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.
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Online. * Sunday, June 27, 2004.
Stay away from Niger Delta, Ijaw group warns
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.
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.
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.
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
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”.
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
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
|Daily Independent Online. * Thursday, July 15,
Odili: The making of an
Odudu Okpongete, Reporter, Port
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Prince Uche Secondus, state chairman of the PDP, occupies a
very strategic place too in the Odili political machinery.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Culled from the Guardian Newspaper.
Rivers' militia leader, Tom, drops arms,
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
"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.
|Democracy and security in the Gulf of Guinea:
Stay away from Niger Delta, Ijaw group warns
Nigeria 'll Fail in 15 Years
Odili: The making of an
Rivers' militia leader, Tom, drops arms, flees
Presidency ordered raid of Ijaw communities,
The Deadly Road To Tombia