Jonathan: Memo To All Ijaws: At Home, In Diaspora

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I write this letter for three of reasons. First, I am a bonafide citizen of Bayelsa State and by extension an Ijaw man. By this very fact, I owe the Ijaw ethnic nationality an eternal obligation to contribute my little quota to the development of the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria. Second, I am empowered by Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution to express free and frank opinions concerning the business of government and make constructive criticisms with a view to improving the lot of the masses. Third, as a creative philosopher, I owe the Cosmic Intelligence a divine obligation to defend the truth even at the risk of self- immolation. Therefore, on the mundane and extra-terrestrial realms, I owe God and humanity a sacred duty to defend the truth and nothing but the truth. The virtue of truth is encapsulated in many good books: The Holy Bible; The Upanishad; The Vedas; The Baghavat Gita; and The Holy Koran and the Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad to mention just six. The Holy Bible in John 8: 32 say 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free'.

My faith compels me to have the strong belief that leaders are appointed by God and should be respected. If it were not so, it would be pretty difficult to explain how some people are entrusted with leadership positions amidst their more powerful, cleverer, more connected and more power-hungry kinsmen. The case of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is can be likened to David. In the family of Jesse, God decided to anoint David King of Israel not because he was the most brilliant or connected, but God has a purpose for him. In anointing David, God discounted all human foibles because he was the person well suited for the consummation of God's divine purpose for the Israeli nation.

The Bible says “A prophet is honoured everywhere except in his own family”,(Matthew 13:57). Jesus Christ made this statement when he discovered that people from his homestead gave him only a scant recognition of his divinity and messianic mission. It is an irony of fate that a man who laid down his life in consummation of man's salvation scheme was rejected by the same people he came to redeem. Even in the Aquarian Gospels, Jesus emphasized the consequences of his rejection by the Jews – the elect of God and the custodian of deity. When he was accused of using the power of Beelzebub prince of the demons to cast out demons, he replied: 'A house divided against itself cannot stand” Today the Ijaw nation seems to be divided against itself.

My dear elders and opinion leaders of the Ijaw nation, as we leaf through the pages of the chequered history of Nigeria, one trend seems to be constant - the exploitation of the minorities especially the Ijaws in the Niger Delta. This exploitation started long before independence. It has become a major determinant of the peoples' level of consciousness, which has been assimilated into the psyche of the people. Every instrument of state power is used to legitimize this crude exploitation. It is for these reasons that the struggle for resource control by the Niger Delta Region is an ideological imperative for the practice of true federalism.

Major Jasper Adaka Boro the Ijaw hero was pained by the exploitation of the Niger Delta people. He vented his anger by organizing a 12 day revolution, which was the first attempt by the Ijaw nation to assert its autonomy and self-determination. Adaka Boro's grouse with the Federal Government was that the Ijaws, who constitute the fourth largest ethnic group, were marginalized and not fully integrated into the mainstream of Nigeria's politics. Boro was particularly not happy that the Ijaws were not given the opportunity to aspire to the highest position of the land. Most Ijaws misunderstood his struggle and Boro died in mysterious circumstances when the civil war had almost ended. Since the death of Adaka Boro more than three decades ago the ideals for which he embarked on the 12 day war have remained largely not achieved. The Ijaw nation has continued to wander in the wilderness of anomie and despair.

In 1999, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha became the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State-the core of Ijaw nation. Given his rising political profile and popularity in the Niger Delta, he was poised to give the jaw nation a semblance of unity, which was and is still lacking. However, because of lack of tact and diplomacy, he was cut down by greed, self-aggrandisement. His subsequent incarceration and punishment was the handiwork of EFCC but facilitated by some of his power hungry Ijaw kinsmen. In fact, there is a Nembe proverb that” the cock says it is not angry with those who killed it, but those who removed its feathers”. It is the quills of the cock that cover its nakedness. The federal Government through EFCC killed Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, but those who actually removed his feathers are the Ijaws, most of whom are still enjoying the goodwill of their godfather conspirators. The fact that Alamieyeseigha has been punished and other criminal governors are still off the hook attests to the fact that beyond the garb of corruption, his incarceration is another grand plan to rubbish the Ijaw nation.

Ijaw leaders at home and in diaspora should understand by now that for the first time since 1960, the Nigerian nation has conceded the number two seat to the Ijaw nation -a gesture that seems to have opened a new vista of hope that the Ijaws still have a stake in the Nigerian project. But I foresee a situation whereby the exploiters and enemies of the Ijaw people will sooner than later throw a wedge between us to shatter the people's unity and blow up the golden opportunity God has given us. This is by far the closest we have come to the locus of power in our fiscally skewed and structurally truncated federal State.

The Ijaw nation should recall that When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo contested the 1999 presidential elections, his kinsmen never voted for him partly because of his antecedent, but no sooner he was sworn in as President than they all rallied around and gave him massive support in government. Obasanjo on his own part, reciprocated by giving most of the juicy appointments to his kinsmen. This goes to buttress the fact that even in a zoological garden; animals of the same species do not eat up species of their kind. The Ijaw people cannot afford the luxury of political in-fighting and the risk of implosion.

Dear elders of the Ijaw nation, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past, in which we were instigated kinsmen, pulled down our leaders and denigrated them with impunity. In times past, the culture of betrayal of kinsmen and disrespect for elders, which is fast becoming an entrenched, was alien to us. On the contrary, the Ijaws promote respect for elders, and relishes the spirit of camaraderie among them. The prevailing tendency of youths to challenge elders and opinion leaders is an indication that the traditional bonds of social control have utterly broken down. This is no longer acceptable.

With an Ijaw man as the number 2 man in government, there is every need for the Ijaws and indeed the Niger Delta people to close ranks in order to strengthen the bargaining power of the Vice President to be able to extract concessions in the form of federal projects from the federal government. For the VP to strengthen his position, the support-base of the core Niger Delta is a sine qua non.

For now Goodluck Jonathan – the Vice President is the Ijaw man holding the second highest office of the land. The Ijaw race should understand that everything rises and falls on leadership, and the success of any leader depends to a large extent on the support the role incumbent garners at home, which is his power-base. Governance is an affair conducted by human mortals and not angels, and ipso facto, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan the Vice President of Nigeria made his mark, as Governor of Bayelsa State and within the limits of human foibles. The VP has distinguished himself as a man of character and that is why he is trusted and admired. When leaders make modest efforts depending on the peculiar circumstances they find themselves, their measure of success should take into full account of those circumstances, and failure on the part of anybody to judge them based on a tilted scale will amount to doing violence to our leaders.

While I wish to acknowledge that no human mortal is perfect, what cannot be disputed is that genuine leadership is a life time endeavour in which past mistakes can only offer opportunities for correction to shape the future. The tirade and vituperations against the Vice President is uncalled for at this time when Nigerians are trying to build a society on the pillars of justice, accountability, transparency and respect for the rule of law. Similarly, it is too early in the day to persecute Dr. Goodluck Jonathan the first Ijaw man whom God has graciously promoted to occupy the exalted position of Vice President of Nigeria.

At this point in our national political evolution, one cannot embellish the truth. We had sought the arithmetic of geo-political balance in Nigeria and now the election of Dr. Goodluck to the exalted position of Vice President of Nigeria is part of efforts to redress the age-long balance. On the strength of this development the Ijaw nation cannot be divided against itself if it is serious about playing a pro-active role in the Nigerian political system. The Ijaw nation-the fourth largest ethnic nationality must learn her lessons from the past eight years of the Obasanjo administration.

Within the first three months in office, there are visible signs that things are likely to change for the better in the Niger Delta. The release of Asari Dokubo, though settled in the legal arena is patently political. Another milestone is the constitution of the Peace and Rehabilitation Committee. The Committee has the mandate of looking into the fundamental causes of instability as manifested in youth militancy, kidnapping and hostage taking in the Region, with a view to finding lasting solutions to them. Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha has been released and many people know that the Vice President played some role in the whole exercise. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan did not at any time dessert his kinsman and former boos even when things had gone berserk. And now that an Ijaw son is the number 2 citizen of Nigeria, I do not think that any person from the Niger Delta Region can be a total stranger in Aso Rock. The Vice President is a man of humane disposition who should be assisted to realize the aspirations of the Ijaw people and the Niger Delta Region.

By the same token the Vice President is now making strenuous efforts to mobilize resources at the highest level of government to ensure the full scale implementation of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan, which will bring about a quantum leap in terms of development of the Region. The implementation of the Master Plan needs the political will of the Vice President. This underscores the need for the Niger Delta People to change their concept of using attack as a weapon for leadership change.

Outside the Niger Delta Region, people associate the Ijaws with all kinds of negative traits. The Ijaws are generally branded hostage takers, kidnappers and restive youths. The Niger Delta struggle has been bastardized because of the tactless approach adopted to prosecute the struggle. Why is the fourth largest ethnic group drifting as if there are no elders in the land? I strongly believe that the intervention of Ijaw elders is necessary now to restore some sanity, so that the Ijaw race can be reckoned with in Nigeria.

The Ijaw ethnic nationality cannot afford to play into the hands of their cleverer majority ethnic groups. It is time we protected what we believe is genuinely our own. May I most respectfully enjoin all Ijaw opinion leaders at home and in Diaspora, to give their support to their son - the Vice President of Nigeria? The Ijaw nation should adhere to the age long dictum “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL” And I have the supreme conviction that the Ijaw ethnic nationality, elders, leaders of thought and youths will stand UNITED today and always.

Idumange John
wrote this article in 2008, when Mr. President (then Vice-President received vitriolic attacks from the Ijaw people. The opposition was so fierce that some us had to appeal to the conscience of the Ijaw nation to hohour what belongs to us..

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Articles by Idumange John