Urhobo Historical Society
Jesus Christ has come to dwell in Calvary Dome, beside the gates of light, like a thief in the deep night of the world’s ignorance...
Epistle to the Vice President
Let the kite perch and let the egret perch too,
and if one says no to the other, let his wings break.
– Chinua Achebe
By His Majesty Nengi
Mingi XII, Amanyanabo of Nembe
Bayelsa State, Nigeria
DEAR DR GOODLUCK Jonathan, how are you today? How is your family? How is your faith in God? I will not bother to ask you how things are with your office, because I have a fair idea. I am proudly Nigerian, and a royal father at that. My concern about our beloved nation will just not let me sleep. The internet tells me everything I need to know, and so too the television, the newspaper and the radio, especially BBC. That is how I got to know, against all speculation, that our President is alive after all. If nothing else, that came as a relief.
My regard for Mr President has remained high since he summoned you to be his right hand man. What is more, he ranks as the first Nigerian leader to have given priority to resolving the Niger Delta problem, reforming the inadequate power sector, redressing the flaws in our electoral system, besides bringing the demon of corruption underfoot. There is no doubt that he is a well-meaning helmsman, but by failing to confide in you at such a critical point in our national life, he may well have done a great deal of harm to his presidential image.
I dare say so. Why has he been so reluctant to hand over to you as required by the Constitution he swore to protect? If he could enter into a conversation with a reporter for as long as 51 seconds, during which he had the presence of mind to wish our players well in the on-going African Cup of Nations, why did he decide to keep mum on his hospital bed for 51 odd days?
From one fisherman to another, don’t you think there’s something fishy in all this? Isn’t there something calculated in the fact that he has failed so far to hand over properly to you, his foremost friend from the south, before embarking on an indefinite trip outside the country? If he trusted you sufficiently as to invite you to be his running mate, why did he run off without letting you know where he is running to? Does he really love Nigeria, or is it possible that members of his kitchen cabinet hate our beloved nation more?
I believe you can take more questions. Is it possible that his advisers thought it far more worthwhile to keep the entire nation in suspense through all this hullabaloo? If so, to what end? Was that really the President’s voice on my radio? It sounded really weak and very unlike him. Did he really sign the supplementary budget as some gangsters want us to believe? How many times has he spoken to you since he left the shores of Nigeria?
I ask the last question in particular because, not so long ago, when your former boss Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was held up in London, you were in constant touch with him, weren’t you? And, quite naturally, as his trusted deputy, you stepped into his shoes afterward as Governor of Bayelsa State, did your able best and moved on to higher office like a typical gentleman. So, why the suspicion now? Please tell your detractors to learn from history. It is a shame to think that all this is happening in this cardinal year, 2010, when our dear Motherland marks her golden jubilee as one nation apparently bound in unity and love, though tribe and tongue obviously differ from south to north, east to west. It is a great pity. It is terrible what Nigeria has become in this day and age, don’t you think?
Frankly, it was good to see you take the New Year message on national television, standing in for the President. How I wish you could do that more often, even if in an acting capacity. I wonder who wrote your speech. You sounded prophetic when you said Nigeria was “sailing to greatness,” in spite of the current storm on the high sea. Even so, there were too many grand sentiments not fully expressed, too many dreams in suspension, too many ideas not broken down for common men like me to understand, but at least it filled a gap for the time being. How did it feel when you were rehearsing the speech? Did you feel something was missing? Did you remember your days as Governor?
I believe I speak for your people in Otuoke, Ogbia, Bayelsa and the Niger Delta as a whole when I say this, and I say this with all sense of responsibility and good breeding. Please come back home. Return forthwith to the land that bred you. We do not count any longer as Nigerians, and the power brokers in the north have done well to spell this out in their recent actions. We have been insulted enough as a people. We have suffered enough ridicule at the hands of our neighbours. They do not deserve us. Come back to Ijaw country. We need you, and you need us. And if anyone, from any part of this country, dares prevent you from coming home, let his wings break.
Chinua Achebe is my witness. Even Wole Soyinka is my witness.
We all know that you did not apply for this job. You did not lobby to become Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You did not even print a poster declaring your intention one way or the other. All you wanted was to be voted into office in a substantive capacity as Governor of Bayelsa State, and indeed we were all for you. We are living witnesses to the goodwill that you brought to your gubernatorial office. We testify to the remarkable promise of your short tenure. You are a good man indeed. Good luck to you.
In eighteen months, you left your people in no doubt that you were grateful for the mandate that God gave you when you succeeded Alamieyeseigha, without any effort on your part. There is no doubt that you brought good luck to Bayelsa in the intervening period. Verily, verily, I say if our fellow citizens do not want you to bring good luck to Nigeria, please come back home. We need you here, and you need us.
We are fully aware that, since you became Vice President, you have been sleeping in a guest house. Do you deserve to be treated like a stranger in your own country? It was but a few weeks ago that news broke to the effect that government had voted all of Seven Billion Naira to build your official quarters. What does that mean? If I know you well, you must be scandalized. What kind of bricks are they using to build that house? How much is a vice presidential bed in the open market? We know just how far that staggering amount of money can go to assuage the agony of the Ogoni, for instance. We know how many villages that amount can upgrade, if the face-lift to Otuoke is anything to go by.
I refer, of course, to those historic first two months of 2008 when the Federal Government condescended to do something down south, by way of mending our roads and constructing befitting chalets to accommodate the unprecedented entourage from Abuja, which throng was coming to express sympathy over the demise of your venerable father, Pa Jonathan. Clearly, the so-called leaders of this nation do know what is good for us in the Niger Delta, but they cannot bring themselves to do it. So, why should we remain neighbours with a greedy lot, and expect to be happy? Please come home. The Lord is your shepherd. You shall not want.
Can you imagine that some people are whispering in dark corners, unable to sit in one place for fear that someone might overhear what they are plotting in their wicked hearts, as if we have recovered fully from the horrors of past coups? Can you imagine some idle minds talking of a full-scale war over this matter, as if we have recovered fully from the 30-month blast of bombs and bullets occasioned by the selfish eggheads in our midst. Gowon is still with us. Ask him. Ojukwu is still with us. Ask him. Frankly, if they really want to go to Heaven, these two gentlemen will tell you that we are tired of bloodshed. Enough is enough.
Let the whispers between Ota and Minna die down right now. Even a zoo does not survive on the mentality of bloodhounds. You are a zoologist. You know what I mean. I say there is a certain farmer who believes he has not given his best yet to Nigeria after eight years, to say nothing of the previous tenure in khaki. May his wings break if he dares to mastermind a coup plot under cover of a condolence visit to our friendly general who recently came to grips with what it means to suffer pain at a personal level. I sympathize with Babangida because his wife promised to bring some better life to the home front, but if he means to extend his private pain to the rest of the nation, O, let the sail go out of his babanriga!
Enough is enough, Your Excellency. Come home to Fisherman Country. We miss Melford Okilo. We don’t want to miss you so soon. Come home to the Niger Delta, even if for a brief consultation. After all, Barack Obama has denied Nigeria flat. He came close to our borders, left us with hard words, and passed a condolence message through Hillary. Did he behave like a brother from Kenya? Now, they are calling us terrorists. But God knows that your name is not Abdulmutallab. We do not know how to terrorize anybody in the Niger Delta. We even laid down our guns when Yar’Adua told us to demonstrate just how patriotic we are. We are content with being militant, because we have a right to be so. We have a right to seek parity with our fellow countrymen for the proceeds from the oil and gas resources mined in our territory. What is wrong with that?
This nation has shown its underhand. Why shouldn’t one of us be allowed to act as President in a nation full of actors in Nollywood? There is too much wickedness in the air, too much gambling with our corporate future. Nigeria has demonstrated just how lopsided it can get. Now we know what will happen to us when the oil wells dry up finally. Now we know what might have happened if oil and gas were to be found in commercial quantity in Lake Chad. All of us will be forsaken in our individual hamlets the way Oloibiri has been forsaken for the better part of 50 years. Let us go our way while we can, no bad blood spilled. Let us remain peaceful in the eyes of God. Let us be law-abiding so that more oil wells can be discovered in our territory.
I shudder to think that some people want you to step into the shoes of your boss by force, as if you are a coup maker. But I know you well. You trust in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. You believe in the rule of law, and I know you will demonstrate this, if only Nigeria will allow you to hold brief for Yar’Adua. You have been biding your time. I enjoin you to continue to do so. No matter what name they call you, don’t mind them. You may have your faults, but I have no reason to blame. We all have our faults.
I blame those before you who had a golden chance to set things aright before your advent, and failed to do so. I blame those who sold out to the north, sold out to the west, and sold out to the east. I blame Maduabebe, for one. I blame those who knew the worth of the economic wealth in our shores in professional geological terms, and yet did nothing to secure respect for us. I blame the first Chief Geologist to emerge in this nation. I blame Maduabebe.
Verily, verily, I say it is terrible what Nigeria has become in this day and age. It is a great shame indeed that the 160-page document that we call the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria amounts to just another book written on white paper, bound in green cover. Our legislators see it that way, and so do our governors. Worse still, some of our leading lights in the judiciary have become adept at misinterpreting the sacred laws and statutes that should define our existence as a nation, to say nothing of our unassailable sovereignty.
Come home, Your Excellency. Come with the modest experience you have gained so far in the course of your tenure as Vice President of Nigeria. Come with everything new you have learnt in governance, and bring it to bear upon life in the Niger Delta. Come and stand upon the Star of David, beside Ekoli Bridge. Come and teach Sylva a thing or two about keeping electoral promises.
Come and envision new dreams for our people. Come and complete the good work you started. We want to see your face again, at close quarters. Come home, our dear son. Come back to Swamp Country. It is too late in the day for you to change your name to Atiku Abubakar. Just come home to Bayelsa. Come to Yenagoa. Come to the chosen parcel of land. Come to the New Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ, after all, has come to dwell in Calvary Dome, beside the gates of light, like a thief in the deep night of the world’s ignorance...
I remain your humble friend,
King Nengi Josef Ilagha, JP
Mingi XII, Amanyanabo of Nembe