“If the Ijawnation had what the Palestinians have…the federal government and the international community would be on their knees begging for summits, memoranda of understanding, peace and peace treaties…For the Ijaws therefore, the time has come to rethink her relationship with Nigeria; to rethink her place within the federating state of Nigeria; to take stock of her lot since October 1, 1960. If Nigeria and the rest of the country don’t give a care about the Ijaws – why should the Ijaws care about what happens to Nigeria?” – S.O Abidde
“Still, it is not too late for the state and federal government to come forth with measurable plan of action to alleviate the prevailing madness, neglect, exploitation and abandonment of the Ijaws and Ijawland. The entrenched situation is not just of local concerns; it has international implications, too. In fact, the Nigerian government should treat this as a national and international security concern. Nobody wants political instability. Nobody wants a return to the 1966-70 era. Or, do we?” – S.O Abidde
We stand in the middle of the road without attempting to cross right or left; we stand at the base of the mountain and make no attempt at climbing it; we stand at the shore of the ocean and make no attempt to swim across it. We won’t dance, but provide the music and the ground for others to dance while we watch. Why are we afraid and what are we afraid of? What is holding us and keeping us from trying? Why are we satisfied with our lot in life; or, could it be that we are satisfied with all the crumbs that trickle down to us at the bottom of the valley? My people – it is time to shake off this apathy, this inertia, this state of unconsciousness, and this lackadaisical attitude off of our body and off of our soul.
I have always wondered: where do the Ijaws belong? Where do we belong? What is our destiny? Why do we remain part of a republic that treats us like a broken piece of glass? What makes us carry the cross our neighbors have forced us to bear? Why do we, with our eyes closed, turn the other cheek for unnecessary slaps and abuse? Why are we the way we are? Why?
Our fellow Nigerians do not care about us and do not take us seriously because they think we are in a state of stupor. Why should anyone care about us? Why should they pay attention to our misery and sufferings? Why should they care when they can pay off a couple of our so-called leaders and then agree to a few nonsensical demands from some of our rowdy youths? Unless great care is taken, the day may come when we (the Ijaws) would be tenants in our own homes. The day may come when we will be hired-hands in our own farmlands and waterways. The day may come when we would be messengers in our own villages. The day may come when even our own children will be refugees and foreigners in the land of their ancestors — unless great care is taken; and taken now! My people: it is time to wake up!
Historically, we have never been dominated by an outside force. We have never been subjugated. And because of that we seem not to have a fighting spirit. We seem not to know how to come together under a unifying leader or leadership and fight for a common cause. But instead, we have always had intra-ethnic or clannish squabbles. For much of our history therefore, the outsiders have always left us alone. And so it is that we go about our lives as though nothing has gone awry, and as though nothing is at stake. That is a false feeling. We are being left behind in the human and economic development process.
Our resources are being carted away without adequate and just compensation. Our land is being milked without any benefit going to our women and children. Our waterways are being polluted and our traditional means of livelihood poisoned. In unseen ways and manner, our culture and our way of life is being adulterated. We may be left with nothing if we allow the current bastardization and marginalization to continue unchecked.
If we want to destroy our own future, well then, let’s do it ourselves instead of the outsiders coming in to do it for us. And is we want progress, we must start the process ourselves since the outsiders won’t come in to jump-start growth for us. My people: who amongst you want to be the one to explain to future generation why we were lazy and irresponsible in our handling of our collective affairs? Who amongst you want to explain to them why we allowed outsiders into our homes to pillage, poison, and abuse us?
The outsiders stole from us; but never in the same proportion as the current larceny that is going on. We would have suffered more neglect, more abuse, and abandonment but for the oil and other natural resources on our land. We have the oil; yet we are treated like scourge (in Nigeria). You look at our land and our people and you begin to wonder whether God and time has forgotten us.
The excuse of successive federal government has been that we have a very harsh and difficult terrain. Difficult…difficult in what sense? Why come to our land if the topography of our land is harsh? Well then, leave our oil and other resources alone. Otherwise, invest in our youths, invest in our women and invest in our land – invest some time and money in human and economic development. Our people need passable roads and bridges as are found in Lagos; decent housing estates as are found in Oyo State; we need hospitals and clinics as are found in Kaduna; well constructed public schools as are found in Niger States; and we also need electricity, and portable water as are found in Bauchi State. But most of all, invest in our people’s health and education.
We don’t have clean water to drink so we die of water-borne diseases. Now fellow Nigerians, did you know that in my part of the country, people bath and drink from the same river? And as I told you not too long ago:
“…if they have bowel movement, they go to the same river to defecate. From the same river! Rivers are for swimming, and fishing, and to be used as a mode of transportation – not for “shitting-shaving-bathing-and drinking.” Sad, isn’t it? But, that is the stark reality of the lives of the Ijaws in Nigeria. How could we, as a nation and as a people let this happen? We milk their land, we milk all their resources and then abandon and throw them in the gutter…”http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2003/mar/073.html
We the Ijaws, about 14-million in all, are like the Kurds, spread over five or six states; however, the majority of our people live in Bayelsa State. The Ijawland land has no modern amenities. Living condition is dismal and subhuman. Is the life of an average Ijaw man, woman, or child better off today (2003) under Governor Alameyeseigha than it was in the days of Alfred Diete-Spiff (1967-1975) and Melford Okilo (1979-1983)? Is our land better off today than in the days of Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Shagari, Sanni Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida? Is it? All the so-called developments are cosmetic in nature. No proper foundation has ever been laid for immediate or future development. There is nothing substantial to point to.
Even so, government can not do it alone. We must find a way out of our agony; and out of our misery and sufferings. If we have to go to war against the federal government of Nigeria and against the multinational corporations that are polluting our land, exploiting our people, stealing from us and keeping us in perpetual poverty, well, so be it. We must find a way out of our miserable conditions and if we have to secede in other to achieve this aim, well, so be it. We feed our nation and other nations of the world; yet, our people and our land go hungry and thirsty. Why manner of injustice is this?
Every woman, child and man in Ijawland must understand that our current strategy of unorganized mayhem against the government and oil companies will not work. It is especially shameful that we have this ongoing fracas against the Itshekiris. It is a stupid and meaningless war. We gain nothing by going to war against our own neighbors and against our brethren. We have coexisted, peaceful, with the Itshekiris and the Urhobos. They are not our problems; they are not our enemies; they are not the ones stealing from us. They are not the one scheming to keep us in eternal bondage. Therefore, we must stop these fratricidal wars.
What excuse does the current government have in not providing first-rate leadership? What excuse does the governor have in not providing public infrastructures and an enabling environment? What excuse do we – individually and collectively — have in not returning home to help develop our land? What excuse do we, those of us in the Diaspora have in not going back home to lead or work hand-in-hand with our people in the political, social and economic arena? How far and fast can we run trying to get away from our land? The world is not big enough to hide, folks.
Could it be that those of us in the Western World are wicked and selfish and uncaring about our destiny, posterity and about our people? Whenever we have calls for financial assistance to help our people back home – more often than not – all you get is a deafening silence. A few people usually respond, but that’s about it. Must people like Titoe Miriki, Ebipamone Nanakumo, and Lawrence Dariah, Alamene Hermon, Godfrey Okoro and a few selfless individuals go on bended knees, begging and pleading, before we contribute our “widow’s mite”? What is it with us? Damn! What is our problem; that we are unable to contribute a dollar here and a dollar there just to alleviate the miserable condition the vast majority of our people live in? Common – we must be ashamed of ourselves for not doing much more.
But, all is not lost. Soon, very soon, we will have the opportunity to redeem ourselves as the IJAW FOUNDATION come into being. It behooves every Ijaw man and woman (everyone over the age of 17) to contribute THEIR TIME AND MONEY to this gallant and noble cause. It is expected to serve as one of the vehicles for our emancipation. The IJAW FOUNDATION is being organized to “to facilitate human, material and capital development among the Ijaws of the Niger Delta of Nigeria; to protect, preserve and promote quality of life in Ijawland; provide education and training; cultural and environmental awareness; enhance human rights, intra-regional and interregional cooperation; and to support the development and modernization of Ijawland.” For further information please visit the Foundation website (still under construction at): http://www.ijawfoundation.org/goals.php
For the time being however, please subscribe to an Internet forum that has been, for some time now, the meeting ground for Ijaws in the Diasporas. Please subscribe by sending an email to Mr. Godfrey Okoro at email@example.com (with your full name and a very brief note on how you are connected to the land of our ancestors). Your Ijaw brothers and sisters will heartily welcome you. So, please come on in…and join us. Wherever you may be – in Yenagoa, Agbere, Ghana, Berlin, Abuja, the UK, in Asia or North America – we are one and the same. We are connected by blood and by the land of our ancestors; a land now in our temporary possession but for the use of future generations.
And so, wherever you may be, I greet you. I greet you in the name of our fathers and mothers in bygone eras; I greet you in the name of all those brave men and women who continue to watch over us and whose presence can be felt in our part of the world. I greet you and I greet you all. My brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, please keep the faith that some day soon we shall grab our future and map our collective destiny. May God in His infinite mercy bless us and guide us. May He set our eyes on the path to glory and righteousness; and may He grant our individual and collective wishes. Stay well, and be safe, my dear people.
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, Norman – Oklahoma: firstname.lastname@example.org