Draba (to Spartacus, upon being asked his name): “You don’t want to know my name. I don’t want to know your name. Gladiators don’t make friends. If we’re ever matched in the arena together, I’ll have to kill you.” (Encarta)
The title of this essay is a by-product of a movie released in 1960 and which I saw when I was little, around 1983. It made lasting impression on me then as it does now especially as it concerns the interest of my Niger-Delta and its modern Ken Saro-Wiwa. It was the Spartacus motion picture, based on the true life story of a Spartacus, a Roman gladiator and slave. Legend has it that in the Third Servile war with Rome circa 72 BC, Spartacus managed to inspire all the slaves in an insurrection that brought the largest land army in the Roman Empire down, not once but thrice. Eventually he was able to occupy Rome as conqueror though it was when he began to free the slaves under him and send them to their respective homes that he was defeated and eventually crucified.
At the point of rounding up the slaves, it was difficult for the Romans to identify the ring leader mostly because he did not arrogate to himself the toga of an overlord and master of those he led to freedom. Even though he was just there, right in front of the General that defeated him, Spartacus could not be identified by his captors. Therefore, the General of the Roman army resorted to threats and intimidation, asking Spartacus to identify himself otherwise he would kill all of the slaves. As Spartacus made an attempt to identify himself to avoid a bloodbath, another one slave sitting beside him got up quickly and declared, ‘I’m Spartacus!’ in a loud, strong voice. Two more of the slaves got up declaring they are Spartacus and before long the whole field of about 20,000 conquered slaves had all gotten to their feet, affirming in loud, strong voices: ‘I’m Spartacus, I’m Spartacus…!’
I have told this story to establish an analogy with the situation of the people of the Niger-Delta and to establish it that whether or not we like it, we are the slaves of the un-researched Nigerian project that some are trying so hard to project. I have also told this story to try to establish a nexus between the character of Spartacus and Asari-Dokubo, who the Federal Government is trying for treason. The only problem there is with the character of both freedom fighters however is the fact that while the one had those he stood for standing up for him literally, the other is like a lone voice in the wilderness and a pariah even within the Niger-Delta itself. I have also told this story to let us all know that until we identify with the spirit of resilience and struggle that is the Asari, we will yet remain in perpetual servitude in a land flowing with milk and honey. We don’t seem to realize that Asari Dokubo (and the methods that he has employed) is the one champion we truly have as a genuine crusader for the emancipation of our exploited region. We are hardly aware that with his incarceration and trial for treasonable felony, we, everyone from the Niger Delta also is on trial for asking to be treated fairly in the distribution of oil resources from our region. With this treason trial, Asari Dokubo certainly takes his place with the other champions like Isaac Adaka Boro, Kenule Saro-Wiwa and the South African, Steve Biko who challenged an oppressive status quo.
We from the Niger-Delta should carry this consciousness about and around us: that anytime Asari Dokubo is put in chains and locked up in a Black Maria, it is we who are also locked in a Black Maria and are in chains. And why do I say so? I say this because there are a couple of persons in our midst who are mostly responsible for the travails of the Niger Delta. They are our governors from that region that have mostly collaborated with outsiders from the North, East and West to enslave and impoverish us. They are the president and vice president who have told us to our faces that our monies that were put in a special fund for the development of the nation ended up in their pockets. And truly, if you ask me, if there are people who should be standing trial right now for betraying and abusing the trust reposed in them by the Nigerian people, and who have tainted their hands with the oil of greed it should be none other than Mr. President and his Deputy, not Asari Dokubo.
I would now like to attend to the thrust of this apology. And it is this: let every one of those who truly have the interest of the Niger Delta at heart and is taking hostages as a means of drawing attention to our plight refocus and redirect their guns on the enemy within. Enough and sustainable attention has already been drawn to our cause and if we continue to kidnap foreigners we will loose the only measure of goodwill that that attention has garnered. It is now time to face the internal enemy. There are very many people in our midst parading themselves as governors, senators, presidents and vice presidents who truly are the problem. They are the ones who collude with these foreigners to put us through what we are facing today. They formulate all sorts of policies that put monies in their own pockets rather than address the problems of ecology and degradation that are the by-products of the policies they formulate. We must focus the muzzles of our guns on these people. We must focus our guns on these people and stop harassing foreigners whose governments should be in a better position to be sympathetic to our cause when the real fight starts. And that is what Asari Dokubo is doing. That is what his predecessors Ken Saro-Wiwa, Isaac Boro, Steve Biko did – they recognized the internal enemy and fought with him. It is in the wrong application of hostage-taking tactics that is now devaluing the intensity and density of the cause of the Niger-Delta. Today, instead of sympathy and empathy, we are now being seen as a bunch of irresponsible people and sometimes as terrorists simply because we have failed to review our initial tactics of kidnapping foreigners, to kidnapping the internal enemy.
I make this appeal to those taking foreigners as hostages to desist from that activity. They should release the ones in their custody and apologize to them and their governments. After that, they must direct their attention on Mr. President and his family and all other so-called presidents and Heads of State in the past that have in one way or the other contributed to the problems we are experiencing in the Niger Delta. They must direct their attention to the governors of these states and their families. Just imagine it that you have either Obasanjo or IBB’s son in your custody, and demand that they make restitution for the monies that they have stolen from us. Now, that is what I would call hostage-taking and with that we stand a chance to bring about a faster resolution to the crises that they sponsored by hook or crook. Let me tell you, you who call yourselves MEND or whatever: your position today is an auspicious and an enviable one that is no different from that of the Mau-Mau Emergency guerilla fighters in Kenya in the era of British colonial imperialism. Go find out what they did when they realized that their worst enemies were their own people.