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REBURIAL OF ADAKA BORO IN BAYELSA -MATTERS ARISING

By ERIC TENIOLA
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The remains of Major Isaac Adaka Boro (1938-1968) were excavated from the Ikoyi cemetary last month and re-buried at Heroes Park in Yenogoa, Bayelsa state on Saturday May 18.

At the reburial was the American civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson and Elder statesmen including Chief Edwin Clark and Alhaji Tanko Yankasai and of course the Governor of Bayelsa state, Chief Henry Seriake Dickson.

In the words of the spokeman of the Bayelsa state Government, Deacon Markson Fefegha” Adaka Boro was one of the leading lights and founding fathers of Ijaw struggle and emancipation.”

We have really not read the will of Adaka Boro. We do not know whether he would have wished to be reburied in Heroes Park in Yenogoa.

All we know is that he died fighting as a soldier of the Nigerian Army. He was buried in Lagos at that time when Lagos was Nigeria's capital and for the past Forty-Five years his remains had rested peacefully in Ikoyi cementary in Lagos.

Those who arranged to rebury him in Yenogoa must have guessed that as a true Ijaw man who died for the emancipation of the Ijaws from oppression, he would be comfortable to rest in peace in an Ijaw nation.

Tribal leaders are usually over honoured in the absence of a true national unity.

The story of Adaka Boro is an unusual one for while men like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and others are being celebrated for fighting the British colonialists for their country's independence, Adaka Boro is being celebrated for fighting Nigeria for the oppression of the Ijaws.

Adaka Boro was born in September 10, 1938 in Oloibiri in the present Bayelsa state.

He was many parts and different things to different people- a University student's leader, a teacher, a policeman and Nigerian army officer. An undergraduate student of chemistry and student union president at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he left school to lead an armed protest against the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta areas which benefitted mainly the Federal Government of Nigeria and a remote Eastern Nigeria regional government. He believed that the people of the area deserved a fairer share of proceeds of the oil wealth.

Adaka Boro noted that “most of the youths were so frustrated with the general neglect that they were ready for any action led by an outstanding leader to gain liberty. We were clenched in tyrannical chains and led through a dark alley of perpetual political and social deprivation. Strangers in our own country! Inevitably, therefore, the day would have to come for us to fight our long-denied right to self-determination.”

He further stated that “Economic development of the area is certainly the most appalling aspect. There is not even a single industry. The only fishery industry which ought to be situated in a properly riverine area is sited about 80 miles inland at Aba. The boatyard at Opobo had its headquarters at Enugu. Personnel in these industries and also in the oil stations are predominantly non-Ijaw.

He formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group. They declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966 and gallantly battled the Federal Forces for twelve days but were finally routed by the far superior Federal firepower.Boro and his compatriots were jailed for treason. Before being sentenced he claimed that his people “had long sought a separate not because they loved power but because their conditions were peculiar and the authorities did not understand their problems. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria. What is wrong with us is the total lack of mercy in our activities.”

However, General Yakubu Gowon granted him amnesty on the eve of the Nigerian civil war in May 1967. He then enlisted and was commissioned as a major in the Nigerian army. He fought on the side of the Federal Government but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (near Okrika) in Rivers state, after successfully fighting for the Nigerian forces thinking he was liberating the Niger Delta from Biafran Forces from eastern Nigeria.

He is survived by Deborah Waritimi, Esther Boro and Felix Boro.

Another Ijaw man who started the Ijaw struggle long before Adaka Boro championed it, was Chief Melford Obiene Okilo (1933-2005) who in 1962 was appointed parliamentary secretary and later Minister by the then Prime Minster, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Chief Okilo founded the Niger Delta congress in 1959 and was later elected Governor of Rivers state and served between 1979 and 1983. I really do not know whether Okilo's remains are at Heroes Park in Yenogoa.

I have read Adaka Boro's autobiography titled, THE TWELVE DAY REVOLUTION, I respect his courage just as I respect other notable Ijaws from Bayelsa state including Gabriel Okara, Earnest Ikoli, Daniel Igali, Samson Siasia, Perobo Dakole, Harley Empere and his royal majesty, Alfred Diete-Spiff who was the pioneer Governor of Rivers state on May 28 1967.

I have also read the various articles on Adaka Boro by Hoshia Emmanuel, President Olusegun Obasanjo's description of how he died in his book, MY COMMAND, the comments on him by Professor Godini Darah, Akpobulokumi Oborokumo, Alfred Ilenre, our beloved Princess from Sagbama,Karie Yekwe, the pioneer attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Bayelsa state and late Comrade Dan Ikunniye who was from Kogi but who Idolised Adaka Boro till he died. I found the article written on Adaka Boro by Youpele Banigo in July 2005 as the most objective.

If Adaka Boro is today being given a Post-Humous honour, what about Samuel Owonaru and Nottinham Dick who were both sentenced to death for treason along with Adaka Boro by Justice Phil Ebosie. Afterwards they all travelled along with Adaka Boro outside Nigeria to seek financial and military aid for the Ijaw cause before their arrest.

The way tribal leaders are celebrated in Nigeria for mere political objectives does not give comfort for the achievement of a true National Unity.

Inspite of the sentiments on Adaka Boro's reburial in Yenogoa,little was heard on General Sanni Abacha,the man who created Bayelsa state on October 1st,1996,or on General Yakubu Gowon who pardoned Adaka Boro or on Navy Captain Phillip Ayeni,the first executive Governor of Bayelsa state who is today abandoned and neglected on a wheel chair in a dilapidated house in Apapa,Lagos.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1819-1891),” Heroism feels and never reasons and therefore is always right.” No tribe or race has monopoly in oppressing or inflicting injustice on others.

And that is why yesterday's heroes are today's villains and “we can never plan the future by the past, Edmund Bleak (1629-1719).”

According to Thucydides,” history repeats itself.”
History never stops for it keeps moving.
The oppressed of yesterday are now the oppressors of today.

Fortunately today the Ijaws are not only in Government but in power in the centre in Nigeria.

It is true this is their time.
But who knows many years from now someone may be celebrated somewhere in another part of Nigeria for fighting against the sectional, tyranny, imperious and in fraction of the present day Nigeria's leadership.

Who knows?
ERIC TENIOLA, A FORMER DIRECTOR AT THE PRESIDENCY, NOW LIVES IN LAGOS