Friday, June 15, 2001
|Priye S. Torulagha (Ph.D., MHR)
STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE DEVELOPMENT
OF BAYELSA STATE
IZon Otu! In light of what is going on in Bayelsa State, it is
most appropriate to resubmit this article that was written earlier. This writer
is convinced that if Bayelsa State, the Ijaw nation, the Niger Delta and Nigeria
are to move forward politically, economically, and socially, drastic steps must
be taken to eliminate the notion that government service is strictly for
personal enrichment, hence, the extreme case of corruption in Nigeria. Although
the article is focused on Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation, the political model
is applicable to any Nigerian state and group.
article is divided into three parts. Part one deals with political development,
part two focuses on infrastructural development, and part three concentrates on
Bayelsa and Rivers states are the products of
a long drawn-out political and military struggle initiated by Izon and other
minority groups to free themselves from the cluthces of Wazobianism. During the
different phases of the struggle, thousands of Izon citizens lost their lives,
just as the Ogonis, Isokos, Itsekiris, Ibibios, Urhobos, etc.
the case, Bayelsa State should endeavour to avoid making the kinds of mistakes
that occurred in the Rivers State. For instance, thousands of Izons and other
minorities joined the war effort to liberate the Rivers State during the civil
war. Most of the fighters came from middle and lower socioeconomic strata of
society. Yet, the fruits of victory mostly benefitted the children and families
of the elites who had positioned themselves as the intermediaries between the
Rivers State and the federal government.
Therefore, many of the people
who actually fought did not and have never benefitted from the state while the
elites and their children benefitted gargantuanly and thus turned themselves
into a kind of an aristocratic class. It is not a secret that some of the
elites joined forces with the national powerhouses to loot the oil wealth, at
the expense of the masses.
The leaderlessness and the unorganized nature
of the Izon struggle led to the formation of the Izon National Congress (INC).
The aimlesssness and the toothlessness of the struggle also led to the formation
of the Izon Youth Council (IYC). The INC tends to represent the upper echelon
of the ethnic group while the IYC tends to represent the aspirations of the
youths. The INC presents a more diplomatic and cautious political front in
attempting to unify the ethnic group and representing it in all national and
diplomatic efforts. The IYC presents a more intellectualized political, and
militant front. The two organizations have done so much to streamline the goals
and objectives of the ethnic group.
Bayelsa should not adopt
the Nigerian models of political,economic, educational, cultural, and
infrastructuraL development. It should work feverishly to design other ways of
doing business if it really wants to avoid political and economic stagnation and
massive corrutption. Bayelsa should also deviate from the Western-inspired
models of democratic politics which have been the mainstay of Nigerian politics.
Of course, Western models predominate the African continent. The necessity for
deviation are many and far-reaching.
First, the people of Bayelsa have
deep-rooted traditional political systems that have existed for centuries.
These systems are very functional, vibrant, adaptable, and
Second, the traditional cultures of Izonland are based on
communalism. This means that the interest of the community comes before the
interest of the individual. However, within the community, individual rights are
guaranteed as far as those rights do not wholesomely violate or contradict
communal interests. In other words, individual interests cannot supercede
communal interests. This means that individuals must live within the bounds of
Third, the communal culture extols collective
responsibility. This means that individuals are obligated to work toward the
achievement of common group goals. In the event of a conflict, everyone must
join, one way or another, to fight or prevent an outside entity or force from
destabilizing the homeland.
Fourth, Bayelsa has natural political divides
since the communities are subdivided into extended families, compounds,
quarters, villages, towns, subclans, clans, and the ethnic group. Generally,
Izon people live according to these subdivisions. The ethnic group is at the
top of the pyramid. Loyalty to the (wari otu)family is the first order of
political socialization. This is followed by loyalty to the biri (quarter),
then the ama (village or town), then the ibe (subclan or clan), and finally the
Izon Ibe (ethnic nation). The head or chief (ibedaowei)of the subclan or clan
is considered both spiritually and politically superior to the head or chief
(amadaowei, amananaowei, amananabo etc,)of the village or the town. The
pyramidal segmentation of political authority, starting from the base (the
family) to the top of the pyramid is closely followed by the traditional
religion (Ancestralism/Deitism) or (Orukarism). This means that the family
oriented deities are at the base of the religious pyramid, followed by the
village and town deities, and ending with the clan deities who are near the top
of the pyramid. The village and town deities are in the middle of the pyramid.
The clan dieties are much more spiritually charged and thus more venerated by
the people. God is at the very top of the pyramid.
traditional political system, which is always influenced by the traditional
religion, the rotational method of succession is much more prevalent in
Izonland. Under this arrangement, leadership is rotated among various ruling
houses (waris or biris or ogbos or amas), depending on the level of political
authority. This means that when a ruler dies, the throne passes to the next
line of succession, which, in most cases, is another house or quarter or town or
subclan. By rotating the leadership among the ruling houses or political units,
democracy is assured. Generally, every citizen is aware of the next line of
succession. This awareness reduces the need for political battle as to who
should rule. Moreover, it is generally believed that the ancestors are always
very watchful, to ensure that the process is not violated.
It must be
clearly stated that the religiously sanctioned traditional political system is
quite different from the state imposed political structures in which both the
federal and state governments have attempted to manipulate traditional politcal
institutions by imposing political chiefs on artificially created chieftaincy
zones. Generally, state influenced and imposed political chiefs have no
religious mandate from the ancestral forces. They are the ones who always cause
chieftaincy conflicts as they try to manipulate the people to support them.
These kinds of political chiefs are always very destabilizing and destructive.
For purpose of this article, the traditional political system is restricted and
referred exclusively to the religiously instituted political arrangement in
which strict adherence to traditional norms are encouraged.
Compromise and Consensus
Based on the traditional
political system, which originates from ancestral sanctions, every political
decision is expected to be based on the principle of compromise and consensus.
This is to avoid manipulation and dirty tricks and to ensure communal harmony.
Compromise and consensus enables every significant opinion to be expressed so
that any decision arrived at through serious bargaining is fully accepted by
all. Here again, the system is very democratic because a leader or a ruler
cannot simply impose his/her point of view without taking other points of views
into consideration. In short, the religiously sanctioned traditional leader
must take the views of other chiefs and representatives of the people into
consideration before making any decision. To act arbitrarily would amount to a
violation of the sacred religious order of how the community should be
administered. As a result, the traditional African leader is always a
negotiator. He/she is expected to tell the truth and not to be ideologically
committed to a particular position or be manipulative.
On the other hand,
Western models of political development are very suitable to Western societies
but are very inappropriate to the African cultural environment. This is why the
African (Nigerian) attempt to democratize through adoption and application of
Western models have met with serious failures throughout the continent. Many
reasons can be deduced to explain the inappropriateness and the unworkability of
the alien models in Africa.
a. Western cultures are generally based on
individualism. This means that individual rights or interests supercedes
communal rights or interests. Whenever a communal interest is considered to be
an infringement of individual right, the communal right is often sacrificed to
the benefit of the individual right. African cultures are based on communal
rights. This means that communal rights come before individual rights. Thus,
if an individual interest threatens communal interest, the individual interest
must surrender to the communal interest. This is to ensure social harmony as
well as to perpetuate communal norms and mores.
As can be seen,
individualism is philosophically in opposition to communalism or
communitarianism. Thus, Western societies cannot conveniently adopt
communalistic sociopolitical systems because such efforts would lead to legal
challenges by the citizens who would fight strenously to maintain their
individual rights. Likewise, African societies cannot conveniently adopt
individualistic systems because the people would react communalistically to such
b. Due to the fact that Western citizens are profoundly
individualized, they need political organizations to help mobilize them. The
political party becomes the primary instrument for political mobilization of the
citizenry. In Africa, the citizens are always mobilized through the communal
system. The family, or the compound, quarter, village, town, clan and the
ethnic group constantly reinforces the need for the people to embrace the
group. Consequently, the political party plays a crucial role in Western
societies and plays a lesser role in African societies. The rise of ethnically
based political movements in Nigeria and throughout Africa is a clear indication
of the power of communalism today.
It can be deduced that the political
party plays a negative role in African societies because it is generally created
or established by the elites to enhance their selfish interests. Consequently,
the political party cannot truly represent the people. It is like a leech that
sucks the socio-political lifeblood of the people and render them powerless and
dependable on the elites.
c. Political parties are designed to
discourage mass participation by making it difficult for most citizens to get
involved. By so doing, the party members become the king/queen makers by
annointing the chosen candidates to control the state. To grow within the
political party, members must imbibe the political culture of the organization
and become devoted to the interest of the party rather than that of the state.
To grow through the hierarchy of the party, members are expected to do whatever
it takes to perpetuate the party. If this requires rigging of elections,
stealing from the state to enrich the party, manipulating and inciting racial,
ethnic, regional, religious, and class antagonism as a way of propelling party
members to win or dominate the polity, then that is what the members must do.
Political party members are socialized to behave as gang members. This
means never saying anything bad about their own parties, always supporting their
party colleagues and officials, even when such colleagues violate the law or
steals from the public purse. They are expected to fight like hungry dogs
Apart from the problems associated with the political party system, especially
in Africa, the Western concept of one-person-one-vote is very appealing
theoretically and makes a lot of sense in the individualized societies
of the West, however, it does not make any sense in the communalized societies
of Africa. The reason being that Africans rarely respond to political
stimuli from an individualized manner. They generally tend to act and react
from a communalistic point of view. Africans vote with the hope of
enhancing their communal, ethnic, regional, and statal interests.
Resultantly, the fact that a democratic election based on a
one-person-one-vote was won by a candidate on the basis of majority votes does
not necessarily mean that the electoral victor is acceptable to the people.
Events in the Niger Delta, Yorubaland,Islamic North etc. since the election of
President Olusegun Obasanjo, have shown that people will fight to accomplish
political and economic rights, regardless of the legitimacy of the political
leader or of the system. The same holds true throughout the continent, whether
in the democratic or nondemocratic states. In Africa, as in many other parts
of the world, electoral victory is considered to be a mere legal interpretation,
not a political one due to the fact that almost all elections are rigged or
tempered with, one way or another, by those in power.
one-person-one-vote is an expression of the totality of individualism, it does
not generally reflect the communal point of view which is essential for
political stability in Africa. As a result, it is often quite insufficient to
contain communal anger. Thus, the best way to ensure stability and peace is to
generate a political system that properly reflects the communal point of
of the Western model of democracy that is not suitable for Nigeria, in
particular, and Africa in general, is the notion of a 'winner-takes-all" kind of
democratic party politics. Under this system, the winning political party and
the candidates belonging to the victorious party gains all the fruits of
political victory and the defeated political party(s) and its candidates end up
with an empty basket. In the West, this is quite acceptable, since people think
about their self interest most of the times. However, winner-takes-all is
absolutely very destablizing in Africa where the sociological tendency is for
people to react in a group manner to any political displeasure.
winner-takes-all system, the political parties and the candidates are fully
aware of the enormosity of victory or defeat. Any political partiy that wins
control the government, the public purse, and the resources. The members of the
victorious party gains materially and politically. The members of the defeated
party go home empty-handed. Not only that but the followers are immediatley
ostrasized and marginalized. In a communalized environment such as in Nigeria,
the implication is that the winning party gets all the goodies and the losing
side gets nothing. This leads to perpetual instability as the winning side tries
to consolidate its power and the defeated side adopts some kind of a political
querrilla warfare tactics to deprive the victorious party from enjoying the
fruits of victory.
The described scenario has happened so many times in
Nigeria. In the First Republic, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the
National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), and the Action Group (AG)
dominated the North, East and the West politically. This meant that the
Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo, and the Yoruba enjoyed uncontested control of the
resources in their own respective regions. The opposition parties did not have
a chance. Thus, the three ethnic groups also enjoyed the economic fruits of
their political domination of the regions. In the Second Republic, the National
Party of Nigeria (NPN) dominated Nigeria and the political and economic fruits
went to its members while the defeated Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), and the
UNity Party of Nigeria (UPN) ended with nothing. This forced members of the
defeated parties to abandon their parties and joined the NPN. This transformed
Nigeria from a multiparty system into a one political party
Winner-takes-all creates divisiveness and hatred among people
because the system legitimizes discrimination based on political victory. The
defeated is left with no other option but to destabilize the state as a means of
paying back in kind. Throughout Nigeria and probably around the continent, it
is very easy to tell which ethnic group or region has been in power. The reason
being that, quite often, infrastructural development is always concentrated in
the regions and states where the ruling political parties and their candidates
came from. As can be seen, the Niger Delta is highly underdeveloped even
though it has been the Akara plate of Nigeria. It is underdeveloped because
Nigerian rulers have always origninated from other parts of the country. They
view the peoples of the Niger delta as the politically defeated or conquerred
who are not entitled to any fruit of victory. With that kind of
rationalization, it became quite easy to take from the Niger Delta and develop
their own places.
There is no doubt that despite the transition to
democracy, Nigeria continues to experience political instability due to past
injustices and the winner-takes-all kind of politics which overwhelmingly reward
the ruling party and overwhelimingly marginalize the defeated parties.
likewise, due to the nature of party politics, manipulation (Maradonnanism)
continues to be a primary instrument of controlling the citizenry. This spells
a bleak future for the peoples right to be represented democratically.
To avoid potential problems, Bayelsa State should endeavor to avoid
party politics and the winner-takes-all phenomenon if it hopes to build a
bright, prosperous, and united entity within Nigeria. The reason why Bayelsa
should not adopt the perpetually destabilizing political party system is due to
the fact that Bayelsa is a product of a mass struggle initiated by all segments
of the population. Consequnetly, Bayelsa needs a truly democratic system in
which all segments are fully represented politically, economically,
educationally, and developmentally.
Therefore, the existing Nigerian
political party system is not an appropriate political formula for Bayelsa.
Bayelsa needs COMMUCRACY (short for communal democracy based on the wari
principle of political socialization. Thus, instead of relying on the national
political parties, Bayelsa should adopt the traditional natural political
divides as a formula to run the state. The natural political divides are the
family, quarter (biri), village, town, subclan, clan, and the ethnic group. In
other words, in Izonland, the ethnic group is divided into clans or subgroups.
Each clan contains a number of towns and villages. Each clan has its own
dialect and certain idiosyncracies. Likewise, each clan has a religious and
politcal capital. This is often determined by the location of the highest
religious shrine or where the founder first setttled. Often, members of the
clan are very unanimous as to the location of their traditional
Instead of carving the state into artificial congressional or
local government zones, the clans should be used as the basis for districting.
The only exception to this arrangement would be where a particular clan is too
small. In that case, the clan can be merged with another to form one zone. The
advantage of using the clan rather than artificially created political zones is
that it will eliminate the Nigerian tendency to reward certain communities and
not others. For instance, the Warri conflict would not have taken place if
Nigeria had created the local governments on the basis of the groups
constituting Warri, instead of the arbitrary political demarcations known as
Local government Authorities. In fact, there are so many intraethnic and
interethnic conflicts raging on in Nigeria over local government sites. It has
been particularly bloody in the Middle belt.
Although relying on the
clans, there will be two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Each clan, regardless of its size, will have one representative at the Senate.
On the other hand, representation at the House of Representatives will be based
slightly on population, but no clan can have more than three
Under this system, the governor should be nominated and elected directly
by the people without political parties inflaming the political passions
of the people. Those interested in the governorship will file applications
to that effect. The state election board would screen the applicants
by evaluating their qualifications. The same criteria would be used
to evaluate all potential candidates. Those who meet the conditions would
be notified. From that moment on, the candidates would launch
political campaigns to sell, explain, and spell out their goals for the
state. An election would be conducted and whoever wins a simple majority
of the votes of the people would be become the governor.
Due to the importance attached to the evaluation of
qualifications of the political candidates, the members of the election board
will be drawn from all the clans and headed by a career civil servant. This is
to ensure fairness and equal representation.
of Political Offices
All political offices in the state would be
subject to rotation. This is to avoid the Nigerian tendency of one man trying
to rule for ever. Consequently, since the present governor, Chief DSP
Alamieyeseigha is from the Ogboin Clan, the next governor should come from
another clan in the state. In fact, a computer analysis can be used to draw the
line of succession among the clans.
Representatives, both at the Senate
and at the House of Representatives, as well as all political offices in the
state should be rotated, according to the principle of commucracy. Rotation of
political offices is very essential after taking the dirtiness of Nigerian
politics into consideration. This becomes even more critical in Izonland which
sits atop a giant black gold. In other words, after such a long struggle for
freedom, the Izon people cannot afford to fight among themselves over the
apportionment of political offices. To do so would be to invite the national
destabilizers to come and sow seeds of hatred and destruction. Can you imagine
one clan fighting another over the sitation of local government headquarters.
Such a fight will be an invitation for the federal government to infiltrate
saboteurs into the Izon heartland and instigate a bloody war.
Oath of Office
Again, to minimize or eradicate
corruption and the commandeering of public assets, under a commucratic
political system, all political officeholders and heads of governmental agencies
must swear an oath of office through the invocation of their ancestral deities.
Of course, some would argue that they are Christians and cannot subscribe to
such a condition.
This is very important, considering the fact that
Africa is poor and wretched today because the leaders have primarily converted
the peoples resources into their personal wealth and thereby impoverish the
people. Africa is a big joke throughout the world and there is an increasing
universal theoretical view that Africans are not capable of ruling themselves.
The only way for Bayelsa to move forward is to make sure that resources are
utilized for the purposes in which they were created for.
of ancestral religious rites of office is necessary because it appears that
Africans are not afraid of the Christian God and the Islamic Allah. A Nigerian
wouldnt mind committing a crime and swearing on the Bible or the Koran that
he/she did not do it. However, tell the same Nigerian to swear by his/her
ancestral deities and the Nigerian will immediately confess. The same goes for
any SubSaharan African, seriously afraid that lying before the ancestors could
lead to innumerable metaphysical hazards. The fear of unpredictable spiritual
consequences, not only to the person, but also to the person's entire family is
too great a risk to play with. Moreover, the Bayelsan adoption of such a policy
will open the eyes of every African to the fact that among world religions, the
only religion that is not recognized is the traditional African religion, even
though it is the oldest and the purest form of spirituality in the entire
world. In traditional Africa, you do not need to read the Bible or the Koran in
order to know God because God manifests itself throughout the envivronment. In
Izonland, the religious priest is chosen by the spiritual essence, not by the
person. In Christianity and Islam, most people make conscious decisions to
joining the priesthood, hence, fakery and exploitation are very common. In
traditional religion, one cannot fake or be deceitful, except if the person is
looking for a spiritual trouble.
Currently, while a vast number of Africans are not appreciative of their
ancestral religions, it is their distant cousins in Haiti, Cuba, Brazil,
Lousiana etc. who are propagating Ancestralism/Deitism. They are
actually converting peoples of non African ancestry to embrace the religion
due to its holistic nature. For Bayelsa state to develop in a wholesome
manner, it is essential that the financial resources of the state are wisely
used for the betterment of the entire citizenry, and not just for the few
who are fortunate enough to be in positions of power.
National Reaction to a Commucratic
There is no doubt that the above described system of
politics which involves every segment of the population would be intitally
laughed at for being impractical. It would be opposed by those who have a
vested interest in the existing political party system. In particular, the
major national political players in the country would refer to the partyless
system as being unconstitutional, therefore, totally unacceptable. Likewise,
the federal government would be very uncomfortable with a political system that
is not connected to the national framework. The federal government could even
suggest that such a system would serve as an instrument of secession of
Izonland. Bayelsans could be threatened with force for adopting a political
system that is unconnected to the national network. The federal government
would get some support among certain Izons who are benefitting from the present
arrangement because such people could feel politically emaciated by such a
In any case, if an all inclusive commucratic system is considered
unacceptable, commucracy can still be adopted indirectly. Since Bayelsa already
has a governor, a government, and a legislature, based on the national format,
the governor can commucratize or warianize the existing system by adopting a
nonidealogical, party-neutral, and all-embracing political strategies to run the
state. This can be achieved by doing the following:
partisanship by making sure that governmental jobs are distributed throughout
the state on quota basis so that all the clans are fully represented in the
government. This means that the governor should not only appoint job applicants
from his political party. The reason being that Bayelsa was achieved through
the peoples struggle.
b. The governor must be very watchfull at
all times so that the national political party machine would not colonize the
state. It should be recalled that Chief Abule would have been the governor of
Rivers State if the federal government had not intervened during Gen. Ibrahim
Babangida's regime. The federal government intervened because the big guys
wanted somebody they could manipulate. That is why Rivers State became a
national political football and served the interest of the outside forces
instead of the interest of the Rivers people in the late 1980s and the
c. The governor must be bold and fearless in challenging the
federal government whenever necessary so that money due the state is duly
received. Likewise, he/she must use the money to benefit the people. It should
be recalled that Governors Diete Spiff of Rivers State, Samuel Ogbemudia of
Bendel State, and Samuel Essuene of Cross Rivers State used to batlle the
Supreme Military Council in order to ensure that financial resources accruing to
these states were paid to them without hindrance. Rumours circulated frequently
about how these three governors used to walked out of the SMC meetings in anger
over oil revenues.
d. The governor should operate in a cooperative
manner by consulting with the legislature, the Izon National Congress (INC), the
Izon Youth Council (IYC), and the Bayelsa Forum. This requires adopting a
participatory form of leadership. It also requires the adoption of
nonlegalistic tactics in dealing with the opposition.
governor should not regard himself/herself in a restrictive constitutional
manner and thereby limits his/her contact with other Izon elements in other
states. In other words, the Bayelsa governor should also view himself/herself
as an ethnic leader. This means making decisions and creating programs that
would be beneficial to all members of the ethnic group, not just those in
f. The governor must constantly assure the citizens of
Bayelsa and the ethnic group that he/she is not a stooge of the federal
g. The governor will also assure the citizens that
he/she will not remain in office for more than two terms and will work toward a
smooth transfer of power when the time comes.
h. The governor and
the legislature would make sure that developmental activities are spread
throughout the state so that no clan will feel marginalized or
i. The governor and the legislature must make sure that
the people are not manipulated or misinformed. Already, it appears that some
sections of the state are increasingly feeling marginalized. This is what
contributed to the concerns raised by the Bayelsa Forum
Bayelsa should not
repeat the mistakes of Nigeria. Every developmental effort must be geared
toward achieving a clearly defined goal that would benefit the citizenry. This
means that anybody who becomes a governor must have a clearly defined goal(s)
aimed at moving the state and the people foreward. The goal(s) must be followed
by clearly identifiable specific objectives, and the means to get the objectives
accomplished.The tendency in Nigeria has been to create expensive developmental
programs that benefitted no one except top governmental officials and the
contractors. Any contract intended to benefit a narrow interest group must be
To make sure that every project is accounted for, the governor, the legislature,
the INC, the IYC, and the Bayelsa Forum must be very watchful and critical
in evaluating any developmental program. The list of unnecessary
projects, incomplete projects, unaccounted for projects, and phantom projects
is endless in Nigeria. They are the sources of the severe underdevelopment
and pauperization of the Nigerian citizenry. Bayelsa cannot afford
to imbibe such a self-defeating approach to infrastructural development.
It can be said that throughout the post-colonial history of
Nigeria, only Gen. Yakubu Gowons's and the short-lived Gen. Murtala Mohammed's
regimes could be attributed to have established developmental goals and worked
hard to achieve them. It was during the same period that the states did
exceedingly well. The military governors under General Gowon had goals and
implemented them. They built roads, schools, banks, hospitals, and provided
hope to Nigerians. The military was highly respected because the soldiers meant
what they said.
The 1980s and the 1990s were the Dark Ages of Nigerian
History where rulers came to power without clearly defined goals, apart from a
desire to commandeer the public treasury. They turned Nigeria into a spineless
and poverty-stricken country. A few became billionaires without contributing a
kobo to the economic development of the country.
Bayelsa must be driven
by goals at all times. The goals can be implemented in phases, according to the
complexity, duration, and costs of the projects to be developed.
first step in embarking on any major infrastructural development is to ensure
that all developmental plans are not concentrated in one area. In Nigeria, the
tendency has been to put everything in one place. For instance, the federal
government put everything in Lagos, hence the city is so crowded and chaotic.
Soon or later, Abuja will face a similar fate as everyone rushes there to create
a presence. Likewise, despite all the glorious plans instituted in the Rivers
State in the late 1970s and early 1980s, every developmental infrastructure was
located in Port Harcourt. Therefore, Rivers State continues to be like a
one-city state, even now.
Even though Yenagoa is the capital, Bayelsa must spread out its developmental
projects to all the corners of the state. This will result in a balanced
development as well as rapid modernization of various localities. Moreover,
it will eliminate overcrowding in Yenagoa since there will be no need for
everyone to come to Yenagoa in order to work or do business.
A reasonable way to decentralize the location of facilities is to
divide the state into developmental zones. This can be done through planning
and computer anlysis. In this regard, projects should be located according to
their suitability. For example, since there is a major oil terminal at Twon
(Brass), the state's Ministry of Mineral Resources or Petroleum could be
located there with a small headquarter office in Yenagoa. Since Pereamabiri has
a major agricultural farm, it could become a major agricultural research center
in the state. There used to be an agricultural farm near Oloibiri in Ogbia and
that too can be expanded. Odiama, Akassa, Koluama, Iketu, etc. could become
major fishing or marine food harvesting and processing centers for deep sea
The state's ministries could be spread likewise. For example, the
East/West road axis covering Patani, Shagbama, Adigbabiri, Kaiama, Odi,
Opokuma, Gbarain, Yenagoa, Ekpetiama, and some parts of Ogbia could be
dotted with some ministries while other governmental entities could be
located in Amassoma, Nembe, Lobia, etc. with small corporate offices located
in Yenagoa where the ministers or commissioners would reside. The
scattering of the ministries and major governmental entities would enable
a vast majority of government workers to go to work from their hometowns.
This will reduce overcrowding in Yenagoa. Throughout Nigeria the major
cities seem overcrowded due to overconcentration of governmental administrative
machinery and developmental infrastructures, thereby forcing citizens to
migrate to the cities in search of work and other life-sustaining amenities.
Markets like Tereke, Lobia, Igwueama, Iwoama, etc. could be used as centers
for manufacturing and craft activities.
Izonland is highly underdeveloped due to decades of marginalization and
powerlessness. Apart from its proximity to Port Harcourt and Warri,
Izon territory does not contain any metropolis. Thus, one major aim
of Bayelsa State should be to create one or more major Izon urban areas
within the heartland. Of course, the state is financially and economically
disadvantaged to carry out major developmental efforts, nevertheless, it
should plan toward a progressive future by laying down plans that could
be implemented in phases.
The best way to accomplish this objective will be to
connect the developmental zones, as proposed before, with the urban centers.
One center will be known as university town. The second center will be regarded
as an industrial center. The third center will be regarded as the cultural
center. The intended Niger Delta University or the University of the Niger
Delta could be a starting point for the developement of a university town.
Since the university location (Wiberforce Island) is not too far from Ekpetiama,
Ogboin, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Ogbia, Epie-Atisai clans, it could be developed as a
major metropolis. This means that the state should plan for an airport, a
stadium, a well equipped library, a modern medical facility etc. around the
localities near the university. For instance, a stadium could be located
somewhere around the Bisseni, Ogbia, Yenagoa, Gbarain, Opokuma area, a medical
facility could be located around Ogboin, Kolokuma, Shagbama, Ekpetiama Agbere,
Trofani etc. areas. A major airport could be located in a major land bridge
area connecting many localities to the the capital. Eventually, the university
town will come to embrace a sizeable portion of three or four clans. The
second urban area should be located far away from the university town. The
Nembe, Ogbia, Akassa, Ekewou, Igueama etc. axis could be considered. This is to
connect these clans into an urban hub. Here again, emphasis is to site or
locate infrastructures so that the center becomes a major arena for all kinds of
activities. This could be the center of industrial or marine food services.
The third proposed urban center will be located toward the Southwest. In this
case, Southern Gbarain, Koluama, Lobia, Iketu etc. areas will be considered.
All the centers will have plans for major medical facilities, libraries,
business activities, governmental agencies, airports/airstrips, and educational
facilities. This is to attract people from the localities around the center and
encourage them to intermingle to the extent that urbanization can take root. It
could even be possible to locate the subheadquartes of the state ministries in
the designated urban areas. If this is adopted, then the earlier suggestion for
the sitation of ministries will nolonger hold.
Since the ethnic group extends beyond Bayelsa, those who are not in Bayelsa
State must always be taken into consideration. Therefore, two more
urban centers will be planned for development. One center will be
located around the Kalabari, Okirika, Bonny, and Andonni axis and the other
will be focused on the Arogbo, Bumodi, Burutu, Akugbene, Ogbe Ijo areas.
Thus, Bayelsa State officials must work with other Izon leaders and
states to ensure that the aforementioed areas are taken into consideration
in their development plans.
To avoid undue infighting,
Bayelsa State officials must work with the INC, IYC, and Bayelsa Forum to draw
the plan as to the areas proposed for future urbanization. These groups must
work together as a committee to scout the state and draw a plan which best
serves the interests of the citizens. Whatever plan chosen must be publicized
to allow for debate as to the pros and cons.
When the plan is accepted,
the state will make conscious effort to implement the plan by locating
infrastructures in the areas designated. This means siting economic,
industrial, cultural, medical, educational etc. activities in places which have
been approved for future urbanization.
Education is a very crucial
institution for the development of any society. It is an instrument for
enlightening and sharpening the mind and for training manpower. Therefore,
extreme care must be taken in planning for education. Consequently, educational
facilities must be accessible to all eligible citizens of Bayelsa and other Izon
All clan areas must
have secondary schools. All secodary schools should be planned with a view of
establishing dormitories so that students live in residential halls, as in the
past. Dormitories provide an excellent environment for academic proficiency,
character-building, and discipline. This is to reward the youths who have been
so involved in militantly challenging the status quo. They have sacrificed so
much and needs to be rehabilitated and rewarded.
For purpose of
specialized manpower development, the state needs to adopt the pioneering Rivers
State model of the early 1970s where middle-level diploma-awarding institutons
and schools of basic studies were created to train people in agriculture,
fishery, nursing, printing, drafting, electricity, electronics, carpentry,
seamanship, marine engineering, commercial piloting, and preparation for
university education. This calls for the establishment of vocational schools,
colleges of science and technology etc. Here again, all of these cannot be
established at once due to the cost. However, an incremental effort is needed
to begin the process. In this regard, the state government must be
congratulated for establishing the Bayelsa State School of Arts and Sciences and
proposing to establish the Bayelsa College of Health Science.
College of Technology, a School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Wild Life and a
School of Computer Science are needed. These five schools (the two above and
the three here) will complete the middle-tier educational structure. In
particular, the School of Computer Science should be quickly implemented so that
Bayelsa will develop a highly trained manpower in computer programming, computer
design, computer repairing, and software development. Computer Technology is
the fastest growing business throughout the whole world. It is the fastest way
to compete in the global marketplace. India provides an excellent model for
instituting a computer school. In fact, Indians are being sought after by the
US computer industry for their programming and designing capabilities. So many
developmetal activities can be achieved through a computer-proficient
technological manpower base.
Unlike the Rivers State, all the
institutions should not be located in one place. If the Niger Delta University
is located in Wilberforce Island, efforts should be made to spread the other
colleges around the state. If the School of Arts and Science is located in
Yenagoa or around that vicinity, the other schools must be located elsewhere.
Here again, the proposed urban centers could be used as a way to guide the
location of educational institutions.
Likewise, the School of
Agriculture, Fisheries, and Wild Life would work cooperatively with the proposed
College of Health Science and the Niger Delta University to establish
pharmacological farms or plantations. These farms will be used to grow
medicinal plants. The plants would be analyzed as to their medicinal properties
and documented. Thus, a pharmaceutical industry can be established in the state
quite easily. The purpose of the herbal or medicinal farms is to make it
possible for Bayelsan, Nigerian, and African biochemists, botanists, medical
researchers, chemists, pharmacists, microbiologists, herbalists,
trado-naturalists etc. to conduct research and quickly develop remedies for
medical problems. Africa has plants that contain chemical properties capable of
curing any malady, yet, the continent has been very lacking in the development
of pharmacological products. Since the outbreak of Aids and other serious
life-threatening diseases, African medical experts have worked tirelessly to
thwart the spread of the diseases. Unfortunately, their governments have been
very unhelpful in providing money, and accoutrements needed to effectively
advance the medical interest of the continent.
who live overseas, especially in the West, are realizing that traditional or
herbal medicines seem to be safer to human consumption than the overprocessed
industrialized pharmaceutical products. Western medications tend to treat one
malady by creating other maladies. In other words, each time a person consumes
an industrially processed medication, the medication will supposedly cure what
it was designed to cure, but in the process, will create other medical
problems. As a result, most Western citizens tend to consume many different
drugs at the same time in order to suppress all the counterballancing effects.
Hence, addiction to prescription drugs is very common among American citizens.
Herbal medications do not cause such problems because they are natural. In
order for the project to be successful, an effort must be made to incorporate
both scientific and traditional medicine into the medical school curriculum so
that medical students would graduate with the full awareness that a medical
problem can be solved scientifically and traditionally. China is probably the
most advanced country in the utilization of both systems. In China, a doctor
can prescribe either an industrialized drug or an herbal drug. The reason is
that the Chinese have documented the medical properties of most of their
traitional herbs. Consequently, a medical doctor can prescribe an herbal
concoction or a pharmaceutical drug. The utilization of both will eliminate the
complain often made by Nigerian doctors that they do not have the necessary
drugs to treat patients. Likewise, it will also minimize the governmental
arguments that pharmaceutical drugs are too expensive. Right now, South Africa
is doing battle with the international pharmaceutical corporations so that
generic drugs can be imported from India to treat AIDs patients. It is
unfortunate that Africans always have to wait for drugs to come from overseas
before patients receive appropriate medical care while Africa, like the
Brazilian Amazon, is a vast storehouse of medicinal remedies.
The state is lacking in health
care facilities. The existing hospitals are highly underdeveloped,
underequipped, and understaffed. The state need to improve the health of the
citizens by applying innovative methods. For instance, in addition to the
existing medical facilities, the state can institute a floating medical program
like the one which existed during the Spiff regime in the Rivers State. In
places like Furoupagha, Iketu, Southern Gbarain, Odioma, and in consideration of
nonBayelsan Izon citizens, a floating medical service can dramatically shorten
the period it takes to get to the nearest hospital. Two medical boats, one
plying north and south and the other plying east and west can solve the
logisitcal problem. The state can make arrangements with the federal government
to assist in buying two medically equipped floating hospitals. The floating
service should be used until permanently located medical facilities are built
around the state.
must take the lead in establishing a people-friendly bank. It should be noted
that due to the long duration of marginalization and political powerlessness,
many Izon citizens are financially pauperized. As a result, many Bayelsan
citizens who would like to get into business cannot do so. The state can help
in solving this problem by establishing parastatal financial institutions which
can provide small financial loans to the indigenes of the state. Currently,
most land transportation activities in the state are carried out by
non-indigenes. It is strategically unwise to depend on outside economic
interests in the carrying out of critical economic activities in the
Thus, if a state bank has not been already created, it is
important to take steps toward the creation of such an institution. The bank
would become the driving force for the development of private sector economic
activities. A private sector economic development is absolutely necessary for
the state to acheive economic success. Citizens should be able to go to such a
bank or financial institution and borrow money to build houses, buy vehicles,
and water crafts to provide land and riverine transportation. Loans should be
awarded to all classes of people, if they can demonstrate an ability to pay
back, not only to the well-connected or the rich. To give only to the
well-connected would lead to an unbalanced sociopolitical and economic
development in which the rich effectively control all the means of economic
development. It should be noted that the African Continental Bank (ACB) helped
immeasurably in establishing the private sector in Eastern Nigeria and the
Pan-African Bank did likewise in the Rivers State.
Izon citizens in other
states must always be treated as technically belonging to Bayelsa State,
especially if their own states are not making it accessible for them to benefit
economically. In pariticular, the Arogbo and Ogbe-Ijos are deprieved and must be
treated as Bayelsan citizens. The overall strategy should be geared toward
achieving an Izon nation that is economically vibrant and self-sustaining in
all its dimensions.
For economic development to take place successfully, transportation and
communication systems must be established. Of course, the state is
poor and does not have the kind of money needed to solve the logistical
problems, nevertheless, an incremental developmental plan can be instituted.
A plan should be put in place for the creation of a Niger Delta or a Bayelsan
Line. One or two modern buses can ply the roads from Yenagoa to Port
harcourt and from Yenagoa to Warri, heading toward Lagos, through the East/West
road. Two boats are needed to ply the riverine areas. One taking
off from Port Harcourt and crisscrossing through Kalabari, Nembe, Akassa
Ekeowu, Amassoma, Odi, Agbare, Elemebiri, Patani and heading toward Lagos
through Bumodi. This is the old route often taken by Amassoma and
Ayatero boats. The two boats would pass each other in the middle
of the state. Two smaller and faster boats would complement the bigger
boats. The smaller boats can be put in place to connect the Lobia
Ukubie and Ogbia areas to the main route. In the past, Bendel had
the Bendel Line and the Rivers State had the Waterline. They were
very helpful to the masses who needed such means of transportation to go
from place to place.
Ministry of Arts and
Bayelsa, unlike other states, needs a Ministry of Arts and Culture, if
it does not have one now. Of course, generally, in Nigeria, the arts
and culture department is always attached to the Ministry of Information.
A separate ministry is needed in the state. The need for a cabinet-level
bureaucracy is threefold. First, unlike many other Nigerian ethnic
groups, the Izon people have never wavered in upholding their traditional
cultural values and religion, despite tremendous pressure to Christianize
and Westernize. This is why the Izons are very humble, godly, straightforward,
and proud, regardless of the circumstances. This explains why crime
is very low and criminals are punished when caught. This also explains
why the Izon puts his/her faith in God, instead of engaging in all kinds
of concoctions to harm or thwart the path of others. This also explains
why an Izon person would not engage in certain types of behaviors that
are violative of sacred religious orders. Secondly, due to
years of marginalization, a lot of cultural disinformation and misinformation
were put out by various educational, informational, and political sources
in Nigeria to portray the Izons as backward people that live in primitive
fishing ports. This accounted for the lack of development by various
governments. Thirdly, due to extensive marginalization, many Izon
people grew up elsewhere since nothing was developed in their own territory.
Consequently, many Izon clans did not see themselves as belonging
to the ethnic group even though the language, the culture, and the history
have always been the same. Likewise, many Izon youths cannot speak
their dialects very fluently because they grew up elsewhere. Many
youths are not aware of the intricacies, rituals and dynamics of Izon culture.
Consequently, borrowing from the Rivers
State Council for Arts and Culture, Bayelsa should invest in the cultural
development and enhancement of the ethnic group. In fact, during the era of
Chief Diete Spiff, the Arts and Cultural Council, led by Mr. Paul Worika and
chaired by Dr. Ebiegberi Alagoa, documented all the traditional dances, games,
and religious institutions in the state. The council also attempted to provide
press coverage to all the traditional festivals, and activities in the state.
It had a department of drama where Mr. Comish Ekiyor and other s produced dramas
based on the stories of the peoples of the state.
A Strategic Center for
the Study of Izon and African Affairs would be included as part of the ministry
or agency. The center should promote intellectual activities and serve as a
guidepost for the establishment of cultural, political, economic, and religious
policies. It could even be established as a separate entity.
Although neglected by the federal govenment,
it can be said that the Niger Delta is one of the best pieces of real estate in
Africa, if not in the world. Apart from being the economic center of the
country, it is also rich in agricultural and marine resources. Moreover, it
offers an environment for the development of a tourist industry since it has
lands, lakes, creeks, rivers, ocean, and abundant wildlife. In short, the Niger
Delta can compete with the Caribbean islands in the Americas. In particular, it
is very suitable for the development of ecotourism. Many of the islands can be
developed as resorts. Chief Diete Spiff and his advisers had that in mind when
Isaka was built.
STRATEGIC CONSIDERATIONS AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT
the best laid plan for development cannot succeed if there is no political
stability. Lately, stability has been a rare commodity in Nigeria. After years
of mismanagement, Maradonanistic Machiavellian politics, and blatant corruption
spearheaded by its leaders, Nigeria is at the crossroad of great political
uncertainty. The slightest provocation can lead to an uncontrollable outburst
of anger. Families, villages, communities, clans, regions, ethnic and
religious groups appear to be at war with each other. Even within Izonland,
there are series of intraethnic feuds.
Under the current climate,
infrastructural development cannot be succesfully implemented. Therefore, there
is a need for a Center for Strategic Studies and Crisis Management, as suggested
earlier. Many reasons can be given for the necessity of a Strategic Center.
First, the Niger Delta is a critical piece of land, not only to the ethnic
groups inhabiting it, but also to Nigeria, the multinational oil corporations,
their home countries (Britain, the US, Holland, Italy, France), and the
industrialized world. Nigeria needs the oil money to sustain itself. The oil
companies need the profits in order to remain in business. Their home countries
need the money as well as the companies to create employment and gain
geopolitical influence in the world economy. The industrialized world, needs
the Niger Delta as a stable source of oil in the event that the Middle East
explodes uncontrollably. They also want Nigeria to play the role of a price
stabilizer by increasing and decreasing production whenever necessary to ensure
certainty. As a result, the Izons, Itsekiris, Ibibios, Isokos, Binis, Urhobos,
Ogonis, Igbos, Ilajes, Yorubas, Efiks etc. must realize that they are engaged in
an international struggle for freedom of control of their territories. It is
not going to be easy. Consequently, vigilance and self-disciplined are needed
to sustain the political struggle.
Due to the strategic importance of the subregion, the aforementioned forces
would adopt any tactics to manipulate, cheat, exploit, divide and conquer.
Evidently, Nigeria, the oil companies, and their international sponsors
would not hesitate to incite, supply arms, and finance interethnic and
intraethnic conflicts in the area. Disunity among the peoples of
the Niger Delta is a strategic advantage to Nigeria and the multinational
corporations. Consequently, it is absolutely necessary for the Izons
and other ethnic groups to watch very carefully, analyze every political
situation, and take appropriate political and legal steps to meet every
strategem employed by the big players. Of course, this will not be
an easy task, as demonstrated by a recent internet story drawn from IjawLink
which alleged that some members of the Bayelsa House of Assembly were paid
By Shell to go on an oversea trip. The story further stated that the House
of Assembly attempted to punish three members who refused to go on
the trip by suspending them. One fervently hopes that the story is not
correct. However, if the story is correct, it means that the Niger
Delta will continue to suffer like Katanga in the Congo and Southern Sudan
where massive corruption and greed instituted by a few elements have made
it impossible for the people to benefit from the resources of their richly
If the story is correct, it
also reinforces the Nigerian stereotypical believe that the Peoples of the Oil
Producing Areas (POPAs) are responsible for the underdevelopment of the Niger
Delta because their sons were supposedly responsible for managing parastatal
organizations that were supposed to develop the Niger Delta. It should be noted
that Nigerians from the NonOil Producing Areas (NOPAs) have no sympathy for the
peoples of the Niger Delta because they believe that the inhabitants of the
subregion should have punished their corrupt sons, instead of blaming Nigeria.
it will indeed be highly unpardonable, if the story is a fact that some sons and
duaghters of Bayelsa clandestinely allowed themselves to be corrupted by
multinational entities that have primarily subjected their people to abject
poverty. This is why this writer is convinced that government officials and
anyone who purports to represent the people should get into office by swearing
an oath of office through the invocation of their ancestral deities. It wll
drastically reduce corruption.
To avoid any political pitfall, the
Strategic center will be primarily responsible for analyzing internal, Nigerian,
African, and International politics and issue guidelines as to how the ethnic
group should respond to any developement that affects the Niger Delta. The
center will work with the state, the ethnic group at large, and other ethnic,
political, human rights, environmental, organizations. It will issue reports on
either monthly or quarterly basis.
Apart from that, it will be
responsible for establishing a crisis management team. The team will comprise
of a state representative, a member of the INC, IYC, Bayelsa Forum, the House of
Assembly, and one or two mmbers from the human rights and environmental
movements. When there is a threat of conflict, the team will send a negotiating
group to the communities and educate them about ways of resolving the
misunderstanding before the issue explodes into a crisis. The crisis managemnt
team will serve as an independent group, even thought some of the funding will
come from the state. This is to enable it to operate outside the confines of
It is strongly believed here that a crisis management
team would have assisted immeasurably in quenching the intracommunal conflicts
involving Kalabari communities, Kabalari and Nembe, Akassa and Koluama, the
bloodbath over oil money in Pereamabiri in which 11 people died, as reported by
the BBC etc. To be able to tackle the big players, internal discord cannot be
allowed to germinate. To allow such development to take place is to defeat the
struggle for economic self-determination within the context of
This is not an understatement since Bayelsa and the Izon nation
need the total support of the people. Historically, the federal government has
always exploited communal discords to sow the seeds of enemity, hatred, and
disunity. Infact, during the bloody clashes in 1998 and 1999, both the
Itsekiris and the Izons suspected that Nigeria's security forces and the oil
companies were involved in either supplying arms or joining sides to fight.
During the Ogoni crises, Nigeria and the oil companies, using the Rivers State
securiy apparatus, instigated, manipulated, attacked, destroyed and killed the
Ogonis in an effort to create confusion and disunity. It can even be said that
the attack on Odi and other communities were intentionally designed to provoke
the ethnic group so that Nigeria could then launch a major military effort to
clamp down on the demand for resource control. Likewise, the federal government
suit over resource control of off/shore resources is a politico-legal tactics to
deny the peoples of the Niger Delta an opportunity to consolidate their effort
The Izon people must
put their house together. After doing so, they must then coordinate subregional
strategies with other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta so that Nigeria and the
other big players do not use divide and conquer tactics to create interethnic
feuds. Resource control will only come to pass when the federal government
realizes that the Peoples of the Oil Producing Areas are determined and united
in their resolve to be the masters of their own economic houses.
Izons and other ethnic groups in the subregion need to encourage the federal
government to continue to explore for oil in the Sokoto, Chad, Benue, and Bauchi
Basins. Discovery of oil in the North will reduce over reliance on the Niger
Delta. When theNiger Delta becomes less strategic, then resource control will
become less threatening to Nigeria.
Put pressure on the federal
government to be much more creative in investing and developing other sectors of
Nigeria's economy. If the agricultural and manufacturing sectors are
cultivated, there will be less dependence on oil as other Nigerian states would
be able to develop economically without thinking that oil is everything.
Currently, the Nonoil Producing States are scared that if local resource control
becomes a reality, their hope of economic development will be dashed since they
depend greatly on oil revenue as their primary source of funding.
Izons and the other ethnic groups need to develop alternative negotiating plans
for resource control, including a willingness to negotiate a sharing formula in
which the oil revenue can be divided on either a 60/40 or 50/50 percentage
basis. The oil-producing states owning either 50% or 60% of the revenue and the
federal government ending up with either 40% or 50%. There are many ways to
break down the figures, depending on the circumstances.
and other Oil Producing States must develop themselves economically. This is
the only way to convince the Peoples from the Nonoil Producing Areas that the
marginalization of the Niger Delta by the federal government was primarily
responsible for the severe umderdevelopment of the subregion, and not the sons
and daughters of the region. Failure to develop due to excessive corruption and
mismanagement will destroy any moral fiber or claim of fighting for economic
justice. In particular, the political and economic failure of Bayelsa State
would put an end to any moral claim of righteousness. Such a disappointing
failure will provide the federal government an opportunity to intervene
militarily in a Liberian style of operation and effectively occupy the region.
So far, the federal government has been hesitant to do so in recognition of the
fact that the subregion was exploited and ignored for too long. Obviously, the
citizens of Bayelsa and other states in the area have a chance of doing the
right thing and improving themselves economically, infrastructurally, and
politically or sink into the abyss of hopelessness in a characteristic Nigerian
style of extreme selfishness, incompetency, and corruption.