On one of those days of a perfect misunderstanding of intent, I casually mentioned to one of my former bosses of my disinterest in everything else but the success of my enterprise. We had been discussing several matters post my employment with him. With the avuncular hand that he had always extended me, he dismissed my thought, thinking that the disinterest that I expressed extended to issues concerning the land of my birth, Isokoland.
Over the years, and apart from my geographical affinity with this land, I had never lived in or conducted business or economic or social enterprise in Isokoland. I come from a town known as Uzere; Uzere has 39 oil wells, but every year there are challenges of flooding, poverty and zero power supply. What I heard recently about this place of my birth is that there are arrangements being put there to get a gas turbine to power the entire town. But apart from that, Uzere in Isokoland is really no different from the exploitation and ravages of oil pollution that is the lot of Ogoni-land. As a child growing up there, I had taken a stroll to the banks of one of our rivers one evening. I saw something as thick as molasses moving in my direction like a black ghost. I ran away. That evening when I related that experience to my father, he said, Ah, that’s Ibiukwu – ibiukwu in English is crayfish. Many years after I visited, I went to that same river to find it covered with a thick layer of oil deposits. The river was dead, together with the ibiukwu, and all the aquatic life therein.
Many people do not know about Uzere and Isoko, and that’s because unlike the Ogoni condition, we have no voices at strategic points and institutions and organisations, or the passion to advocate, and fight for the rights and privileges of our people. The much I know about my place of birth vis-à-vis its condition is twofold: one, the international oil companies pay a handout to certain pressure groups, aka deve to keep restive youth restrained, and two, have managed to pitch many interest groups one against the other as a divide and rule strategy.
What has evolved from this kind of scenario is that while monies from my village, Uzere in Isokoland, are being used to develop and feed the rest of Nigeria, most of us from this strategic point of Nigeria hold no sensitive positions in Nigeria. We are not the emilokan types, and this has been exploited to oppress, suppress and confine Uzere and Isoko people, even in Delta State. Check this out: since the creation of Delta state, no Isoko man has been governor, deputy governor, speaker of the House of Representatives or even Senate president.
These are the issues bothering many Isoko people today, not necessarily the handouts that politicians collect from the IOCs. I know for a fact that there are certain politicians who are happy to consign Isoko to the backwaters of Nigeria’s political paradigm. They are happy with second-fiddle positions, and this is how they do it: there are communities and tribes with zero contribution to the national purse but whose people and indigenes feed fat on the sorry lot of the Isoko people. They create opportunities for their people in the police, army, the immigrations, Navy and allied Nigerian institutions. If a person from Gombe or Katsina is assisting his people to get in the army or the police, they first establish a network of contacts based on their political clout and network. Politicians from Gombe, Katsina, Sokoto and Kano know only one thing, and that is, that they derive their existence at the national assembly to the people who voted them in as representatives. Therefore, they do everything in their power to deliver the dividends to their people.
I have heard that with the Isoko politician, and indeed with most politicians from the South-South and South-East, it is not so. Instead of creating these opportunities for their people, there are claims that they create bottlenecks instead. Several Isoko people who I have interviewed here in Abuja have told me that their Senators and House of Reps members often ask them for master’s degrees, very many years of experience, their transcripts, primary school certificates and etcetera before they may be allowed to see their representatives. They have also said that these Senators and House of Reps members are the most inaccessible ever. I have found the latter accusation a bit hard to believe: in 2013 or thereabouts, I put a call across to Hon Leo Ogor. He took my call, had a brief chat with me, even though I had never met him. Armed with that knowledge, and based on the accusation that the new man representing Isoko North and South Federal Constituencies hardly takes his calls, I put a call across to him. He did not take any of the call we put across to him, and he did not return them.
This will not do: Isoko politicians at the local and national levels must know that it is not everyone calling them that come cap in hand begging for money. They must realize that we have remained at the backwaters of Nigerian politics for far too long. They must do everything in their power to bring our people in Abuja and Nigeria together to discuss how to put Isoko Nation in contention and relevance. We must come together to network, and iterate the Isoko agenda. Let our representatives at the National Assembly call Isoko people in Abuja together for a stakeholders meeting. That will be a good start, and a good way to feel our pulse and chart the way forward.
And what exactly is this Isoko Agenda? It will be based on the Aborure Principle of getting our people into the army, navy, police and Air force. It would be a sustained push to promote our interests so that we can compete at all levels of governance in Nigeria. After all, haven’t we fed this country enough to make demands on Nigeria based on our contributions?