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:  Thinking and Acting Intelligently While Facing Challenges

 By Priye S. Torulagha

Two areas of concern are the focus of discussion here.  The first involves environmental adaptability, natural disasters, and survivability, and the second area of concern involves the issue of internal unity.  A possible third area of focus deals with strategies.

 A.  Ijaws Ways, Natural Disasters, and Survivability

1.  The Ijaw people should develop special interest in recent natural disasters: the Tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina in the United States.  It is crucial to pay attention, due to the similarity of Ijaw topography to the coastal areas of Asia and the US Gulf Coast.

A lesson from the two natural disasters is that the Ijaws should never forget who they are.  By nature, they are aquatic.  Therefore, an Ijaw should feel comfortable around water.  Any Ijaw who does not feel comfortable being around water should learn to develop the affinity because Ijaw life and culture are built around water.

Through life experiences, the ancestors have developed a social system that makes the Ijaw feel comfortable being around water.  It is not unusual for Ijaw children, especially those born or raised at home, as young as four, to become expert swimmers and divers.   By the time they reach ten years old, most have become prolific swimmers.

Knowing how to swim is an essential rite of passage for an Ijaw, in case of an emergency.  For instance, during the civil war, thousands of Nigerian troops died when they attacked Onitsha and Biafra counterattacked.  Most of the soldiers who did not die were Ijaws and others from the riverine areas.  The reason most Ijaw soldiers survived was due to the fact that they knew how to swim.   Apart from that, their aquatic life had enabled them to study water movements.  Many non-Ijaw soldiers died, including those who knew how to swim because they did not know how water moves.   They tried to swim against the fast moving current, got exhausted and drowned.  The Ijaws knew that they had to swim with the direction of the flow of the water.  They also knew that in order to conserve energy while swimming across a wide river, certain swimming styles had to be adopted.   They did those things and survived.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of Ijaw adults and children today are not capable of swimming or diving.  A vast majority of those who do not have aquatic skills grew up in urban areas.  This means that in actuality, they do not have the skills necessary to enable them to survive in case a conflict erupts.   It is very important for Ijaw parents to encourage their children to develop swimming skills, wherever they may be, so that they do not be afraid of the water.  Similarly, an increasing number of Ijaw adults and youths do not have traditional skills and cannot fend for themselves in the water or forest.  Thus, as the oil situation hits up, if a conflict erupts, many people will suffer due to inability to swim or fend for themselves in an emergency situation.

In analyzing the Congolese civil war, a report was issued which claimed that a majority of the people who died in the conflict were urbanites who did not have the skills necessary to survive in the forest.  Those who knew how to fend for themselves in the forest survived while hiding in the forest.  If the Ijaws are serious about achieving resource control and self-determination, they must be prepared for any eventuality.   It takes special skills to survive in the water or in the forest.  No amount of modern education can prepare someone for that.

2.  The Ijaws are fiercely independent.  One major reason why the Ijaws are fiercely independent is due to the canoe and the paddle.  The canoe and the paddle represent the ultimate symbols of freedom and independence.  As can be seen, the Ijaws spread far and wide, from their home bases, using the canoe.  The canoe is user-friendly and environmentally compatible.  It does not disturb the natural order of things.  It does not pollute the environment.  Although very slow when operated manually with the paddle, yet, it can take you far, in a slow and steady manner.   The canoe helped to equalize the classes since any adult could afford to get one. 

Thus, as the Ijaws struggle to develop and modernize, there is a temptation to get rid of the canoe and the paddle and opt for motorized boats and automobiles.  The Ijaw ability to travel to Calabar, Lagos, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome, Liberia etc. were initially done through the canoe. Getting rid of the canoe will take away Ijaw sense of independence and freedom and make them beholden to financiers who will then dictate the direction of Ijaw economic life.  In war, the canoe is an excellent device to go places or escape without being detected.  In many parts of Ijawland during the civil war, many youths escaped from capture by using the canoe to glide across the river in the middle of the night or hide in the creeks.

The Ijaw can tell quite easily who is an Ijaw and who is not by observing the manner in which a person paddles the canoe.  Thus, the ability to detect paddling techniques is a skill that must be fine-tuned in case of conflict.

3.  Due to an aquatic lifestyle, the Ijaws have through the centuries developed a sense of knowledge that cannot be acquired through books.  Thus, in times of danger, such knowledge can become very essential for survival.  The knowledge acquired in the  understanding of the marine environment which helped many ethnic groups in Southeast Asia to survive the Tsunami without losing anyone among them.  For example, the Mogen Ethnic group that inhabits parts of Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, are regarded as marine nomads because they spend most of their time in the water, fishing and trading.  They literally live on the water.  Despite their lack of modern education, in the Western sense, not a single member of the ethnic group died from the Tsunami disaster.  Their elders were able to detect that something terrible was about to happen when the water level receded far into the sea.  The elders were also able to realize that all the animals had disappeared from the vulnerable areas of the coast.  Based on their observations of the situation, the elders ordered their members to flee before the disaster struck.  However, the youths initially refused to run for higher grounds, accusing the elders of lying and spreading superstition.  It took a while before the youths finally agreed to run for their lives.  As soon as the youths joined the rest in running away to higher grounds or putting out to sea, the Tsunami struck.  Those who could not run to higher grounds put to the sea.  They knew that the tsunami could be felt more at the coast than in the sea.  You see, those who claimed to be educated, civilized and sophisticated died in thousands and those who studied nature and lived according to the dictates of nature survived. In war situations, these kinds of knowledge are necessary to survive and win.

4.  Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States.  Most inhabitants of the region were automatically rendered helpless after the devastating storm passed.  In particular, the floods almost swallowed up New Orleans.  One can recollect that before the Kainji Dam was built, many Ijaw communities used to be flooded during the rainy season.  It was not unusual for people to literally tie their canoes by their houses as the houses were surrounded by flood waters.  Instead of panicking, the people learned to live with the floods, hence, no one ever died.  In fact, some Ijaw people actually craved the floods because they provided abundant fish and wild life.  I can vividly recollect people literally fishing from the front porches of their houses.

Thus, the Ijaws have been able to live well by adjusting and living in harmony with nature and not trying to conquer or dominate it.  The lesson being that as the Ijaws struggle to develop, they should not rush to conquer or dominate nature in the name of development, but, instead, develop in harmony with nature. For example, it is not always necessary to dredge or fill in lakes or creeks in order to make land available for development.  Instead, the creeks or lakes can be included as part of the development package.   This suggestion is prompted by the fact that throughout the areas of the world in which efforts have been made to conquer or dominate nature, the end results have tended to be very destructive when nature reacts.  The Ijaw ecosystem is fragile, therefore, development must be designed to accommodate the fragility.  In fact, the Dutch, whose topography is similar to the Ijaws, are studying the American disaster with a view of improving their survivability. 

 B. Internal Unity

The second part of this report deals with internal unity.  Since the failure to achieve a 25% increase in resource control in the National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), some Ijaw youth leaders and elders have been disagreeing openly.  As a result, some have called for cessation of negotiations and the commencement of an arm struggle.  Similarly, verbal abuse among Ijaw people is getting out of control on the Ijaw website,  The developments are worrisome for a number of reasons:

1.  The open expression of disappointment over the fact that at least 25% resource control was not achieved showed that many Ijaws continue to view politics in moral terms and ignore the power factor.  In politics, victory is won incrementally because it involves a change in power relations.  If the non-oil producing states give in totally to what the oil-producing states want, then, they would end up with no bargaining power at all.  Similarly, if the oil-producing states end up with nothing, then the frustration can lead to war.   On the other hand, if the oil-producing states win everything, the frustration on the part of the non-oil producing states too can also lead to war.  War is indicative of the failure of politics.  Moreover, just as South-South leaders want to impress upon their people that they are working hard to achieve the goals of the region, leaders from other regions too are working hard to show their own people that they are not giving in to the South-South.  It is necessary to view the process as a chess game rather than as a zero sum game.

2.  Playing politics means having patience since the process involves negotiations.  Both sides play the game by giving very little until a point of mutual interest is reached.  Another way to explain this is to cite the African pricing technique.  When a person goes to the market, he/she intentionally undervalues the real worth of the product he or she wants to buy in the hope of getting the most for a very little amount.  On the other hand, the seller always gives the highest possible price for the product in the hope of getting the most money for a very little of the product.  Thus, both sides go back and forth in negotiations until they both get to a point where a price is fixed or set.  The buyer then buys the product and the seller sells the product.  They both developed respect for each other and become future customers.  If the price of the product is too high or too low, then both sides will call off the bargaining.  In the market, a failure to settle does not result in a major conflict. In politics, failure to agree can lead to war.

Instead of being disappointed for gaining only 17% resource control, the strategy should be to use the 17% as a hopeful sign that more could be obtained by playing the political game further.  By lashing out and disagreeing openly, the Ijaws are sending a message to the other side that they are frustrated and angry.  That is exactly what the other side wants from the Ijaws.  They want the Ijaws to be frustrated and angry so that they will end up making irrational decisions that would result in their total defeat. 

3.  Thus, any major disagreement within Ijaw ranks actually plays into the strategic advantage of the North and the West.  The disagreement would inhibit Ijaw unity, thereby, forcing some members of the ethnic group to agree with the North and the West while others are forced to adopt Ijaw positions. If the Ijaws are split, in a war, the Ijaws will not be able to withstand the onslaught of an integrated force, coming from all directions. 

The Ijaws should know that there are many forces waiting for the opportunity to hit at them.  There are those who want total control of the area so that oil could be obtained without any opposition.

4.  Instead of attacking and condemning each other, Ijaw elders should continue to negotiate with elders from the North, West and the South-East while the youths should do the same with youth leaders in the North, West, and the South-East.  There is nothing wrong asking for 100% and reducing it incrementally to 50%, then 30%, and finally reaching 25%.  It should be noted that Northern and Western states are afraid that if too much is given to the oil-producing states, their economies would collapse for lack of funding.  The Ijaw strategy should be to assure them that Ijaw intention is not to destroy their economic base but work with them to achieve a greater good for Nigeria.

5.  In these days of internet, rushing to war without exhausting diplomatic channels can result in a military disaster.  To win a war in modern times, it is also necessary to win the hearts and minds of various stakeholders.  Failure to do so can easily escalate a conflict and result in defeat.  One can argue that the Biafrans fought bravely, however, they were not able to win the hearts and minds of the minority stakeholders and that made a difference in the outcome of the war.  Merely fighting is not enough to win modern warfare.  Iraq and Afghanistan are showing that even the mightiest military force cannot win quite easily if the battle for the hearts and minds of the people are not won.

6.  Engaging in a war without exhausting all possible diplomatic, political and legal options can lead to lack of international recognition, thereby, prolonging the agony in any war.  Diplomatic recognition is necessary to get supplies, food, medicine, money, and psychological support.   To rush without exhausting those peaceful options would play into Nigeria’s strategic plan.  It would definitely mount an effective propaganda to portray the Ijaws as a bunch of troublemakers who do not know what they want apart from creating trouble all over the place.  The international community would accept the Nigerian side of the story and reject the Ijaw side and calling them extremists.

7.  It is not politically wise to shun negotiations in any conflict, no matter how complicated or slow is the process.   If the Ijaws shun negotiations entirely, they will destroy the political, legal, and moral high grounds upon which they have made their claims.  Right now, the game is in their favor.  However, if the Ijaws were to shun negotiations, they will shoot themselves on the foot and destroy their image internationally. 

8.  Increasingly, Ijaw people are attacking each other as if they are fighting a world war on the Ijaw website.  This is unfortunate because it causes distraction by compelling people to focus their energies and attention on matters that are not too relevant.  At this rate of internal attacks, it would be suicidal if the ethnic group were to be engulfed in an arms confrontation.  In such a case, brothers will be turning the guns against their own brothers in order to score political points.   Already, the intra-ethnic feuds in Port Harcourt among armed elements show what might likely happen in case of a major armed confrontation as brothers kill their brothers, cousins, and uncles.  I guess, people are not conscious of the precarious position in which the Ijaws are in today in Nigeria following the struggle for resource control.  

C.  Political Options to Continue the Struggle

1.  As part of the strategy to gain resource control, the Ijaws should encourage and or put pressure on the federal government to put more money for oil exploration in the North and the West.  Likewise, they should encourage the federal government to deemphasize oil as the core of the economy through investment in other resources and minerals.  These are confidence building strategies that can yield an increase in resource control without resorting to war.  The logic being that oil discovery in the North and or in the West, will reduce dependence on the Niger Delta, thereby, enabling the federal government to let go. 

2.   At the same time, the Ijaws and other ethnic groups need to put pressure on the federal government to apply the same standard to all minerals in the country.  This means that if oil is subjected to the Land Use Decrees, all other minerals too must go through the same standard.  If land owners in the oil-producing states are not allowed to make independent investments that benefit them most, then Nigerians who live in the gold and diamond belts too should not be allowed to benefit from those resources without going through the federal government.  The oil-producing states have tended to ignore this strategy.  If they can make all Nigerians feel the pain of various laws and decrees, then the argument for change will become much easier to comprehend.  If this does not work, then sue the federal government for discriminating and violating the economic and political rights of the oil-producing states for treating them differently by not applying the law equally throughout the nation.

3.  Another political weapon in the political arsenals of the Ijaw is the colonial agreement reached before the Ijaws were instituted as part of Nigeria.  Mr. Orubebe alluded to the fact when he said that an agreement was reached which says that after 30 years, if the Ijaws are dissatisfied, they can leave.   The Ijaws need to get a hold of the document and publish it in Nigerian newspapers.  Nigerians need to know some of the special arrangements that were made to put Nigeria together.  Apart from publishing it, they should send copies to the president, the National Assembly, ECOWAS, African Union, the European Union, the United States, Britain and the United Nations.

4.  The Ijaws can put pressure on the federal government by challenging decrees that were passed without their consent.  Basically, since most of the decrees that strangulate the Niger Delta were passed during the military era, the Land Use decrees can be challenged.  The Ijaws need to sue claiming damages for expropriation of land and oil revenue without permission.  Similarly, calculate the accrued interest from 40 years of forced expropriation of land and resources.  There are international lawyers who will be willing to join this case.

5.  Finally, the Ijaws should seize every opportunity to show that they are a positive force for development and peaceful coexistence internationally and not merely scream about discrimination or marginalization.  In this regard, the Ijaws can escalate their diplomatic effort by sending a message of condolence over the Katrina disaster in the United States.  The INC or IYC should draft a letter and send it to the United States government through its embassy in Nigeria.  As suggested by brother Francis Udisi, such message should be published in Nigerian and US newspapers.  Basically, the Ijaws would say that as a riverine based ethnic nation that has experienced numerous floods, the Ijaws identify and empathize with people of the Gulf Coast who suffered tremendously when the hurricane struck.  After doing so, send some donation to the victims through the International Red Cross.

Think deeply and be smart.  Do not allow emotions to cloud the goals and objectives of the struggle for self-determination and resource control.  Do not play into the hands of your detractors.  Think strategically and see the big picture as you pursue the small fish in the pond.


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