The Ijaw Ethnic Nationality is said to be indigenous to the coastal area of modern Nigeria. For more than seven hundred years, the Ijaw traded with and conducted diplomacy with the Europeans. And for much of recorded history, the region has been in a bedlam: the people opposed to marginalization, oppression and exploitation.
In so many ways, not much has changed since the Portuguese and the British first set foot in that part of the world. It was a breadbasket. They traded in palm oil and in various other agricultural resources. The region continues to be a breadbasket with its vast reservoir of oil and gas.
In recent years, especially within the last fifty years, the Ijaw Ethnic Group — spread over six or more states — wanted a Mecca, a Jerusalem. They wanted a Home. And so it was that a group of men and women endured sleepless nights and uncertain daylight hours just to actualize an Ijaw Homeland. Their efforts seem wasted now as the younger generation has mostly engaged in local exploitation and marginalization of their own people.
First, a man name Alamieyeseigha came along to make a mess. He spat on his people’s face and showed them his middle finger. His calamitous rule was followed by the rudderless acts of Jonathan Goodluck. As if the people had committed cardinal sins, their gods sent a lackey name Timipre Sylva. In rapid succession, they misappropriated the people’s resources and lay waste their dreams and aspirations.
Alamieyeseigha, Jonathan Goodluck and now Timipre Sylva: three sons of the soil soiled their heritage, made fun of their ancestors, mortgaged the people’s hope, and then went on to steal from posterity.
Not only did Alamieyeseigha and Jonathan Goodluck engage in criminality (as Governors of Bayelsa State), they also asphyxiated a burgeoning democratic culture. What is democracy without a thriving and healthy opposition? What is government without a freely expressed legitimacy conferred upon it by the people?
How do you positively impact people’s lives without a responsive, responsible and transparent government? And how does a society function without a populace that holds its government responsible for its actions and inactions. No society can afford to be timid. No society can afford to be lackadaisical.
Indeed, no society can afford to be indifferent to the actions and pronouncements of its representatives. A society – any society — that is afraid to caution, counsel and or reprimand its representatives is not only asking to be trampled upon, to be abused and to be used, it is indeed asking for disaster.
In a later date and exposition, I shall return to this theme — a theme that demands further and careful analysis. The Ijaw, as we shall see, are in a critical stage in their history.
For now, it is the behavior and the pronouncements of the overseas-based Ijaw, the Diaspora Ijaw, which is vexing me — specifically, those Ijaw who live in the UK, Canada, and the US. The vast majority are “God-fearing,” but there is a group (whose membership is increasing at an alarming rate) that is galling all decent Ijaw men and women.
We have Ijaw organizations that are simply useless, and in some cases, directionless. We have members and leaders within such organizations that have no clue as to their aims and objectives. We have leaders and members who steal and misappropriate public funds; yet, are very vocal when it comes to issues of crimes and corrupt practices in the Niger Delta.
There are Ijaw who, publicly, will abuse and attack and criticize government officials; yet, when government officials visit the United States, Canada or the UK, will be first in line genuflecting, running errands and getting involved in all sorts of duplicity and stupidity: they arrange prostitutes and call-girls for government officials; they help government officials hide money; and help them to export cars, furniture, electronics and other goods.
Some of these overseas-based Ijaw have no visible means of income other than the “maintenance allowance” they get from governors, ministers, commissioners and other high ranking public and private officials. They have become the gate-keepers, the treasury-keepers for thieves and rogues and political bastards.
We have gotten to the point where you cannot criticize members of the Ijaw-Diaspora who engages in criminality. We know they steal. We know they engage in shady deals; and we know they inflate contract costs. In fact, we know they get contracts that are mostly never executed. We know they are milking our people back home. Yet, we cannot criticize them.
If you are bold enough to say a word about their crimes, their surrogates and supporters will attack you. They will come after you. And so one wonders: (a) How can you criticize the state governor or commissioner if you are also involved in shady deals; (b) How can you criticize the local government chair if you are also involved in criminalities; (c) How can you call for change and progress when you are a hindrance to change and progress; and (d) How can you call yourself a change agent if you have no tolerance for criticism?
When it is all said and done, some Ijaw in the Diaspora are worse than most of the elites back home. Given the chance, we’d commit more crimes than those who occupy official positions. Given the opportunity, they’d oppress, suppress, exploit and rape the less fortunate back home.
Given the way some Ijaw behave in the Western world — once home and once given the opportunity to govern people and be in charge of the public purse — they’d turn into a monster: proscribing opposition and prohibiting criticisms. But more than that, they’d engage in unparallel criminality.
Yes, no one is without sins. No one is without faults. And no one is perfect. Even so, we must do better; we must do more to set good examples and be beacons on the hill. If one is entrusted with an organization’s fund or if one is entrusted with public money — one must give accurate and timely account; and one must respond to all questions.
One cannot and must not hide or refuse to answer questions in the name of privacy. Imagine what such a person or group of people would do if entrusted with millions and millions of the state’s monthly allocation.
And so it is that today – especially within the last five years — a sizeable number of overseas-based Ijaw have been co-opted into looting the state’ treasury. They are silent, when they should speak up. They look the other way, when they should raise alarm over indecent behaviors. They giggle when they should be condemning crimes and transgressions. Their hypocrisy and their indecent indulgence are tiring. It really is.