We Dare To Be Different.
Strategic Factors and Options: Opportunity for a New Beginning
Strategic Factors and Options: The danger of taking one step forward and two steps backward
Strategic Factors and Options: Fighting Legal Fire with Fire
By Priye S. Torulagha
On the surface, it appears as if the Ijaw nation has been stricken by two major lightening bolts, following the arrests of two prominent Ijaw citizens, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha and Asari Dokubo. For the politically and legally uninitiated player or amateur, such actions are enough to convince the person to give up the struggle. Similarly, the two cases are sufficient enough to rock the foundation out of any ethnic group that is not equipped to handle two major legal and political battles at the same time.
There is no doubt that Nigeria desired to deliver a knock out blow, like Mike Tyson, in his heydays. Hence, it plotted with the British Government to ensure the arrest of Governor Alamieyeseigha while simultaneously arresting Alhaji Asari Dokubo in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. By such steps, Nigeria intended to inflict legal and political body blows to the Ijaw nation, hoping to defang and neutralize it for good in an effort to ensure uninhibited flow of oil from the Niger Delta. In the past, Nigeria had
intentionally inflicted military blows by devastating many towns and village, including Odi and Odiama.
Instead of being shaken, the Ijaws should take the two cases as a blessing in disguise. In fact, they should even welcome more since such actions are needed to wake them up and enable them to realize that they are a in a drawn-out politico-legal guerrilla warfare in which Nigeria is determined to win at all costs. Only such bodily blows will enable Ijaw public officials, public figures and the elites to stop misbehaving and realize that they must mobilize politically and legally to take the necessary actions to untangle the ethnic nation.
Nigeria used the two cases to send clear messages, one to corrupt public officials that the era of blatant corruption is drawing to a close and the other to warn armed elements that any threat to the territorial integrity of the country would be seriously dealt with. Of the two cases, the one in London seems to be a little more complicated due to the money laundering charges. At the present time in the world, anyone who is arrested for allegedly committing embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds or illegal transfer of funds is not very likely to receive a warm reception from the generality of the public since such acts tend to penalize the general public more than the elites. It is not a secret that the Niger Delta has been devastated by massive corruption emanating from local and national public officials. On the other hand, in Dokubo’s case, although treason is alleged, nonetheless, it seems to provide the best opportunity for the Ijaw people to legally liberate themselves, if they really want to be free in making decisions about the control of natural resources on their lands.
The Dokubo’s case has a universal implication, not only for the Niger Delta and Nigeria since almost all the contemporary African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and Latin American countries were created through foreign military aggression. If the Ijaws legally fight this case to the highest level possible, they would help to set political and legal precedents concerning the legality of states created through foreign military aggression in Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Latin America. In other words, the Ijaws should help to raise the question of the legality of a state created by forced incorporation. Is it legally proper or legitimate for such a state to gain sovereign status when the citizens were forced at gunpoint to accept the arrangement? Since the implication of the Dokubo case is far more reaching, the Ijaws need to mobilize all their resources to fight it. A forced incorporation is an illegal act, therefore, can an illegality become legal under international law?
In fighting the treason case, the Ijaws need to do the following:
1. Assist in recruiting a very competent legal team. Of course, Festus Keyamo is a legal warrior and cannot be easily intimidated. He needs all the financial and material support from the people of the Niger Delta and well-wishing Nigerians.
2. The defense team must insist, as Keyamo has already intimated, the right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. Part of the cross-examination must include examining the circumstances under which the witnesses became the eyes and hears of the government. This is necessary in order to find out whether they were fifth columnists or paid hands of the federal government.
3. Part of the strategy must be to challenge the treason charge by arguing that it isimpossible for an Ijaw to commit such act against Nigeria since the Ijaws did not sign any document which transferred their sovereignty to the British Government or Nigeria. If the Ijaws did not sign any agreement which transferred their sovereignty, technically, it means that the Ijaws are still sovereign. Since Asari Dokubo is an Ijaw, he enjoys the sovereignty of the Ijaw ethnic nation. To argue this point successfully, it is crucial to produce all the colonial documents and treaties which the Ijaws signed with the British. Keyamo has already made reference to this possibility. Mr. Orubebe too had made a statement that the Ijaws never signed any paper to be part of Nigeria. These documents must be produced as evidence.
4. It is necessary to argue that the Ijaws were forcefully incorporated into Nigeria by aggression, therefore, they did not have the freedom of determinining whether they wanted to be in Nigeria or not. Based on this logic, the Ijaws, being a colonial subject of Nigeria, have the right to seek self-determination based on the United Nations Declarations concerning Decolonization and Human Rights. This being the case, the defense can add that Asari Dokubo acted in accordance with UN declarations and thus did not commit any treasonable offence against Nigeria. In this case, it is necessary to tender UN treaties and declarations concerning self-determination for colonized people, as evidence.
5. To demonstrate the fact that the Niger Delta has never been treated as part of Nigeria, refer to the Willink’s Commission report which recommended that the region should be treated as a “Special Area.”
6. Further, argue that the case should be thrown out due to its selective and discriminatory nature. There are hundreds of people in Nigeria who have made comments similar to the one made by Dokubo but they are not arrested or charged for treason. To support this argument, provide newspaper clippings made by others in the country. Show that there is a pattern of discrimination against the citizens of the Niger Delta, thereby, demonstrating the fact that the region and its inhabitants are treated as colonial subjects. Further, show that by systemically discriminating against the citizens of the Niger Delta, Nigeria has shown that it does not regard the citizens of the region as Nigerians. Otherwise, Nigeria would have treated all Nigerians equally under the Constitution and laws of the land.
7. An argument can also be made by maintaining that Dokubo could not be charged for treason since he is from the Niger Delta and Nigeria has treated the Niger Delta like a colonial enclave by discriminating against the region in infrastructural development throughout its existence. Further, add that if Nigeria truly believes that the Niger Delta is part of the country, it would not have neglected the region throughout its existence, despite the recommendations of the Willink’s Commission in 1958.
8. Concerning the charges that Dokubo is a member of an armed group, using the argument above, compile a list of such groups in the country. After doing so, argue that if belonging to such groups constituted treasonable offence, then question the prosecutor on why Nigeria has not arrested and charged the leaders and followers of all such groups in the country. Add that since Nigeria is not arresting and charging leaders of such organizations in the country, it means that belonging to such organizations does not constitute a crime, otherwise, such groups would have been banned and all members would have been arrested and charged for treason.
9. Based on the logic above, argue that the arrest of Dokubo was politically motivated, if not, every group of such nature would have been banned and the leaders arrested and charged for treason.
10. To demonstrate the fact that the arrest and charges were politically motivated, let the court know that Nigeria is today a democratic nation. Generally, in a democratic nation, freedom of speech is allowed. Show that in the US, Canada, Britain, and many other democratic countries, individuals have spoken about secession or the right to break away without being charged for treason. Cite Canada, in particular, where politicians and citizens from the Quebec Province have freely spoken about breaking away from the country. Inform the court that in Canada and other democratic countries, the ballot is used to deal with such political issues and not truncated political charges intended to intimidate citizens.
11. Also cite the fact that in the US and other democratic countries, armed interest groups operate freely. Thus, Asari Dokubo was exercising his democratic right to express frustration over the manner in which Nigeria had treated his people for more than four decades. Cite instances where he said that he was going to fight for the freedom of his people by using democratic and legal means. In fact, he was one of the first leaders in Rivers State to agree to negotiate the surrender of arms. Since then, he has operated openly like any other law-abiding individual.
12. While this case is going on, either the Ijaw National Congress or the Ijaw Youth Council or a legal body, so constituted, should sue the federal government, demanding reparations and interest from all the monies earned through oil exploration in Ijaw territory. The suit should be based upon the view that Nigeria expropriated Ijaw lands without permission through intolerable and abusive military decrees. To support this assertion, demonstrate that the Niger Delta has been militarily occupied to make way for forceful expropriation of the region’s resources.
The issue of expropriation must be demonstrated by showing that the Ijaw people did not sign any paper surrendering their sovereignty to either Britain or Nigeria. The evidence tendered in the case above can also be used in the suit to justify reparation and or compensation.
Another Ijaw group or a section of the INC or IYC should be responsible for publicity. As the Dokubo case is going on, it is important to publish the documents signed by the Ijaws in an effort to educate the Nigerian public and the entire world about the fact that the Ijaws truly have a legal ground to demand compensation for expropriation of land and resources, environmental damage and economic loses on agriculture and fisheries emanating from oil exploration.
The publicity group should also send copies of such documents to theUnited Nations, the African Union, Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany.
The suggested legal options might sound outlandish and nonensical, nevertheless, it should be noted that other groups have been deploying similar tactics. For instance, the Masai in Kenya are trying to reclaim all the lands that were forcibly taken away from them during the colonial era. Similarly, the San people who have been tremendously discriminated against in South Africa , are working to reclaim their lands. They are also working to get compensation for the use of the resources on their lands. In fact, the Native Americans in Ecuador successfully used such legal arguments to win cases against oil companies which operated in their territories.
While the Dokubo case provides an excellent ground for the Ijaws to challenge the notion of the sovereignty of a state created through foreign military aggression, the Ijaws should take a wait and see attitude on the Alamieyeseigha case. That case involves money laundering of misappropriated public funds. The people of Bayelsa, like other citizens of the Niger Delta, have suffered tremendously due to massive corruption perpetrated by indigenous public officials. For instance, according to financial figures posted by brother Francis Udisi on Ijawnation website, Bayelsa received the following amount from January to June, 2005:
January 2005 ===9,683,195,968.85
March 2005 ====9,294,384,550.67
April 2005 =====8,864,426,419.67
It is very doubtful whether Bayelsa State officials can give a correct account of what was done with all these monies. In fact, there are still Bayelsan state workers who have not received their salaries for months, despite the monthly federal allocations to the state. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the people of Bayelsa and the Ijaw people generally that the case in London goes through the legal process so that all the facts are uncovered.
The governor’s case provided an excellent opportunity for the Ijaw nation to play high level diplomatic politics internationally. However, the ethnic nation, through the INC and IYC leadership, failed to do so. Instead, the politics of reaction was manifested. Reactive politics has a negative implication and does not seem to boost the image of the ethnic group. For instance, sending someone to Aso Rock to plead with the president and other power-wielders was both strategic and tactical mistakes. It portrayed the ethnic group as people who cannot stand on the principle of Izonism (truth). The president and other power-wielders knew immediately that they had gotten the Ijaws, so, they ignored the Ijaw entourage who trooped to Abuja. Moreover, why did any Ijaw leader think that the president would make an exception on the case of the governor, taking into consideration the fact that the president did not make an exception in the case of Chief Tafa Balogun. Chief Balogun is a Yoruba and a close associate of the president. Similarly, threatening British interest was a diplomatic blunder internationally since it sent a wrong message to the world that the Ijaws could not be trusted to fight corruption.
Think about it for a moment; one major reason why the Niger Delta always seem to take one step forward and two steps backward is the high degree of corruption among indigenous and national public officials. The region’s public officials have always worked in tandem with the national public officials to exploit the region. As a result, ordinary citizens of the region have never benefited from the oil windfall. On the other hand, the region’s public officials have tended to act with impunity, believing that they can always be above the law, as far as they work cooperatively with the national power-wielders. If one carefully examines the political actions of Bayelsa and Rivers States, in the last four years, a conclusion can be drawn that the political leaders of these two states spent massively to reward outside interests without doing so to the citizens of their states. It is rare to hear of Bayelsa or Rivers State donating millions of naira to any village or community within their borders, yet, they have never hesitated to spend millions of nairas to outside interests, in an effort to woo national power-wielders.
Indeed, the governor’s case is a blessing in disguise because public officials in the South/South and throughout Nigeria have since become very cautious. In Bayelsa, some public officials are terrified of being arrested while some are in hiding. Why are these officials taking cover or hiding if they have not engaged in criminal activity?
The governor’s case also provides opportunity for Ijaw communities to launch a silent but peaceful revolution in the three zones. As the federal government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), intensifies its effort to apprehend embezzlers, Ijaw communities should file cases in the courts to claim public ownership of any property that was built or purchased with embezzled money. For instance, if a local government chair or secretary had embezzled money allocated for the development of the community, as the people of Patani were able to demonstrate, the community should use legal means to seize the properties. If the properties involved houses, such facilities could be used for public libraries, community centers, health clinics, and schools. If the properties involved vehicles, the vehicles should become the properties of the local government. If the properties involved business ventures, they should be converted to publicly owned community cooperative enterprises.
Similarly, the communities of Tombia, Buguma, Okrika, Andonni, Abua etc, that were ransacked by armed elements should sue the political elites and the governments that supported the armed elements to cause various mayhem. Of course, the people of Odi and Odiama must not fail to act legally for the massive abuse of their rights.
Due to the sudden change in the climate for embezzlement, those who have critical information about misappropriated public funds should report such incidents so that the authorities can investigate. It is the only means to clean up Ijawland of charlatans and plutocrats who parade themselves as patriots while exploiting and pauperizing the people.
These actions are necessary to let it be known that public funds belong to the people and not the public officials entrusted with the responsibility of administering the funds. In Nigeria, elected officials behave as if they have an inalienable right to convert into their personal use public funds intended for the management of public goods and services. In the process, citizens have been reduced to paupers while the public officials and their families become super-rich.
As can be seen, it is politically obvious that the stake-holders on the Niger Delta question, including the indigenes, international oil consuming nations, the oil companies, and Nigeria’s powerwielders are increasingly concerned about the situation in the region. Thus, concerned by the lack of development, despite billions of nairas being allocated to the oil-producing states monthly, President Olusegun Obasanjo and the British Government decided to act. Instead of taking a diplomatic position which supports the anticorruption effort, the Ijaws threatened to stop the effort because their prominent son had fallen prey to the dragnet. It will take a while for the Ijaws to repair the political damage caused by failing to support the anticorruption effort, regardless of the manner, in which the war is being prosecuted. In the future, when the Ijaws demand a fair play, others would say, “ you people are not serious. You scream about marginalization, deprivations, and oppression, yet, when your son is caught , you screamed and threatened for his release.” It is a political suicide to take the position that fighting corruption is the right thing to do when people from other ethnic groups are caught but it is unacceptable when an Ijaw is caught, especially considering the fact that Ijaw public officials have caused the greatest amount of damage to the Ijaw nation through selfishness, narrow-mindedness, and forming unholy alliances.
In fact, it is arguable that the behavior of public officials in the oil-producing region led to the failure to get more than 17% during the National Political Reform Conference. It did not make any sense to ask for more than 13% when public officials in the South/South could not account for the increased federal allocation provided to their states. Democratic politics involve give and take based on justifiable logical arguments.
Therefore, the governor’s case must be allowed to run through the legal process inorder to bring respectability to the Ijaw demands internationally. The British acted swiftly because they wanted to protect their investments via the Shell Petroleum Development Company. They reasoned that massive corruption was preventing the oil dividend to flow to the Niger Delta masses, thereby, fueling the militancy that was threatening the SPDC and other multinational companies. They are convinced that if public officials in the region are prevented from misappropriating funds allocated for development in the region, then the masses would benefit from the oil dividend. If the masses benefit directly through infrastructural development, the need for militancy among the youths would de-escalate. President Obasanjo too feels that militancy among the youths can be reduced if the people in the oil-producing region are allowed to enjoy the fruits of increased federal allocations.
For the time being, the deputy governor should be congratulated for resisting outside pressure to violate the constitution of Bayelsa State. It is important for him to unite the people by not violating the constitutional process until the London situation clears up. He can serve as an acting governor but not the governor until the case is decided. This is necessary to have a smooth transition from one leader to another without Ijaw people fighting each other for the governorship position. In fact, it is important for Ijaw leaders to be wary of the PDP system. It is a very negative and unprogressive political force in Nigeria. Consequently, the Ijaws must try not to be entangled in its deadly politics. The Bayelsa governor, it appears, was too close to the center of gravity of the PDP system, hence, his predicament.
This is time for serious political and legal gamesmanship. Playing big time politics involves certain risks. Consequently, those who fall prey to the risks must accept their fate as part of the rituals of playing in the big leagues. The Ijaws must learn to play in the big leagues if they are serious about their political intentions. If the federal government is willing to attack with all legal guns blazing, the Ijaws must counter by using all legal means available.
Strategic Factors and Options: Opportunity for a New Beginning
As I have stated many times in the past, a substantial number of Ijaw people are not aware of the international implication of their plight. Being situated at the center or core of the oil belt automatically exposes them to regional, national, and international political intrigues. The reason being that oil is a much sort after commodity in the world. The Black Gold is the fuel that drives the world economy. Therefore, it is a strategic commodity for which nation-states are willing to devise any means necessary or go to war in order to secure its uninterrupted supply.
Since the Black Gold is a strategic commodity, the Niger Delta is automatically a strategic region. Unfortunately, most Ijaws are not conscious of this political reality. The sad thing is that even Ijaw public officials, those who call themselves the political elites do not seem to comprehend the implication. Hence, as soon as they get into power, they forget that they are being watched, trapped, tricked, manipulated, bribed, co-opted, defanged, and compromised. As soon as they acquire some political recognition from the power-wielders in Nigeria, they begin to act as if they have acquired national wings to do as they wish, believing that their national godfathers and godmothers will be able to rescue them. As soon as they test power, they forget the Ijaw masses, begin to wine and dine and with the power-wielders, dance in circles, and ferret the peoples money away as if the people are nonenties, falsely believing that they no longer need the Ijaw masses to protect them since they have acquired national wings to fly to Abuja, Kano, Lagos, London. New York or Paris etc.
Another sad part of what has been going on in Ijawland is the fact that when some of these so-called leaders assume power, their wives and children begin to display the looted wealth as if their husbands, fathers, and uncles actually work for the money. The children begin to live in very expensive houses and drive very expensive vehicles. They travel all over the world and advertise the handiwork of their husbands and fathers, thereby, making it easy for the Ijaw public to know what is going on. The unfortunate thing is that those associated with looters often forget their sense of morality and pretend as if everything is proper.
There is no doubt that Bayelsa State in particular and the Ijaw nation in general have not been governed well. Throughout the ethnic nation, the reported Patani Local Government financial drama seems to play itself out daily as Ijaw political leaders literally convert the financial resources of their communities into personal accounts. In Bayelsa State, since the arrival of an indigenous chief executive, numerous incredulous events have taken place. The list of incredulous dramatic political scenes and events include (1) the unexplained bombing of the Bayelsa House of Assembly, (2) the destruction of Odi, (3) the crippling of the Niger Delta University project even before it began, (4) the award of contracts to fake firms, (5) the administration and operation of the state through Britain, the United States, and South Africa (6) the conduct of legislative business by members of the legislature through Britain and the United States, (7) the personalization of government, (8) excessive conduct of government business through a massive spoil system or political cronyism, (9) the utter lack of financial accountability, (10) the destruction of Odiama, (11) excessive unexplainable foreign trips by the chief executive, high level public officials, and members of the legislative branch, and (12) a general state of restlessness emanating from the lack of political representation, financial accountability, and genuine infrastructural development.
In Bayelsa state, like many others in the country, the political system is highly malfunctioned, hence, the constitutional framework only exists in paper and not in reality. In theory, under the presidential form of government in which Nigeria operates, the three branches ( legislature, executive, and judiciary) of government supposed to be equal. They supposed to provide checks and balances on each other so that no single branch of the government can dominate the other two branches. In Bayelsa State, the executive branch totally dominates the legislative and judiciary branches. In short, there is no such thing as a legislative branch in Bayelsa since the governor (the executive branch) does whatever he wants and every public official is answerable to him. Generally, the power of the purse supposed to lie with the legislative branch and the governor always suppose to go to the legislative branch to ask for money through budget requests. In Bayelsa, the governor is the executive, legislative, and the judiciary put together. Consequently, the legislature goes to the governor to ask for money, instead of the other way round. The same pattern could be found in Rivers, Delta, and Edo States.
The so-called members of the legislative branch in Bayelsa State surrendered their constitutional powers to the chief executive for reasons best known to them. It is therefore, understandable why members of the Bayelsa legislature frequented overseas, just like the chief executive. It would not be an overstatement to say that the operational capital of Bayelsa has been London and not Yenagoa.
In Bayelsa State, commissioners and high-level government officials exist at the mercy of the chief executive. Thus, instead of playing their roles professionally as technocratic advisers, they serve more like praise singers. They run their administrative units based entirely on the whims of the governor. Every effort is made not to criticize or offend the chief executive.
Having described the sad state of affairs in Bayelsa State and in Ijawland generally, it is very important for Ijaw people to watch very carefully what is going on regionally, nationally, and internationally. The politics involved in the arrest of the governor is much bigger than the issue of corruption. There is no doubt that money laundering is a major reason for the arrest. However, throughout the Niger Delta, the Ijaws are viewed as the greatest threat to the flow of oil. A concerted effort is being made to cripple any real or imagined threat that could emanate from them. The same reason accounted for the arrest of Asari Dokubo. In fact, one could say that traps are being set to actually provoke the Ijaws to take certain actions in order to justify their being crushed in such a manner as to wholesomely deny them the ability to have any influence on the issue of oil.
It should be noted that recently, the price of oil has escalated beyond imagination. Such a dramatic increase has a negative effect on the economy of many countries in the world. Moreover, the Iraqi situation is not improving, in terms of oil production and commodity stabilization. Added to the Iraqi uncertainty is the Venezuelan political situation which does not guarantee supply reliability. Thus, pressure is being put on Nigeria to stabilize the Niger Delta so that the region would become the oil stabilizer in the world. The region cannot be stabilized if the Ijaws are allowed to roam free.
As can be seen, the Ijaws are being pressured from many fronts. An increasing number of foreign defence ministers and military chiefs have visited Nigeria. Part of the strategy is to provoke the Ijaws to take certain actions. There are also those who want to pay back in kind, for being insulted. Unfortunately, many Ijaw leaders and youth groups are falling for the traps by talking too much in an unguarded manner.
To avoid being trapped, the Ijaws need to increase their diplomatic and legal efforts, instead of constantly screaming and threatening to do this and that. Be legally adventurous and sue both nationally and internationally for sins committed against the ethnic group and the region. The Ijaw nation today needs leaders who are politically and legally creative, bold, and determined. Similarly, Ijawnation today needs leaders who are financially responsible and cares about the plight of the masses and not actors who parade themselves as leaders.
Concerning the arrest of Governor Alamieyeseigha, the Ijaws should exercise caution in uttering condemnatory or supportive statements. Caution is needed since the facts surrounding the matter are not very clear. Moreover, if the Ijaws protest unnecessarily over the arrest of their son concerning the issue of corruption, then they cannot turn around and condemn other Nigerians for corruption. After all, one of the reasons why the Niger Delta is highly marginalized, deprieved, and underdeveloped is due to corruption perpetrated by both local and national public officials. If the Ijaws protest unnecessarily because their son has been arrested or held for trial, then they would loss all moral authority to complain about their plight. In other words, they would short-change themselves and deprive themselves of the opportunity of getting empathy and support from the national and international publics. No group in the world can sustain a struggle without support from national and international groups. Thus, using the political principle of proportionality, it is obvious that fighting corruption is much preferable and beneficial than to stand on the fence.
There is no doubt that corruption has devastated, not only Ijawland but the entire country, therefore, it is much preferable for the legal system to take its cause. Those Ijaws who believe that the governor is being sacrificed as a result of the dispute between the president and the vice president can quietly mobilize their political and financial resources to hire reputable lawyers fight the case and put pressure on the appropriate quarters to have the governor released. Apart from that, some wait and see approach is needed. In other words, let the matter runs its course. If the allegations against the governor have no evidentiary truth in them, the governor will walk away without any problem. However, if some of the allegations turn out to contain some truth, then the Ijaws would be shooting themselves if they ever try to take a position against corruption because other Nigerians would scream that the Ijaws are not serious about fighting the vice. It is actually an advantage that the arrest took place in Britain rather than in Nigeria. The trial has the potential of unraveling many secrets. In addition, it increases international interest, thereby, focusing the limelight on the Niger Delta situation and the corruption in Nigeria.
Despite the embarrassment of the alleged arrest for money laundering, the incident actually provides a great opportunity for Bayelsa people in particular and the Ijaws in general to redefine and rejuvenate themselves and start all over again. The reason being that in the last five or six years, things have not gone well in Bayelsa. Expectations were shattered by lack of performance on all fronts. Being the most underdeveloped state, Bayelsa provided an opportunity for the Ijaw people to come up with a different model of political, economic and social development that would have served as a new model for the entire country. Instead of taking a new direction, Bayelsa stuck to the old Nigerian ways of grand-standing, ineffectual leadership, unrestrained misappropriation of public funds, abuse of power, political and financial irresponsibility, and lack of caring for the masses. There is a very wide gulf between the state’s public officials and the masses. In short, the representatives do not represent anyone but themselves.
In a way, the London incident is a blessing in disguise to the Ijaw people. First, it shows that no condition is permanent. Second, those who think that they have national godfathers and godmothers to protect them now realize that godfatherism has its limits. Third, those who have financial skeletons in their cupboards would be very restless, fearful that they could be arrested or compelled to testify. Fourth, many Ijaw public officials would stop trooping to London and other European countries and stay home to conduct the peoples businesses. Fifth, it provides opportunity for the masses to ask questions about the conduct of their local government officials. Sixth, it provides opportunity for communities to sue and claim the right of ownership to properties that were built with looted wealth. In fact, other Ijaw communities should adopt the legal action taken by the people of Patani to force their political representative to account for his expenditures. In other words, the people should pursue a legal doctrine which justifies the communal seizure of any property that was built with embezzled public money. It is much better to adopt a legal strategy to deal with corrupt officials than to resort to violent means. No matter how long a case may take, a legal ruling tends to have a permanency to the decision. Moreover, it can set a precedent for future legal actions. Those who think that they are above the law will now be more cautious for fear of being caught in the dragnet.
As the governor is temporarily incapacitated by his arrest and possible trial, the opportunity for new direction is great. The deputy governor should, if he has nothing to fear, be bold enough to form a government with people who are dedicated to the development of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation.
First, he should form a committee of advisers drawn from various parts of the state to come up with a plan for strategic development of the state.
Second, issue a financial report to the people of the state about how much the state had gotten, how much has been spent, and for what purpose.
Third, make sure that the monthly appropriations coming from the federal government are properly accounted for and well spent for programs that directly benefit the people.
By now, Bayelsa should have operated both land and riverine public transportation systems. A riverine transportation system should have boats plying from Andonni/Opobo to Lagos, cutting through Okrika, Kalabari, Nembe, Akassa, Ekowe, Amassoma, Odi, Elemebiri, Patani, Bumodi, Burutu, Arogbo to Lagos. Smaller boat should have been connecting Bonny, Ogbia, Tereke, Tungbo, Ukubie, Koluama, Foropagha etc. to the main transportation artery. Similarly, a road transportation system running from Port Harcourt to Lagos through Patani and connecting Warri would have been in full operation today. In addition, , Bayelsa would have served as the center for the development of ultra modern hospitals where Ijaw people and other Nigerians would have been coming to receive treatment.
Fourth, avoid concentrating developmental activities in one place. Projects should be spread all over the state to ensure access to the government and provide employment.
Fifth, plan for a free primary and secondary education in the state. Reintroduce the dormitory system in order to reduce pressure on parents.
Sixth, build the Niger Delta University completely and devote sufficient money for the accreditation process.
Seventh, stop traveling overseas and ban any public official from traveling overseas, unless the trip is critical for the development of the state. This is intended to increase trust. It is obvious that most people have no faith in the state government.
Eight, develop the technical and business manpower of the state so that Ijaw citizens stop being mere consumers of other peoples goods and services.
Ninth, develop an environmental policy to help guide the people and the oil companies. Such a policy should include steps that a company must take if there is an oil spillage.
10. Set up a policy and procedures by which communities can negotiate with an oil company if a particular land is to be used for oil exploratory purposes. This is very critical to ensuring stability throughout the entire Ijawnation. Quite often, the scramble to get money from the oil companies leads to violent confrontations between communities.
11. The Ijaw nation must be bold enough to adopt policies that are not dictated by the overreaching Mafia-like PDP. For a highly underdeveloped ethnic nation, following the very corrupt PDP format is like committing developmental suicide. The PDP system is highly corrupted and anyone who associates with it becomes tainted.
Right now, the situation in the Niger Delta is very critical. Tremendous pressure is being mounted to compel the Ijaws to react violently so that the powers-that-be can use such opportunity to crack down violently on the ethnic nation. I say counterattack by using every available legal means. Prof. Sagay and Ben Nwabueze made very creative legal suggestions concerning Chief Alamieyeseigha’s predicament. They said that the governor still enjoys immunity. Thus, the Ijaws need to apply creative legal means. The same applies to Asari Dokubo’s situation. Instead of going haywire, apply every legal and political means possible. Let the world realize what is going on in Nigeria.