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536 years later the Ijaws are still enslaved

By Ekanpou Enewaridideke

DEVELOPMENTAL enslavement is historically the worst form of underdevelopment anywhere in the globe. From 1480 – 2016, the Ijaws, statistically the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, are still in the firm grip of developmental enslavement in Nigeria.

This explains why emancipation struggles by the Ijaws have put on a Marxist and revolutionary colouration in the Niger Delta. 536 years is enough for any group to appropriate and adopt confrontational philosophy in the struggle to break this suffocating enclosure.

Yesterday it was MEND in 2005;today it is NIGER DELTA AVENGERS when the APC itself, both in its policy thrust and administrative ideology,is apparently on a VENGEFUL path against PDP, against some perceived recalcitrant elements in APC as can be seen in the ongoing sixteen-count charge trial of Bukola Saraki the Senate President in the Code of Conduct Tribunal; the shocking geopolitical distribution of fifty federal appointments in which the North got thirty-eight,South-West five,South-East one and South-South  zone six in reflection of their voting patterns in the 28 March 2016 presidential election; the ongoing phoenix-like political geometry of PDP to relaunch itself to political relevance; the banks on a dance of retrenchment against their employees in the wake of the dwindling economy; the federal Government moving militarily against BOKO HARAM and BOKO HARAM fighting back to regain its terrifying dignity; the poor budgetary allocation of N41 billion, N19 billion and N20 billion to NDDC, Niger Delta Affairs Ministry and Amnesty Programme in the 2016 budget; the LICENSED rampaging menace of the Fulani herdsmen; the moves towards the resurrection of BIAFRA Republic led by MASSOB, IPOB and IBM, and other numerous SCREAMS of recognition.

Virtually everything in Nigeria is on a reversal progression,either negatively charged or positively charged. As with Professor JP Clark in his poectic TAXONOMY of all Nigerians as CASUALTIES of the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, it seems all Nigerians are AVENGERS in varying degrees,sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously – either from a positive or negative dimension. It appears the AVENGERSHIP  only  attracts castigation and outright condemnation when it is extended to oil-installations attack.
From about 1472, slave trade was a lucrative business world over. An association diametrically opposed to slave trade sprang up in 1823 in Britain and through the aggressive humanitarian efforts of this association, a law was passed in Britain in 1833 to liberate slaves. The efforts to eradicate slavery intensified with the involvement of William Wilberforce and a conglomeration of humanitarians who stormed the British parliament in 1793 to abolish slavery. William Wilberforce and his group fervently presented their aggressive humanitarian position to the British parliament for eight times before the slavery abolition law was passed in 1807.

The actual liberation of slaves began August 1, 1834. Consequently, slavery officially ended in 1865. This was a great relief to the world, particularly the Ijaws who were more adversely impacted by the trade.

When it was thought jubilantly that slavery was over and that it was time for meaningful progress, the Ijaws were thrust into another seriously inescapable and enigmatic circle of slavery in Nigeria. If one must crane his neck historically like drinking Fulani cattle, one could discover that Nigeria was not the originator and master-builder of the developmental enslavement of the Ijaws. It was the Portuguese who came to Forcados in 1472 and the British who joined them in 1479 which blazed a trail in the developmental enslavement of the Ijaws.

Taubman George Goldie stormed Forcados with his United African Company in 1877. French and other Western powers were rabidly in a hurry to monopolise the Delta trade. As an effective commercial strategy, all the British traders formed National Africa Company in 1881. Because the Western powers were at each other’s throat over the lucrative trade in the Niger Delta and because there was a conscious attempt to stave off explosive collision, Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy and Belgium shared Africa among themselves in 1885. However, after 413 years (1472 – 1885) the Portuguese left Forcados unlike the British who stayed for twenty years and left for Lagos (1886 – 1906). It was at this time the selfish and demonic British Western cartographers designed the Map, amassing all their age-long professionalism, for the developmental enslavement of the Ijaws.

The Ijaws in the hands of the colonial masters were variously enslaved. But the most unforgettable enslavement which ranked highest was the educational enslavement. On the 2nd of January 1955 the United African Company established a technical school in Burutu. It was a five-years HND Programme designed to train engineers. Throughout the ten- years existence of the school, only four Ijaw students were admitted. This is pathetic. It was perhaps this which must have strengthened the resolve of the Delta State Governor Chief James Ibori not to establish any NOTABLE higher institution in the Ijaw area.

Confronted with the conscious deprivation of the Ijaws in the scheme of things, the Ijaws steadily stepped up their agitation for better treatment even in the colonial days. In response to the agitation of the Ijaws, Sir James Robertson (the last British Head of State in Nigeria) who left for England on 16th November, 1960, created Sir Henry Willinks commission in 1957 to specifically look into the problems of the Ijaws and recommend ways to address them. One categorical pronouncement of the Commission was that the Ijaw area was a special area with a difficult terrain and peculiar development needs which cannot be addressed from the hinterland but by an independent government made up of the Ijaws alone. The Chairman was even tempted to recommend the creation of a separate region for the Ijaws but it was, sadly, beyond his power.

Many years after the Sir Henry Willinks Commission, the Ijaws are worse off. The independence status of any country must display a willingness and capacity to meet the challenges of nationhood. Even without any conscious investigative quest, the experiences of countries like Sudan, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, North Vietnam, Algeria and Bolivia which gained their independence in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1949, 1954, 1962 and 1825 must be developmentally different from Nigeria in every dimension. The high hopes of Ijaws for rapid development by the Nigerian government at every level have been dashed. The Ijaws have been thrust into another bout of slavery.

It is appalling that the Ijaws hosted the whitemen in Forcados and Burutu for many years without corresponding compensation. The Royal Niger Company (U.A.C) was in Forcados / Burutu for nineteen years (1886 – 1905) before their departure for Lagos in 1906. The only thing the Royal Niger Company did while it was around was construction of footpaths. Apart from the construction of footpaths, the only historical pride of the Ijaws is that Forcados was the home to the building of the slave dungeon (1475), prison (1887), windmill (1472), hospital (1890), slipway (1887), sea port (1887) senior staff club with guest house (1887), slave wharf  (1472), foreshore wall (1616) and African Banking corporation (1887) being their first in the whole of West Africa. These historical developments are enough to attract genuine development to the Ijaw areas but does the present APC-led Government of President Muhammadu Buhari ever reflect on this?

The Ijaws had no light, road, pipe-borne water, hospital, schools even in the colonial days. The Kainji dam was constructed on 15th  February, 1970. In March 1972, the Niger dam Authority and the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria were brought together to form (NEPA). The hopes of the Ijaws for constant power supply  were high. Contrarily, from 1972 to 2006, the Ijaws are yet to be connected to the national Grid (NEPA). Even in roads and other amenities the Ijaws have none to count.

The Federal Government of Nigeria could only allocate N41 billion to NDDC in the 2016 budget; a country where rampaging Fulani herdsmen on killing spree would not merit immediate military action while development-starved agitators in the Niger Delta in the South-South and in the South-East are militarily harassed, humiliated and sadistically feasted on ;a country where the Ijaws,the Itsekiris,the Urhobos, the Isokos,etc,etc,are deprived of oil blocks and heavy contracts both in the downstream and upstream sectors of the economy; these and many others are the issues the NIGER DELTA AVENGERS should exhume and intellectually engage the insensitive NIGERIAN Federal Government on a roundtable especially now that there is a signal of listenership from the Government hitherto NOTORIOUS for arrogant parasitic harnessing of the NIGER DELTA oil resources without a sober thought for the generous HOST . And before coming for intellectual engagement of the Government on the table, let the NIGER DELTA AVENGERS equally declare FORCE MAJEURE on their oil-installation attack in response to President Buhari’s two-week cease-fire in the Niger Delta, though the Ijaws are still developmentally enslaved in Nigeria, like the Urhobos,the Itsekiris and numerous other nations in the NIGER DELTA, even after 536 years of uninterrupted resource-exploitation.

Outraged, however outraged they (NDA) are, by their intuitive  awareness of Buhari’s anti-Niger Delta transformations, their psychic vision that in Buhari they see a reincarnation of Sir  Ahmadu Bello (a grandson of  Uthman Dan Fodio), who, as leader of NPC and premier of Northern region, declared in unambiguous language in the PARROT newspaper of 12 October 1960 that: ‘The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great grand-father, Uthman Dan Fodio . We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities of the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule  over us, and never allow them to have control over their future…’ NIGER DELTA AVENGERS should still see meaningful dialogue signalled by the Federal Government of Nigeria as the only panacea for  their violent agitation.

Yes, NIGER DELTA AVENGERS must hold talk with the Federal Government before communities like Ayakoromo, Ogulagha (in Burutu  Local Government Area) and Ogbe-Ijoh (in Warri South-West Local Government Area) are militarily pulverized by the Nigerian soldiers relying on manipulated intelligence of linkage to NDA teleguided by blood-thirsty, idiosyncratic, neurotic, schizophrenic and satanic attention-seeking ethnic champions. Because these ethnic champions have a distinguishing instigation career distinguished by possession of PHDS in INSTIGATION STUDIES and COMMUNAL WAR obtained, supposedly, from Carl Jung’s University of ‘COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS’, NDA must not create a vacuum for these ethnic idiots to manipulate intelligence to link HARMLESS innocent communities like Ayakoromo, Ogulagha and Ogbe-Ijoh to NIGER DELTA AVENGERS in addition to personalities like Chief Boro Opudu, Hon. Frank Omare and Chief Aribogha Johnny who are already vindictively LINKED similarly, and further complicate and worsen the 536-years developmental enslavement of the Ijaws in Nigeria.Predictably,this invasively exploitative AVOIRDUPOIS of the Nigerian Federal Government sadistically accumulated over the years,which is comparable to vicious waves constantly breaking on the seashore of Ogulagha community with malevolent AUDACITY,would always beget monsters if there is no apologetic reversal – a reversal that would act as a counterpoise to this age-long suffocating AVOIRDUPOIS in terms of rapid development now that 536 years had sailed away,sailed away rather,carrying a SOMBRE, tears-soaked countenance.

Mr. Ekanpou Enewaridideke, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Akparemogbene, Delta State.

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