United Ijaw * Welcome to United Ijaw on the web. Our preference is national self determination, the independence of Ijawnation as a Sovereign State. A state that promotes sustainable economic and social development, democratic principles, liberty, free enterprise, equal rights and justice. This is our story, this is our struggle. **** On Kaiama Declaration We Stand **** United Nations Under Secretary-General, Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, in Abuja condemned the theft of Nigeria's assets by past corrupt leaders. He said that kleptomaniac leaders stole more than 400 billion dollars from the Nigerian treasury between 1960 and 1999. **** IJAWNATION THINK! THINK. **** Almost $170 billion of the country’s wealth disappeared and ended in the private accounts of individuals between 1999 and 2003 alone... Priye Torulagha ****Nigeria has failed Niger Delta – Nnamani **** Resource Control: Niger-Delta governors are traitors – Evah **** Only the fear of a volcanic social eruption from below can stop barbaric behaviour by holders of political power – Gani Fawehinmi ***** “ if the Confab and Nigerians are not willing to heed to Resource Control, they will take it by force” - Oronto Douglas We Dare To Be Different.
Population: 14,833,421
Friday, October 18, 2002

Priye S. Torulagha  (Ph.D., MHR)

  Political Consolidation and Empowerment: What the Ijaws Should Do? 

It appears that many Ijaws felt surprised  and puzzled by the revelation that various Ijaw political organizations including the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Ijaw Youth Council  (IJC), and the Egbesu Boys have been blacklisted as "terrorist" organizations by an American-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) (Laolu, 2002, August 29).  Many  are further disturbed by the fact that Western countries have been using such a list to prevent Ijaw political activists from traveling to the US and other European countries to participate in conferences and political gatherings.   Mr. Oronto Douglas had a  humiliating experience in Holland while traveling to Italy for an international conference.  

The bewilderment over the characterization of Ijaw groups as "terrorist" organizations simply reinforces the view this writer had expressed before about the fact that many Ijaws and members of other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta are not aware of the strategic importance of the Niger Delta.  It should be very clear to all Ijaws and the other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta that  the region is one of the most strategically significant  piece of real estate in the world as far as oil politics is concerned.   It is not surprising that of the multitude of Nigerian political and militant groups, the FAS  only listed the Yoruba and Ijaw groups.  Going by the FAS listing, it can be inferred that the big international players consider the Yoruba and the Ijaw groups to be the greatest threat to their control of Nigeria, hence, the blacklisting.

Being a very strategic region, the Niger Delta continues to suffer from both external and internal colonialism. Colonialism  "is the process by which one nation controls the political and economic activities of another, less developed and less powerful society."  Put it another way, Ijawland continues to suffer from colonialism perpetrated by international, national and internal actors.  The consequence being that the Ijaws are victims of colonization complex, as described by Robert Blauner (1969). Colonization complex has both external and internal characteristics.  External characteristics include the following:

"(1) forced entry into a territory and its population,
(2) alteration  or destruction of the indigenous culture and patterns of social organization,
(3) domination of the indigenous population by representatives of the invading society and (4) justification of such  activities with highly prejudicial, racist beliefs and stereotypes"

Internal colonization characteristics include the following:  "(1) the need for cheap labor to increase profit and (2) the desire to take and control land."

The entire Nigeria was colonized and the four external characteristics took place.  On independence, a large portion of Nigeria no longer suffers from the external complex, even though conditions # 1, 2, and 3 remain.  For instance, Nigerians are not allowed to determine their political fate through a national conference and Islam and Christianity were instituted through compulsory reprogramming and reeducation, Nigeria continues to base its entire governmental system on a cultural system that is contradictory to the traditional African cultures.

The story is much different for the Niger Delta, particularly Ijawland, where both the external and  internal forms of colonialism continues unabated.  Since oil is located in the region, the home countries of the oil companies, the oil companies and Nigerian leaders pretty much treat the region  as a colonial possession.  In Ijawland, conditions #1, 2, 3, and 4 are still very prevalent.   (a) The Ijaws were  forcefully  incorporated into Nigeria. (b) They are balkanized and rendered politically impotent through scattering.  (c)  Systematic efforts have been made to destroy the traditional political and religious cultures through cultivation of corrupt leadership. (d)  The Niger Delta, particularly Ijawland, has always been viewed stereotypically as a "wasteland", hence, the utter neglect by successive Nigerian regimes.  There are still  many Nigerians who believe that developing the Niger Delta is simply a waste of money.  The top management of the multinational oil corporations have a racist view of the Niger Delta,  consequently, have no regard whatsoever for the people.  They reasoned:  "if their own leaders are willing to  sell them out to the highest bidder, that is their business."
Ijawland also suffers from internal colonialism in the sense that the oil corporations, and Nigeria view the Niger Delta as an  area intended for economic exploitation, no more no less.  This is why they do not care about the plight of the indigents.  They do not mind about destroying and polluting the environment.  They do not care whether the indigents have jobs or not.  Their primary interest is oil.   Even though the Niger Delta is critical to the Nigerian economy, Nigeria's leaders and high-level government officials have never visited the region, particularly Ijawland.  Yet, they make decisions that affect Ijawland.  As a result, it is not surprising that retired Maj. General Ike Nwachukwu was utterly amazed and concerned by the total lack of development when he visited Odoni for the funeral of the Late Maj. General Charles Nidomu (Oborokumo, 2002 October 16). Since their primary interest is oil, Nigerian rulers have tended to  make sure that the region, particularly Ijawland, is ruled by easily corruptible individuals who do not mind sacrificing the interests of their people for their personal gains.  Thus, Ijawland tends to end up with leaders who serve as stooges to the big national players.   Without oil, no Nigerian leader would have paid any attention to the Niger Delta.  In reaction to the recent decision by the International Court of Justice, ceding Bakassi to the Cameroon Republic, one Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey commented "Until recently when oil was found in commercial quantity in the area, the federal government had scant interest in the area.  From here, we complained that our people were being molested  and killed in Bakassi but to no avail."  

The Ijaws are also subjected to conditions  generated by the "Split-Labor Market Theory."  Under this theory, emphasis on competition between ethnic and intra-ethnic groups for resources leads to the struggle for power and the mobilization of power.  For example, the oil companies have always tended to hire oil company workers from nonIjaw and non Niger Delta regions of Nigeria.  This is intended to perpetuate powerlessness  among the Niger Delta ethnic groups.  Likewise, the oil companies use divide and conquer tactics to reward various communities financially, thereby, forcing them to compete unnecessarily for money allocated as compensation for the destruction of farmlands and fishing waters through environmental pollution.  The various communities then compete vigorously in the hope of getting the largest chunk of the monetary compensation.  Thus, many  interethnic and intraethnic clashes are caused by the Split-Labor Market Theory tactics.

This being the case, the Ijaws and the other ethnic groups must become fully aware of the international implications of oil politics.  They must educate themselves about the facts and become sophisticated participants in the art of politics at the  internal, national, and international levels.  To attain this feat, the Ijaws must discipline themselves, forego short-term objectives, and pursue a five-pronged strategic goals.  The goals are: (1) international recognition, (2) national involvement, (3) regional cooperation,  (4) internal cohesion and consolidation, and (5) leadership recruitment and enhancement.

1.International Recognition

(A).  Under international recognition, the Ijaws must work very hard to publicize the plight of the peoples of the Niger Delta.  This requires attending, participating, and organizing  major international conferences involving intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and nongovernmental organizations NGOs).  Making contacts with the major news, human rights, and environmental organizations, especially in the home countries of the multinational oil companies (the US, Britain, France, Italy, Holland etc.) The purpose is to educate the politicians and the citizens of these countries about the unbearable conditions imposed on the Niger Delta by the various major players.  

(B).  The Ijaws need to form an international politico/legal team whose responsibility  will be to study, record , publicize, and  activate legal action against oil corporations and any actor that violates the rights of the Ijaws.  To accomplish this objective, it is significant to establish  legal teams in the home countries of the oil corporations. Such teams would be set up by Ijaws and their friends who already live in those countries.  For instance, the Ijaws living in the US would/should set up a legal team or unit and those in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland etc. would do the same.  Whenever a legal issue arises, the legal team in a designated country will take up the matter and pursue the case under the legal jurisdiction of the country.

A legal team does not have to entail scores of people.  It could be made up of two or three professional lawyers working as a team with political and human rights advocates to pursue a matter.  For instance, since the Ijaw National Congress already has a branch in the US, the INCUSA could call upon three or four Ijaws who lives in the US and are trained in  law, politics, economics, petroleum and the environment  to explore or pursue a particular case. After an exploratory studies, if there is any substance to the matter, a legal action could be taken in the US courts.   In this regard, when an oil company overreacts by destroying or killing people or work with the Nigerian security forces as they did in Egi, Choba, Iriyan Opia, Ikebri/Olugbobiri, Forcados, Liliama, Warri, etc. the team here would file criminal and civil  cases against the oil company.  If Elf is involved, the case would be filed by a legal team based in France.  Felix Tuodolo made an excellent descriptive scenario for taking a legal action when he described the killings at Tebidaba

-"AGIP's community project causes flooding of community.
-Community petitionsBayelsa state government
-AGIP renegades on MOU with community
-AGIP beefs up military presence at the flow station
-Youths protest to AGIP's Tebidaba flow station
-Soldiers massacre the protesting youths
-5 confirmed death and 3 still missing"   (Tuodolo, 2002, October 17). 

The next step should be to sue AGIP in Nigeria.  If the federal government intervenes to stop the case, then the case would be taken to Italy and filed because it is the home base of AGIP.  At the same time, a strong protest should be launched  at the United Nations.

In the US, it is quite possible for nonAmericans to file cases in the US courts over matters involving human rights and corruption.  The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 empowers US courts to hear cases involving crimes committed overseas.  It also allows nonAmericans to sue in US courts.  Already, the Native Americans of Ecuador, a Paraguayan woman, and Myanmarian (Burmese) citizens have used the law to take legal actions against American oil companies and those that violate human rights.  Another important American law is The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  It can be used to file charges against criminal organizations, those that have engaged in bribery, and embezzlers.  This law can be used to charge any embezzler as well as the oil companies, if there is enough evidence The Ogonis have already made use of these laws to advance the course of the Niger Delta (Lobe, 2002,March 6).  The Ijaws can sue the FAS  for defamation of character and thereby force it to explain how it compiles its "terrorist" list.  On the matter of legal rights, the Ijaws can join forces with the other ethnic groups in the region to compel the oil companies to behave responsibly through the application of all available national and international laws.

C).  The Ijaws need a highly respected and easily recognizable face to serve as the human face of the political struggle.  The late Chief Ken-Saro-Wiwa was an effective spokesperson for the Ogoni people and the Niger Delta .  The Ijaws need an overall leader who will be able to create impact nationally and  internationally.  So far, the Ijaws have  many leaders and no easily recognizable international figure to bring respectability to the struggle.

(D).   The various Ijaw groups should form alliances with like-minded international organizations in the home countries of the multinational corporations.  This means that the Ijaw and the Niger Delta environmental groups should communicate and work with like-minded organizations in the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy etc.  Of course, this is already taking place, hence, Oronta Douglas and others have been able to travel overseas to participate in conferences and demonstrations.

(F).  Articles, photos, and documentaries featuring the Niger Delta situation must be constantly written, produced,  and published in magazines, newspapers, and websites.  This is to publicize the matter and help to create an international understanding.

(G).   The Ijaws and the other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta must watch the Middle Eastern and Venezuelan politico-military situations with a very keen interest.  Whatever happens in the Middle East and possibly Venezuela would most probably affect the Niger Delta.  The reason being that as the Middle East boils politically and militarily, the oil consuming nations and the home countries of the oil corporations are putting a tremendous pressure on Nigeria and the other oil-producing African countries to increase oil production.  The oil-consuming nations are looking for alternative oil supplies in the event of a major military conflict in the Middle East.  On the other hand, Venezuela, an oil-producing nation, is quite unstable due to a scramble for power among various sectors of the society.  A sudden change of government could lead to instability, and thereby increase further the need for Nigeria to produce more oil.  If Nigeria agrees to increase its oil production, the Niger Delta would be further polluted and damaged environmentally.  Apart from pollution, corruption and violence would increase as national and international actors or players  patrol the region with bags of money to grease the palms of  any local politician or leader who is willing to sell his peoples overall interest for personal gains. 

Likewise, an international pressure on Nigeria to produce more oil could embolden Nigerian leaders to take very repressive measures against protests in the Niger Delta. It should be recalled that since the discovery of oil in Sudan, the Sudanese government has increasingly adopted repressive military tactics in an effort to drive away the indigents of the oil region.  Thus, many indigents of the oil-producing areas of Sudan have abandoned their villages and ran to the mountains to avoid being captured and or killed.  Meanwhile, international criticism of Sudan is becoming less stringent since the oil-consuming nations are waiting eagerly for Sudanese oil to flow into their depots.  The exception is the US which is trying to impose sanctions against Sudan.

2.  National Goal

(A).  The Ijaws must play active role in Nigerian politics. This means the ability to influence political outcomes in Nigeria.  How can this be achieved, considering the fact that the Ijaws have been marginalized for quite some time?  The simplest way to transform a marginalized group into an active group is to concentrate political assets.  In this case, the Ijaws need to speak with one voice and adopt a political position, saying that if any major political party and or  candidate needs the Ijaw vote, the person or party must do the following: (spell out want the Ijaws want and let the national politicians decide whether they want the Ijaw vote or not.).  Through this, friends can be differentiated from foes and appropriate political strategies designed to relate to each.  In an article (Obasanjo Reveals Northern Agenda on Power Shift) posted on Ijawnation@yahoogroups.com President Olusegun Obasanjo is reported to have revealed the Northern agenda which included the Northern control of  the Ministries of Petroleum, Finance,  and Defense.  Presidential candidates were(are)  expected to sign documents supporting or agreeing to the Northern terms. The SouthEast region is now concentrating its political resources as the region campaigns to have someone from the region become the next president. This is good politics in the sense that each zone is making efforts to markets its political goals and then allow potential presidential candidates, voters, and political zones to either subscribe to the goals or reject them. So far, the scorecard for consolidating political resources is not very encouraging in Ijawland, hence, the Ogbe-Ijaw situation vis-ŕ-vis Warri remains unresolved. After the tumultuous interethnic conflicts between the Ijaws, Itsekiris,and  and the Urhobos, one would have expected the federal government to negotiate ethnic representation in Warri so that the three ethnic groups are equally  represented.  This is not the case, meaning that theIjaws have not pursued the issue in a collective manner.  The Ogbe-Ijaw situation can only be resolved when the Ijaws form a united front and negotiate with the federal government to redress the problem. 

(B).  Ijaw politicians who want to play big time politics must know how to relate to national politicians from other ethnic groups and states without becoming subservient to them.  If any Ijaw wants to run for the presidency, the person should declare the intention confidently, even if the chance of victory is very slim. Then go out and negotiate to gain support from other groups, parties and candidates.  Regardless of the circumstances, do not undercut your home base by promising deals that would be contrary to the political interests of your people.   It should be noted that Nigerian politics is increasingly   pluralistic (groups  interacting and competing for power) as various groups compete.

C).   The Ijaw National Congress (INC), the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the Bayelsa Forum, the Environmental Rights Action, the Ijaw Council for Human Rights (ICHR), the Bayelsa Youths Federation (BAYOF) etc. should play a greater role in the appointment of Ijaw citizens to federal or national positions.  For example, when the federal government wants people to serve as either ministers or commissioners or directors, the list of candidates should be prepared by a nongovernmental body so that only citizens who are committed to serving the people are appointed to federal positions.  So far, it has been very disappointing that Ijaw citizens appointed to federal positions have been very dormant and almost irrelevant to the people.  They seem to be mere observers rather than participants.   Due to their irrelevance in the scheme of national politics, the federal government and the oil companies are able to constantly violate the rights of the people with impunity. 

(D).   Likewise, only those who are willing to serve the people fearlessly must be appointed governors.  Events in Bayelsa, Rivers, and Delta,  have clearly shown the significance of electing governors who are bold, energetic, competent, and committed to the people.  The situation in Bayelsa in Bayelsa is not encouraging since  political responsibility and financial accountability are not given due consideration. This is why the federal security forces and the oil companies are able to intervene with strong-arm tactics without  any Bayelsan high-level political figure vigorously protesting against the harsh treatment of the citizens.  Of course, Nigeria has a legal right to intervene in any part of the country, but the oil companies do not have a right to act like states within a state.   Consequently, a state like Bayelsa should protest very seriously when security forces belonging to an oil company kill any citizen of the state.  After all, it is the responsibility of the state to protect the citizens.   Likewise, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers,  Delta, Edo, Imo, Abia, Ondo,  and Rivers States should be able to protest very loudly when there is an oil spill so that environmental clean up can take place.  Quite often, these states  remain quiet and behave as if  they are unaware of  the seriousness of the environmental problems, thereby, forcing the citizens to take action.

3.  Regional Cooperation

Regional cooperation is absolutely necessary if the Niger Delta is to achieve resource control and turn politico-economic marginalization around.  The Ijaws alone cannot achieve all their goals without the region coming together as one.  This means that the Niger Delta, otherwise known as the South/South should form an indivisible political bloc that would compete vigorously in national politics.  Thus, instead of each group clamoring for national power, the region will do better if it works as a bloc.   It should be noted that despite the ethnic, cultural, and religious differences in the North, the North has been able to dominate Nigerian politics as various ethnic groups join forces to achieve regional strategic goals.  The recent revelation about a Northern political agenda to control the Ministries of Defense, Finance, and Petroleum clearly shows the significance of consolidating political resources as a bloc (posted on Ijanwnation@yahoogroups.com on September 29,2002).

(A).   Ijaw leaders must be in frequent consultation with other ethnic leaders so that misunderstanding, misinformation, and any form of discord can be eradicated.  It should be noted that the Niger Delta contains the BLACK GOLD which is sought by outside powers.  The oil companies and the federal government would want disunity among the Niger Delta ethnic groups.  Such conflicts provide opportunity for destabilization and control.  Destabilization is an important tool for political, economic, religious, and military conquests.  Powerful nations and leaders always rely on it to advance their goals.

Through destabilization, the Belgians, British, French, Germans, Portuguese, and the Spaniards were able to colonize the second largest continent in the world with meager military forces.  A political science professor at the University of Oklahoma once wondered in amazement how small European forces were able to conquer the entire African continent.  They did it with determination and destabilization.  They set leaders, ethnic groups, and sub-ethnic groups against each other by formenting discord, supporting one side against the other and then crushing all of them one by one.  During the Cold War (the ideological war between the US and USSR), the two powers fought the war in other peoples backyard without attacking each other directly, destabilization was the primary tool.

(B).  To avoid destabilization, the Ijaws must work with the other ethnic groups to solve territorial and political problems without fighting each other.  In this regard, efforts must be made to solve the Okirika/Ogoni, the Ogoni/Andoni, the Itsekiri/Urhobo, the Ijaw/Uhrobo, the Ijaw/Itsekiri, the Ijaw/Ilaje etc conflicts.  It is not politically advantageous for two communities which share a territory in the region to fight each other.  When such neighbors fight, they create opportunities for the oil companies and the federal government to sow further discord by arming, misleading, and encouraging violence.   Military victory in territorial wars only increases mistrust and unnecessary tension as both sides prepare for the next battle. 

It was very heartening when about 3,000 Ijaw, Ilaje, and Itsekiri women joined forces and peacefully demonstrated on oil facilities belonging to Shell and Chevron-Texaco  in  Warri on August 9, 2002 (Okpowo & Adebayo).  Unfortunately, the security forces overreacted and one of the amazons died as a result of injuries sustained.  The women  demonstrated that an interethnic and intra-regional solidarity could be built.

(C).   Since the women have set the pace, leaders of various ethnic groups need to be in constant contact. Strategies should be shared when necessary so that a collective security system can be established in the region.  This means that before any ethnic group decides to take any action, it should inform the other groups so that all of them can mobilize to reinforce, if necessary.  The exception to this cooperative effort would be in circumstances in which one group seems to be overly friendly or cozy with the federal government or the  oil companies.  The oil companies and the federal government would be more cautious knowing full well that the regional reaction would be massive.  Less is achieved when each group acts alone.   In the past, the pattern has been for each community to launch a protest or conduct demonstrations against an oil company without contacting other communities to reinforce solidarity.  This haphazard approach  enabled the oil companies and the Nigerian security forces to attack the communities. 

(D).  The SouthSouth should establish an Interethnic Regional Commission to investigate, negotiate, and resolve misunderstandings among Niger Delta groups.  If an ethnic group feels offended or threaten, it should report to the commission which would immediately investigate and resolve the issue before it boils over and becomes a source of war.  The South-South Peoples Conference (SSPP), the Bendel Consultative Council  (BCC) and other regionally based political groupings must work very cooperatively to achieve the goals of the region.  Chief Edwin Clark put it quite appropriately, "the South-South zone has to work with other zones, be it Hausa, Yoruba or Igbos in its 2003 presidential quest, which is nonnegotiable" (Amaize,  2002, July 1st).

4.  Internal cohesion and Consolidation

The achievement of the above stated three goals will depend greatly on the success of  internal cohesion. In other words, it is fruitless to attempt to build  national, regional, and international goals without first putting one's house in order.  It is not an overstatement to say that Ijawland is facing a serious crisis today.  There is lack of  unity among the multiple parts.  Many politicians and high government officials in Ijawland do not understand the implications of their short-sighted  "I do-not-care attitude".  As a result, they are poisoning the political stability of the entire ethnic group by formenting, instigating, and sowing the seeds of disunity in a brazen attempt to remain in power forever.  In the process, they seem to be aligning themselves with outside elements whose goals are to destabilize Ijawland, in particular, and the Niger Delta in general.   There is a great concern that the 2003 elections might result in a bloody confrontation between political incumbents and challengers in Bayelsa State.

In a biblical proportion, the political situation in Ijawland is characterized by individuals fighting against individuals, families fighting against families, quarters fighting against quarters, villages fighting against villages, towns fighting against towns and clans fighting against clans.  The people of Peremabiri set upon each other and rendered their town unlivable.  The  Ke and Gbile had a brutal war  because of territory and oil money.  In May, 2002, it was rumoured that some Koluama youths joined forces with Kalabari youths to attack Okirika youths or carry out some deal.  In the confrontation, nine Koluama youths were reported killed.  

In almost every clan and in every town, there is tension between  local government leaders  and those who are infuriated by the lack of  developmental projects.  For example, at Odi, of all places, the only tarred road stops around the junction between Isounbiri and Ubaka.  The rest of the road remains untarred.  The people complain bitterly, yet, no one seems to pay attention.  It is easy to assume that after the people of Odi had gone through so much pain, the political  authorities  would be a little more sensitive, patriotic and humanitarian.   Political leaders do not even talk about reconstruction or compensation for the destruction of Odi anymore.   In Nembe,  a struggle for political power led to a fierce battle in which about 30 people were killed.  Throughout Ijawland, many politicians who are in power openly show off their loots by building gorgeous mansions that dwarf the rest of the buildings in their towns and villages.  In every town and in every clan, it is quite easy to pinpoint who is in power by simply examining the houses. 

Borrowing from the honorable Chief Chinua Achebe, Ijawland is falling apart because time after time, those who fight and sacrifice their lives and time in order to free Ijawland from the clutches of economic and political oppression always end up being ruled by  people  who do not care about what happens to the people.  It can therefore be said that in Ijawland, "monkey dey work and baboon dey chop."  The dedicated have never been allowed to serve. The question is:  why is it that "monkey always dey work and baboon always dey chop"? Translated, why is it that those who dedicate themselves to fight for the freedom of the people are always deprived from ruling?  This is where the strategic factor comes in.   Apart from the psychological need to satisfy the self through greed, there is a greater force at play in the Niger Delta.  Due to its significance, there are a host of outside players who want the region to remain "controllable by others" so that oil will continue to flow.  As stated before in an article titled Are multinational corporations a blessing or a curse, Multinational Corporations (MNCs) prefer a politically corrupt environment to the one without corruption.  In an environment that is not corrupted, the MNCs would have to do business by adhering to all the stipulated business laws of the countries in which they operate.  Compliance with such laws are considered too expensive for business.  On the other hand, a corrupted environment provides easy access to resources and other advantages.  The MNCs simply ignore the laws by paying off officials who then look the other way and allow the MNCs to do business anyway they see fit.    In Nigeria, the multinational oil corporations have a free hand to do as they wish since political leaders are primarily interested in accumulating wealth through oil.

Surprisingly, it appears that the home countries of the Multinational Corporations MNCs) also prefer politically corrupted environments so that they can penetrate the circles of power through the back door and exploit the resources.  Evidently, the home countries and the MNCs always work together to achieve their strategic goals.  It is not surprising that the home countries of Shell, Agip, Chevron-Texaco, Elf etc. have not made any effort to stop human rights abuses and  economic marginalization in the Niger Delta.   Likewise, these countries have not put pressure on  the oil companies to change their dehumanizing and destructive ways. They have also looked the other way and allow Nigerian authorities to continue to oppress and abuse the economic, political, and human rights of the peoples of the Niger Delta.

It is very easy for a critic to dismiss the above observation and commentary as baseless. Nonetheless, the fact that Ijawland always tend to end up with political rulers who are less committed to the people calls for a profound analysis of the process of leadership selection.  Moreover, the issue of outside conspiracy cannot be taken lightly, considering the fact that some Igbos and Yorubas also feel that something is not right in their polity.  For instance, Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State, Mr. Julius Ali Ucha (a speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly) and a host of Igbo leaders theorized that the South Eastern states began to experience sever political instability after a son of the region arrived from Abuja to stir trouble.  According to Mr. Ucha, "Our problem began with the coming on the scene of Abuja politicians, who claimed to have obtained a Presidential mandate to remove the governors in the South-East."(Aliyu,September 18, 2002; Daily Times, September 18.2002).  The implication is that the South-East is being interfered with by outside political players.  Likewise, Evangelist Kunle Adesokan, the Secretary General of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) stated "That what has been happening in the SouthWest had been the work of outsiders, a grand design to push the OPC out of existence so as to pave the way for the perpetration of the northern agenda." (Adesokan, 2002, August 30).

If political leaders from two of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria believe that political instability and subterfuge are being perpetrated by outside forces, then can anyone doubt the fact that the Niger Delta is not being penetrated by both international and national  elements who want the oil to continue to flow undisturbed.  Can anyone doubt the fact that Ijawland is being twisted and corrupted by outside elements that want to make sure that the oil continues to flow regardless of the circumstances?  This  accounts for the perpetual "monkey dey work and baboon dey chop" syndrome that afflicts Ijawland and thereby makes it a colonial possession of others strategic designs. 

Regardless of whether a conspiracy exist or not, the following might help to reduce the influence of outsiders and thereby enable the Ijaws to achieve internal cohesion which is necessary to accomplish the other goals.

(A).  Ijaw groups should embark on ceaseless educational campaigns to reorientate Ijaws about their connectedness.  Quite often, in Ijawland, due to the extensive availability of territorial space, expansive riverine topography, and a self-reliant economy, the Ijaws tend to view their villages, towns, and clans as independent nation-states, unconnected to their other brothers and sisters.  The citizens of Abonnema tend to view their town as if it is a nation-state unconnected to the other Kalabari towns and villages.  The people of Odi generally refer to their town as a nation (Odi ibe) and Kaiama citizens also feel similarly, even though both are Kolokuma.  Within Odi, there is a psychological separation between the Asanga and the Tamuanga.   Nembe continues to be divided by Bassambiri and Ogbolomabiri instead of just Nembe.  Okirika Town does not necessarily see the need to regard Ogu Town as part of Okirika.  Since Okpoma, Iwoama, and Twon (Brass) are connected through a major land bridge and they  are all Nembe, one would expect them to form a united federation of a Nembe community, but that is not the case.  Okoloba and Sabagreia are connected but each side continues to  regard itself as separate from the other.   Ogbia is easily thrown into leadership struggles among various communities. Whether one travels to Lobia or Okirika or Akassa or Ukubie or Koluama or Patani or Akugbene or Bumodi,  (both east and west) or Burutu or Bonny or Andonni or Agbere or Trofani or Buguma or Zion, the feeling is that one is traveling from one city-state or clan-state to another.  The Kalabari, Okirika, and the Bonny (Okloba or Ibani) clans have been in a state of perpetual war (both hot and cold) for almost hundred years.  Thus, if an outside force were to come into that  vicinity, the force would be able to conquer the three by playing one against the other.   In Ekpetiama clan, the struggle for traditional leadership has been a source of hatred, jealousy, and distrust among two or three of the major towns in the clan..
Therefore, each town or village  reacts to political threats as if it is a nation-state fighting for its sovereignity, instead of aligning with the other towns and villages to achieve  greater political and economic results.  Ijaw towns and villages basically react to the oil companies and the Nigerian security forces by acting independently, instead of marshalling support from each other.  The result is that very little is achieved since the oil companies are not frightened by such miniscule efforts.  Moreover, the independent attitude tactically serves the interests of the national and international forces since it provides opportunity for them to turn one community against the other through bribery, disinformation, and instigation.

An educational campaign intended to educate various communities about the need to seek support from other Ijaw communities and nongovernmental groups before picketing or demonstrating or threatening an oil company will yield a better result.  Moreover, it will stop Nigerian security forces and the oil companies from killing people unnecessarily. When an oil spill occurs in a community, it should contact the Ijaw National Congress, the Ijaw Youth Council and other human rights and environmental groups within the ethnic group before confronting the oil company.  This is to avoid the kinds of killings that took place in Ikebiri, Liama, and many Ijaw towns and villages.   In this regard, Sgt. Wenipre of the Supreme Egbesu Assembly and Felix Tuodolo of the Ijaw Youth Council should be congratulated for traveling around Ijawland to brief community leaders and traditional rulers about what is going on in the ethnic group.  

(B).  There is time for everything. Militancy was very appropriate in the 1980s,  1990s and early 2000, but it nolonger seems an appropriate option at the present moment.  Consequently, Ijaw youths need to change tactics.  Instead of an unplanned or a spontaneous or a spur of the moment militant reaction or counteraction to  the slightest provocation or perceived threat,  a calculated political and legal  responses intended to achieve the greatest tactical success should be deployed.   The Ijaw youths who occupied a Shell flow station near Warri in the Delta State recently to protest against the iniquities of ward creation (Ogwudu, 2002, September 24) seemed to recognize the need for tactical change. In the past, the ward problem would have led to an interethnic clash between the Ijaws and the Itsekiris.  Instead, the youths decided to show their frustration over the marginalization of Ogbe-Ijaws of Warri by occupying an oil flowstation in an effort to communicate to the federal government the political problem in Warri.  Spontaneous militant reaction in an era of democratization simply reinforces the stereotypical view that the Ijaws are  "troublemakers" who must be contained by force.  Moreover, an uncoordinated spontaneous reaction only yields meager results.  It exposes innocent people to the wrath of the Nigerian security forces who might overreact to punish the community for the sins of the few, as had occurred at Odi.  It should be noted that Nigeria's 83rd Mechanized Army Division was created by President Olusegun Obasanjo on October 1st 2000 to protect the oilfields in the Niger Delta (Okoli, 2000, October 2).  Evidently, it is very easy for the Niger Delta to explode militarily like the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and the Ivory Coast.

Instead of  militant reaction, it is much preferable to properly document whatever happens and then take political and legal actions.   If any oil company spills oil or destroys property through negligence or pollution, the affected community  should  hold a meeting, develop strategies and contact various Ijaw political, legal, human rights and legal organizations so that a class action suit can be filed on behalf of the affected community.  In such cases, the Nigerian government would also be sued since it is responsible for allowing the oil companies to do business in the area. If the oil companies and the Nigerian authorities refuse to allow the legal action to proceed or threaten the community for the effort, then the case can be taken overseas for further action.

On the other hand, if an oil company decides to settle through financial compensation, the affected individuals within the community should not settle individually.  Instead, they should negotiate as a group, backed by the Ijaw organizations.   This is to ensure that the oil companies do not apply "divide and conquer" tactics to split the community by giving some people money and not giving others money, thereby setting the community against itself.   Throughout the Niger Delta, the oil companies and Nigerian authorities have always adopted this kind of tactics to instigate communal discord.  It is much preferable to establish a systematic procedure for receiving compensation so that every segment of the affected population can benefit.

C).  If any public official or politician embezzles public money or money belonging to the people, any individual or group having a substantive documentary evidence to back the allegation should contact various political interest group so that a legal action can be taken by the groups, rather than by an individual, to force the embezzler to go to court and answer the charges.   It is much safer for a group to file charges instead of an individual.  This is to reduce intimidation and possible killing of potential witnesses.  If the police and the courts are too corrupt or ineffective, then mobilize the affected community to demand a recall and the return of the embezzled money.

(D).  Just as this is an era of political and legal action, it is also an era of technological communication.  The internet has made it possible to communicate instantaneously.  The Ijaws must adopt a proactive approach in establishing an effective communication system, using all the affordable means of interactive communication technologies.  When a political or an economic or an environmental dispute takes place between any Ijaw group and an oil company or Nigeria, the Ijaws should video-tape, document, and feed the information throughout the world through internet.  In particular, the home countries of the oil companies, the United Nations, various human rights, and environmental groups would be informed through articles, photos, and videos.  In this regard, those who have established various Ijaw websites should be congratulated.  Likewise, the response to the FAS blacklisting of various Ijaw political organizations was very impressive.  Everyone must be alert so that any critical information concerning the ethnic group and the Niger Delta is easily digested and responded to rationally in a focused manner.

(E).  An annual cultural festival of the arts needs to be organized to provide opportunities for all Ijaws to meet, interact, and reenkindle the spirit of oneness. A cultural festival is an important tool in accomplishing the following objectives:  (a) political cohesion, (b) cultural reawakening and the development of traditional skills, (c) strategic awareness of world politics, (d) the launching of a trade fair, (e) the boosting of the economy, and  (f)   improving interethnic relations.

(a) An annual cultural festival involving all Ijaw clans would bring every one together.  By so doing, the problem of territorial space and "we vs. them" mentality will be reduced.  Such a gathering would provide opportunity for the leaders (both traditional and political) to mingle with the masses and create familiarity.   Potential political candidates can use such opportunity to introduce themselves to the people by making speeches and spelling out their intentions.

(b) A cultural festival will help to revive old cultural traditions as people participate in various cultural activities including dances, music, games, and drama.  It should be noted that in many parts of Ijawland today, various dances and music are disappearing fast.  For instance,   the only common form of music and dance is now "Ewigiri" or "Wigiri" that was popularized by the great Mr. Roberts.    The other forms, including ngusei, owusei, KB, Kpanlogo, omon aru, wrestling, adumu (odumu), highlife etc. have disappeared or are disappearing very quickly.  This means that the future generation of Ijaws will not have much musical and dance traditions to play with.

Likewise, local cultural festivals such as the Amassoma Fishing, the Ekpetiama New Yam, the Odi Ogoru Ige and a host of cultural activities throughout the land should be observed.  Basically, if a particular clan or a town has a major festival, the other towns and clans should endeavor to send cultural troupes and participate.  Likewise, if a traditional ruler were being installed, the other Ijaw clans should send representatives to such a festivity. Similar activities would be initiated if a traditional ruler were to pass away. 

The festival would also be used to encourage the Ijaws to visit their homeland  more frequently.  A large proportion of Ijaws grew up elsewhere and have never experienced the traditional ways of life.  Many do not know how to swim or paddle a canoe.  When Odi and other towns were attacked, the citizens ran into the forest and elsewhere. They were able to survive because they are quite familiar with the ways of surviving in the forest.  People who grew up exclusively in the cities might find it almost impossible to survive in the forest if a conflict were to take place.  In fact, Ted Koppel, the former anchor person at the  ABC television (US) Nightline stated in a special interview with Larry King of CNN that most of the two million people who have died in the ongoing Congolese civil war did so because they were city-dwellers who ran into the forest to escape the wars. Since they were city-dwellers, they could not cope living and surviving in the forest, hence, they succumbed to all kinds of diseases and starvation. Ted Koppel's commentary on the bloody civil war in the Congo reminded one of the Nigerian civil war where people had to ran into the forest in Biafra and the surrounding environs to escape death as Nigerian troops pounded the territory and the jetfighters prowled the skies..  This writer remembers vividly when a Biafran helicopter dropped about 15 bombs in successive bombing runs on Patani and forced the citizens and the Nigerian soldiers to ran for their lives.  Patani became a ghost town as people fled through the forest to other Ijaw and Isoko communities or camped out in the forest for some days.

In a strategic region such as the Niger Delta, the people must equip themselves with the necessary tools to survive in case of any major military crisis.  After all, the Niger Delta is like Angola, the Congo Basin, Liberia, Sierra leone, and Southern Sudan. These regions and or countries have either oil or other critical minerals that every nation-state wants.
There would be readings in various dialects, games, and dramatic performances.  The Rivers State Council for Arts & Culture (RSCAC) during the reign of Chief Diete Spiff was actively involved in the revival of Rivers State cultures.  Thus, Bayelsa State should actively promote the cultural traditions of Ijawland.

(c).  During the cultural festival, workshops, or conferences  would be held where strategic matters and other intellectual pursuits are discussed.  For instance, discussion could focus on conflict resolution techniques, democratic representation, economic development , and political options to deal with national and international issues.  Likewise, those who have published new books or developed new theories or produced new  plays would display, publicize, and demonstrate their works. This writer vividly remembers when Mr. Simon Ambakederimo published and launched his play "Isaac Boro" at the Rivers State Cultural Center in Port Harcourt.  Various educational, cultural, political, human rights, and environmental organizations too would publicize themselves and describe their activities to the populace. 

This is to enrich the intellectual aspect of the ethnic group. The representatives of the federal government and the oil companies would be invited to make speeches and answer pertinent questions. This aspect of the festival would be coordinated by the Ijaw Center for Strategic and Cultural Studies or Affairs (a kind of an Ijaw think-tank).

(d) The festival would also include a trade fair where new creative inventions, products, and services are displayed so that people can know what is going in their communities. Here again, companies would be called upon to set up booths to advertise, publicize, and explain what they are doing in various communities in the Niger Delta. Indigents who have opened new businesses can use the opportunity to advertise themselves and encourage patronization of their products and services.

(f).The festival would help to boost economic growth by generating capital as people visit and spend money during the festival.  Bayelsa, Rivers, and Delta states can use such opportunity to locate and recruit local talents for artistic, intellectual, and technological developments. Workshops would be organized to educate people about how to establish small businesses and obtain loans to finance economic activities.

(g)  Other ethnic groups and schools in the Niger Delta would be invited to attend as invited guests. They could also present various activities if they choose to do so.

5.  Leadership Recruitment and Enhancement

It is impossible to achieve the international, national, regional, and internal cohesion and consolidation without a competent, committed, and a people-centered leadership that is politically responsible and financially accountable to the people.  No plan or goal can succeed if there is no able leadership capable of implementing it.   In other words, the Ijaws must work hard to eradicate the "monkey dey work and baboon dey chop" syndrome where the less than deserving often end up becoming political leaders. Currently, many people seem to be unhappy with the Bayelsan situation and would want a drastic change so that the state can develop politically and economically.  

As stated before, strategically and tactically, the national and international actors prefer a less patriotic and less competent political leadership in the Niger Delta so that they can manipulate the politics in their favor.  A very competent and incorruptible leadership, on the other hand, would frustrate their efforts to get oil very cheaply without paying the cost politically, economically, and environmentally.  This means that in the coming 2003 elections, many "Ghana Must Go" bags would find their way into the Niger Delta through individuals, political parties, government officials and the oil companies.  The purpose would be to influence the electoral process so that predetermined candidates are "anointed" to serve as political leaders, thereby, frustrating the Ijaw effort toward political and economic empowerment.

(A).  To minimize national and international interference in the selection of political leadership in Ijawland, the following actions might help.  Political organizations in Ijawland must come together to develop a "Plan for Effective Leadership."  The plan would serve as a process for selecting political leaders.  Basically, every politician who runs for office must go through the process if the  politician wants to become a public official in Ijawland.  The following steps might help to ensure some political responsibility and financial accountability:

Step one:  All candidates for political office must declare their assets as soon as they have registered to run for office.  The record of such documentation would be made public so that all Ijaws, whether in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo, and Rivers States would read it.  The information would be published in the daily newspapers and in the internet websites.

Step Two:  As soon as registered, all candidates must sign a "Social Contract of Political Responsibility and Financial Accountability".  The contract will contain a number of questions:

Social Contract of Political Responsibility and Financial Accountability

2. Why do I want to run for a political office?
3. I am qualified to run for this office ( candidate must attach or show evidence)
4. I have not engaged in any activity in the past or now whose result have impacted on the Ijaws negatively.
5. I have never misappropriated public funds for personal gains.
6. I have not and I am not engaging in any political, legal, financial, or secret  activity  intended to incite, threaten, and intimidate people to vote or support me or a particular candidate or a political party, against their will.
7. I agree to open all records of public financial
activities (including contracts, payments, consultation fees, benefits, all expenditures etc.) to any public group that is interested to verify government expenditures.(  This is a Sunshine or Open Book requirement).
8. I agree and promise not to embezzle or misappropriate public funds in any way imaginable.
9. I promise to carry out the duties and responsibilities of public office according to the will of the people, as expressed through a binding constitution.
10. I agree and promise that if I am elected into a public office and fail to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the office, the people have a right to vote me out of office through an election, a referendum or a petition signed by a constitutionally stipulated number of eligible voters.
11. I promise not to join any outside political alliance or association whose purpose or intention is to thwart, stifle, frustrate, block, prevent etc. the democratic rights and economic aspirations of the people.
12. I agree  to declare my assets if I win an election into a public office or been appointed to serve as a public official and when I leave public office.
13. I agree and promise to uphold the law.
14. This is a Contract between the people and I.

Signed:_________________________________________________                                                 Date:__________________________                    
The Social Contract form will be filled by all political candidates and any bureaucrat who has a responsibility to manage and dispense public money for governmental purposes.  Any public official ( elected or appointed) who fails to comply with the constitutional  process after having signed the Social Contract would be impeached by the legislative arm of the state.

If the legislature is very corrupt or easily influenced, then citizens shall take action by filing criminal charges and class action suits to force the official to account for every questionable activity.  Likewise,  nongovernmental organizations (NGO) too can take  legal action to force a public official to explain or  behave appropriately based on the constitution.

Step 3.  The newspapers, magazines,  nongovernmental organizations, and the Ijaw-based websites would publish the names  of all political candidates and provide a description of their past roles and activities, their present functions, and their political agenda for the people, if elected.  This is intended to educate the public about the candidates and thereby increase their ability to make  better judgements about whom to vote for.
Step 4.  All candidates vying for political office must go through a debate process.  At least, two debates would be conducted for every political office ( senatorial, representative, gubernatorial, local government chair etc.).  The Ijaw nongovernmental organizations would form a committee to coordinate the debates.  Any political candidate who refuses to participate in the debates would have to justify the reasons publicly and the public would be informed about the candidates who did not participate in the process.

Step 5.  If the constitutionally allowable process is thwarted or blocked from taking place, as had happened in Bayelsa State after the bomb explosion in the State House of Assembly (Oyadongha, S. (2001, June 12), then the citizens shall take legal action by either filing criminal charges or institute class action suits to remedy the situation.  Likewise, citizens of Bayelsa and other states can also take legal action to force public officials to forego private properties built with stolen public money by declaring such properties to be public properties.

Step 6.  If  criminal charges, class action suits and injunctions do not result in official accountability, then the citizens shall call upon the federal government to enforce the law as mandated by the constitution.  Of course, the federal system is as corrupt,  ineffective, uncaring, unreliable, and unrepresentative as the state system. If  the federal government fails to act or is supportive of the corrupt elements, then  the citizens would have a right to take any action deemed necessary to correct the situation.

Step 7.  All office holders leaving or vacating their political and or administrative positions must declare their assets.  Likewise, they must also provide an account of  all public expenditures before handing over to new office holders.  This is intended to eliminate the habit of incumbents handing over empty treasuries as the former military administrator of Bayelsa State was alleged to have done.
Why go through such a laborious process?  It is to show  the world that all constitutionally and legally permissible options have been exhausted.  This is a strategy designed to counteract the poisonous propaganda that the Ijaws are merely "troublemakers" and "terrorists" who cannot rule themselves but make trouble.  There is already an impression that the Ijaws are troublemakers, hence, the eagerness with which federal government officials, oil company executives, and some members of the press are willing to paint any Ijaw action as a militant protest.  For example, when Shell workers attempted to carry out surveying in Lobia without authorization from the community and their properties were seized, Shell immediately publicized the matter as an hostage taking and listed the names of its workers as hostages. Shell probably took the action without verifying the facts in an attempt to incite  the ethnic groups from which those workers came from to fight against the Ijaws and also to encourage the federal government to send security forces to teach Lobia a lesson.  Fortunately, the paramount ruler of Lobia, Chief Benson Korre immediately countered the disinformation by explaining "We are not holding anyone hostage.  When the company's staff arrived the village and started carrying out survey job for Shell without permission from the community, we stopped their activities and confiscated their equipment as evidence of trespass.  The workers were allowed to go home" (Ikwunze, 2002. August 9).

(B).  If the constitutional and legal processes are not capable of deterring criminality and ensuring political responsibility and financial accountability, the next step would be to apply traditional law enforcement methods.  It should be noted that until recently, the Ijaws did not  rely extensively upon the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and the Nigerian legal system to enforce the law in their societies.  Instead, they have primarily relied on the traditional religious moral legal system to enforce compliance.   Traditionally, whether in Kolokuma or Nembe or Ogbia or Ogboin, or Opokuma or Kabo, or Gbaran,  etc, when a person discovers  that he/she has lost something  or has something stolen, the person would go to the chief of the town or village and inform the political authority that something was missing.  The town or village crier would be summoned to publicize the information.  The town crier would broadcast very loudly that "so so and so has reported that his/her property is missing and whoever is in possession of the property should return it."  After the public announcement, a three-day grace period is given for whoever is in possession of the property to return it. During the three-day period, families would question their sons and daughters about the missing or stolen property, asking them to confess if they had stolen or taken the property.   After the expiration of the three-day period, the rightful owner of the property is granted the right to go to the ancestral shrine and invoke the ancestors to render justice.

Whether this is based on superstition or not is not important.  The most relevant thing is that due to this traditional system, crime in Ijawland has always been very low compared to other parts of Nigeria.  One could even say that the lack of serious cases of armed robbery in Ijawland is directly related to the traditional system which can be utilized to deal with any culprit.  Likewise, due to the spirituality of the culture, the Ijaws tend to be very down-to-earth,unpretensious, and not fun of telling tall tales or engage in self-exaggeration.  Due to the sacredness of the process, it cannot be manipulated like the secularized national legal system where the police and the judges can be easily bought off by the richest and the most powerful in society.

Where all else fails, the Ijaws must seek the assistance of their traditional system to ensure accountability.  For instance, the ancestors can be invoked to ensure that no one embezzles public funds nor  causes internal destabilization.   The Supreme Egbesu Assembly  can be called upon to coordinate the process.     

Many would be shaken by this suggestion, after decades of a colonizing educational system which has persistently painted traditional African systems as "Ungodly", "barbaric", and "uncivilized."  The great Binaebi Benatari  wrote marvelously on the history and the sprirituality of Ijawland.  His reference to the "drop from the sky"  matches the story that in the past, some Ijaw founding ancestors at Igbedi used to "ascend to the sky" instead of being buried on the ground when they passed away.  Likewise, the "beni" (water) is associated with spiritual purity.    Likewise, the traditional Ijaw culture, like many African cultures, has a religious system based on the concept of good and bad, just like in every major religion.  For instance, the Seigbein (meaning thethrowing away of bad thing which is popularly known as the spiritual cleaning of the town of evil) is normally carried out ritualistically.  The Seigbein ritual is used to symbolize a new beginning which is the Ijaw equivalent of a new year.  Generally, after the ritual, various masquerade dances are performed to celebrate the new beginning.  Likewise, in many Ijaw clans, when a person dies, the Oboba bi (the asking of the ladder) ritual is  performed.  The ritual is performed to determine whether the deceased was a good  or a bad person.  In other words, it is a way of determining whether a deceased was a godly or a devilish or a satanic person.  Generally, people associated with evil are not buried in the same cemetery as people with  clean or godly character.  This is the Ijaw equivalent of the Christian and Islamic final judgements.   Likewise, the shaving of the head ritual is carried out as a way to clean away the blood of those killed.  There is a strong traditional belief that it is sinful to kill or take the life of another.   Therefore, when someone kills, he or she must perform a spiritual cleansing ritual to remove the sin.  When someone who had performed the head shaving ritual dies, the Uzi ceremony is performed three times, particularly in Kolokuma, before the person is buried.

Ijaw traditional religion, like other African traditional religions, has commandments.  The commandments include: (1)  There is one God (Tamarau, Woyingi or Wingi, Ayeba, Tamuno etc. Other African groups also recognize one God, hence the Efiks/Ibibio refer to God as Akwa Abasi (Great God), the Igbos refer to him/her as either Chukwu or Chineke, the Yorubas as Oluwa.  However, unlike Christianity and Islam, Ijaw religion is not masculinized, hence, God is viewed in both male and female terms. The Europeans are aware of the African believe in one God, hence, King Leopold advised Belgian missionaries going to the Congo "Your principal objective in our mission in the Congo is never to teach the niggers to know God thus they know already.  They speak and submit to a Mungu, one Nzambi, one Nzakomba, and what else I don't know" (Quoted from an article posted on Infonet@topica.com, 2001, June 28).  (2)Thou shall not kill.  (3)Thou shall not steal.  (4) Thou shall not lie.  (5) Thou shall not commit adultery.   (6)Thou shall not engage in certain sexual practices.  (7) Thou shall not engage in sin (sorcery, evil etc.).   (8)Thou shall be humble.   (9) Thou shall be respectful of elders.  There are other commandments, depending on the  religious entity.  In the traditional religion, God is so supreme to the extent that  human beings can only approach Him/Her through ancestral deities.  This is comparable to the Christians seeking God through Jesus Christ and the angels and the Moslems seeking Allah through Prophet Mohammed and the angels.

Thus, there are so many traditional ways to institute political responsibility and financial accountability in Ijawland without having to resort to violence to settle political and financial scores.

C).  The Ijaw nongovernmental organizations and community leaders should create a program to cultivate future leaders.  It is not a secret that in every Ijaw community, some youths show leadership skills at a very young age.  Such youths, starting from the secondary (high) school, should be cultivated and or groomed with various activities (scholarships, financial aids, organizational leadership positions, admissions etc.) to prepare them for future selfless leadership.  Mr. James Nnengi and his Bayelsa Youths Federation should be congratulated  for  organizing the  "Political Awareness and Leadership Empowerment" workshop or a conference(bayelsayouths@yahoo.com:  A News Release).  Mr. Nnengi's effort reminded one of the Central Ijaw Students Union (CISU), the Okirika Prizoners Social Club, and the Rivers State Youth Association which helped to mobilize youths for leadership positions.  It should be noted that many prominent Ijaws today were members of CISU..   Thus, it is important for organizations to organize workshops regularly in an effort to develop an effective leadership and educate the people about leadership choices.

(D).  A fund should be set up to help the families of those who have fallen due to the struggle for political and economic empowerment throughout Ijawland.  Ordinarily, Bayelsa State would have been at the forefront for setting up a program to assist the families of those who have fallen, but the chaotic situation there precludes such an effort.  In this regard, the Ijaw Peoples Association (IPA) of Great Britain and Ireland should be congratulated for conducting a memorial service in honor of the dead in which Mr. Felix Tuodolo was invited to speak on December 1, 2001(Yahoo Mail 2001, December 1, 2001).  A major fund can be set up through donations to help the families of fallen comrades and boost the financial capability of the INC, the IYC and the other critical ethnic-based organizations.

(E).  The Ijaws should avoid the  ideologization of  issues.  Ideologization often leads to the taking of extreme positions which can be very dangerous in finding solutions to common problems. An ideological approach tends to prevent a clear thinking, thereby leading to the adoption of unreasonable and impracticable options.  It also can lead to a  simplistic view of the world. An ideological orientation can also lead to hatred. As can be seen, even from website commentaries, a line is being drawn between the supporters of the governor and the haters of the governor.  Both sides seem to believe in the righteousness of their positions. This is very dangerous because it does not allow for a middle ground solution.  Bayelsa could be torn apart in the coming elections.  If Bayelsans are divided into supporters and haters of the governor and the incumbent politicians, the camp that feels most threatened can easily align with outside elements to instigate violence. The national and international stakeholders are waiting like hungry vultures to support Ijaw factionalism and turn the ethnic group into pieces of broken glasses.

 One way to reduce extremism is to avoid personal attacks and concentrate on analyzing why a particular person has performed or failed to perform. If political leaders are not performing to expectations, then focus on the failures by examining or pinpointing the failing programs or reasons, instead of hating them.   For example, in the 1970s, the Late Prof. Awojobi of the University of Lagos analyzed Gen. Yakubu Gowon's record of achievement by evaluating his programs without attacking the general in person. Ebiogbo Johnson recently posted an article on internet titled "Bayelsa State:  The Journey So Far" which evaluated the achievement of Bayelsa State governor by examining certain expectations, program, and policies. Other writers and critics too have attempted to analyze without attacking the person. Personal attacks only reinforces the need for counterattacks by those being attacked.   A war of acrimonious words can easily degenerate into a war of physical violence. Resultantly, heed should be paid to all political concerns.  Mr. Rowland Ekperi, Blessom Oborokumo, Boston Edogi, Sabella Abidde, Titoe Miriki and others have made good points that should be taken serious.

(F).  The Bayelsans should probably pay considerable attention to the idea of a rotational governorship.  To achieve this possibility, divide the state into gubernatorial zones.  Rotate the governorship among the zones so that every zone has a chance of producing a governor.  This is intended to reduce unnecessary rivalry, democratize executive government, diffuse potential disaffection by those who feel discriminated,  minimize the advantage of incumbency, deter the building and concentration of political power in one family or town, and reduce corruption by office holders who steal from the public purse in order to accumulate sufficient funds to campaign for   reelection.  Local government authority chair positions too should be rotated   Currently, in Abia State, some Ngwa people are not happy because the governorship tended to be concentrated around the Umuahia area.  This is what led to the blockade of the Enugu/Port Harcourt road during the Igbo Day celebrations by a group known as the Ukwu/Ngwa League(Ujumadu, 2002, October 6). The Ijaws cannot afford to fight each other for political control of Bayelsa. 

(G).  The Ijaws should also consider the need to limit the terms of political office to only one term for gubernatorial and local government positions. This will allow for an effective management of the rotational system. 

(H).   To consolidate and maximize political self-empowerment, the Ijaws should also think about possibly creating a supreme traditional political ruler in Ijawland (the ibedaowi/ibedauere or pere or amananabo or Ibedabo etc. of Ijawland).  This position too could be rotated among the existing traditional rulers.  Normally, the Supreme Chief of Ijawland would be selected among the clan heads from the Ijaw Council of Traditional Rulers or Chiefs.    

(I).  The Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council should never support any political candidate or  political party, especially in Bayelsa State.  This is to ensure that all candidates have equal opportunity to compete fairly.  It is also intended to make sure that these two great organizations are not mired in divisive internal politics that could lead to disunity among the clans.


In conclusion, the overall Ijaw strategy should be to continue to fight politically for resource control, political responsibility, financial  accountability, and democracy without fracturing the ethnic group through extreme actions and self-hatred. The goal of political and economic self-empowerment would be achieved if resource control is not obtained through an aimless bloodbath.  Flexibility is needed so that the Ijaws can negotiate with any group or political bloc in Nigeria and internationally without having to follow a rigid path that could lead to failures and conflicts.   The politics of protest should be replaced or supplemented by the politics of positive action to achieve ethnic self- empowerment.

Obviously, internal cohesion and consolidation and leadership recruitment and enhancement  are the most difficult goals to be achieved.  The success of the international, national, and regional goals depend greatly on the achievement of the two critical goals. Unnecessary militancy must be checked because such a situation could encourage the corrupt elements to work with the outside forces to militarize Ijawland.  If the Ijaws can put their act together without tearing each other apart, then political and economic victories can be achieved. Good leadership is needed to steer the ethnic boat toward reaching its destination. 


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