The State of Affairs In The Ijaw Nation (Conclusion)

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

No one demands or expects perfection from Governor Timpre Sylva. Perfection is an ideal only the gods, or fools, aspire to. And more so in the area of governance, we can expect the governor to mess up again and again and again — with the expectation that every time he messes up, he will own up to it; every time he commit the abominable he will go before the people and sincerely make absolution, make amends and go about doing the people’s work in a transparent and honest manner. Whether his is an illegal and illegitimate government (considering the travesty that was the 2007 elections) is no longer part of the debate. It shouldn’t be.

The debate and the tête-à-tête should center on his vision and agenda and strength of character, and how he intend to cement his good name, or bad name, in the annals of history and in the minds of the people. Where he goes from here is his choice. His destiny is his to control. We need not remind him that power is ephemeral. And we need not remind him, also, that all the men and women, before him, who misused and abused power, are living in scandalous infamy. Where are they today? Where are they? All the men and women who stole our money, abused power, disrespected the people, acted as though they are bigger and larger than life? Tell me, where are they now?

They came and went leaving no remarkable mark on the sand. Like stinky and stomach-churning winds, they came and polluted the community. True, they stole enough money to last two life times; and they traveled the world and sent their kids and others to the best schools and enjoyed some of life’s finest (on account of the people’s money) — but where are they today? They live in fear. They hide from the people. They walk around with their heads bow. They go to bed sweating all night, wondering who and what will visit their dreams and psyche. They see ghosts and see shadows. They watch their every move, wondering, wondering what will come next.

In life as in death, their names and their memories will forever be associated with high crimes and criminality. They will be remembered as men and women who lived a wasted life — traitors, cheats, liars, thieves and utterly useless low-life human beings. If you want a sample of such men and women, you need not look too far: the Ijaw nation has a long list of such people, two of whom recently occupied Creek Haven. And two others recently headed an energy-related government agency.

For several decades now, most of our privileged, and the influential, and our so-called political leaders have been betraying the people. They knew how underdeveloped our land was, yet they stole the money meant for development. They knew how uneducated and undereducated most of our people are, yet, instead of building schools and providing a life that will take them out of penury and subservience; they looked the other way allowing our people to wallow in the dark. Most spent their working and productive life in place like Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Jos and other “developed cities and states,” yet, they didn’t think their own land and people deserve such “development.”

Today, Ijaw land is in a state of chaos and confusion. Almost a complete mess! As a result of the indifference and criminality of the oil companies, the Ijaw land is home to some of the world’s most insidious environmental crimes. And several decades of government’s duplicity and predatory policies have rendered Ijaw land a shell of its former glory in terms of its social, cultural, religious and agricultural wellbeing. Add to these is the sprouting of cults, secret societies, mafia-like posse, and foreign religions that’s making worse an already declining society.

Those who should be at the vanguard — defending the health and honor of the land — are busy looting, illegally appropriating and bastardizing their father’s land. And as for the Ijaw intelligentsia (intellectuals), oh Lord! What a corny group of people. And they call themselves Izon? Oh no, they don’t deserve to be so called. A true Izon will not — will never — screw his own.

If we think the Yoruba, Tiv, Igbo, Nupe, Fulani or Ishekiri will come to our aid, well, we are mistaken. At the center (formerly Lagos, now Abuja), not a single federating ethnic group give a damn about the Ijaw nation. In their reality and worldview, we are an afterthought, a postscript. They might as soon drive us into the Atlantic or uproot and dump us in the Sahara Desert so they can go about milking our soil and waterways. But for courageous individuals, and fearless militant groups in and within Ijaw land, they would have militarized our land, engage in targeted-assassination, introduce apartheid and no-go areas.

The more one think about the capability and the predilection of the North and their Western counterparts, the more one is inclined to believe that there was a deliberate policy to keep the Ijaw isolated, denied political and economic access, and discouraged from being educated. Why, in spite of all we give to the Nigerian State, we have the least access to education and health facilities? Imagine an ailing illiterate.

These are the things the Ijaw elites should have worked on, and corrected. No. It was enough that some got their shares of the loot, mostly crumbs. Considering all the money some stole, where are their investments — investment in schools, hospitals and industries — in Ijaw land? Take all the Ijaw ministers and governors, state and federal legislators and commissioners since 1999: what have they done with all the money they legally and illegally accumulated? In what/which philanthropic organizations are they engaged in? How many non-family members have they sponsored through universities in Nigeria? How many sewage and water treatment plants have they established in their respective villages?

Name any Ijaw political appointee since 1999: see if you can count the number of homes and cars and other luxuries they have accumulated, including investment portfolios. In Bayelsa State alone, 70% of the money stolen between 1999 and August of 2005 could have been enough to set up several public and private companies to give employment to Ijaw university graduates. And does anyone have any inkling of how much money was misappropriated between October 2005 and April 2007? More than 45% of the state’s allocation, I bet! Till date, former governor Jonathan Goodluck has not properly accounted for the missing funds. What’s he hiding? Where’s he hiding them?

But where did all that money go? Well, here is an idea: overseas and domestic bank accounts; landed properties at home and abroad; campaign finance fund; illegal transfers to friends, family members and cronies; hush-hush payment to big-wigs within their political circle; fraudulent payments for incomplete and ghost contracts; payment to the presidency for assurance of political appointment; some inconsequential art and cultural outings; payment to religious leaders of all sorts, etc, etc, etc. Billions of dollars were stolen and wasted while the vast majority of the people live in the margins. Nothing has changed! But in the not too distant future, the chickens will come home to roost. Justice will catch up with them, alive or posthumously. All their secrets will be revealed. And we shall know who the honorable Izon are. And the spurious!

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