The Biafra Republic And The Niger Delta, Revisiting The Causes Of Revolution
CHRIS OZOEMENA, Yenagoa [ureports], May 28 2010 07:48am When forty-three years ago, the then Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared the Republic of Biafra, not many saw the genuine and real reasons behind such a declaration by one of the bravest soldiers ever produced in the country.
It is therefore pertinent for the Nigerian state to be reminded of those factors that were responsible or led to the declaration of the sovereign state of Biafra on Tuesday, May 30, 1967. The consciousness of such factors that led to the declaration should always be guided as to avoid such from repeating itself in the oil rich Niger Delta region where the militants or ex-militants could readily be used as its soldiers.
Before Ojukwu's declaration of Biafra, the people from the Eastern part of the country were being marginalized in terms of appointments and promotions which consistently impoverished the people of the area. Some parts of the country were being treated as second-hand citizens while others enjoy all the benefits from the federal government.
According to the declaration by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on that Tuesday, May 30, 1967:
Fellow countrymen and women, YOU, the people of Eastern Nigeria:
CONSCIOUS of the supreme authority of Almighty God over all mankind, of your duty to yourselves and prosperity;
AWARE that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any Government based outside eastern Nigeria;
BELIEVING that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights which can best be Preserved by yourselves;
UNWILLING to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature;
REJECTING the authority of any person or persons other than the Military Government of eastern Nigeria to make any imposition of whatever kind or nature upon you;
DETERMINED to dissolve all political and other ties between you and the former Federal Republic of Nigeria;
PREPARED to enter into such association, treaty or alliance with any sovereign state within the former Federal Republic of Nigeria and elsewhere on such terms and conditions as best to sub serve your common good;
AFFIRMING your trust and confidence in ME;
HAVING mandated ME to proclaim on your behalf and in your name the Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic,
NOW THEREFORE I, Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters shall henceforth be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of THE REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA.
AND I DO DECLARE THAT:
(i) All political ties between us and the Federal Republic of Nigeria are hereby totally dissolved.
(ii) All subsisting contractual obligations entered into by the Government of the federal republic of Nigeria or by any person, authority, organization or government acting on its behalf, with any person, authority or organization operating, or relating to any matter or thing, within the Republic of Biafra, shall henceforth be deemed to be entered into with the Military Governor of the Republic of Biafra for and on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Biafra, and the covenants thereof shall, subject to this Declaration, be performed by the parties according to their tenor;
(iii) All subsisting international treaties and obligations made on behalf of Eastern Nigeria by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be honored and respected;
(iv) Eastern Nigeria's due share of all subsisting international debts and obligations entered into by the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be honored and respected;
(v) Steps will be taken to open discussions on the question of Eastern Nigeria's due share of the assets of the Federation of Nigeria and personal properties of the citizens of Biafra throughout the Federation of Nigeria.
(vi) The rights, privileges, pensions, etc., of all personnel of the Public Services, the Armed Forces and the Police now serving in any capacity within the Republic of Biafra are hereby guaranteed;
(vii) We shall keep the door open for association with, and would welcome, any sovereign unit or units in the former Federation of Nigeria or any other parts of Africa desirous of association with us for the purposes of running a common services organization and for the establishment of economic ties;
(viii) We shall protect the lives and property of all foreigners residing in Biafra, we shall extend the hand of friendship to those nations who respect our sovereignty, and shall repel any interference in our internal affairs;
(ix) We shall faithfully adhere to the charter of the Organization of African Unity and of the United Nations Organization;
(x) It is our intention to remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations in our right as a sovereign, independent nation.
Long live the Republic of Biafra!
And may God protect all those who live in her.
Again the people of the Niger Delta region have consistently cried out and have accused the federal government of marginalization and neglect, despite the huge oil and gas resource which has consistently remained the major source of revenue to the federal government. A tour of the Niger Delta communities has shown that indeed the region has been neglected and abandoned as the community people still live in abject poverty while oil and gas are continuously being drained from their soil to develop other states of the federation especially Abuja, the federal capital territory.
This is what gave rise to the Kaiama declaration of 1999 by some Ijaw youths who felt that the level of neglect on their side by the federal government has gotten to an incredible point where they could no longer bear it, just as such similar grouse that led to the Ojukwu's declaration of Biafra in 1967.
In that exhaustive meeting that led to the Kaiama declaration by over five hundred communities that make up the Ijaw nation, the youths deliberated on the best way to ensure the continuous survival of the indigenous people of the Ijaw ethnic nationality of the Niger Delta.
Some of those issues that were deliberated during the Kaiama declaration and Signed for the entire participants by Felix Tuodolo, pioneer President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and Timi Kaiser Ogoriba, founding member of the Ijaw Youth Council includes the following:
1.That it was through British colonization that the IJAW NATION was forcibly put under the Nigerian State.
2.That, but for the economic interests of the imperialists, the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality would have evolved as a distinct and separate sovereign nation, enjoying undiluted political, economic, social, and cultural AUTONOMY.
3.That the division of the Southern Protectorate into East and West in 1939 by the British marked the beginning of the balkanization of a hitherto territorially contiguous and culturally homogenous Ijaw people into political and administrative units, much to our disadvantage. This trend is continuing in the balkanization of the Ijaws into six states - Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom States, mostly as minorities who suffer socio-political, economic, cultural and psychological deprivation.
4.That the quality of life of Ijaw people is deteriorating as a result of utter neglect, suppression and marginalization visited on Ijaws by the alliance of the Nigerian state and transnational oil companies.
5.That the political crisis in Nigeria is mainly about the struggle for the control of oil mineral resources which account for over 80% of GDP, 95% of national budget and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. From which, 65%, 75% and 70% respectively are derived from within the Ijaw nation. Despite these huge contributions, our reward from the Nigerian State remains avoidable deaths resulting from ecological devastation and military repression.
6.That the unabating damage done to our fragile natural environment and to the health of our people is due in the main to uncontrolled exploration and exploitation of crude oil and natural gas which has led to numerous oil spillage's, uncontrolled gas flaring, the opening up of our forests to loggers, indiscriminate canalization, flooding, land subsidence, coastal erosion, earth tremors etc. Oil and gas are exhaustible resources and the complete lack of concern for ecological rehabilitation, in the light of the Oloibiri experience, is a signal of impending doom for the peoples of Ijawland.
7.That the degradation of the environment of Ijawland by transnational oil companies and the Nigerian State arise mainly because Ijaw people have been robbed of their natural rights to ownership and control of their land and resources through the instrumentality of undemocratic Nigerian State legislation's such as the Land Use Decree of 1978, the Petroleum Decree of 1969, and 1991, the Lands (Title Vesting etc.) Decree No.52 of 1993 (Osborne Land Decree), the National Inlands Waterways Authority Decree No.13 of 1997 etc.
8.That the principle of Derivation in Revenue Allocation has been consciously and systematically obliterated by successive regimes of the Nigerian State. We note the drastic reduction of the Derivation Principle from 100% (1953), 50% (1960), 45% (1970), 20% (1975) 2% (1982), 1.5% (1984) to 3% (1992 to date), and a rumoured 13% in Abacha's 1995 undemocratic and unimplemented Constitution.
9.That the violence in Ijawland and other parts of the Niger Delta area, sometimes manifesting in intra and inter ethnic conflicts are sponsored by the State and transnational oil companies to keep the communities of the Niger Delta area divided, weak and distracted from the causes of their problems.
10.That the recent revelation of the looting of the national treasury by the Abacha junta is only a reflection of an existing and continuing trend of stealing by public office holders in the Nigerian State. We remember the over 12 billion dollars Gulf war windfall, which was looted by Babangida and his cohorts. We note that over 70% of the billions of dollars being looted by military rulers and their civilian collaborators is derived from our ecologically devastated Ijawland.
Based on the foregoing, we the youths of Ijawland hereby make the following resolutions to be known as the Kaiama Declaration:
1.All land and natural resources (including mineral resources) within the Ijaw territory belong to Ijaw communities and are the basis of our survival.
2.We cease to recognize all undemocratic decrees that rob our people/communities of the right to ownership and control of our lives and resources, which were enacted without our participation and consent. These include the Land Use Decree and Petroleum Decree etc.
3.We demand the immediate withdrawal from Ijawland of all military forces of occupation and repression by the Nigerian State. Any oil company that employs the services of the armed forces of the Nigerian State to “protect” its operations will be viewed as an enemy of the Ijaw people. Family members of military personnel stationed in Ijawland should appeal to their people to leave the Ijaw area alone.
4.Ijaw youths in all the communities in all Ijaw clans in the Niger Delta will take steps to implement these resolutions beginning from the 30th of December 1998, as a step towards reclaiming the control of our lives. We, therefore, demand that all oil companies stop all exploration and exploitation activities in the Ijaw area. We are tired of gas flaring; oil spillages, blowouts and being labeled saboteurs and terrorists. It is a case of preparing the noose for our hanging. We reject this labeling. Hence, we advise all oil companies, staff and contractors to withdraw from Ijaw territories by the 30th December, 1998 pending the resolution of the issue of resource ownership and control in the Ijaw area of the Niger Delta.
5.Ijaw Youths and peoples will promote the principle of peaceful coexistence between all Ijaw communities and with our neighbours, despite the provocative and divisive actions of the Nigerian State, transnational oil companies and their contractors. We offer a hand of friendship and comradeship to our neighbours: the Itsekiri, Ilaje, Urhobo, Isoko, Edo, Ibibio, Ogoni, Ekpeye, Ikwerre etc. We affirm our commitment to joint struggle with the other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta area for self determination.
6.We express our solidarity with all people's organisation and ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and elsewhere who are struggling for self-determination and justice. In particular we note the struggle of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Egi Women's Movement etc.
7.WE extend our hand of solidarity to the Nigerian oil workers (NUPENG and PENGASSAN) and expect that they will see this struggle for freedom as a struggle for humanity.
8.We reject the present transition to civil rule programme of the Abubakar regime, as it is not preceded by restructuring of the Nigerian federation. The way forward is a Sovereign National Conference of equally represented ethnic nationalities to discuss the nature of democratic federation of Nigerian ethnic nationalities. Conference notes the violence and killings that characterised the last local government elections in most parts of the Niger Delta. Conference pointed out that these electoral conflicts are a manifestation of the undemocratic and unjust nature of the military transition programme. Conference affirmed therefore, that the military are incapable of enthroning true democracy in Nigeria.
9.We call on all Ijaws to remain true to their Ijawness and to work for the total liberation of our people. You have no other true home but that which is in Ijawland.
10.We agree to remain within Nigeria but to demand and work for Self Government and resource control for the Ijaw people. Conference approved that the best way for Nigeria is a federation of ethnic nationalities. The Federation should be run on the basis of equality and social justice. Finally, Ijaw youths resolve to set up the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) to co-ordinate the struggle of Ijaw peoples for self-determination and justice.
This is why the elevation of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the President of the federal Republic of Nigeria is seen as a divine intervention which the people from the area including ex-militants are seriously warning other Nigerians especially the North to stop the campaign of zoning as God having seen the problems facing the region has given them the power to rule.
Some of the ex-militant leaders like Commander Wilson Reuben a.k.a Pastor has threatened that they would declare a Niger Delta Republic if Jonathan is not given the ticket for the 2011 election, while they would also posses all the oil and gas resources in the area.
If the Nigerian nation allow the country to go into another round of violence at this period when the international communities are watching to know how the nascent democracy could be sustained. And again the Niger Delta unlike Biafra has militants already as its soldiers.
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