Strategic Factors and Options: Using the Ijaw to Destroy the
By Priye S. Torulagha
It seems that some Ijaw people are now becoming
apprehensive about having an Ijaw person heads the Nigerian Army. It is gratifying to know that people from the
ethnic nation are now realizing the implications of the appointment. One could vividly remember that many members
of the ethnic nation jubilated and thanked President Olusegun Obasanjo for
appointing their son to head the army.
At the time, people failed to pay attention to the strategic reasoning
behind the appointment.
There is no doubt that Nigeria did not mean well for the Ijaws when the
leaders appointed Lt. Gen. Awoye Azazi as the Chief of Army. It was tactically obvious that Nigeria
wanted to use an Ijaw to destroy the Ijaws and put an end to the resistance
toward oil exploration. It should be
noted that the need to neutralize or pacify the Niger Delta through political
subterfuge has always been the desire of those who exercise power in the
country. Therefore, almost all the
high-level political appointments made by the Federal Government to place Ijaw
sons and daughters in certain national positions have been directed by the
strategic need to control the Ijaws and the people of the Niger Delta. In this regard, the following arguments are
made to demonstrate the strategic and tactical implications of the appointments
of Gen. Azazi and other Ijaws to federal positions: (1) Increasingly, the Niger Delta and Nigeria
do not see things from the same perspective due to divergent political and
economic interests, 2) the appointment of an Ijaw as an Army Chief of Staff is
designed to use an Ijaw to destroy the Ijaws as the Niger Delta drifts in a
different direction, 3) the appointment of Ijaws to the federal oil bureaucracy
is always intended to deceive the Ijaws and the people of the Niger Delta, (4)
the nomination of Dr.Goodluck Jonathan as a vice presidential candidate for the
Peoples Democratic Party is designed to neutralize the South-South and the
South-East effort to gain the presidential ticket of the party. The following reasons provide the rationale
for the arguments made:
First, Nigeria and the Niger Delta have divergent political
interests. Nigeria wants to exploit the
mineral resources of the region to develop other parts of the country while
intentionally margining it so as to reduce its ability to resist
resource-transfer schemes. The Niger
Delta wants a total or significant control of the management of the mineral
resources so that it can develop itself and improve the lives of the
inhabitants. Nigeria is afraid that if
the region gains total or significant control of oil and gas exploration and
management, the region would become too powerful, thereby, threatening the
national security of the country through an effort to secede. Niger Deltans want Nigeria to go back to the
arrangement which existed during the heydays of groundnut, cocoa, palm oil, and
palm kernel. They argue that when these
cash crops were the mainstay of the economy, the regions were allowed to manage
the resources. Nigerian leaders argue
that national control is needed to spread the wealth coming from oil and gas in
order to ensure the common good. The
divergence of view between Nigeria and the Niger Delta is most profoundly felt
in Ijaw areas of the region since Ijaw territory is the most deprived,
marginalized and underdeveloped. The
Ijaws are indeed afraid that if they do not do something about the situation
now, they could up with nothing after contributing generously to the development
of Nigeria. Each time they visit
Oloibiri, they are reminded of what could happen to them if the oil runs
Second, fearful that the citizens of the oil-producing
region might get smart and demand control of their resources, Nigerians from the
non-oil producing regions want to grab as much as possible of the oil revenue so
that they can develop their regions and enrich themselves. Unfortunately for the Niger Delta, those
making decisions for Nigeria come largely from the non-oil producing
regions. These Nigerians twist national
polices and programs to favor their regional and selfish interests. These Nigerians are the owners of most of the
oil blocks in the country. Similarly,
they are the greatest embezzlers of the oil wealth, after all, the oil is coming
from someone else backyard, not theirs.
Since oil is flowing from someone else backyard, the looters have no
moral qualms about stealing as much as possible.
Third, due to the divergent interests, any Ijaw who accepts a high-level
Federal Government appointment at this time automatically puts himself/herself
at a political crosswire. The person is caught between trying to serve Nigeria
and still being loyal to the Niger Delta.
As a federal official, if he/she shows extensive loyalty toward the oil
region, the person would be accused by Nigeria of treasonable conduct. On the other hand, if the person tilts toward
Nigeria, he/she would be castigated for being traitorous. Ijaw high-level federal officials must play a
balancing game in order to avoid being accused by either side.
2. The appointment of an Ijaw as
an Army Chief of Staff is designed to use an Ijaw to destroy the Ijaws as the
Niger Delta drifts in a different direction.
Thus, there is a tug of-war going on between Nigeria and the Niger
Delta. Consequently, it is difficult not
to read political meanings into the actions of the Federal Government of Nigeria
whenever an Ijaw is appointed to a certain national position at a certain
time. This being the case,the following
provide the probable reasons which led to the appointment of an Ijaw to head the
First, an Ijaw was appointed to head the effort to
crackdown Ijaw youths at a time when the armed forces were having much
difficulty subduing the armed fighters.
This indicated the fact that the power wielders were cooking up a dirty
game against the Ijaws. Machiavelli
suggested in the Prince that leaders should appoint others to do their dirty
work for them so that they would not be blamed.
Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and many leaders in the world
have closely followed the advice of the Florentine political guru. Powerful nations routinely apply this tactics
to subdue those they conquered or are conquering. The British appointed Warrant Chiefs from
various ethnic groups to lead the effort to pacify the groups in Nigeria. They also created the West African Frontier
Force (WAFF) and recruited Africans to subdue the African people for the British
colonial effort. The Christian missionaries used converted Africans to convert
the African people.
Second, at the time of the appointment of Lt. Gen. Azazi,
Nigeria was having difficulty penetrating the riverine areas of Ijawland. The country needed someone who understand the
terrain and could map out a strategy to enable the armed forces to operate
successfully. An Ijaw who had lived in
the region will definitely understand the terrain much better than any other
Third, the power-wielders wanted an Ijaw face at the front of the army in
the event that an Odi or Okerenkoko or Odiama-like violations of human rights
were to take place as the military tries to subdue the fighters. If an abuse takes place, the powerwielders
and other Nigerians would point to the fact that an Ijaw is the head of the
army, thereby, deflecting international criticism. You remember, the Ijaws pointed an accusing
finger at Maj. Gen. Victor Malu because he was the head of the Army at the time
Odi was destroyed.
Fourth, the decision-makers wanted an Ijaw son since the Ijaws were
becoming proactively oppositional toward oil operations. They hope that an Ijaw at the helm of the
army would reduce Ijaw resistance to the Nigerian effort to subdue
Fifth, since the Ijaws seem to be very proactive in opposing the status
quo, having an Ijaw at the helm of the army would serve Nigeria very well. If the army cracks down real hard against
any other ethnic group in the region, Nigeria can instigate other ethnic groups
in the region to attack the Ijaws since their son is the head of the army. The Federal Government can incite action by
pointing out that the Ijaws are using their son to accomplish their desire to
dominate the entire region. This would
frighten other ethnic groups in the region to align with Nigeria against the
Ijaws. It is very easy to manipulate
information in the region due to territorial concerns.
Sixth, an Ijaw as the head of the army serves Nigeria
well by enabling it to penetrate the inner circles of the Ijaw movements through
planting of spies. It is much easier for
an Ijaw to recruit and plant other Ijaws to penetrate various groups in the
region than a Yoruba or an Igbo or a Hausa or a Tiv. Already, the story being circulated that
the State of Bayelsa and Agip helped a Lebanese captive to escape clearly
demonstrate what can happen if the Federal Government and the oil companies
really want to disorganize the Ijaws.
They would simply use Ijaw sons and daughters by paying them generously
to create confusion in the ethnic commonwealth, thereby, defeating the political
effort at resource control. If the story
circulated by the Ijo Awome Investigative Organization on the Oil Block Owners
Association and the assigned role of Gen. Azazi is believable, then the Ijaws
who are clamoring for resource control must open their eyes and watch every
situation like an eagle.
Seventh, the Federal Government wants to reduce international criticism
of the management of the situation. By
having an Ijaw head the army, it would be very difficult to sue or go to the
International Court of Justice or International Criminal Court because the Ijaws
would also be charging their son along with other Nigerian officials if
violations take place.
Eighth, Lt. Gen Azazi is between a rock and a hard place. He is answerable to President Obasanjo and
the Nigerian Government and not to the Ijaw nation. This means that he is responsible for
carrying out the defence policies and orders of the Government of Nigeria. Consequently, if he is instructed to buy arms
that would be used to suppress the Niger Delta, he cannot object to the
order. If he does, he would be
court-martialed for insubordination. He
could even be tried for treason for indirectly supporting the armed fighters
against the sovereign state of Nigeria, if he refuses to carry out an order to
use maximum force to eliminate threats to the national security in the Niger
Even if he carries out the orders of the president to the
last letter, he is still in danger of tactically being neutralized or eliminated
for being an Ijaw. Already, he knows so
much about the secret plans and deals that are being concocted. To survive, he must constantly demonstrate
his loyalty to the president and Nigeria by taking tough measures against the
fighters. In this regard, he could even
be forced to make misleading statements intended to create a certain
understanding so as to ensure the national security of Nigeria. The power-wielders would always watch him
through secret agents to make sure he conforms to what they want him to be. He is really in a terrible situation. If he carries out the orders of the
president, he would be leading an army to destroy his own people and the people
of the Niger Delta. If that happens, the
Ijaws would accuse him of being a traitor. If he refuses to do that, the Federal
Government can arrest him for conniving with the fighters.
3. The appointment of Ijaws to
the federal oil bureaucracy is always intended to deceive the Ijaws and the
people of the Niger Delta.
It should be noted that due to the importance of manipulating and
controlling the Niger Delta, Nigeria has always appointed the sons and daughters
of the region based on strategic and tactical reasons. In this regard, the appointment of Dr. Edmund
Daukoru as the Minister of State for Petroleum and Dr. Abbiye Sekibo as the
Minister of Transportation followed the same strategic script that have been
used by the national power-wielders in the past. Dr. Daukoru is intended to put a Niger Delta
face on the tumultuous oil palaver. It
is Nigeria’s effort to trick the people of the region into believing that they
are well represented in the Federal Government.
It is also intended to create the false impression that their son is
directly involved in the administration of oil and gas management in the
country. However, the trick is not
working because Dr. Daukoru’s appointment has not made any difference in the way
oil blocks are distributed. Similarly,
those who have access to the oil wealth continue to embezzle undisturbed. In addition, there is no doubt that a
majority of those who own oil blocks are from the non-oil producing
regions. Likewise, there is no doubt
that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC) is still as porous as
before in its management of the oil and gas industry. In short, Dr. Daukoru is simply playing the
role which other Niger Deltans have played in the past over the management of
oil and gas bureaucracy in the country.
He is a figure-head intended to create a certain political image. Otherwise, if he tries to change the oil
block system or the management of the NNPC in a way that threatens the powers
that be, the president would kick him out.
He should be very careful to avoid being set up the way Gen. Ibrahim
Babangida attempted to have Dr. Tamuno David-West arrested for corruption and the manner in which Dan
Etete is being hounded. Dr Sekibo was
used to politically control a section of Rivers State. After he did an excellent job, he was
rewarded with a federal appointment.
Later, he was removed after the national players had gotten what they
wanted. To avoid being set up, Dr.
Daukoru must keep records of every transaction carried out under his
supervision. He must also keep records
of every order or request from the president and other national officials
requesting the transfer of funds, in case of a future effort to probe
4. The nomination of Dr. Goodluck
Jonathan as the vice presidential candidate for the PDP is designed to
neutralize the South-South and the South-East effort to gain the presidential
ticket of the party.
The rationale which led to the appointment of Gen. Azazi also led to the
nomination of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the vice presidential candidate of the
Peoples Democratic Party Similar to the
joyous celebration which occasioned the appointment of the general, millions of
Ijaws also rejoiced when Dr. Jonathan was nominated as the vice presidential
candidate of the PDP. There is no doubt
that the same invisible people who selected Lt. Gen. Azazi are also responsible
for selecting Dr. Jonathan. Again, they
wanted an Ijaw person who could be used to pacify the Ijaws. The following provide the probable strategic
reasons which led to the nomination of Dr. Jonathan:
First, those who are gaining tremendously from the present oil
arrangement are frightened by the developments in the Niger Delta. They know that most of the armed fighters are
Ijaw youths. They are convinced that an
Ijaw vice president would help to reduce the armed resistance.
Second, if the PDP were to win the coming presidential
election, Dr. Jonathan would become the vice president. This means that he would be legally and
politically obligated to carry out the national security goals of Nigeria. Part of that goal would be to crush
resistance in the Niger Delta if peaceful means do not lead to de-escalation of
tension emanating from armed resistance.
He could actually become the political front-man to lead efforts to
pacify the region.
Third, as an Ijaw man, Nigeria would expect him to cough out information
about those viewed as “troublemakers’ in Ijawland. Whatever information he provides would be
used to map out a strategy to launch attacks if peaceful negotiations do not
yield a desirable end. To succeed in
compelling him to cough out information, he would be promised an oil block if
everything goes as anticipated.
Fourth, as an Ijaw man, he would make it much easier to penetrate various
movements in Ijawland because many Ijaw men and women would serve as his
assistants. Some of the assistants would
be assigned to gather intelligence for the Federal Government of
Fifth, Dr. Jonathan could be
forced to engage in deeds that he would ordinarily oppose through threats. It should be noted that he did not showed any
interest in the vice presidential position.
He was campaigning to become the next governor of Bayelsa State when the
Abuja players called to pick him as the vice presidential nominee for PDP,
instead of Dr. Peter Odili who was a front runner for the job. Consequently, as a vice president, in the
event that the PDP wins the presidential election in April 2007, Abuja would
remind him that he was only a small political fish in the back waters of Bayelsa
State when they elevated him to the vice presidential position, so, he must pay
back for the kindness rendered to him by Abuja.
Please, watch the Yoruba-based Nigerian movie titled
Sixth, another factor which probably influenced the selection of Dr
Jonathan as a vice presidential candidate was a plan to destroy the South-South
and the South-East efforts to grab the top job in the country. It appears that the powerwielders are not
ready yet to allow someone from the South-South or the South-East to become the
president of Nigeria. The unwillingness
to allow someone from the deep south to become a president could be prompted by
the fact that most oil is found in the South-South and sections of the
South-East. The PDP powerwielders, it
seems, made a secret deal to give the top job to the North. In order to make the transfer of power to the
North palatable, they decided to pick an Ijawman. They
reasoned that other ethnic groups in the region would not be too eager to
criticize an Ijaw for taking the vice presidential position. In fact, the powerwielders predicted Ijaw
response very well, hence, as soon as Dr. Jonathan was given the vice
presidential position, the Ijaws immediately stop demanding for the top
job. As the Ijaws stop demanding for the
top job, other ethnic groups too stop demanding for the top position. This made it easy for the PDP to hand over
the presidency to the North.
Seventh, Dr. Jonathan, it also seemed, was chosen to knock off Dr. Peter
Odili as the number one contender of the PDP.
It appears that the president did not want Odili to become the flagbearer
of the party. However, he did not want
to show publicly his disapproval of Odili.
So, he waited until the last moment before staging the political coup to
offstage the ambitious governor of Rivers State. It should be recalled that the arrival of the
EFCC to Port Harcourt to probe public corruption coincided with the PDP
primaries and Dr. Odili was busy trying to win support nationally. The arrival of the EFCC immediately destroyed
any chance of Dr. Odili getting the presidential nomination. Why did the EFCC arrived Port Harcourt at
the time the South-South, South-East and
the North were competing to produce the next presidential candidate for the
party? The probable answer is that the
decisionmakers concocted the plan to destroy Dr. Odili since he was a major
contender directly and indirectly representing the SS and SE at the same time
against the Northern choice.
In any case, the appointment of Ijaw officials to
critical national positions would not really make much difference in the way
Nigeria treats the Niger Delta. The
wielders of power view the region as an easy means to accumulate personal
wealth. Consequently, they would simply
appoint Ijaws to create false impressions and hide their actual motives. This is not an understatement, after all, the
appointment of Ijaw sons in the past to lead the NNPC and the oil bureaucracy
did not make any difference in the way the Niger Delta was treated.
The danger lurking ahead is that the Ijaws could end up having two of
their prominent sons leading the Nigerian efforts to persecute them with Gen.
Azazi as the head of the Army and Dr. Jonathan as the political front-man if the
PDP wins the next presidential elections.
In the event that the PDP wins, there is a high probability that the
powerwielders could make a strategic decision to keep Gen. Azazi as the head of
the army. In such a scenario, other
ethnic groups would laugh uncontrollably at the Ijaws for being too greedy to
grab power without seeing the traps laid against them.
Therefore, Ijaw people, be more analytical in your examination of
Nigerian politics. Whenever an Ijaw is
appointed to any national position, do not jubilate until the implications are
analyzed exhaustively because Abuja political lords are very tricky political
players. It was really unfortunate that
when Vice President Atiku Abubakar revealed that the president had allocated $2
billion to purchase arms, some Ijaws could not wait before criticizing him for
inciting the region. Increasingly, it
appears that the vice president was correct in saying that arms were being
purchased. The Ijaws should appreciate
the fact that the vice president is talking.
The more he talks, the more the inner workings of the Abuja political
machine are revealed to the public.
However, despite the bleak analytical view of the reasons for appointing
Ijaw public officials at the federal level, it is unwise to jump to conclusion
regarding their conduct. The reason is
that God works mysteriously. May be, it
was by divine intervention that Lt. Gen. Azazi and Dr. Jonathan should be placed
at the corridors of national power at this critical juncture. It is quite possible that they could work
quietly to change things in Nigeria. In
fact, they can actually change the situation in the country since they have a
first hand knowledge of the issues.
Working together, both can persuade Abuja to take the political rout
instead of focusing on the military option.
After all, who ever thought that some of the youths who were recruited by
national and regional political tycoons to cause havoc during the elections of
2003 in Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta States would turn out to be the leading
exponents of regional resource control today.
They are now the forces to be reckoned with and those who attempted to
use them are now scratching their heads in an effort to contain them. Indeed, Ijawland is filled with
godly/spiritual mysteries, hence, those who think that they can use Ijaw sons to
destroy the Ijaws could end up scratching their heads if Azazi and Jonathan
turned out to become forces for positive development, not only in the Niger
Delta but throughout Nigeria.
Furthermore, it could be visualized
that, perhaps, those who wield power in Nigeria have finally decided to do the
right thing. Doing the right thing means
appreciating the contributions that the Niger Delta has made toward the
development of the country and treating its citizens as equal partners in the
Nigerian project. In this regard,
perhaps, the appointment of two sons of Ijawland to very critical national
positions could be a step toward repaying the damage done to the Ijaws for
decades. On this aspect, it is
necessary to wait and see.
In any case, the best the Ijaws can do is to be very attentive by
investigating, probing, analyzing, visualizing, theorizing, and acting to
achieve concrete positive results.
Therefore, be wise, think deeply, and do not be misled by superficial
actions and inactions