu/Bolo axis. With the aid of a militia, the minister has virtually crushed whatever remained of Chief Rufus Ada- George's political influence. Before now, it was unthinkable for anybody to aspire to political office without Ada-George's blessings. Even Sekibo learned the political robes as a disgruntled aide to the former governor who ruled the state under the platform of the defunct National Republican Party (NRC). Odili really needed such overwhelming defeat against his former boss with whom he is now at daggers drawn, otherwise he could have lost very crucial votes from the Wakrike ethnic nationality.

Samuel- Horsfall command's the same influence as Sekibo. Touted as the new kingmaker in Kalabari politics, he plays a key role in winning converts for Odili, particularly in Asari-Toru local government area. With the aid of his boys (Kalabari politics is now played with the backing of a gun power without which you could be hunted into exile), this self-styled Alabo has out-foxed the Isokraris, the Graham-Douglas, the Soberekons and all the other political heavy weights. In fact, two recent events proved Samuel- Horsfal status as one who wields heavy influence in the Odili administration. One was in early February, after an attack in Buguma by his gunmen left two mobile policemen, at the palace of King Theophilus Princewill, the Kalabari Monarch, dead. Somehow, the microbiologist who headed the Environment portfolio and was retained in the he newly-created Ecology Ministry, was implicated in the killing of the two cops. He was subsequently arrested alongside his father and tried in a magistrate court. At that point, many people felt Odili was about to get rid of Samuel Horsfal’s alleged excesses. As the trial was on, the latter had reportedly vowed to open a can of worms, that is if Odili attempted to abandon him. It turned out the young politician was acquitted probably through state’s intervention.

The second took place during the March 27 council polls. For the first time since his political adventure, Ombo Isokrari was able to pull a fast one and got his candidate, Aroloyoteim Brown, picked as the PDP candidate.
Samuel-Horsfal was therefore left to plan an ambush on the day of the polls proper. He won partially, at least the election never held until support was extracted from him by the governor. His opponent won though, on the second day of the polls but from the current turn of events, it looks like a Pyrrhic victory for Isokrari.

The rest of the team, such as Akeodi Oyaghiri, formerly Finance Commissioner, now in charge of Power; All-well Onyesoh, former education commissioner posted to the Sports Ministry; Kenneth Kobani who headed the Transport Ministry now overseeing Finance and David Briggs, now in charge of Water Resources command strong influence in the regime, one way or the other. Like Samuel Horsfall, his Buguma neighbour, Briggs commands loyalty among youths in Abonnema.

The only difference between them is that Briggs has managed to stay out of controversy, even if temporarily, of using his boys to edge out his opponents in a violent manner.

Oyaghiri is largely seen by outsiders as a meek, gentle and harmless fellow, but down home in Abua-Odual, he's feared as a warlord. Onyesoh may not have really caught the image of a popular politician but he's succeeded in forcing the Etche people to reckon with his leadership. The Kobanis have always been influential in Ogoni politics, especially in Gokana. Thus, throwing out Kobani would have meant losing a strong base in that axis. Reginald Wilcox who started off the controversial gas turbine project in Odili's first term as power commissioner was often thought as untouchable in the cabinet until he was demoted to non-functional portfolio as special adviser on ecology recently.

The relationship between Odili and Mr. Chibuike Amaechi is that of father and son. Needless to say that Amaechi executes Odili's will at the state legislature. Largely touted as a potential successor to his master, the speaker is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that he remains relevant politically. Apart from heading the unit recruiting new converts into the Odili school of politics, Amaechi has gone further by solidifying his support base, trying to shake off his image as a mere opportunist. He has therefore, floated a group called the Ikwerre Youth Movement (IYM) where he had picked most council chairmen and legislators representing the Ikwerre ethnic nationality. The fear however is that this politically conscious group could metamorphose into an ethnic militia before 2007. And Amaechi will not be lacking in resources to actualise it. Mr. Elemechukwu Ogbowu, the transport commissioner from Odili's council area who survived an assassination attempt this year is another of such loyalists that have found a space in government through his ability to mobilise youths for the governor.

Prince Uche Secondus, state chairman of the PDP, occupies a very strategic place too in the Odili political machinery.

Not really because Secondus commands much following in his native Andoni as a politician. It's doubtful if the PDP boss could even rally around boys to snatch ballot boxes there successfully if at all he were to stand for election. But despite this apparent emptiness, Secondus has maintained his status in the camp through absolute loyalty to the governor.

And with his backing, Tele Ikuru has remained in the cabinet, first in-charge of agriculture, and now housing and urban planning. Many have always wondered where Chief Fred Alasia, Odili’s chief of staff, derives his strength, so as to enable him command much influence within the Odili camp. Of course, Alasia, a former state director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), has no political army like others. And he has served as secretary of the governor’s campaign outfit since 1998. But yet, even before the Engenni-Bori politician assumed office at the Brick House, commissioners and other top government officials never failed to pay him homage. Alasia’s armoury seems to be just his intellect. This is about Odili’s only confidant who conquers political opponents with the force of arguments. A consummate squealer, most often, he can speak the governor’s mind authoritatively, and could even help out cabinet members in defending their portfolios. That’s if you realized that most cabinet members are so obsessed with loyalty to the governor that they’ve lost self-confidence. Odili has a great job to do in instilling confidence into his cabinet members such that they could draw a line between loyalty and subservience.

The Marksmen:

It was early February 2003. This time, Awuse had miraculously snatched the ANPP ticket from another governorship race veteran, Chief Bekinbo Seberekon. But no sooner had he gotten that Pyrrhic victory than was he plunged into a biting certificate scandal. Awuse had tacitly avoided the press on this matter but surprisingly, when this reporter raised this matter on phone with him, he quickly urged him to board the next taxi to his country home at Emohua where he claimed to have hidden from suspected assassins. In that revealing interview, one of the many questions asked from the ‘bulldozer’ was whether he wasn’t perturbed by the defection of his key lieutenants to the Odili camp. Awuse’s answer in his usual conceited posture was simply: ‘Nobody has left!’ Everybody who knew the strategic roles the likes of Sam Agwor and Chief Glory Emeh all from Emohua, played in Awuse’s camp before would agree that the latter was just sounding courageous.

The truth was that one of his political ribs had been chopped off by Odili. Throughout his political sojourn, Agwor was like Awuse’s chief of staff; the man that kept all his secrets while Emeh did the job of a campaign strategist. When Odili successfully poached Agwor at the early stage of his government, and later, took away Emeh at the point of frustration, they were immediately assigned to police Awuse. Agwor, who prefers to remain at the special adviser positions—now in charge of the Agency for Maintenance—had appeared to have performed the most devastating role, although Emeh looks more visible. His first open outing was during the ANPP governorship primary when Agwor feigned resignation from the Odili government, and entered the political ring to challenge Awuse. It was a political drama, which only the insiders knew about. Agwor did not succeed in defeating his political godfather at the primary after all. Perhaps believing that he was a true party man, there was some kind of settlement at the national level, which saw him emerge as the national youth leader.

They were just playing foolishly into Agwor’s hand. Nobody really knew that Awuse did not serve the compulsory one-year National Youth Service Corps programme (NYSC) after his return abroad, except Agwor who helped swore an affidavit to that effect. When Agwor revealed that secret to the opposition camp within the ANPP, the next task they undertook was to move to Abuja and obtain a letter, probably unofficial, indicating that Awuse skipped the service. All they wanted to achieve was to intimidate Awuse out of the race by threatening him with a criminal offence. They didn’t quite succeed in getting the then Attorney-General, Mrs. Aleruchi Cookey-Gam sign the court papers until Odili was drafted in though one Professor Nwankala. The letter had to serve as a buffer because the opposition henchmen were not keen on meeting Odili. Mr. Azubuike Odum who filed the case against Awuse on behalf of the enemy camp did so partly because he was denied a second ticket to the state Assembly on the ANPP platform through Awuse’s order that got him the first ticket. The matter now before a Federal High Court in Abuja had been running simultaneously with Awuse’s numerous appeals against Odili’s re-election. It is a joker which Odili could use to silence his long-time political rival for eternity.

Emeh of course has also played very significant roles in destabilising Awuse’s strongholds for Odili. He has a reputation for executing underhand political agenda at the grassroots and the media- something that has helped to push him away from financial straits. Not many however know thatEmeh is behind the propaganda tabloids that often attack,confuse or ridicule Odili’s opponents. Emeh’s propaganda which is often said to enjoy Odili’s blessing often comes handy during election period. If you probably see a headline like “Awuse decamps to PDP” or “Awuse begs Odili” screaming on the front pages of such tabloids few days to the polls, know that Emeh has fetched for himself good fortunes. Surprisingly, Emeh was trained as an accountant in the West but he believes the media world is where he finds satisfaction. So far, Emeh has been rewarded immensely.

After a low profile post as senior special assistant on publicity probably to test his loyalty, Emeh is now a full cabinet member in charge of Special Duties.

The new recruits

Magnus Abe was under political tutelage at the state Assembly during Odili’s first tenure when his eyes opened to the frustrations of leading the opposition. A well-articulated young lawyer but very quick to pick offence whenever Odili’s foibles are pushed for discussion, it was not long before Abe compromised his position at the Assembly. Whenever he was confronted with his rather quisling attitude, Abe’s defence was always that he could not turn around to attack the government in which he had been taken into confidence by the governor. Abe’s first outing was to ensure that a lackey emerged the state chairman of the ANPP. And thereafter, defect to the PDP with his remaining seven colleagues in the House. It’s to Abe’s credit that the opposition was denied leadership positions in the House immediately he abandoned the ship with John Bazia, Emmanuel Ideozor and Chidiebere Worlu-the latter of the troubled Alliance for Democracy. To be fair to Abe, he really had no option than to ditch the opposition, especially if he should continue his political career. Now, in-charge of the Information portfolio after losing the senate primary to another of Odili’s man, Mr. Lee Maeba, Abe’s job is to promote government policy, an action he undertakes with utmost fanaticism. Abe is so much enchanted with Odili that every step taken by the governor is seen as the first either in Nigeria or Africa.

Mr. Ipalibo Harry, Awuse’s deputy in the 2003 polls who defected back to PDP, left the opposition on account of what he perceived as the insincerity of the leadership. After the death of Harry, he felt Awuse and the RDM leader; Chief Graham- Douglas had abandoned the family of the late politician. Perhaps, the matter that broke the camel’s back was the apparent non-commitment of the opposition in the burial plans. And Odili who was probably looking for ways to consolidate a fragile ceasefire which he entered into with the late Harry before the tragedy, quickly cashed in on this grumbling. The result was the shocking announcement of the young Harry as Special Adviser on Environment last July. Since then, Ipalibo Harry, like Abe, has fitted into the Odili game plan, in addition to being paraded in political rallies as one of those who defected fast enough based on personal conviction. Abe should thank his God that he’s often saved such embarrassment during rallies. Despite the political weight, which these defections carried, it’s debatable whether it surpasses the recent capture of two intellectuals. During his first tenure as governor, Odili was rightly accused of not consulting with elder statesmen in making certain strategic political decisions. And those who made such accusations failed to realise that at the point he was seeking re-election, the governor did not require elderly counsel on how to crush his opponents.

Odili has finally made amends, and the person he has chosen to head the State Advisory Council on Good Governance is retired Supreme Court Justice, Chief Adolphus Karibi-Whyte.

It’s probably that Odili and the Kalabari statesman met closely during the 1995 Constitutional Conference which the retired Justice served as chairman. Karibi-Whyte appeared to be pairing well with Professor Godwin Tasie, to give it more credibility. Tasie had come to limelight through organising prayers for his Ikwerre ethnic nationality, and he is in charge of the Agency for Re-orientation, Integrity and Ethics (ARISE). But how far these personalities can go in influencing Odili’s political decisions is food for thought.

The Fake Opposition

Odili’s game plan had always been to preside over a state where the opposition is completely routed, an agenda that fitted into the PDP game plan too. The last general elections provided the opportunity. And now, the only vestige of opposition remaining is the Awuse challenge at the tribunal. But he miscalculated though. Sooner, he was to realise after the polls that he needed the opposition, no matter how insignificant, to validate his contentious election victory.

Right there, the big hunt for possible compromisers began. That was good news for cash-strapped Mike Nwielaghii-a factional chairman of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) who all along, had been running the party’s secretariat with state funds. And also, Otuka Georgewill- a dismissed factional chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Damian Eyinda -declared persona non grata by the national secretariat of the United Nigeria People Party (UNPP)). With a little rehabilitation, Odili’s men got these incapacitated politicians and a few inconsequential ones to approve of whatever electoral victory the PDP wants to project. So far, this group has validated the 2003 ‘carry-go’ elections; validated the March 27 council polls won 100 per cent by the PDP and often, pay courtesy calls on the governor in any event that requires solidarity visit. Often too, such acts of validation are shown on national television few hours after such events. The group has now adopted the name ‘Coalition of Nigerian Political Parties, in contrast to the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties-a seemingly credible opposition both sharing the same acronym CNPP. In the run up to his vice presidential ambition, the ranks of Odili’s men will certainly swell.

That’s if the on-going anomie within the polity drags on. After all, what mostly drives these men to Odili is not his much-trumpeted ‘unequalled’ performance but the struggle to escape from the politics of poverty.

Culled from the Guardian Newspaper. 
Rivers' militia leader, Tom, drops arms, flees
From Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt)

THE wanted militia leader and head of the Niger Delta vigilance group based in Okrika, Rivers State, Ateke Tom, yesterday fled his community after he had reportedly surrendered several arms and ammunition to government authorities.

The chairman of Okrika Council Mr. I. Walter, who broke the news of Tom's exit from the war-ravaged community, said items handed over by the warlord included 37 sophisticated guns of different brands, ammunition, 20 rocket-propelled grenades and charms.

The council chairman said Tom came and voluntarily handed the guns to him in the presence of a representative of the state

commissioner of police, adding that all the items surrendered had been transferred to the police command.

Walter explained that the surrendering of the arms and Tom's eventual exit from Okrika was achieved after series of peace talks and negotiations aimed at bringing lasting peace to the crisis-ridden community.

The gang leader had been indicted by the police as one of the principal actors responsible for the orgy of violence that has engulfed almost all the riverine communities in Rivers State.

The council chairman said the notorious militia leader who had been on the police list of wanted persons since November last year, fled his native Okrika for an undisclosed location.

The Guardian learnt that he may have been spirited out of the country by forces behind him in the state.

His exit would likely usher in a new era of peace in the crisis ridden-riverine communities of the state, particularly in his native Okrika.

Tom and his group had allegedly been terrorising people, prompting several citizens of the area to desert their homes.

The militia leader whose forces had been fighting those of the former Ijaw Youth Council president, Asari Dokubo, for supremacy, reportedly got information on an imminent military incursion into his community and quickly surrendered the arms to take to flight yesterday.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Presidency ordered raid of Ijaw communities, says Delta

By Tunke-Aye Bisina

Reporter, Asaba

Order to invade Ijaw communities in Delta State by the military came from the highest echelons in Aso Rock, it emerged on Thursday. Clan leaders have claimed that at least six communities were razed in the process, with hundreds of women and children feared missing.

Delta Sate Commissioner for Ethnic Relations Ovouzorie Macaulay confirmed the source of the order in Asaba. He, however, denied that 15 persons died during the operation.

Macauley has been at the centre of efforts to broker lasting peace among warring factions in the Warri crisis. Curiously, he promised to resign if it is established that military men killed people during the invasion, which he said was ordered by the Presidency to fish out persons with arms.

"Let me tell you", he stressed, "the cordon and search by the military men is directed from the Presidency to fish out the people hiding arms and not to hurt innocent citizens.

"I am in touch with General Zamani (commander of the task force)and he said villages were not burnt down. We (the government) need to strengthen this position because the next thing is that it will be said that it was the Itsekiri who killed them or sponsored it".

But contrary to Macaulay's assertion, leaders of Egbema clan had stated that no fewer than six communities - comprising Ogbudugbudu, Ayoungbene, Azama zion, Idebagbene, Odibogbene,Asantuagbene, Opia, among others - were torched by the invading soldiers; with over 200 persons, mostly women and children who ran into the bush in the wake of the attack, missing.

The Egbema United Front, speaking through Goddy Soroaghaye and Sunny Jero, also comfirmed the destruction of the communities.

Stressing his point, Macaulay addressed newsmen after the state's executive meeting in Asaba and insisted that "not one person was killed and I challenge the authors to produce the corpses. I will put my job on the line if they can produce any corpse. I will resign if proved wrong".

Macaulay, pioneer Chairman of the Delta State council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), advised journalists to be sure of their facts before publication, especially on sensitive matters like the Warri conflict.

Despite the denial, however, investigation showed that the military men razed a number of villages and blocked the only route by which the Egbema people have access to food supply from Benin. The people now live in hunger.

"Three out of 14 pulled out under duress. Out of the five clans that are involved only one pulled out, so you cannot say the accord has collapsed, rather it is still more than majority. The accord is very much intact", he said.

US Intelligence: Nigeria 'll Fail in 15 Years

They are living in the past, says Obasanjo
From Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja, 05.25.2005 (culled from the net)

The United States National Intelligence Council in a document entitled "Map-ping Sub-Saharan Africa's Future" has predicted "outright collapse of Nigeria" as a nation-state within the next 15 years.

In a swift response, President Olusegun Obasanjo described the prediction as "glib(ly) talk" arising from "dubious or diabolical benchmarks." On page 17 of the report under the heading "Downside Risks," the US Intelligence claimed that "while currently Nigeria's leaders are locked in a bad marriage that all dislike but dare not leave, there are possibilities that could disrupt the precarious equilibrium in Abuja.

"The most important would be a junior officer coup that could destabilize the country to the extent that open warfare breaks out in many places in a sustained manner. If Nigeria were to become a failed state, it could drag down a large part of the West Africa region. "Even state failure in small countries such as Liberia has the effect of destabilising entire neighbourhoods. If millions were to flee a collapsed Nigeria, the surrounding countries, up to and including Ghana, would be destabilised. Further, a failed Nigeria probably could not be reconstituted for many years - if ever - and not without massive international assistance.”

According to the introductory part of the report captioned "summary", "the National Intelligence Council recently convened a group of top US experts on Sub-Saharan Africa to discuss likely trends in the region over the next 15 years. The group discussed several major issues or drivers that will affect Africa, including globalization and its impact on political development and economic growth, patterns of conflict, terrorism, democratisation etc.

Obasanjo's 7-paragraph reaction to the document dated May 17, 2005, which was addressed to Senate President Ken Nnamani, and read on the floor was titled "Report of the US Intelligence Council." It read: "As a means of informing ourselves, I hereby forward a copy of the United States National Intelligence Council document on "Mapping Sub-Saharan Africa's Future" for your attention. I am sending this to you not because I am alarmed by the report but because if we know what others think of us and about us, we can prevent what they project for us.

"As a person who has participated in similar so-called "expert group" on issues, situations and regions, I know that the predictions and projections can be wide off the mark because both politics and economics cannot be absolutely predicted and their dynamics can fool the greatest and best expert. But it is important for us to know that we are being rated low, not because of what is happening to us from outside but because of what we do to, for and by ourselves internally.

"I believe that it is only God and ourselves that can map our present and future. No outsider can do that accurately for us. I know that some people glibly talk of the probability of Nigeria as a failed State. I believe that they are living in the past and incapable of noticing and appreciating the positive strides we are making on all fronts and the determination of the Nigerian people to join hands to consolidate democracy and promote sustainable growth and development.

"Because they are stuck to old ideas and dreams as well as stereotypes about us and our capabilities, they cannot see the New Nigeria that we are building collectively as we move beyond the past but allowing the past and present to strengthen and sustain our future. "Similar experts at the beginning of the second half of the 20th Century predicted worse scenarios for South East Asia. In fact, at the dawn of independence in Africa, Africa's chances were rated much better than that of South East Asia, but because they pulled themselves together, the predictions and projections about them have been proven false. In the case of Africa, the reverse has been true as the early favourable predictions and projections for the continent have remained largely unattained.

"If our detractors cannot see our far-reaching reforms, our fight against waste and corruption, the new culture of prudence and service delivery that is gradually emerging, the various political reforms including the on-going National Political Reform Conference as well as the sacrifices our people are making to ensure economic progress and democratic consolidation as indicators of progress and a radical departure from the past, then they must have some dubious or diabolical benchmarks for measuring efforts at ensuring oneness, unity, stability, indivisibility, prosperity, development and growth of our dear country.

"Our performance in the last three years has, in my view, been very good just as our performance in ensuring stability, peace, economic progress and good governance in West Africa and, indeed, the whole of Africa. "I believe that we can and should disprove the modern experts of the United States Intelligence Council who are like the prophets of doom and by the Grace of God, for Nigeria in this first decade of the 21st Century, we must be determined to show that we are neither a basket case nor walking on a banana peel.

"I wish you well as you read the report and would very much appreciate your reactions, perspectives and suggestions. For me, it is a challenge and it calls for extra work. We owe that much to our people, to Africa, humanity and to God Almighty, our Creator. May God bless Nigeria and Africa.”

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Deadly Road To Tombia

On a sprawling island town on the Atlantic Ocean, a human tragedy, largely unreported and perhaps hitherto unknown in peacetime Nigeria, recently took place. The town, Tombia in Rivers State, with an estimated population of over 500,000, was, in February this year, completely sacked by armed militiamen and cultists loyal to two tribal warlords in the area, aided and abetted by the powers that be ahead 2007. It was a fight for political and economic supremacy that left Tombia desolate, dangerous to visit and unlikely to come to terms with itself for a long, long time to come.

Somehow, The Guardian's EBERE AHANIHU, managed to get into Tombia, clearly the first Nigerian reporter to visit the danger zone, and here narrates his experience in trying to visit the troubled island, where, as they say, life has become short and brutish.

The engine of the boat roared into life and headed into mid-sea, leaving Iwofe Jetty and the city of Port Harcourt behind. The destination was Tombia - the war-torn island in Rivers State made popular in colonial days as a fishing port. The boat was gathering momentum. Now and again, the passengers were jolted as it flew over a mild wave.

Moments before the boat entered a lush mangrove forest, the three boat men fished out A-K 47 riffles from nowhere and took positions, the muzzles of their guns at the ready. No one needed to be told that the boat was approaching a war zone. There could be an ambush, which could lead to a shoot out, and anything could happen. In Tombia, life has returned to a state of nature.

Gory images began to flip through the mind's eyes in quick succession. What if there was an ambush and there was a shoot out

  • The battle would have been over before anybody realised the true identity of the two passengers - a clergyman going to see his flock in the forgotten land and a news hunter who had as weapon a tape recorder and a camera.

    A quick glance at Rev. Ikangi Lilly-Young, the Vicar of St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, Tombia, with whom I sat in the middle of the boat, revealed nothing. His small stature sat there unruffled and kept a steady gaze ahead. As the person who made the journey possible, the failure or success of the mission depended on him.

    This would be his third visit to the island since St. Joseph's Lutheran Church was razed on February 21, this year. "Only a few elderly members are usually in attendance during the Sunday service and the offerings are low", he lamented, explaining why he had to move to his son in-law's home in Ido, as the crisis deepened.

    At 60 years, Rev. Young has had some knocks in life. But with a strong will to survive, he has kept moving on. In 1968, at the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War, his wife divorced him unceremoniously because he did not return for the burial of their son. She refused to forgive him and went ahead to marry a man from Bayelsa State.

    He married another wife, abandoned fishing to give himself some education, and ended up in an institute in Ibadan, where he studied Theology. With time, he rose to become the Vicar of St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, one of the oldest churches on the island, built in 1915.

    On February 21, shortly after he had conducted the morning service, some armed youths came into the church and torched it. Try as much as he did, with the assistance of some people, the "fire was unquenchable," said Lily-Young. "we prayed that it should be subdued, but as it pleased God, the church building was burnt down."

    The militiamen were now in a world of their own, chatting heartily in Kalabari. As the boat left the mangrove forest and entered the sea, they relaxed their grips on the guns. Farther away, a group of friendly militiamen in a village by the seaside were making frantic signs for the boat to come over.

    The boat made a semi-circle and as it cruised into the beach, the engine went off. A man was running in our direction. He had only one hand. When he joined us, the banters notched up in its tempo. The man with one arm was making a report to his mates and, at every turn, seemed to touch on something that provoked a general laughter.

    Going to Tombia would bring the day to a happy ending. Incidentally, it had started on a wrong note. A mix up had occurred in the course of the journey. Before now, it was not clear which of the two Tombia towns was embroiled in the crisis. There are Tombia towns in Rivers and Bayelsa States. The decision to travel to Bayelsa was one of mistaken identity.

    Shortly before Yenagoa, a casual conversation with another passenger revealed that the Tombia I was looking for was not in Bayelsa, but Rivers State, from where the journey had taken off earlier in the day. The only option at this point was to make a u-turn, return to Port Harcourt, and begin the search all over again.

    According to history, both Tombia towns have the same origin. The people are of Ijaw extraction and are said to have migrated out of Nyamkpo in Bayelsa State. Before arriving on the island in 1885, they had settled two places, traces of which can be found along the route in Finima and Elem-Tombia that is, Old Tombia.

    Back in Port Harcourt, the driver of the Iwofe-bound bus, which terminates at the jetty where a boat-ride would be taken to Tombia, sized me up and down when I sought his assistance. Like most people I told about the journey in Port Harcourt, he looked at me quizzically, and I could read his mind about his thoughts as to the state of my mental health.

    He explained himself: "It is possible to get to Iwofe Jetty, but there are no boats going to the island. The waterways have been taken over by armed youths. Nobody goes there because it is a dangerous place to go. If you get to Iwofe Jetty and tell anybody that you are going to Tombia, he will think you are crazy. There is no use trying."

    The journey changed course to Buguma, in the hope that something might come up in the town. Mid-way, I struck up a conversation with a passenger sitting next to me. He looked lettered and like one whose intelligence could be relied on. I told him about my mission. He rejected the idea of going to Buguma. It would not work, he maintained.

    He had a better idea, he said. There was a town on the way to Buguma, called Sama, where he knew thousands of displaced persons from Tombia were staying. If I could get there, they might tell me how to get to Tombia. "They know the way in and out of the island and the means to get there," he reasoned. In the absence of a better alternative, I took his advice.

    At Sama, the driver pulled up. I came down at a desolate road where vehicles came once in a long while. There was nobody in sight. I followed the adjoining road to Sama. It was an empty road. Soon, two men appeared from a track road. On meeting them, I told them who I was looking for. One of them volunteered to help. We took the first turning on the left, which led us to a bungalow, where some people were gathered.

    He introduced me to the people. I was somebody from Lagos in search of the people of Tombia living in Sama. As he did the introduction, I brought out from my bag a copy of The Guardian, showing them a photograph of what was left of St. Joseph's Lutheran Church. I told them I was a journalist on the staff of The Guardian and that I had come to do a story on the burnt church.

    "The wife of the pastor of the church stays in Sama with us, but we don't know where the pastor can be found," said somebody in the crowd, who later introduced himself as Ogigofingibo Frank, and would act as my guard throughout the journey. "Can you take me to her

    • " I demanded.

      He led me away. Rev. Young's wife was at home. Her husband was staying at Ido. We returned to the major road, took a bus and came down before Buguma and met Rev. Young at home. "Can you take me to Tombia

    • " I put the question to him. He was ready, he said, to my pleasant surprise.


    • "


      We set out for Tombia immediately, and returned to Port Harcourt, before taking Iwofe bus to the jetty. Rev. Young put a call to the commander of the militiamen occupying the island. He was told that a boat would soon come for us. Not too long after, a boat came into view and soon berthed at the jetty. The boatmen recognised Rev. Young and invited him and his companion to board the boat.

      Less than a quarter of a nautical mile to the jetty, I caught a view of Tombia and went for the camera. The armed men did not protest as I snapped away but their comrades at the jetty spoke in angry voices because they did not want to see a stranger on the island taking photographs. However they were calmed at the sight of Rev. Young-Harry. The journey to Tombia Town would now take the curious instinct of a historian to help unravel the reason why life in Tombia had become brutish and deadly in recent time.

      The root cause of the problem in Tombia Town has been traced to a chieftaincy tussle between the Davies and Abbey families, prominent on the island. Two years ago, the youths of the town were broken into two groups over the issue. Prince Davies led the one, while Owei led the other. In search of wider support, Davies joined the Ijaw Youths Council led by Asari Dokubo, as Owei and his group had already joined Ateke Tom, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante.

      While the Owei group held sway on the island, Davies ran to Port Harcourt with his group in search of military assistance. Having received the required assistance from the IYC, he began to launch attacks on the island. On the third attempt, he dislodged Owei and his group from the town and took over control.

      "Are you sure we are safe

    • " I asked Rev. Young. I was trying to start a conversation, as Tombia Town appeared on the horizon.

      "Very safe", he said reassuringly, emphasising on each word.

      "Can we return today

    • " It was now approaching 6 p.m.

      "We'll get to Tombia first before thinking of how to return," he said in a tone that suggested he did not want to be drawn into a conversation.

      I finally resigned to fate and hoped to make the best out of whatever came out of it.

      At the Tombia Jetty, there were about 20 youths and each had a gun. The oldest among them must be in the neighbourhood of 26 years. Many of them were much younger, perhaps 18 years and below. Apart from these youths, the town wore the face of desolation. The inhabitants, estimated to be over 500,000, had deserted the island.

      Later, they were found as displaced in such places as Opurama, Sama, Ido, Buguma, Telema, Eleleama, Kari, Isokwu, Degema, Abonnema, Idama, Soku, Sangama, and Bakana. They were also found in all the fishing ports in the area. Others moved to Port Harcourt and other neighbouring cities where they have relations.

      The destruction of buildings in the town showed how freely dynamites were used in the fight. Houses were looted before they were burnt. Those that were not burnt had their doors broken down. There were 80 elderly people and a few children left in the town. Most of them could not afford the cost of leaving. For others like 90 years old Chief Josephus Binibo, a Justice of the Peace, they could not bring themselves to leave the town.

      A tall young fellow joined us as we moved upland. He appeared to command a measure of respect among his comrades-in-arm. He gave his name as Onigofori Obinibo. He is 26 years old. He is a graduate of Government Technical College, Tombia. He was fighting to save Tombia, his ancestral home, from the hands of people he described as cultists, who had terrorised the town and harassed their women for too long.

      Did he realise that he was playing with death

    • He replied: "Home is the best and the most honourable place to die. Politicians are behind all the trouble in Tombia. It is aimed at disorganising the Kalabari nation. What is happening in Tombia is a prelude to the 2007 elections. We will resist it to the last man," he assured.

      Rev. Young led the way to the burnt St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. He told the story all over again, how the whole thing happened in his presence. Some of the elderly people had heard about his arrival on the island and were already gathered at his parsonage to welcome him.

      Night was approaching. It was time to retire for the night, but we must say the Grace, Rev. Young insisted. It turned out to be a long night, made uncomfortable by the hordes of mosquitoes that invaded the room. They attacked relentlessly, as if to make up for lost days.

      The heart raced furiously at the sound of footsteps or voices. As time stood still, the mosquitoes were attacking with a vengeance. It was no use continuing with the sleep. A long night vigil ensued, but a cockcrow at dawn came with a relief and we began the preparation to leave the island.

      At the jetty, we waited for the commander. The militiamen were enjoying the music coming from the FM radio. One of them was busy servicing the riffles. He would dismantle them, clean up the parts and assemble them again. He serviced one riffle after another. At the end of the exercise, he stood up and released two gunshots.

      "Pressure", he screamed with satisfaction and danced to a highlife tune.

      The commander soon returned to the jetty. In his company was an armed man. He did not mind granting an interview. He came from the Davies family. He was "right now" the chairman of Tombia Youths Association. They are fighting against cult members, he added for emphasis. Their mission, he said, is to get these cultists out of Tombia Town. "That is the only way peace can return to the island", he concluded with an air of finality.

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