“For centuries, the Ijaws, the Itshekiris and the Urhobos have cohabited in relative peace…Today however…they are killing off their offspring. They are degrading and polluting their farmlands, water wells, and waterways with blood…They are destroying bridges that took centuries to build…It’s so sad; so sad to see centuries of goodwill, centuries of brotherhood, centuries of intermarriages, and centuries of tolerance and acceptance wash down the drain…What a pity!” Abidde, 2003
The news coming out of the Delta region of Nigeria is grim. The killings; the maiming; and the wanton destruction of property and lives are heart-wrenching. Events in that part of the country, if left unchecked, may rival the killing fields of Cambodia, or the Balkans. The mayhem is unnecessary. The fratricidal wars are unnecessary; and the heartless disregard for humankind is not only barbaric, but stupefying!
The Ijaws are my people; so are the Itshekiris and the Urhobos. Until very recently, it was difficult for an outsider to tell the difference between the three groups. They are brothers and belong to the same group of family. They share the same blood, the same waterways, and the same land. And so it was that for ages they lived as one indivisible family – until now. And now one group is killing members of the other group who then pay back in kind.
And while they are at it — bickering and engaged in senseless struggles and the avowed destruction of the other group – others reap the benefit of their land and labor. As it is, the three groups live in a land that is very harsh, a topography that is perhaps the most extracting and exerting in West Africa.
I wonder if these groups have collective conscience. Whatever happened to their sense of history, brotherhood and collective destiny? Whatever happened to their humanity? Whatever happened to their collective lot in life? Whatever happened to their collective struggles, pains and gains? Must they engage in these sinful and injurious acts all because of political power, political influence and natural resources? Must they succumb to the manipulation of some depraved elites in their midst and to the exploitation and indifferent attitude of successive governments?
Instead of the in-fighting and the killings, a better strategy would have been to continue to cooperate and live in peaceful coexistence; form an alliance against the duplicitous oil and multinational corporations and a federal government that’s been milking their marrow. But no, they are deluded into thinking that the enemies are within. The only enemy within are some fat cats and some elites fanning the flame of disunity and planting seeds of distrust and destruction.
Well, the evil deed has been done; but I do not believe that all parties have crossed the Rubicon. The doors of all three groups are still open to allow their brothers and sisters in for a “makeup” session and for confidence-building measures to take hold. And why not? After all, where are the Urhobos going to relocate to should they refuse to live peacefully with the Itshekiris? And the Ijaws and the Itshekiris; well, do they have any other land they call home to relocate to? The Niger Delta is home…and is all they have!
The Delta is the only home. Home is where you go to feel safe from the marauders. Home is where you go to feel rested. Home is where you go when the whole world is against you. Home is where you go to escape the negativity of the outsiders, and home is where you go to feel the warmth and love of your family. For the Niger Delta to continue to be home therefore, all the groups must look beyond the atrocities that were committed in the past and look to the future. Both groups should start talking to one another. It is time to mend broken bones, help heal open sores and bleeding hearts.
The Urhobos, Itshekiris and Ijaws in the Diaspora must come up with an agenda of “forgiveness, unity and prosperity” to supplement whatever plans are on the ground (back home). And if there are no plans (back home), well then, those of us in the Diasporas should put our experiences, resources, and goodwill to use. In other words – this is a call to Itshekiris, Urhobos and the Ijaws in overseas to start communicating and come up with an agenda for nation (re)building. I am ready. If you are ready…let’s talk! If there had been such an exercise in the past which failed, well, I would suggest that we not give in to failure. If there is such an exercise going on right at this moment, well then, I would like to be part of it not only because it pains me to see my people killing my people, but also because it is the right thing to do.
We the Itshekiris, we the Urhobos, and we the Ijaws in the Diaspora have a duty to encourage peace, fairness, stability, respect and dignity amongst our people in our homeland.
As if blind and unaware of the shameful and calamitous events between the Ijaws, the Urhobos and Itshekiris – my people in Rivers States are at each others throat killing, maiming, running amok, and painting our towns and villages with blood, sweat, and human parts. Brothers are killing brothers; and neighbors are killing neighbors. What does the future hold for my people? As a friend who just returned from Nigeria put it:
“…the Warri case is a reference for all the groups across the country to perfect their strategies in fortifying their local militia. God forbid, we may be heading for the Liberia style scenario, all that is needed is a bold and commanding warlord…”
Both the state and federal government must surely be aware of what is going in the Delta. They cannot plead ignorance. I therefore boldly state that both the state governments and the federal authority knew these atrocities were going to happen before they occurred because every government has both foreign and domestic intelligence services. The federal government of Nigeria, I would suppose, would not only be concerned with external threats; but would also be concerned with internal disturbances that are likely to adversely affect its ability to govern. We have the Nigerian Police, the SSS, Naval Intelligence, and a host of other intelligence services. How could any or all of these bodies not have foreknowledge of such disturbances before they actually occurred? How? Why?
Could it be that some state governors are involved in fomenting trouble? Could it be that the federal government gains by the incessant mayhem in our land? Could it be that it is to the benefit of some neurotic individuals to have these brouhaha in the Niger Delta? Who are the elites manipulating unsuspecting groups of youths to foment trouble?
Both the state and federal government of Nigeria should know that at the pace things are happening in the Delta, that sooner or later, it would engulf them, too; that their political and economic interests would come to ruin; and that they will pay the price – individually and collectively; publicly and privately; as both private citizens and as government functionaries — when the bonfire erupts. There are grave but unintended consequences to all evil machinations!
In as much as I suspect the manipulative and dribbling hands of Abuja, elites and state governments in these matters, I also hold some of our youths responsible in these affairs. How could they, and why would they allow themselves to be used as instrument for destroying their own land and for killing their own people? Why?
What is the matter? Is it hopelessness and frustration, or did all these come about because of a lack of self-worth and self-esteem? Is it because of illiteracy and lack of awareness? Or, could it be that our boys and girls don’t appreciate their lives, their land and their people? Why? Why have they engaged themselves in these never-ending battles?
While we kill our brothers and sisters, the outsiders are laughing at us; while we are busy destroying our infrastructures, the oil companies are busy milking our resources; while we are busy maiming our neighbors, the federal government is busy mortgaging our future; while we are busy holding grudges, our manipulative elites are busy lining their Swiss bank accounts with dollars, yens and pound sterling. Their children are in American and European universities, in business and in the corridors of power while we are busy fighting and killing off our children…roaming the dark alleys of Abuloma, Okrika, Warri, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, and the likes.
Why are we busy killing off our brothers and sisters? Could it be that the life of the Okrikas are not as worthy as the life of a Nupe? That the life of an Urhobo girl is cheaper than that of the Tiv girl? Are you telling me that a Fulani teenager should live a more prosperous life compared to a teenager from Abuloma? Or, perhaps the Ijaws and the Itshekiris should be thankful for a life that’s to be lived in perpetual penury?
Tell me…you militaristic, careless and self-destructive Deltans — tell me: what is your life, your future, your land and the life of your people worth?