Of Fractured Unity and Genocide in the NDR
I had earlier raised alarm that the problem of lack of integration and national unity has resulted to a situation whereby we have no acceptable national ideology and value system underpinning our existence. Rather than use our cultural affinities to intensify devotion and loyalty, discipline, dedication and faith, by our thoughts, words and deeds we work hard to widen the gap existing among the various ethnic nationalities. This is becoming evident as we inch to the 2011 general elections, which may be characterized by religious bigotry, ethnic chauvinism, economic opportunism and political parochialism. All these vices would diminish the good governance in which we have foisted our destiny.
The news of the death of Nigeria's elder statesman Chief Anthony Enahoro is another crude reminder of how helplessly, Nigeria has wondered in the wilderness of despair for 50 years. I first came in contact with the name Anthony Enahoro when we were taught Civics in Class One. My Civics teacher then taught me that the Uromi born veteran journalist, politician and statesman was, in 1953; bold enough to move the motion, on the floor of parliament, for the independence of Nigeria. While he conjured the courage to move the motion, the first of its kind, some of his contemporaries could not even cough before the imperialists. This unparalleled bravery exuded the heroism in the man.
He was indeed the last man standing in the old order – those who fought for the creation of the Midwest, which later metamorphosed into Bendel State. Pa Enahoro epitomized what was left of public morality in Nigeria, even as he struggled against military dictatorship under the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, at a time his fellow comrades had resigned that Nigeria, whose independence they fought for was a fraud. I am not a necromancer, but if we can find one to inquire about Enahoro's state of mind, he'd surely not died a happy man. For a man who contributed so much to the emancipation of this nation from the snares of colonialism, leaving Nigeria like a sick man under intensive care unit and the youths in utter despondency, would had been a vivid reminder that the efforts they made were only lavished by those who failed to understand the true meaning of independence.
Enahoro was born to meet a nation under British imperialism, fought for her independence, preserved her as “one Nigeria” but left her factionalized, fractured, diminished and miniaturized. His demise marks the end of an era- an era of patriotic ferment – when people worked for Nigeria not because of the weight of their wallets but the mere joy of serving a nation. Others like Late Chief Melford Okilo, Chief Harold Dapa Biriye and other patriotic Nigerians might have died disappointed with broken hearts.
During the tyrannical reign of the bespectacled maximum ruler, NADECO led by Enahoro and others who went into exile such as Wole Soyinka, Gen. Akinrinade rtd, and their likes had called for the restructuring of Nigeria. Although Nigeria professes to be a nation that is united in diversity, the divisive elements were more conspicuous that those things that could keep the diverse elements together. This perception crystallized in the advocacy for a Sovereign National Conference, which would enable Nigerians to re-negotiate the type, structure and nature of federalism they may want to operate. In the course of re-negotiating Nigeria, there would have been the oval possibility of a peaceful break-up. Now, as it was then, most Nigerians feel very strongly that it was high time we exorcised the demonized Lugardian Fiat to pave the way for true federalism. It is the unitary federalism we operate that has spelt doom for the Nigeria's treasure trove, which is now a theatre of interminable crisis and cyclical instability.
When the marginalized Ijaw Youths proclaimed the Kaiama Declaration on Dec 11, 1998, four levels of operation were identified; the last stage being Operation Warfare, which involved armed struggle and an all out counter reprisal by youths in the event of military reprisals. This led to the establishment of militant camps. In Nigeria's treasure trove, there was immense euphoria when the militant camps were shut down and weapons were collected at designation centres, following the announcement of the Anmesty Programme. Until recently, the name 'Gen' John Togo could have passed for an odd nomenclature, bereft of any profound signification. The story line is that before the Amnesty Programme, he served as one of the commanders under Tompolo. He might have embraced the Amnesty Programme but like a repentant miracle seeker, he never found the much-needed miraculous turn-around; he therefore had to recoil in dismay to tread the old, rugged path of militancy. With the help of the amnesty operators, he was goaded to abandoning his camp but not without leaving behind some firecrackers. The terror mongers then, in one fell swoop wanted to overrun an empty camp, in what would have been a mere 'police operation'.
I conjectured that the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, crossed the dividing line between raw bravery and military intelligence. They recorded nine fatalities. With John Togo not within reach, the JTF Commander ordered a bombardment of Ayakoromor, John Togo's home town. In the encounter, the elderly, women and children were massacred. One commentator just called it genocide, reminiscent of the Bosnian crisis where the expired Serbian strongman Slobodan ordered a massacre. Ayakoromor is now an unmitigated disaster, which for lack of a euphemism we may call native holocaust. Three pungent questions beagle my imagination: Was it President Goodluck Jonathan that gave the order? If the JTF acted alone without reference to Aso Rock, why has the Federal Government not responded to the plight of the weak, sick and old by way of humanitarian assistance? Assuming we buy the dummy that the JTF, was ambushed by John Togo's hyenas, (which was unlikely) why did the JTF not adhere to simple rules of military engagement? The so called John Togo's camp, I am told, is miles away from the community, so why the genocide and why has President Goodluck Jonathan not taken any action till date in the face of brazen violation of the basic right to life? Even in a mafia paradise where gangsters rule, someone must take responsibility for a hit. So who is responsible for the genocide in Ayakoromor?
The Niger Delta Region, especially the Ijaw ethnic nationality has suffered horrendous deprivation, marginalization and alienation. Apart from using obnoxious laws to expropriate their resources, their heritage and dislocating the community spirit which hitherto existed has faded into obscurity. In the cosmic realm, the creeks and streams of the Niger Delta are filled with the blood of innocent women and children and most of those abbreviated souls hover around the Region, invoking terror in the land. The actions of the military have once more underscored the reality that what we have in Nigeria thrives more in disunity in diversity.
Ayakoromor was not the first community to come under the overbearing mastication of federal might. In 1999, Odi was massacred; most of the souls are still hovering around Odi and its environs. Odioma - that sleepy coastal town fell to the army of occupation-the native imperialists. There was no sympathy for the octogenarian paramount ruler. Houses were razed, women were raped and children were killed; those who escaped the bullets were mercilessly set ablaze. Agge was rapped and the Federal Forces fought the hapless old and infants like the Samurai class in Japan; the only crime of the Ijaw people is that they produce the oil money used in buying the munitions and lethal weapons used against them. The people of Okerenkoko cried aloud when those flying fires of death ravaged the community.
In Tombia, the JTF waded in and pitched her tent with a group of blood hounds. Rather than making peace as an impartial umpire, the JFT became part of the crisis. There was a blanket of silence and the livings were too few to bury their dead. The situation can be likened to an Armageddon of pogrom, and I cannot vouch that a re-occurrence is not likely. There are very obvious threats to expand the scope of bombings to other neighbouring communities. If these threats are actualized, one will not be wrong to insinuate that there is a deliberate conspiracy between Aso Rock and the Armed Forces to decimate the Ijaw population in the Region. The most painful aspect is that the Amnesty programme has not and may never contemplate the rehabilitation of those communities, families and persons who were killed. The programme rewards only violent AK47 carrying youths who surrendered some guns with vandana tied around their heads. Those who are critical of the Amnesty Programme are people who want the Federal Government to adopt a holistic, all-inclusive approach. The simple demand that the Ledum Mitee Committee Report be implemented met with a brick wall. If the Technical recommendations were implemented, there would have been no need for this strange terminology called Amnesty.
The burden of forced unity after the Lugardian fiat in 1914 is a foundational mistake that has underscored the need for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). A sovereign national conference would enable the various ethnic groups to re-negotiate the basic structures and power sharing arrangements in our federalism rather that the trial and error methods we have adopted to balance the structural defect in the foundation of Nigeria. If we acknowledge the contributions of the likes of Harold Dapa Biriye, Anthony Enahoro and other nationalists, then it is high time we re-visited the knotty issue of true federalism in Nigeria. The interminable killings in Jos, insurgency in the Niger Delta, the Boko Haram movement, the Movement of Emancipation for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and others mushrooming for purposes of reinforcing the need for local autonomy, has made the call for SNC more urgent and immediate. According to Benjamin Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. In this geo-political space, we cannot continue to live under the façade of patched unity, and adduce any facile interpretation to glorify our disunity.
When I saw the Nigerian forces arrest the street urchins as perpetrators of the Boko Haram bombings, I wonder aloud what their sponsors are. It's like cutting the tail of a snake whereas the head is left untouched. The approach of the security forces in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. The Boko Haram phenomenon in which violence meted out to innocent, law abiding citizens is not acceptable. These sponsors must be investigated, caught and punished.
Idumange John, is Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group, NDIG,