The planned or ongoing showdown against the federal government within the Niger Delta is totally uncalled for. It is true that we the Ijaws have legitimate grievances against government and against the oil companies. We suffer unspeakable environmental degradation, which affects our health and our ability to make a decent living from our lands and waterways. Modern infrastructures and political goods and services are negligible — in spite of what the Ijaws give to the Nigerian State.
Politically, the vast majorities of the Ijaws feel that they were forced into the Nigerian nation-state by the colonial authority; and also that the Nigerian government did not keep to the promises she made to our post-independence leaders to look after the interest of the Ijaws. And so the Ijaws want to get out of this one-sided alliance. This is part of what gave rise to Isaac Boro and like-minded Nigerians of Ijaw extraction.
However, it is also true that the Ijaw elites have, in the last three decades or so, done more harm to the Ijaw cause than either the federal government or the oil companies. These leaders failed to properly articulate our grievances and dreams; they failed to properly give our collective aspirations the impetus it deserved and also failed to provide visionary leadership. Accountability and transparency is alien to most members of this group — a group Governor Alamieyeseigha has been a part of for ages!
Alamieyeseigha dug the hole he currently finds himself in. The perception, whether real or not, is that he misappropriated funds. That he abused his power. That he engaged in all manner of illegalities to the detriment of the well being of the Ijaw nation. The Diaspora Ijaws are even taken aback by his supposed excesses and gluttony. In a state where the vast majorities of the people live in abject poverty or in the margins, he is said to live ostentatiously in his palatial homes; he junkets the globe, sends his children to schools in the US and the UK. How could he afford all these with his official salary, they wonder?
Now, he has the chance to tell the truth: to tell the court — especially the British and the Nigerian court and the Ijaw public — how he, Alamieyeseigha came about his wealth and to declare that he is not a thief and a money launderer as is being alleged.
Although President Obasanjo has his failures and shortcomings, he did not encourage or force anyone to engage in shady financial deals. To say that Alamieyeseigha is in trouble because of the ongoing political fiasco between Obasanjo and Atiku or that his predicament is as a result of his stance vis-à-vis the resource control matter is also a figment of people’s imagination.
Whatever wrong Alamieyeseigha may have committed, he committed because of the manner of man he is. For the Ijaws to now blame the federal government for his alleged transgression is preposterous.
After six or so years in office, he has nothing to show for all the money that has been allocated to the state. Where are the roads and schools and hospitals and industries and things like that? Because of his failures and shortcomings, the vast majorities of our people are suffering and continue to suffer!
In the case of Alhaji Asari-Dokubo, the government adjudged some of his actions and utterances inimical to public safety and public health. If Asari-Dokubo thinks otherwise, well, the courts are there to listen to him. Or, are the Ijaw youth and their supporters saying Asari-Dokubo is above the law? It is the duty and responsibility of the federal government to see to it that law and order reign and rein supreme in the country. There can be no sacred cows. It is within the government’s right to invite citizens for interviews or interrogation (when there is reasonable suspicion of criminality).
Our contentious relationship with the government aside, this time around, we the Ijaws have no grounds for protesting the government’s actions. What we have are a group of boys and girls who are being manipulated by some sections of the elite. It is this same group of elites that encouraged the formation of gangs and cults; and also encourage the weak and the feeble to engage in criminal activities like gun running and other forms of smuggling.
If the federal government brings to bear her instrument of power, it is not the elites and their children who will suffer. It is the common man who will bear the brunt of the elite’s irresponsibility and criminal orchestrations. The children of the elites are safely ensconced in London, Paris, Berlin, Canberra, Ottawa and Washington DC and elsewhere.
The Ijaws as a group do not have a dog in this fight. Alamieyeseigha should bear his own cross. And the whole world is watching what will become of Asari-Dokubo. If his rights are abridged, then, that would be another matter and a matter for Ijaws to take up collectively.
The Ijaw youths who are threatening brimstone and fire must know that they will lose their rights and perhaps their lives if they confront the federal government or engage in illegalities. Other ethnic groups within the federation will not lose sleep over their death, and neither would the international community. This is the wrong war against the wrong opponents. The youths should be “fighting” the elite — demanding accountability and transparency instead of going to war against Obasanjo and the oil companies.
Whatever sympathy the Ijaws may be garnering due to the obvious neglect of our land will dissipate once we start burning oil installations; engage in extrajudicial killings and kidnappings. The Nigerian State and the international community will think of us as terrorists. Furthermore, the environment impact of setting oil wells on fire will be costly to all sides. It will not only affect the quality of the air we breathe, it will adversely affect our waterways and farmlands and our economy.
Ijaw youths should know that criminal conducts will incur government intervention. And rightly so! Curfew and emergency rule may be imposes; the “guilty and the innocents” may be arrested and tried; and some will be maimed or killed. One should only voluntarily give up his or her life for great and noble causes. Therefore, those who are covertly nudging our youths into hooliganism should rethink their strategy. Those who
are fanning ethnic politics should rethink their approach.
I am therefore calling on Ijaw sons and daughter of goodwill, good sense and common sense to condemn the impending stupidity. We cannot and must not keep silent when our land is about to go up in smoke. We cannot fold our hands and watch from a distance while our youths engage in or threaten to engage in criminality. We cannot keep silent when we know that some of our leaders contributed to our sorrow and underdevelopment and or are involved in criminal enterprises.
If we do not speak up — to condemn, caution or counsel or act to prevent the calamity that is about to be unleashed — then history and posterity will be harsh on us and we may remain in the Nigerian wilderness for a very long time.
So, please let the laws of Nigeria and of Britain take its course. Do not burn those oil installations. Do not attack British or other nation’s oil and economic interest. Do not kill or kidnap anyone. Yes, we have a long list of grievances; but these and other issues can be solved or resolved through constitutional means. And constitutional means is what I favor because at the end of the day, we all want peace and stability and harmony and legitimacy. So, please let the laws take its course.