FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA'S
INVASION OF ODI, BAYELSA STATE, IN NIGER DELTA
Saturday, November 20, 1999
The Council of Ijaw Associations Abroad in an emergency meeting held on the cyberspace from November 16-18, 1999 deliberated the unfolding alarming events in Bayelsa State, in particular, the gruesome murder of law enforcement agents in Odi Town in Kololuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the State.
The Council joins with various Ijaw community leaders, Ijaw leaders of thought and the Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in condemning in the strongest terms the killing of policemen allegedly by youths in Odi. The Council commends and supports the efforts initiated by the Governor to identify, apprehend and prosecute those directly responsible for the killing of the law enforcement officers at Odi.
The Council noted with grave concern the threat by the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo to impose a state of emergency in Bayelsa State (an homogenous Ijaw state) and wondered at the sincerity of this administration's professed commitment to fair play without regards to ethnic sacred cows in the conduct of the Nation's affairs. The Council recalled too well the killings in Alakara Police Station and the total destruction of the Okota Police Station, all in Lagos State, a Yoruba enclave. Non of these acts of aggression directed by the civil populace against law enforcement agencies, along with similar crisis in other parts of the country including Kano, have elicited the threat of State of emergency from the Federal government.
The Council contented further that, at the time President Obasanjo did not write similar threatening letters to the Governors of the States in question nor did the President, as the chief law enforcement officer of the country propose to arrest the lawlessness rampant in those parts of the country
The Council noted too that the recent clash between the O'dua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Ijaw youths in Ajegunle, Lagos is an off-shoot of the Arogbo-Ijaw and Ilaje crisis. The Council is not unaware of the integration of Ilajes into OPC as a prelude to the realization of Afenifere's subtle threat in their communiqué to take sides with the Ilajes and Itsekiris-their kinsmen with whom the Ijaws have boundary disputes. The Council equally, condemns in no mistakable terms the killing and maiming of Ijaw people and the wanton destruction of their properties at Ajegunle by members of OPC. Our heartfelt sympathies and condolences goes out to the families of fellow Nigerians that have lost loved ones, those who have been maimed and rendered homeless as a result of the mayhem.
The Council, at the end of the meeting came to the inescapable conclusions that:
1. The unlawful kidnap and senseless killing of the policemen at Odi, although heinous and criminal must be seen within a proper context of the prevailing social malady within Nigeria. It is instructive to be reminded here by the immortal words of Victor Hugo that:
"Where there is darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness in the first place".
2. While not condoning the heinous
crime perpetrated by a few of our misguided compatriots at Odi. It is imperative
to note that, it is not out of norm for people who have been so repressed
for over 40 years and experience hardship daily in the midst of plenty
to vent their years of bottled-up anger and frustration on authorities,
including law enforcement officers and
sometimes even among themselves.
3. To arrest the escalation of violence in Bayelsa, the Federal security agents must desist from indiscriminate arrest or harassment of youths in the State. Distinction must be made between the individuals engaged in criminal activities and those pursuing the legitimate crusade for, the right of the Ijaws to self-determination, control of our God-given oil and gas wealth, restructuring of the federal government and revenue allocation based on the principle of derivative.
4. Our youths must eschew violence while remaining true to the Ijaw cause and embrace the use of constructive engagement as a tool in conflict resolution with the Federal Government of Nigeria.
5. The localized incident in Odi Town, like the others in the Yoruba enclaves, did not rise to the level needed to trigger the constitutional provision for the imposition of a state of emergency on a State of the federation. The threat by President Obasanjo is clearly a demonstration of a double stand in the application of conflict resolution mechanism by this administration. A position that unfortunately leaves one to believe in the existence of sacred ethnic cows in the form of major ethnic nationalities of the country.
6. For the nascent democracy in the country to survive, ethnic crisis must be handled fairly, even handedly and seen to be above board. It does not serve the interest of the nation, when too often, the federal government is only quick to respond whenever the oppressors fell prey to the oppressed, while remaining passive when the oppressors engage in an orgy of destruction of private and public properties and maiming people with impunity.
7. Declaring a state of emergency in Bayelsa, in our opinion, will not be sending out the right signal to the rest of humanity that is closely watching as the Federal Government of Nigeria tries to clean up her dirty underpants of so many years of criminal negligence of the Niger Delta.
8. Like many others, we sincerely believe that imposition of a State of emergency in Bayelsa State will be unwise, ill-advised and counter-productive on an already volatile situation and on a populace that has been repressed for decades and determined to free themselves from economic slavery, political oppression and local imperialism. State of emergency against the Blacks in South Africa only served to harden the resolve of the Blacks. In the same spirit, Bayelsans too, will rise up to the occasion should the government decide otherwise.
9. What is required in Bayelsa State is not an army of occupation (ironically paid for and maintained by the wealth derived from the state and other parts of the Niger Delta); as this will not be the right solution to calm already frayed nerves and assuage the genuine aspirations and feelings of the people. The Odi incident, like all other recent cases of violence and killing (including those of law enforcement agents) in places such as Lagos, Shagamu, Kano, etc. are all tragic reminders of the structural deficiencies in the Nigerian polity. Rather than threaten the Governor of Bayelsa State, what is required is for the President to sit down and have a meaningful dialogue with all the governors, local government chairmen, and leaders of thought, of the states in the Niger Delta with the aim of ensuring greater local control of their resources.
10. To forestall any future clashes between OPC and the Ijaw youths and the attendant destruction of lives and properties in the country, the federal Government must find an enduring solution to the boundary dispute between Arogbo-Ijaw and the Ilajes in Ondo State.
THE COUNCIL wishes to reiterate that the Ijaws will neither relent in our legitimate demand for justice, fairness and equity nor in our struggle for the liberation of the people of the Niger Delta from the strangle-hold of economic exploitation and internal colonisation. As we approach the dawn of a new millennium with new and far brighter opportunities for human development, we will not continue to remain bemused and befuddled bystanders, like devastated soccer fans, wondering what went wrong with all our natural resources.
In closing, we would like to remind all of the comments by Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of the illustrious and noble sons of the Niger Delta brutally murdered by the Federal Government of Nigeria, in his closing remarks to the kangaroo court which 'tried' and sentenced him to death that:
"We all stand on trial, my lord, for by our actions we have denigrated our country and jeopardised the future of our children. As we subscribe to the sub-normal and accept double standards, as we lie and cheat openly, as we protect injustice and oppression, we empty our classrooms, denigrate our hospitals, fill our stomachs with hunger and elect to make ourselves the slaves of those who ascribe to higher standards, pursue the truth, and honour justice, freedom, and hard work. I predict that the scene here will be played and replayed by generations yet unborn. Some have already cast themselves in the role of villians, some are tragic victims, some still have a chance to redeem themselves. The choice is for each individual"
WE ALL STAND BEFORE HISTORY AND GOD.
Godfrey Ambakiderimoh Okoro, MBA
President, CIAA Executive Council
Secretary, CIAA Executive Council
PROTOCOL, PUBLIC RELATIONS, RESEARCH
& PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE
Ebiamadon Andi Brisibe, Ph.D. - Chairman, Matthew Oruowei Sikpi, Ph.D; Dawari Longjohn; Rowland Ekperi; Ebi Burutolu, Ph.D; Tiefa Niweigha; Kabowei Akamande; Patrick K. Audley and Sokari Ekine, Ms.
On behalf of : Ijaw Peoples Association Of Great Britain & Ireland, Ijaw National Alliance Of The Americas - INAA, Ijaw Forum Germany, Izonebe Group - Japan, Izon Ebi Association - Washington DC, Izon Association Of Greater Kansas - Kansas City, USA - Niger Delta Sister Cities (KC - PH) Foundation, Kansas City, Ijaws Of Northern California - INCAL, Izon Association Of Southern California, Izon Ibe Association - Michigan, Ijaws in Canada, Ijaw United Fund - Houston, Texas, Ijaw American Caucus - Minneapolis/St Paul, Bayelsa State Union - Georgia, Independent Members.