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

By Priye S. Torulagha

These are very trying moments in Nigeria.  It is particularly a very delicate period for the Ijaws.  Therefore, the Ijaws need to develop and master the art of diplomacy in order to manage the multifarious events that are threatening the Ijaw nation.  In short, this period calls for those with diplomatic skills and strategic thinking capability to paddle the ethnic group across the tumultuous ocean of political mind-fields.   The following areas demand skillful diplomatic and negotiating skills.

1.   Rivers State:  Mr. Felix Tuodolo wrote an interesting piece in which he attempted to find a reason why almost all Ijaw groups in Rivers State are experiencing destabilization under the governorship of Dr. Odili. The once very peaceful state is embroiled in all kinds of conflicts including bloody rivalry between cults, armed groups, Nigeria's security operations to flush out Ijaw fighters, and the alleged Nigerian use of biochemical weapons to attack forces belonging to Asari Dokubo.

To understand the Rivers State situation, on must go back to the periods immediately before, during, and after the Civil War. The reason why almost all Ijaw communities in Rivers State are embroiled in some kind of conflict has to do with oil and the need to control Rivers State. One major factor which contributed to the Nigerian civil war was the need to control the source of oil.  Port Harcourt is a major strategic location if one really wants to control the flow of oil.  There have always been attempts to claim Port Harcourt. To be able to do so, the first goal is to destabilize the Ijaws by turning them against each other. While they fight among each other, the outside forces can quietly lay siege to the area and claim it at a minimum cost.  The capture of Port Harcourt will open a major seaport for the consolidation of power by those who want it. The Ijaws should not forget that there are those who believe that the Ijaws were responsible for the downfall of Biafra. There are also those who believe that the Ijaws humiliated them during the Abandoned Property issue. There are also those who believe that the Ijaws must always be marginalized in order to reduce their ability to resist exploitation.  Do not forget that Isaac Boro was killed as the federal forces were about to capture Port Harcourt.  He was killed so that he would not arouse the Ijaws to action and pose a threat to the power-wielders in Nigeria as Rivers State was being liberated. Consequently, the Ijaws would be making a strategic mistake to ignore the political events of the epochal 1960s. In fact, the Ijaws have been behaving politically as if they had forgotten the geopolitics of the civil war. Those who felt humiliated do not forget. Therefore, what happened then indirectly contributes to the Port Harcourt situation today.

It can even be said that Bayelsa was created to weaken the Ijaw presence in Rivers State so that those who want to take control can do so quite easily. If not, the creation of Bayelsa would have been done in such a way that would have resulted in boundary adjustments involving Rivers, Delta, Edo, and Ondo States. In short, two Ijaw states would have been created to reduce balkanization of the ethnic group.

In international diplomatic and strategic military games, nation-states and groups sometimes pretend to support groups that they really hate. By doing so, they gain the trust of their foes, study their weaknesses and lay the traps to get them annihilated. Thus, the Ijaw groups in Rivers State are being treated similarly. Those with ulterior motives come in as friends, supply arms to various factions and encourage them to fight and destroy each other.  While they are fighting each other, land grab is taking place to consolidate economic and political power by the outside interests to the disadvantage of the Ijaws. In short, the Ijaws are being decimated politically, economically, and militarily in the state to make way for the outside interests to take over.

Another common tactics often deployed in political stratagems is the use of public officials from targeted and disadvantaged groups to justify official decimation of their strategic interests.  Increasingly, Rivers officials from Ijaw areas are being used as spokespersons to announce strong-arm military tactics against Ijaw interests. These tactics are always intended by political and military leaders to legitimize the perpetration of unacceptable or abusive acts against targeted or disadvantaged groups in order to create the impression that the government is working very hard to protect them from harm, when, in reality, the government is actually working to destroy them. In other words, if you want to destroy the Ijaws, use Ijaw public officials as spokesmen and women to justify actions being taken against their own people.

2.  The time for Rapprochement among Rivers State Ijaws: The Ijaws in Rivers State are not helping themselves, to a great extent. They have not been able to patch up age-old rivalry. It is not a secret that the Ibani, Kalabari, and Okrika have been at both Cold and Hot Wars for decades. This means that they have previously fought each other physically and have developed a certain level of animosity which makes it difficult for them to work together.  The outside forces have studied the relationship and comprehend the age-old animosity. As a result, they are exploiting the Cold War by instigating violent rivalries to keep the Ijaws busy while they incrementally gulp up Rivers State.  An extensive resocialization of thought is needed to make them become aware of the threat from the outside if they do not consolidate their interests.

If the three sub-groups and Andonni/Opobo were to join forces, no outside force would be able to penetrate the sub-region. Can you imagine if Dokubo, Ateke, and others were to join forces?

3.  The Federal Attack on Asari Dokubo:  The Ijaws need to think very deeply about what is going on. The Ijaws are considered to be the greatest impediment to the grabbing of the oilfields in the Niger Delta. The national strategy is to weaken the Ijaws by any means possible. If the allegations concerning the use of biochemical weapons against the Ijaw fighters led by Alhaji Dokubo were true, it definitely confirms the suspicion that the Federal Government is trying to do to the Ijaws what Sudan is doing in Southern and Western Sudan. Southern and Western Sudan has oil and there have been attempts to drive the original inhabitants out of their own territory to make way for total nationalization of the resources. There have been such designs on the Niger Delta, hence, oil is totally nationalized in Nigeria. This accounted for why the Federal Government wickedly tried to destroy the Ogonis. This is why the Federal Government does not hesitate to use excessive force in the region.

The Ijaws should be appreciative of the ongoing negotiations between President Obasanjo and the leadership of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force to lower tension but they must remain very vigilant. The president decided to negotiate after making so many attempts to kill Dokubo. The president realizes that an all out war would defeat the purpose of the national power-wielders. The power-wielders realize that a total war would result in the stoppage of oil operations. If oil operations are stopped, Nigerias economy would collapse and those who want to become multimillionaires and billionaires would not be able to achieve their objectives. The position taken by the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force also threatens the international economy of the industrialized countries, hence, the president decided to act nice instead of unleashing the full weight of the Nigerian military. In addition, it appears that the president was advised by his foreign allies against launching a total war on the Niger Delta armed groups, knowing full well the potential negative economic and political impact on the world economy, of such effort.  This accounted for the president's desire to make peace by negotiating with Dokubo and Ateke.

One should add that it is strategically and tactically impossible for an outside force to provide total protection of the oil fields and flow stations, no matter the level of force deployed to do so. The tactical difficulty is caused by the terrain and the refusal or unwillingness by Nigeria's leaders to develop the Niger Delta while taking from it to build other parts of the country. Due to the highly underdeveloped nature of the region, it is inaccessible to a mechanized military force and there are hundreds if not thousands of creeks, islands, lakes, and rivers in the region. The oil facilities are scattered all over the region, thereby creating logistical problems for the military to mobilize its forces.   The Navy cannot penetrate the region with large gun boats. It can only do so with lightly armed speed boats.   Since the region is not developed, airforce bombing would not make much difference, apart from causing massive explosions of the oil facilities and killing thousands of innocent people. On the other hand, it is very easy for an armed group to destabilize any oil pipeline or flow-station. In the event of a major conflict, the soldiers and navy personnel guiding the flow-stations would actually be endangering themselves since those oil facilities are like kicking time bombs. Ijaw people, all these tactical and logistical factors forced the president to negotiate rather than try to use heavy-handed military tactics. He has not change his view of the Niger Delta. He is placed in a situation he cannot win militarily, hence, his decision to act in a non-threatening manner, for now.

Having negotiated, Ijaw youth leaders must now be watchful. The reason being that since heavy-handed military operation would likely cause an international uproar and severe economic damage, the power-wielders could now decide to rely on tactical elimination of Ijaw youth leaders by sponsoring assassination squads, intra-group rivalry among the Ijaw groups, and fifth column activities. This scenario is not far-fetched, after all, Isaac Boro, Dele Giwa, Dr. Obi Wali, Pa Rewane, Chief Ken Saro-Wiwa, Mrs. Abiola, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, Chief Marshall Harry, Chief Dikibo etc. were eliminated tactically.  Mr. Dokubo hinted that on many occasions, when the president sent a team to negotiate with him and his boys, thereafter, the military would attack their positions.  This indicated that presidential negotiations in the immediate past with Dokubo were decoys intended to locate his specific position so that he would be eliminated. Thus, Dokubo of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force and Ateke's Niger Delta Vigilante should particularly watch out and not make careless mistakes.  They should make peace and work politically for the cause.

4.  The Warri Situation:  The Delta State situation is not improving despite peace efforts. The reason being that a determined effort is being made to drive the Ijaws out of the Warri area.  Each time the Ijaws agree to certain peace terms, the other side would come up with diplomatic and legal tricks to outfox the Ijaws.  Like in Rivers State, the Federal Government does not hesitate to use strong-arm military tactics against the Ijaws in the Western zone. Obviously, on both zones of the heartland,  there is a concerted effort to neutralize the Ijaws politically and militarily. The Joint Tasks Forces are particularly directed against the Ijaws and not to protect lives and properties.

5.  Federal Attitude Toward the Ijaws:  The Federal Government has repeatedly mobilized air, naval and ground forces against the Ijaws. Yet, in the North where most Nigerians have been killed, the Federal Government, led by President Obasanjo, has never mobilized the forces in an extensive manner to counter the killings.  Likewise, even though the Sharia Law is a major constitutional violation of the national sovereignty of Nigeria, President Obasanjo is willing to tolerate it. He will not tolerate such an affront on the national character of the nation if the Sharia had originated from the Niger Delta.  The Federal Government has never been willing to rehabilitate Ijaw victims of various crises.  Yet, the Federal Government often eagerly rehabilitates victims of crises in other parts of the country. President Obasanjo thinks that he can get away with decimating the Ijaws and make himself a hero of those who put him in power.   According to the World Bank Report, two officials within Obasanjo's administration are capable of paying off the $34 billion foreign debt that Nigeria owes. Where did these two officials get the billions?  How did they accumulate such wealth in a country where individuals rarely generate wealth from serious economic investment?  What kinds of investments do they have that can generate wealth amounting to about $20 billion each?   If these Nigerians are so rich, why is it that Forbes Magazine had never listed them as some of the richest men in the world?  It is obvious that they stole the money from the oil revenue.

As the Nigerian situation becomes desperate, there is a scramble to grab even more of the oil wealth. Therefore, those in position of power want to grab as much as possible in case the country collapses. This further adds to the urgency of neutralizing the Ijaws in order to make way for the oil to flow undisturbed. It should not be surprising that President Obasanjo who has been talking about fighting corruption refused to release the list of public officials alleged to have ferreted away $170 billion between 1999 and 2003. It should not be surprising that the scramble to grab the oil wealth will continue, regardless of what the president or any body says about fighting corruption. There is a strong feeling among the power-wielders that soon or later, the Niger Delta people would eventually succeed in obtaining resource control.  To beat that time, there is an uncontrollable or pathological desire among the high and mighty to loot as much as possible. 

It is understandable why large ocean going ships such as the M. T. African Pride and M.T. Jimoh that were in the custody of Nigeria's security forces, particularly the Navy, easily disappeared from sight (Iighodaro & Agande, 2004, September 24). Rear Admiral Antonio Bob-Manuel, the former Flag Officer and Commander of the Western Naval Command made an interesting revelation about how highly connected Nigerians scrambled to free the ships from the custody of the Navy. The most consistent thing about President Obasanjo's leadership has been the perpetual fear of locking horns with the high and mighty who are primarily responsible for wantonly embezzling the wealth of the nation. Since the beginning of his presidency, President Obasanjo has done everything possible to avoid challenging and forcing the high and mighty to comply with the laws of Nigeria.

6.  It is obvious that President Obasanjo is becoming very desperate. Before this time, he had convinced himself that he was God sent to save Nigeria. After the World Bank Report on the $170 billion and persistent criticism by many Nigerians about his lackluster regime, he has finally realized that his stewardship of the nation seems to be the worst that Nigeria has ever had.  He does not want to go down in history in such a disgraceful fashion.  The only way he can pretend to be doing something tangible is to get tough on the politically powerless. He has consistently picked on the politically powerless. He does not shy away from unleashing the military against the politically powerless groups while ignoring the transgressions of the powerful. Desperation is forcing him to behave as if he is a military dictator and that Nigeria is still under a military regime. Chief Ojukwu's refusal to kowtow to the SSS has shaken the foundation of the PDP imposed authoritarian system, thereby, exposing the illegitimacy of the regime, after all, the 2003 elections were stolen through Ghana Must GO Bags and manipulation.

Due to desperation, the Ijaws must understand why President Obasanjo will not hesitate to use strong-arm military tactics against them. He thinks that by acting tough against the Ijaws, he can restore his reputation as a no no-sense effective leader. However, since he is acting under desperation, each time he tries to act tough, he creates more problems for himself. For instance, the attack on Odi actually damaged his reputation. His order to attack Zaki Biam internationalized  his ineptitude. His inability to stop corruption or stop the high and mighty embezzlers from further looting the nations wealth portrays him as a man without courage to serve as a leader. He is no longer calling for debt reduction or forgiveness, having been told that Nigeria's public officials have more than the entire national debt in their foreign bank accounts. He is afraid to tell them to return the money.

The Ijaws need to be careful and avoid serving as cannon fodder for his desperate attempts to show that he is a tough leader. Therefore, it was a very smart political move when the Ijaw Youth Council decided to intervene and resolve the dispute between Asari Dokubo and Ateke Tom. It was a very smart diplomatic move for the IYC to insist that the Federal Government should not rely on military operations in the Rivers State to stop conflicts (Ighodaro, 2004, September 8). It was an excellent political move when the Ogbeh-Ijoh Volunteer Front (OVF) warned that the peace accord between the Ijaws and the Itsekiris was faltering and that the process needed to be fairly implemented by the state government. It is always better to communicate in advance before engaging in action. By warning in advance that something needed to be done, the Ijaws sent a clear message that they were not happy with the situation in Warri. The Ijaws also responded marvelously when the National Association of Gbaramatu Students (NAGS) responded very quickly to the Itsekiri demand for the convening of elections in the three local government councils in Warri (Amaize, 2004, September 28).  Asari Dokubo and his associates too have been diplomatically skillful in not taking very rigid stance on the Niger Delta issue. This enabled them to listen to various concerns and to negotiate when the opportunity offered itself. In other words, talk first and fight later as a last resort. If you fight before you talk, even if you are right or justified, the propaganda war would be directed against you. To avoid that, explain to everyone your feelings about a situation. If the situation is not resolved, then you have a right to engage in action, whether constitutionally or otherwise.

7.  Eagerness to Negotiate:  While it is always preferable to leave the door open for negotiation and to compromise, in diplomacy, it is not always wise to give in too quickly. Giving in too quickly can easily result in the defeat of the original intent or objective.  It is necessary to use the window of opportunity since the entire world is now focused on the Niger Delta to (a) compel the Federal Government to release the names of those who embezzled the $170 billion between 1999 and 2003, (b) compel the Federal Government to either increase revenue accruing to the oil-producing states or grant resource control, (c) compel the Federal Government to allocate a substantial sum of money for the environmental cleaning of the region, (d) compel the Federal Government to seriously commit to investing real money in developing the Niger Delta, (e) compel the Federal Government to abolish the Land Use Decrees, (f) compel the Federal Government to give back to the oil-producing states portions of returned embezzled funds and (g) compel the oil companies to negotiate with the communities in which they do business. 

In diplomacy, a window of opportunity is the best time to press on necessary demands, even if not all of them are realizable. The convening of a National Conference should not be the only point of initial demand, after all, a risk was taken in the first place to challenge the status quo. The Federal Government can easily agree to the convening of a National Conference and later politically dribble the Ijaws by working with other political zones to confound the National Conference. The Ijaws should not forget that there are more Non-oil Producing States (NOPS) than Oil-Producing States (OPS).  This means that politically, the peoples of the Niger Delta are in for a long political duel. Consequently, it is wise to use every window of opportunity to clearly state Ijaw demands.

8.  Ijaw Public Officials:  Ijaw public officials serving either at the national or state levels should be more diplomatic in their expression of support for Federal Government action that appears to be controversial and contradictory. For instance, the SSS effort to talk to Chief Ikemba should not be supported by a public official of Ijaw ethnicity for the simple reason that if such a position is supported, it creates a room for others to support any destructive policy or action that the Federal Government might take against Ijaw interests. In other words, it is diplomatically not sound to support an unpopular policy since the same could be used against your own people. Let the power-wielders who made the policy decision in the first place explain to Nigerians by showing their own faces why they take the action.Let the Inspector General of Police or the SSS director speak on the matter. It is a very popular Machiavellian tactics for political and military leaders to make someone else bear responsibility for carrying out an unpopular act.  Machiavelli had advised in the Prince that leaders should make others carry out their dirty deeds so that they can claim to be innocent. Both Gen. Ibrahim Babaginda and Sani Achaba used others to carry out their dirty deeds.  The PDP system relies heavily on using others to carry out their dirty deeds, hence, assassinations are common and the police authorities are not too eager to properly investigate assassination cases.

9.  Ijaw Public Officials and the National Debate:   There is no doubt that Ijaw elected public officials continue to be inactive participants in debating the great issues that affect the nation. Their extreme quietness continues to be disturbing, since in politics, those who talk the loudest seem to command more political attention than those who do not speak. In short , those who have no opinion in critical matters are like those who do not vote. They nullify their importance politically by not contributing to the debate. In fact, in diplomatic traditions and parliamentary procedures, those who do not contribute to a debate or abstain by not voting or taking a position, indirectly give away their political significance. Comparably, when elected Ijaw public officials do not make serious comments about public policies and actions that affect the body politics of the country, they are viewed as actually supporting the government's positions.  In other words, when elected Ijaw public officials do not make comments about actions taken by the Federal Government against the Ijaws or the people of the Niger Delta, their quietness is viewed upon as a sign of support for the federal actions.  This encourages the Federal Government to be even more suppressive of the rights of the Ijaws.

On the other hand, one must congratulate Gov. DSP. Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa for increasingly speaking out.  He spoke for millions when he lambasted the Federal Government for its double standards and lack of political will.  He advised,

            Government should initiate the political will to engage the stakeholders for peace

            and secuirty in the Niger Delta area, especially the youths, with frank discussion

            on the way forward.  programes and policies need to be intitiated to address the

            rising tide of youth unrest in thie beleaguered region.  I dare say that the Niger

            Delta has experienced the worst human rights violations in Nigeria. (Andor &

            Okocha, 2004, September 17).

He also did not minced words in condemning the oil companies for their destabilizing activities in the Niger Delta.  He said, " These oil and gas multinational corporations encourage militias, sponsor communal crises, breed sectional interests and conflicts in their host communities, and are believed to purchase firearms and ammunitions for the youths" (Ibid; Ojeifo, Septemebr 17, 2004) If all Ijaw elected public officials begin to speak more loudly, Nigeria's policymakers and the oil companies would become more cautious in violating the rights of the Ijaws. On the other hand, if Ijaw elected public officials continue to remain quiet while the Federal Government and the oil companies continue to carry out activities that are in violations of the rights of the people, it diplomatically means that they support the actions against their own people.

Apart from the governor, other elected Ijaw public officials must speak out. After all, they claim to be the representatives of their people. It should be noted that since 1999, non-public officials, who are nonetheless public figures, have been primarily responsible for speaking out while the elected public officials tended to act timidly as if they are afraid of something or do not have the intellectual foresight to influence public policy in Abuja. One could even argue that due to the failure of the elected public officials to speak out, Nigeria's policymakers are not really aware of the seriousness of the Niger Delta situation. If Ijaw representatives had put sufficient pressure and encourage representatives from other parts of the country to take organized trips through the Niger Delta, resistance toward increasing money for the development of the region would have lessened. Thousands of innocent Ijaw people have been killed by federal security forces due to the failure of Ijaw elected public officials to speak out and condemn the unwarranted killings. Of course, it is not too late for Ijaw representatives to suggest in the National House of Assembly that members take organized special trips through the Niger Delta and see things for themselves. 

Non-elected Ijaw public figures and private citizens who have taken the risk to voice their opinions or take action should be congratulated for their efforts to change the intolerable situation in the region. They should continue to voice their opinions and act to put pressure and internationalize the struggle. As destructive as the rivalry between Ateke and Dokubo has been, it has re-internationalized the Niger Delta struggle by linking what goes on in the Niger Delta with the international economy. The price of crude oil reached $50 per barrel as soon as Dokubo announced an intention for arms struggle. The Warri wars first connected the Niger Delta directly with the world economy when oil production in Nigeria was reduced by 40%.  Chief Ken Saro Wiwa brought international respectability to the Niger Delta struggle.

10.   Speaking with one voice:  If there is any period in Ijaw history which requires every one to speak with one voice, this is it as the Niger Delta gradually slides into a Darfur-like situation. The Ijaws must learn to speak as one and stick together. They should begin to view the Niger Delta situation in terms of a collective security system in which an attack against one Ijaw community is treated as an attack against all Ijaws. Strategically speaking, it is no longer appropriate to view an incident in one part of Ijawland as a disconnected event that does not have bearing on the entire ethnic nation. In other words, the Ijaws should no longer view Warri as a Western Ijaw affair or the fighting around Port Harcourt and Andonni as an Eastern Ijaw affair. 

To continue to do so means playing into the hands of the national power-wielders and the oil companies. These stakeholders want the Ijaws to feel and believe that Warri, Bayelsa, and Port Harcourt are isolated cases.  It is a divide and conquer tactics to make the Ijaws think provincially or clannishly. In fact, the Rivers State Chairman of the Nigerian Advance Party (NAP), Mr. J. Sodienye, played into this game when he attempted to explain that the problems in the Degema area are unconnected to his own area (Bonny). According to him, there has been no casualty in Bonny, where he hails from. By separating Bonny from the Degema situation, he fails to acknowledge the big strategic picture about the intentions of the national players who want to dominate the entire Niger Delta.   What happens if what is happening in Kalabariland were to suddenly take place in Bonny, would he be so eager to have federal forces come to Bonny and shoot recklessly? Unfortunately, there are many Ijaw public officials who still cannot grab the strategic implications of various federal actions. The federal use of heavy weaponry against Odi, Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom, and in the Warri area are intended to totally render the Ijaws incapable of any form of resistance. Therefore, to permit any federal military incursion is to encourage the destruction and annihilation of the Ijaws.

Regardless of gang rivalry, it is not wise for any Ijaw to tolerate the deployment of heavily armed federal forces in Ijaw territory. After all, despite thousands of killings that had taken place in the North, President Obasanjo had never deployed ground and air forces against armed gangs in the North, apart from Plateau State. Even the ongoing military operation against the Taliban in the North-East region bordering Cameroon is cautiously executed in order to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. In the Niger Delta, the military is ordered to shoot at anything that moves.  So, the security forces shoot recklessly and drop bombs with total disregard for innocent people. 

To speak with one voice, the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council should now become the official mouthpieces of the ethnic group. Anyone who wants to make a public statement should try to consult first with these bodies so that contradictory statements can be avoided. The INC and IYC leaders must speak more often in expressing the Ijaw position. As soon as an ethnic consultation has taken place concerning any matter and an official position has been taken, no high-level Ijaw public official should counteract the official position, regardless of whether the person is in government or not. The exception to this rule would be in situations where these bodies are viewed as being compromised or corrupted. In such situations, it would be proper for an individual or a group to speak by taking a contrary position, even if such a position does not agree with the INC or IYC.


Likewise, it is time to remove the geographic categorizations (Eastern, Central or Southern, and Western) from the discussion of Ijawland.  Such application hinders the ability to work together. An Ijaw should be an Ijaw and not Eastern or Central or Western Ijaw. If the people regard themselves in totality as one indivisible unit, then the national players would become more careful in dealing with the Ijaws. When any part of Ijawland is attacked, all Ijaws must come together and condemn it, not just those affected by the operation. This is the only way to achieve collective security.

11.  Unifying Symbols:  To bring the people together, it is time to design an Ijaw national anthem and a flag. After all, every Ijaw village, town, and clan has an anthem as well as a flag. An anthem and a flag would become unifying symbols of the oneness of the entire people. Let Ijaw songwriters develop an anthem while the artists design a flag. 
The Igbos demonstrated a high degree of oneness when they took one day off to celebrate Biafra Day. They have also showed that they can come together to defend strategic interests when they supported Chief Ikemba on the SSS matter. The Ijaws did not pursue the assassinations of Marshall Harry and Dikibo with determined efforts.

12.  Oil Charter:  It is time for the Ijaws to make an international declaration saying that Ijawland belongs to the Ijaws and only them can decide who comes to their land to invest or explore for oil.  In this regard, an Oil Charter should be declared saying that any company that wants to explore for oil in Ijawland must first consult with the Ijaws and gain approval before it engages in oil or gas exploration. This does not mean that Ijawland is not part of Nigeria. It simply means that they will decide in their own part of the nation how to manage the land.  After all, if a person were to go to Abuja or Lagos or Kano to set up a business or build a house, the person must first negotiate with the land- owner. Generally, it is only after an agreement has been struck concerning the value of the landed property before the business is actually set up or the house built. Ordinarily, the government does not tell a landowner how much he/she should charge for a land.  In the same vein, the Ijaws should have a right to negotiate with an oil company the value of the land before the company begins to do business on the land.  The most judicious thing for the government to do is tax the landowner for the income earned through renting the land for a business purpose.  

There should be no need to engage in confrontational tactics against Nigeria.  Instead of focusing on Nigeria, focus on the oil companies.  Let them know that they cannot do business in Ijawland without first negotiating with the Ijaw people. When both the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council make this declaration, the oil companies will take note and change their tactics.  They would begin to take the Ijaws more seriously, knowing full well that unauthorized presence in any land would not be appreciated.

It is obvious that Nigeria is not capable of being a good steward of Ijawland. To continue to entrust Nigeria with the right to be the guardian of Ijawland is to commit political, environmental, and economic suicide. It is unnatural for any group to entrust the guardianship of its territory to an entity whose leaders are only driven by the desire to acquire wealth by any means possible. Nigeria does not regard the inhabitants of the Niger Delta has people who have rights.  Nigeria has no regard for the Niger Delta environment. In short, Nigeria has behaved as the British during the heydays of British colonialism in the 13 American colonies. When the British enacted the Intolerable Acts, the Americans reacted by saying that "There is no taxation without representation". Nigeria cannot account for the oil wealth that it has forcibly grabbed since the enactment of the Intolerable Acts, namely the Land Use decrees and the Pipeline Vandalization Acts. Nigeria is a country in which an ocean going vessel can literally disappear in the presence of the Nigeria Navy. President Obasanjo is not eager to prosecute those who ferreted away $170 billion during his presidency but he does not hesitate to unleash the military against those who have been suffering due to governmental mismanagement of resources.

After the declaration, go to court and file an injunction ordering Nigeria to stop claiming that it has an inalienable right to trample upon the Niger Delta.  If Nigerian courts are ineffective in doing so, seek counsel in US courts.  If that does not work, go to the United Nations.  Likewise, pursue or explore multiple diplomatic avenues in order to internationalize and maximize results of the struggle for economic rights and political respectability..

13.  An Ijaw Oil Company:  As soon as the Oil Charter is declared, an oil company should be established in Bayelsa State. This company will be responsible for monitoring, managing, and engaging in oil exploratory activities.It should serve as an economic and a social bridge to connect the Ijaw people with Nigeria, the oil companies, and their home countries. It will help to provide manpower training and development in the areas of management and technical know-how to Ijaw youths. This company should be able to compete for contracts and engage in shipping activities. If other oil-producing states wish to join the effort, then the company can be called the Niger Delta Oil Company of Nigeria. Otherwise, simply call it Ijaw International Oil Corporation.

14.  The United Nations:  If Nigeria continues to military occupy Ijawland and use very harsh military tactics against the people, they should go to the United Nations and seek protection against Nigeria. It is obvious that for a majority of Ijaw people, Nigeria has repeatedly demonstrated a desire not to protect them. The Niger Delta is dying environmentally, agriculturally, topographically (erosion and floods), economically, and medically. In this regard, the Ijaw organizations in the diaspora should work toward laying the foundation for establishing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ijaws and the US, Britain, France, Japan Russia, and the United Nations.

15.  Asari Dokubo:  Although very destabilizing and militarily dangerous, Asari Dokubo's action appears to be a blessing in disguise. The reason being that it is now forcing Nigerians to discuss candidly their treatment of the Niger Delta. There is no body who can justify Nigeria's policies, attitude, and actions towards the Niger Delta.  How can the richest part of the country be the poorest?  Why is it that those who do not have oil in their backyards should be the ones making decisions about oil?  How is it possible that those who are not from the richest part of the country are the greatest beneficiaries of the oil wealth?  This is a moment that the Ijaws must seize upon to impress upon Nigeria that they will no longer tolerate the Land Use decrees anymore. 

Mr. Dokubo is not only an able Ijaw son, he is also diplomatic, hence, his flexibility and willingness to discuss the situation.  He should tell all about the secret deals that the high and mighty in Rivers State concocted in order to destabilize the indigenes.  God and the ancestors work in mysterious ways. The sudden emergence of Dokubo reminds one of the sudden appearance of Isaac Boro at critical moments in Ijaw history.

16.  Civil Action:  If it is proven that the politically high and mighty were responsible for sponsoring the violence that killed Chief Harry and Dikibo and victimized innocent people in Rivers State, a class action suit must be filed against the sponsors. In particular, the Okrika, Kalabari, Andonni, Abua/Odual, Ikwerre, and Ogoni people have suffered extensively. They should not hesitate to file civil suits claiming damages for the mayhem that state political authorities sponsored to victimize them. Let a legal ruling be made on the matter. For the Ijaws, the IYC should take the lead in filing charges.

17.  Dredging of the Niger River:  Ordinarily, it makes an economic sense to dredge the River Niger and make it possible for bigger vessels to ply the river and expand economic activities. However, strategically, it does make any sense for the Ijaws to allow the dredging of the river. The intended dredging is not directed at benefiting those groups inhabiting the Niger Delta. Secondly, it is a ploy for anyone to raise the argument that dredging the river would bring economic benefits to the Ijaws or others living in the delta. It should be recalled that the same reasons were advanced when the Kianji Dam was being constructed.  nstead of economic benefits, as was promised, the groups in the delta have suffered tremendous economic and agricultural losses. Thirdly, the dredging at this critical moment in Nigeria's history would simply open up the Niger Delta for much bigger naval vessels to move back and forth in the region. The Ijaws would make a very serious mistake to allow dredging to take place because it would enable their territory to be totally militarized. Right now, Nigeria is finding it difficult to penetrate the Niger Delta because of the shallow rivers and creeks.

Thus, apart from the environmental reasons for opposing dredging, the Ijaws should also make a demand that until the resource control issue is resolved, they will not allow any alteration of their territory. Let Nigeria dredge other portions of the river but not  Ijaw territory. After, all, more than any other ethnic group, the Ijaws have paid the highest price to make Nigeria come to fruition.  Unfortunately, Nigeria's leaders do not  appreciate the sacrifice.

18.   Mobilization of Resources:  The Ijaws must mobilize their resources. Youth groups should consult one another more frequently to acquire strategic and tactical skills. There is a need to lay the groundwork for an Ijaw Red Cross. This is critical in the event that villages and towns are destroyed through military bombardment, as had happened in Opinya, Okerenkeke, Odi, and recent incursions into Andonni, Okrika and Degema.  Those individuals and organizations that have connections to international humanitarian organizations should continue to do so in case medications are needed to treat the wounded.  

One could recall that during the civil war, many towns and villages had youth groups organized to enhance the protection of the communities. The time has come again for similar groups. The oil and regional struggle is going to be long.

19:  Ancestral Resources:   As stated in an earlier article, the Ijaws should not be afraid of utilizing the vast ancestral resources at their disposal.  These resources, when instituted accordingly, can contribute greatly to achieving goals and objectives. One could recall stories being told about a lake around Okoloba/Sabagreia/Oyobu  in Kolokuma clan. It is often said that the lake is sacred and is connected to the ancestors. Fishing on it can only be carried out when it is officially sanctioned to do so after prayers have been offered to the ancestors. It is said that anyone who secretly goes to fish in the lake when it has not been officially sanctioned would encounter a mishap or experience stomach ache for consuming a fish caught in it illegally. It is also said that when the lake is officially declared open for fishing, dangerous creatures such as crocodiles would not harm anyone. Likewise, in the same area, there is an ancestral deity, it is believed, that is capable of energizing anyone who is swimming and feeling exhausted. During the civil war, there was a persistent tale about some people in Okrika who were capable of remaining under water for some time. Tales have also been floated around the Nembe/Akassa area about an ancestral force that can rescue someone from shipwreck or drowning. At Odi, stories were speculated about an ancestral force that had opposed oil drilling activity.  As a result, whenever a drilling pipe was installed, it would bend. A similar story had been told about a site between Nembeland and Kalabariland in which an effort to drill for oil was frustrated. At Odi again, before the Ogori Uba Uge festival begins, the town is ritually closed and serious economic activity is banned. It is believed that after the ritual has been activated, any indigene of the town who tries to engage in serious economic activity during the festival could experience a mishap. Therefore, during the festival, the indigenes can only farm or fish or engage in any economic activity very lightly. 

These kinds of stories can be found in every clan.  They need to be verified and reinstituted. Thus, the Ijaws can use such processes to reduce intrusion into Ijawland if the Ijaws do not desire such visitations. Be proud of what you are.Be proud of what you have. Be proud that the colonial system did not destroy traditions laid down by the ancestors thousands of years ago.  Use them because the forces allayed against the Ijaws are massive and continuous. Do not allow yourself to be defined by others. Negotiate with your eyes open and think very deeply before acting. Traditions that have existed for thousands of years are far more reliable than newly emerging cultural practices that seem to be merely social fads.

This is indeed a period that requires profound diplomatic skills so that political traps and minefields set by political detractors can be avoided.   It is very easy for the Ijaw people to be embroiled in situations that can tear them apart. The strategy is to deflect the pressures that are coming from all angles as the scramble for oil goes on.   Therefore, the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw diasporic organizations must continue to represent the diplomatic face of the ethnic nation while the Ijaw Youth Council should continue to represent the activism of the nation. The elders should watch over the youths and the youths should watch over the elders. This is necessary to create a political counterbalance and thereby maximize efforts. In addition, Ijaw non-establishment leaders must watch over Ijaw elected public officials and the elected public officials should watch over the non-establishment leaders. The weakest link involves elected public officials who have not performed according to expectations, thereby, forcing the non-establishment leaders and the youths to come to the fore of the political struggle.

In a nutshell, the Ijaws should seize the present window of political and diplomatic opportunity to demand the following:

a.  100% resource control

During negotiations, this can be broken into either 40/60% or 50/50% sharing of revenue.

b.  The creation of another Ijaw state.

c.  The publication of the World Bank Report

d.  The return of looted wealth with 50% going back to the Niger Delta States.

e.  The abrogation of the Land Use Decrees.

f.  The declaration of an Oil Charter in which no oil company will do business in Ijawland without first negotiating with the community in which it wishes to do business.

g.  The establishment of an Ijaw Oil Corporation to manage petroleum activities

h.  No dredging of the Niger Delta until resource control and environmental issues are addressed.

i.  The withdrawal of military forces from the Niger Delta.

j.  The inclusion of the Niger Delta in the national budget and not just as merely a special area.

k.  The establishment of an environmental fund in which the federal Government and the oil companies would clean the Niger Delta.

Instead of each Ijaw group or faction clamoring for its pet project, putting out a total ethnic package of demands and action points is necessary to let Nigerian authorities and the international community become aware of the Niger Delta situation.  The CNN Africa Report on Saturday, October 1st, 2004, put a pictorial face on the extreme poverty that characterizes the Niger Delta, particularly Ijawland.

Petroluem is an international strategic asset due to its extensive influence on the worlds economy.  Use it as a diplomatic tool to achieve your goals. 



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Amaize, E.  (2004, September24).  Ijaw threaten outbreak of hostilities in Warri.

_______, (2004, Septmeber 28).  Ijaw students faults calls for polls in Warri LGs.  Vanguard. http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles2002.niger_delta.nd428092004.html. 9/28/04.

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Ighodaro, J. (2004, September 8).  IYC wades into Rivers crisis, contacts warlords.  Vanguard.  http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/niger_delta/nd308092004.html.  9/9/04.

Ighodaro, J. & Agande, B. (2004, September 24). Missing ship found in P-Harcourt  Naval chief alleges $.1m bribe, indicts serving minister.  Vanguard http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/cover/f324092004.html. 9/24/04. 

Ojeifo, S. (2004, September 17).  Bayelsa gov slams FG, oil firms for Niger Deltas woes.  Vanguard http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/nationalx/nr117092004.html.  9/17/04.