Posted by By Clinton E. Jaja, Esq on
People, they say, are creatures of hope. After repeated disappointments, they still hope.
People, they say, are creatures of hope. After repeated disappointments, they still hope. When it is hopeless, they continue to hope. As a poet once said, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast". Scott.
Three major ethnic groups exist in Nigeria Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. It should be four, but the fourth is receiving hard crushing and threats of extinction from the three majors. The three have metamorphosed into strong political forces. The fourth, Ijaw, yet to be fully delivered, may be stillborn. The INC, the umbrella under which the Ijaws should find shade and succour must take positive action for the interest of the Ijaws. The leadership of the INC must set out to lead the Ijaws and leave Nigeria alone. Looking at a similar situation, Odumegu Ojukwu, in disappointment over the way Zik was handling Igbo affairs cried out:
"When the British withdrew in 1960, Nigeria was left in the hands of three great men. Of the three, Zik could be said to have been the dreamer whilst the others were hardheaded realists. Zik believed, worked for and made sacrifices for a Nigeria that had not yet come into existence the ideal Nigeria. Those who followed him worked for this deal. It is only natural that finding this ideal increasingly unattainable, they found themselves deflated and deprived vis-à-vis the realists, who from the beginning ensured for their groups a share of whatever was going" Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in his book, because I am Involved, page 151.
The birth of the INC in 1994 was a re-incarnation of the ideologies and philosophies of great realists of the Niger Delta such as King Jaja and Isaac Boro. We take strong exception to placing the INC on the same definitional platform with Ohaneze, Arewa, and Afenifere. These are political bodies. The INC is a revolution and it must be seen to act that way. To succeed to well-articulated leadership of the INC, the fellow must "make regular trips to Cuba to dine with Fidel Castro".
The INC must not only believe in the indivisibility of Nigeria but also in the indestructibility of the Ijaw ethnic nationality which past and present leaderships of Nigeria have maimed and are still bent on erasing its identity.
The INC should be run by philosopher leaders. Alhaji Asari's saga and the subsequent offer of opportunity by Mr. President of Nigeria for negotiation offered the INC the opportunity to step in to take over negotiation immediately. It was wrong for the INC leadership to expect Asari to crawl on his knees to beg the INC to come to the rescue. If only the INC had the foresight to see the limitations on the side of Asari it would have acted swiftly. That was a fine opportunity, which the INC wasted. We swear, it may take a hundred years before such an opportunity offers itself again. That was a fine opportunity to have the dreams of the Ijaws come true. We must always be on the side of Brutus, who, advising Cassius to act swiftly, warned:
"...There is a tide in the affairs of men, taken at the flood leads on to fortune: omitted all the voyage of their life, is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our venture" Brutus in Julius Caesar 4, 3, 217.
In finding a place for the Ijaw ethnic nationality within the Nigerian project, we believe in dialogue. But if dialogue fails, it then follows that: "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable". God forbids that we are pushed that far. But if we are pushed to the wall what happens? We trust that no one would dare try us again, given the picture Asari has painted of the will power of an Ijaw man. But like the 1st African says: "...I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die ." Nelson Mandela
The INC should wake from its slumber. Come 2005 it should take its case to international bodies in line with aims and objectives relevant to its struggles. The Geneva Convention and allied universal rights charters to which Nigeria is a signatory forbid the genocide Nigeria, presently, is committing against the Ijaw nation.
In future, the INC should be properly represented in local and international fora. The present arrangement where the leadership knows it all, justifying, it alone, attending 5 meetings holding at different places and at the same time cannot speak well of the INC as a group that has focus. Future meetings should include all the INC sectional heads or zonal leaders.
On the lips of most Nigerians particularly interest groups, is the issue of a Sovereign National Conference. Fine and sound proposition. Excellent agitation. But is the INC prepared for a Sovereign National Conference? For a SNC to be meaningful to us, the government of the Ijaw nation must be prepared for it. To this end, the governments of Niger Delta states should, through INC, organize thought-provoking seminars and discussions on burning issues affecting the Niger Delta people. Unless this is done, and early too, the possibility of our being caught napping should the SNC be convened exists. The resolutions of the pre-SNC meetings must be collated. Those who are likely to represent us in the SNC should be chosen early enough. The governments should give them the opportunity to rehearse their points within closed doors before the executive arm of their state governments or State Houses of Assembly. We are very certain that the SNC will hold as Nigeria remembers that the Irish Republican Army has lived in Britain for ages, China is accommodating South Korea and Eritrea is calling Ethiopia's bluff.
Another area of attention the INC is asking for is accommodation. Ijaw House is a fine idea. And we thank the Governor-General of the Ijaw Nation, Gov. Alamieyesiegha of Bayelsa State, for sponsoring the building of the house. We shall be grateful if he finds time to look the contractor more in the eye sso that he can finish the job earliest, as sun and rain are beating us hard. In politics the INC should act as spokesman for the Ijaw ethnic nationality. An arrangement where the people of the South-South Zone have no political arrangement of their own but wait to travel to the North to borrow political party down here during elections is highly unacceptable. The reverse should be the position. Economic power, they say, determines the direction of political power, therefore, since South-South Zone produces about 90% of Nigeria's revenue, it should be able to float a political party so we can expect our Northern brothers to also arrive here cap-in-hand begging us to export our product to them.
The INC is expected to be expert in the management of ethnic conflict within the zone. To the contrary, the existence of the 103 identifiable cult groupings in Rivers State alone speaks volume of its incompetence in crisis management. Henceforward, the INC should give priority attention to crisis resolution. Maybe, these would soothe the devastating effects that these conflicts have inflicted on the psyche of our youths and elders. The Niger Delta Zone has the highest unemployment rate in Nigeria. It is ironical that this should happen in a zone with the greatest number of multinational corporations milking the zone dry. The INC should brace up to ensure that the multinational companies make adequate and justifiable social delivery to the people in line with their social responsibilities. To achieve this, the INC must take a general view of the existing law and effect necessary amendments through appropriate authority. We trust the INC will wake-up in this area.
The encyclopedia of the Ijaw people is sine qua non to Ijaw existence. We, however, appreciate the much Prof. E.J. Alagoa, Fombo and others have done in writing on the history of the Ijaws. But we humbly suggest that, in addition to the history of the Ijaw people, the INC should commission a body to write an encyclopedia of Ijaw. A dynamic INC leadership can achieve this through appeals to the several state governments in the South-South region, and even federal government as well as the multinationals.
When in 1991 Patani played host to an all-Ijaw conference that gave birth to INC, one expected that one of the primary objectives should have been the identification of talent and subsequent encouragement and development of such talents. To this extent, the leadership of the INC has failed us. What King Diete-Spiff, 1st Governor of Rivers State did in this area of manpower development ought to have guided the INC. King Diete-Spiff awarded scholarships to thousands of Rivers indigene to study different courses overseas. We hope it will draw a lesson from this and in the nearest future set up machinery to truly identify the talented Ijaw persons wherever they may be. This would be of great assistance to development of youths.
In the view of Apostle Zilly Aggrey, every government youth development programme should seek to ensure that young people have:
1. A sense of self-worth.
2. A positive sense of the future and the ability to work towards it.
3. A sense of responsibility and accountability.
4. A sense of belonging to the society and community.
5. An ability to find and create employment.
6. Physical and emotional health.
7. Spirituality, a sense of purpose and connection to a higher being.
8. A sense of security and structure.
Young people constitute about 60% of the total population in the zone, 40% of all economically active youths are unemployed; about 25 % have never had full or part time employment. About 55% of youths of the Niger Delta do not believe they will ever find a job. At least 80% of young people see self-employment as a good way of earning a living. Whilst 51% of those who have attempted to start business have failed.
The INC, in the immediate future, must grapple seriously with youth unemploy-ment in the zone. Unemployment can have serious economic and psychological effect on young people and their families in the following ways:
1. Any young person may be forced to rely on family for economic support often causing emotional and financial stress and conflict within the family.
2. In an attempt to ensure income, a young person may be tempted to turn to crime (prostitution or stealing).
3. The boredom and depression generated by unemployment may lead a young person to drug abuse.
All these are areas, which the current INC leadership ought to have taken adequate measures to look into. Its failure to so do scores the leadership of the INC zones in the last four years of its being in power.
Youth empowerment programme should become a process that enables young people to acquire knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that enable them to become self-sufficient individuals who contribute positively to their communities and society.
INC interventions should seek to respond to the physical, emotional, psychological and economic needs of young people in an integrated fashion.
Areas Ijaw Youths can be employed are:
1. Our youths should be awarded NDDC contract in addition to the rich class who is presently favoured.
2. A functional youth directorate should be created in the INC office to cater for the interest of young people from the zone.
3. Government should engage youths in large-scale agricultural projects in all the local government areas of the zone and pay them monthly stipends.
4. A youth Peace and Empowerment Summit should be organized every quarter for all youths in the zone to sensitize them and educate them on the activities of the Federal and State Governments and the NDDC concerning their programmes for the youths.
5. Government should procure GSM handsets and distribute them to youths to start call business in the zone.
6. Empowerment education should be introduced in the school system.
7. Government should establish large-scale skill acquisition centres in each of the zones to train young people in various trades and crafts.
A visionary INC leadership would have long since seen the above suggestions as necessary panacea to check the prevalent youth restiveness, and foster development in the zone. But lost, as it were, in its present state of amnesia, things remain as they are.
2005 is INC general election year. A new executive to replace the old. The politics making the round is that the head of the leadership should rotate amongst the zones. But the constitution allows the President a second term if he so desires and the electorate concurs.
My position is that the 2005 INC election should produce dynamic and visionary leaders who will not be sleeping while people of non-Ijaw ethnic nationality are bunkering and lifting our oil only to stand on guard when any of us is passing with a single jerry-can of crude oil. No! Such a leader is unacceptable. I want a leader who will be able to tell Obasanjo that henceforward 60% of oil block allocations should go to the people producing the oil, nay, the Ijaws; a leader who will not keep mute while Asari is dying in the forest. I want a leader whose foresight is going to allow prepare us for the on-coming Sovereign National Conference; a leader who will not connive with multinational companies to shoot our youths for asking for their right Gods given right; a leader who will remember the ideas, and ideals, King Jaja, Isaac Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa died for; a leader who can read the mind of Governor-General of Ijaw Nation, Gov. Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State.
Finally, we thank Prof. Kimse A. B. Okoko having been elected the President of the INC for 2000 2004 session. And we thank him for staying on to this day.
Prof. Kimse Okoko belongs to the academia and we respect his achievements in this area. But as the President of INC, his tenure is a monumental disappointment. He made the mistake of placing the INC on the same political platform as Ohaneze, Arewa and Afenifere, who have carved political paths for their people.
The INC is a revolution. If Prof. Okoko, however, intends taking again the leadership of the INC in the 2005 general election, the INC may need to sponsor him to Cuba to rub minds with the legendary Fidel Castro on the rudiments of a revolution. But I guess the INC has better hands to try.
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