We Dare To Be Different.
The Need for Manpower Development and Cultural Awareness
Honoring Ijaw Heroes and Heroines: Celebrating Isaac Boro's Day
by Priye S.Torulagha
In this regard, at the present juncture of the Ijaw struggle, it is heart-warming to realize that the Ijaws have achieved some victories. First, one of the greatest victories achieved is the reawakening of ethnic consciousness. In the past, the ethnic group was highly disjointed and disorganized, so much so that many Ijaw citizens were ashamed of identifying themselves as Ijaws. Some actually felt at home claiming to belong to other ethnic groups. Due to the reawakening or what might be characterized as the IJAW RENAISANCE, the different parts of the nation have come together. Thus, Ijawland is no longer the three-headed monster. Instead, the Eastern, Central, and Western zones are mere geographic expressions of the same nation. A second very important milestone in the metamorphosis of Ijawland is the establishment of the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council. A third milestone in the annals of Ijaw consciousness is the creation of Bayelsa State. A fourth glorious achievement is the conscious application of the resources of power to influence, lobby, and effect a change favorable to the ethnic group, instead of waiting for others to act favorably to the Ijaws. A fifth glorious victory is the realization that the resources of power must be appreciated, mobilized, and applied constantly without slacking down until total victory is achieved. The sixth element of victory is the growing inclination to speak with one voice on national issues that affect the ethnic nation. The seventh means of success is the increasing establishment, development, and growth of professionally structured civil society organizations capable of educating the public about critical issues and helping to influence both national and international opinion. The eight area of success is the germination and cultivation of respectable and recognizable national leaders who are capable of speaking with authority, vigor, and boldness. For these successes, congratulations Izon otu!
Despite these glorious successes, it is still premature and strategically self-defeating to sit back in a self-congratulatory or adulatory manner. The work is not finished yet. There is still so much to do. Isaac Boro was a tireless fighter for justice, therefore, there can be no greater way to honor him and other heroes and heroines of the land other than to either do or become aware of the following:
1. Set up a fund (THE PATRIOTS FUND) or a program to assist the children and immediate families of those who sacrificed their lives for the emancipation of Ijawland. During the civil war, many heroic fighters (Isaac Boro, Capt. Nothingham Dick, Capt Amangala, Lt Ekpebu, etc. gave their lives. As soon as they passed away, their children were neglected or abandoned or forced to take care of themselves. Since the Kaiama Declaration, many Ijaw youths on all the geographic zones have given up their lives. Again, their off-springs and immediate families are left to fend for themselves. Following the failure of the Maj. Gideon Orkar’s coup, many Ijaw patriots, including Capt. Empere and others paid with their lives. It should be reminded that they participated in the coup because they wanted to change the status quo in Nigeria. There is no doubt that their immediate families and children have been abandoned to their fate for lack of ethnic support or assistance. In the ongoing Warri conflict, thousands of Ijaw families are left to wander for lack of assistance. There is also no doubt that many Ijaws have lost their lives or maimed for demonstrating against the oil companies. Ethnic assistance to the victims has either been nonexistent or very negligible. As the mothers, wives, sisters, aunts etc. increasingly become active participants in the demonstrations and pickets against the oil companies, many of them have been physically harmed and some even killed. Again, the ethnic response to those in need has been very negligible.
Active participation in politics in the Fourth Republic, for the purpose of impressing upon the nation, the Ijaw question, has resulted in the deaths of many Ijaw citizens. The most notable are Chief Marshall Harry and Dikibo. There is a high probability that their families are being left to fend for themselves.
There is a need to create an ethnic based program to provide a means of rehabilitating the needy during crises or emergencies. This will help to mobilize more people for the struggle. Moreover, such a program can actually help to strengthen the resolve of the ethnic group to fight harder politically, legally, and otherwise. A fund or a program intended or designed for educational scholarships, small business investments, housing, medical care etc. would go a long way in alleviating the suffering that the children and immediate family members encounter due to the sudden death or physical incapacitation of their love ones during a struggle for ethnic emancipation.
2. A program, such as the “IJAW RED CROSS” or the “NIGER DELTA RED CROSS’ can help to mobilize personnel and resources during crisis or emergencies, instead of waiting on the Nigerian government for immediate assistance. The Ijaw Red Cross can be an effective tool for instituting a culture of self-reliance, self-maintenance and ethnic sustainability.
3. A third means for initiating a self-supporting and self-perpetuating fund or a program is for all Ijaw citizens and organizations to wholeheartedly support the IJAW FOUNDATION. The Ijaw Foundation is a programmatic major effort to set up and mobilize financial resources for various Ijaw needs. The Ijaw nation had never had such a comprehensive financial scheme before. If people donate generously to the Ijaw Foundation, the Foundation would be able to respond in times of need such as the ongoing refugee situation in Warri, after the Buguma, Bakana, and Okrika intra-communal feuds, during boat accidents, or help to build man-power needs such as educational programs and business investments.
4. Ijaw sons and daughters on all the three geographic zones should start to develop and cultivate the habit of donating money, resources, and talent for important community-based causes in their localities. So much can be achieved for rural road construction, pipe-borne water, water purification, small business development, the building of local libraries, town halls, and schools etc.
5. Ijaw public officials, both at the state and national levels ( governors, ministers, legislators, directors, military and police officers, and civil servants etc. can contribute more to the Ijaw cause by being a little more proactive. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ijaw public officials tend to be EXCESSIVELY NICE, TOO CONDESCENDING, TOO COOPERATIVE, AND TOO PASSIVE. Their eagerness to go along with national schemes even when opposition is sometimes more preferable, renders their effectiveness as representatives of their people very questionable. It should be noted that Ijaw sons and daughters have occupied some of the most important and critical governmental positions in Nigeria, including being the heads of the Navy and the Airforce, high-level naval and army commands, ministers, directors of important parastatal agencies etc. Yet, their impact on the people have been very negligible due to the failure to create opportunities for others to follow in their footsteps. Ijaw public officials do not create coat-tail effect on the Ijaw population. On the hand, the Hausas, Fulanis, Yorubas, Itsekiris, Igbos etc. are very effective in opening doors for their people through the coat-tail process. This is why even though the oil companies operate in the Niger Delta, most management and technical level employees of the oil companies are Yorubas and Igbos. Likewise, the two ethnic groups also dominate the national bureaucracies. Ijaw sons have had the opportunity of heading the NNPC, yet, not many opportunities were created to allow other Ijaws to join the NNPC and the oil companies.
Political officeholders from the ethnic group tend to behave as if they are beholden to some outside godfathers, hence, rarely speak forcefully on issues that affect their people. Due to the unwillingness to speak boldly on critical issues, Ijaw representatives are barely seen and not heard at all. Due to the GREAT SILENCE, the oil companies and the security forces are not afraid to use maximum force against any Ijaw citizens. This contributes to the high number of Ijaw deaths. If oil companies and security forces were to use excessive force in the North or West or South-East, at the slightest provocation, the representatives of these regions would speak very loudly to condemn the action. Ijaw public officials rarely make critical comments against federal government action. Instead, there is always an eagerness to negotiate from behind the scenes with the national players and the oil companies. It is obvious that the unwillingness to challenge the status quo greatly affects the Ijaw ability to influence national policy, to a large extent. The national players tend to view Ijaw public officials as ‘safe candidates,” that can be easily purchased or ignored without much political cost or financial expenditure. This accounts for the willingness of the national players to assassinate Ijaw leaders. They know they can get away with it by inviting some Ijaw big shots to Abuja for tete-a-tete and a promise of some Ghana Must GO Backs to make up for the execution.
It is generally those outside the government who speaks loudly and condemn actions that are violative of the peoples rights. Thank God, Ijawland have Chief Dappa Biriye, Dr. Sam Ebiye, Chief E. K. Clark, Comrade Evah, Festus Keyamo, Oronto Douglas, Felix Tuodolo, Samuel Owunaru and a host of other nongovernmental personalities who are not afraid to speak fearlessly, forthrightly, and loudly against governmental misadventures in Ijawland. It is necessary for Ijaw public officials to change their tactics and speak more frequently on issues. In this regard, it must be noted that Gov. Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State is now speaking more often. This is very crucial to forcefully express the Ijaw side of the matter in any national policy issue.
6. As the Ijaws celebrate and honor Isaac Boro and other heroes and heroines of the ethnic nation, it is also important to use this occasion to honor the living who have contributed so much to the Ijaw cause. The list is long but a few will do to remind everyone of the good deeds done by people like Chief E. P.Okoya, Chief E. K. Clark, Chief Dappa Biriye, Chief Diete Spiff, Chief Melford Okilo, Samuel Owunaru, Dr. Fiberesima, the former Commissoner of Health in the Rivers State who helped to stop the embezzlement of state funds by a military governor, Mr. Oronto Douglas, Mr. Nengi James, Comrade Evah, Mr, Bello, Felix Tuodolo, Mr. Titoe Miriki, Edwin Sawacha, Mr. Benatari Benaebi etc. the leaders of the Kaiama Declaration, Nabo Graham Douglas, Miss Ibiba DonPedro, Rowland Ekperi, the members of Supreme Egbesu, the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), the Ijaw Peoples Association of Great Britain, and a host of individuals, communities, and organizations etc.
7. This is a great moment for Ijaw people to reflect and commit to some change in their behaviors concerning jealousy. Jealousy is a human psychological phenomenon. It exists in every human society. It seems to be a major problem in Ijawland. There is a tendency for people to become jealous, hateful, antagonistic, and wish harm or negativity to those who have succeeded in live or in society. In other words, it is common for jealousy to raise its ugly head whenever a son or a daughter of the land succeeds in accomplishing a goal. Instead of wishing the person well or more success, there is a tendency to wish harm to the person through very sarcastic commentary and actions. This destructive psychological phenomenon affects relationships among individuals, families, villages, towns, and clans.
Jealousy and the fear of harm are two major reasons that have prevented many successful Ijaw sons and daughters from going home to build houses and invest in their villages and towns. There is always the fear that the effort to help by providing money to family members, villages, and towns would be rewarded with harm as those who get jealous of the successful individuals might try to bring them down through sarcastic comments and various negative means. As a result of the unpronounced fear of exposing the self to unwarranted harm, many successful Ijaws live and work in the urban areas of other ethnic groups and are very fearful of returning home. They are afraid of exposing themselves to harm.
Those who are very jealous often fail to realize that if the most successful ones in society are brought down, then the entire ethnic group cannot move forward because progress requires that the successful ones continue to move forward. By continuing to move forward, they enable the entire society to rise up also. Some Ijaws, due to a high degree of jealousy, even go as far as forming alliances with the outside detractors to bring down the progressive elements in Ijawland. During crises, some of those who have uncontrollable jealousies, often volunteer to serve as spies to the outside forces and enjoy having their brothers and sisters arrested, detained and or killed. When Isaac Boro launched his rebellion, there were many Ijaws who wished him not well. Some even pray for his death. There were those who even prayed against the ancestral forces. And when he died, millions of Ijaws cried for the betrayal. Millions of Ijaws are still mourning.
So, please, search your minds and clear them of any jealousy. This celebration should be used as an occasion to expunge this poison from the mind, so that the Ijaws do not become their worst enemies.
8. This occasion should also be used by the dedicated patriots to fine-tune their strategies and tactics so that their efforts are not hijacked by the plutocrats, sycophants, and oligarchs in Ijaw society. It is a fact that the phenomenon of “monkey dey work and baboon dey chop is still very prevalent in Ijawland. In other words, those who sacrificed so much to spearhead the struggle are often sidetracked by the opportunists when the moment of victory is at hand. As a result, it is always those who are not truly committed to the cause that often end up becoming leaders. Basically, using military terms, one can say that Ijaw activists are like generals who lead forces to the battle. They do everything right until when victory is near, then they become uncoordinated and are unable to achieve victory. It is important for patriots to be able to pursue the cause of the struggle to a very successful end without allowing or surrendering to the plutocrats, sycophants, and oligarchs. It is important for a struggle to be led and coordinated to the very end by those who initiated the effort from the beginning so that the level of commitment can remain very high.
9. Finally, in honor of Isaac Boro and all those who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of Ijaw people, a permanent way to celebrate this occasion would be to launch an autobiographical book titled THE HEROES AND HEROINES OF IJAWLAND. This should be a collective effort so that information can be obtained from every corner of the ethnic group. The book should be comprehensive, going far into history to seek out all those who have contributed, including those who resisted colonialism, fought against oppression, and contributed intellectually and creatively to the ethnic nation. The easiest way to accomplish this is to form a committee under the aegis of the Ijawnation website and let the committee gather information from the sons and daughters of the land. The Ijaw Foundation by-laws were written through this approach. The Vitamin A project too was started in this fashion. Those who have pertinent information can send brief write-ups with pictures or drawings. The book should be updated either annually or every two years.
This book will be particularly useful in socializing and making the young become aware of their heroic ancestors. It will help tremendously in strengthening ethnic solidarity.