Edo Community Internet Forum and Support for the Invasion of Bayelsa State
Since I became a guest on your forum, I have never been as fascinated by any discussions as the recent ones regarding the Obasanjo Government's decision to invade Bayelsa State. The invasion was carried out in order to apprehend those responsible for the killing of police officers in the line of duty. Your contributors who expressed approval for the action argued that it was necessary to restore law and order to a troubled region. In other words, they sanction group punishment for people, which in this case resulted in the total destruction of Odi Village and death of over 500 people, many of whom were unarmed and defenseless elderly women and children. Reports coming from the area have also indicated that many of the suspected youths have managed to escape arrest by Federal armed forces. The gravity of the situation did not quite hit me until I read some of the testimonies of the survivors of this military operation. A wailing woman talked about how her four young children were shot to death by Nigerian soldiers. The 70-year old traditional ruler of Odi, King Bolou Efeke, was attacked by the invading military force and he is now in the hospital fighting for his life. Over 20,000 frightened refugees are reported to have fled the town and are still hiding in the bush, without food or water.
Samples of Comments Made
Before I continue with this analysis, permit me to field
samples of the comments I read from your cyberspace. Many of the comments
were directed to me and Professor Ekeh after we published our separate
and open letters to President Obasanjo to condemn his action in Bayelsa
Your write up is filled with unnecessary bitterness and bias with ethnocentrism without looking issues at stake.
If Nigeria disintegrates due to the current impasse in the Niger Delta area, the eventual losers will be the Niger Delta people because a situation of “free-for-all” jungle politics and back stabbing will become the order of the day.
Your letter taken at face value does not suggest that you want law and order restored.
Freedom fighters, you said? May be but I search my history books and have not found anything close to what you are alluding to.
For all the talks of developments, there are really no part of Nigeria that is developed in the real sense. Not even Lagos.
I have earlier written to advise the Ijaws and other Niger Deltans to be a little more reasonable and selective in the press releases and other news items and materials that they put out to the public.
I shall leave it up to Tony Anenih to some day defend himself against these recurrent suspicions that he is the point man for Obasanjo’s policy in the Western Delta.
Your occupation as one who professes knowledge baffles me. You might want to consider going back home to work with the area boys of your state. I am sure that they will find your services adequate.
The Comments Did Not Address Issues Raised in the Letters to President Obasanjo
Anyone who is familiar with issues raised in our letters
to President Obasanjo, will notice that they were not addressed in your
internet discussions. I am sure the letters are still available for people
who have not seen them to read. In any event, I think it will be refreshing
to reiterate the issues we raised as follows.
1. The People of Niger Delta are not represented in both
the Federal Executive Council and National Security Council of
2. The Niger Delta remains undeveloped even though it provides 90 percent of all government revenue.
3. Group punishment cannot be justified for the killing of policemen whom, some now believe, were actually murdered by armed robbers and NOT by the irate youths as alleged by the government.
4. Obasanjo’s government action has little to do with concern for innocent lives but a lot to do with the determination to guarantee the flow of oil revenue for the oil companies and his government.
My Response to the Various Comments Directed to Me
I was fully prepared to engage in meaningful discussions in defense of the issues I raised with any one who holds the opposite view. The Obasanjo ‘s supporters in your midst ignored the issues and chose instead to direct to me unfair comments, which I now feel compelled to address.
One contributor blamed me for being bitter, biased and unconcerned about the real issues at stake. He is right that I am bitter but I am not biased and I certainly know the issues that concern the welfare of my people. I am bitter and have every right to do so at a government that has not only conspired with oil companies to exploit our God-given resources but also to inflict ecological and environmental damages on our land. Please do not tell me that if your village in Edo State was destroyed by federal forces because some persons killed law enforcement officers there, you will be smiling with President Obasanjo.. You would not smile because you know that not every one in your village, just as in Odi, would be responsible for the crime and certainly the entire village population would not deserve to be punished.
Another member of your forum cautioned me to be careful because he feels that the Niger Delta will be worse off if Nigeria disintegrates. I wonder how he knows this. I can at least assure him that he is wrong if he believes that the people of the Niger Delta if left alone, will not be capable of administering their affairs. His concern, I think, should be for those who must then have to look elsewhere for treasuries to loot or to find means to run their respective governments.
One contributor took me to task for referring to the patriotic youths of Niger Delta as freedom fighters. As one of my friends put it, what else will you call people who are fighting for survival and for the right to control their destines?
Another contributor reasoned that since his village in Edo State like some other areas in Nigeria is not developed, the people of Niger Delta by implication should not complain. I refuse to accept this comparison until he tells me what revenue-generating resources the government extracts from his area of Edo State. I urge any one among you who doubts my position to take a trip to Abuja, Minna or Kaduna., Such a person will see how oil money stolen from the Niger Delta is being used to develop areas that hardly contribute anything to the national treasury. Bayelsa State by comparison has no electricity, water supply, no roads, no medical services or anything close to the basic necessities of life. I wonder why this particular contributor thinks that Lagos located outside the oil-producing region should be more developed than oil cities such as Warri or Ughelli. Again this contributor needs to educate himself by at least visiting Houston, an oil city and Washington DC, the seat of the US Government to see the futility of his views.
Yet another subscriber to your forum could hardly wait
to bare his frustration and anger that the Ijaws and other Niger Deltans
would not take his advice to be more circumspect in dealing with public.
This is an example of arrogance that has become typical of some members
of your group. Here is a man who probably never lived in the Niger Delta
to understand the daily agony of life in the area yet he feels his uninformed
view is superior to the collective decision of our people. Of course, this
is not the first time
that we have to be lectured by others from outside our area on how to behave. Not long ago we were subjected to a series of royal sermons from a Bini prince who admonished that those of us in the Niger delta will not be fighting among ourselves if only we know that we have some common ancestors who migrated from Benin long long time ago.
Another contributor wanted to convince us that Tony Anenih is not Obasanjo’s point man in the Niger Delta area. The people of the Niger Delta are not amused by this type of defense because we know all too well what our people have gone through with the ex-police officer. Our people at home feel humiliated and offended whenever they have to be referred to Chief Anenih on matters dealing with contractual work in our area. Of course we are angrier with President Obasanjo for zoning our area to an outsider. Chief Anenih does not come from our place and certainly was not elected by our people to represent them. I remember I read a newspaper account of how a reconciliation meeting between Candidate Obasanjo and Yoruba elders in Abeokuta was aborted because of the mistrust for Chief Anenih in Yorubaland. Many of the elders invited to the meeting were reported in the press to have walked out angrily when the candidate showed up in the company of Chief Anenih. It is understandable that the Yoruba have not forgiven Chief Anenih for the role he played in the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections and his betrayal of President-Elect Abiola. It is also common knowledge among those of us in the Nigerian pro-democracy movement that, as an Abacha man, Chief Anenih in company of Alhaji Abidina Coomassie, publisher of Today and Abuja Mirror, was caught trying to smuggle himself into Commonwealth Conference meetings in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1997. The vigilant Nigerian pro-democracy agents who spotted the pair, were embarrassed at how Chief Anenih swore and threatened their lives as he and Alhaji Coomassie were led away by the Scottish police. This incident occurred at a time when Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth following the judicial murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders. Chief Anenih and Alhaji Coomassie knew that as a result of Nigeria's suspension, they could not be accredited to attend the Commonwealth Conference. President Obasanjo should know all these facts about his good friend, Chief Anenih. Yet he entrusts to him the authority to decide who in the Niger Delta will be elected or appointed a minister or an ambassador or given a contract..
I am yet to recover from the shock I got when I read the following utterance made by one of you, which I am at pain to quote: "Your occupation as who professes knowledge baffles me. You might consider going back home to work with your area boys of your state. I am sure that they will find your services adequate." The only crime Professor Peter Ekeh committed for which he has to be insulted, is that he hails from the Niger Delta and that he works and speaks well for his people. Beyond that, it might interest members of your community to know that Professor Ekeh has been the Chairman of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan and was a former Chairman of the Governing Council of the College of Education, Benin City. Apart from his present position as a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Dr Ekeh has been a Fellow at the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. He was appointed the John Cadbury Fellow, a honor reserved only for distinguished scholars, when he worked as a Visiting Professor at the University of Birmingham, England. I hate to continue to list Dr Ekeh’s accomplishments but I pray that some of you will, some day be able to pay your dues to society as Professor Ekeh has done. I believe that it is only then you will understand the depravity of the unfair comments directed to a most honorable man. I love Professor Ekeh and he is to me, today, the most valuable leader that I have ever been privileged and honored to work with.
In conclusion, I like to repeat a statement that many of us in the Nigerian pro-democracy movement shared among ourselves. “Nigerians deserve the government they have”. In my open letter to President Obasanjo, I berated the major ethnic groups for not rising up to condemn invasion of Bayelsa State. I am glad to know that the many Yoruba groups both in the United States and in Nigeria have since released series of public statements condemning the military siege. The Campaign for Democracy (CD) is taking the issues one step further as they are considering taking President Obasanjo to the International Court for crimes against humanity. These Human Rights groups are correct in their approach to these issues as they see no difference between what is happening in Bayelsa and Chechenya or former Yugoslavia where the political leaders responsible for atrocities committed there, are being sought for arrest and prosecution What have other groups of Nigerians done when many, including the international community, consider the invasion a political blunder? I read attempts to rationalize that since Nigerian troops are known for savagery based on experiences of horrible atrocities committed by Nigerian soldiers in Kaduna, Kano, Taraba, Somalia, Liberia and recently in Sierra Leone, Odi was not expected to fare better than the areas listed. Granted. Does that not make our case that President Obasanjo and his National Security Council were fully aware of the danger posed by Nigerian soldiers to civilian populations before sending in troops? One can only conclude that the failure to condemn President Obasanjo’s action indicates the insensitivity of many of you in the Edo Internet forum. Frank Guobadia’s appeal to the President was simply not adequate. The level of insensitivity became rather appalling when one realizes that even the physicians among you, who have taken the Hippocratic Oath to save lives, seem not to care for the unnecessary loss of lives in Odi. Your action proves that Chief David Dafinone was right after all. We do not all belong to the Niger Delta region and some of us clearly do not feel the pain and agony of the people of the former Delta Province, now referred to as the core Niger Delta. Any one, who is still in doubt, can refer to the Willink Report of 1957 and the Niger Delta Environmental Survey (NDES) of 1997 to learn where the true boundaries of Niger Delta are. However, I am not making these assertions to undermine the encouraging notes from Obaseki, Oviasogie and Lawani who collectively have become the “lone voice in the wilderness” as they break ranks with their kin and kith to condemn President Obasanjo’s action and support the cause of our people in Bayelsa State.
Please allow me to display, before I leave, one more sample
of the kind of rhetoric one finds in the Edo Internet Forum nowadays:
Dear Mr. Edevbie:
Your open letter to President Obasanjo is simply infantile and imbecilic.
Prof. Nosa O. Egiebor
The letter speaks for itself. Any one who can refer to me and others in such low terms is certainly not a good company for me. The Edo Internet Forum, to me, has become a Hall of Recklessness and Shame. Nevertheless, I thank you for the privilege of being a guest in your forum.