Who has done this to the Ijaw Nation?
By Wisdom Ikuli
I HAVE SEEN SLAVES ON HORSEBACK, WHILE PRINCES GO ON FOOT (ECCLESIASTES 10:7)
Ijaws are the first people that had direct contact with the European adventurers, explorers, merchants and imperialists who first came to the entity now called Nigeria in the 13th century through the sea routes. On their arrival, they dealt with our great people as equal trade partners.
What is now known as Nigeria started in the great Ancient Nembe Kingdom precisely at Akassa after the infamous and inglorious ‘Akassa Raid of 1895’ where over 2000 Ijaw people mostly women and children were massacred by agents of the British government due to their revolution and resistance of exploitative tendencies of the British agents.
The global outrage and condemnation of the killing that was carried out by the British imperialists led to several meetings and the final settlement for the formal British administration of the area which was also in consonance and fall out of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885.
Before then, the British only signed Treaties with our Kings and Kingdoms for protection as British Protectorate, while our fathers fulfilled their own part of the bargain and obligations with their natural resources that helped to build the British economy.
Since the discovery of crude oil and gas at Oloibiri-Otabagi in present day Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State in 1956, the Ijaw Nation has continued to shoulder the economic burden of the Nigerian State.
The sacrifices of the Ijaw Nation led to the independence of Nigeria in 1960 after the London Conferences of 1954, 1956, 1957 and the 1959 pre-independence conference.
It was Ijaw leaders: High Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye and Chief Melford Obiene Okilo that contributed to the formation of the First National Government during the First Republic when the Niger Delta Congress (NDC), the party, High Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye founded and under whose platform, Chief Melford Obiene Okilo was elected as the only member of the National Assembly, entered into an alliance with the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC).
It was Ijaw Nation that saved Nigeria from breaking up during the Biafra secession bid that culminated in the protected Nigerian-Biafra war that lasted from 1967 to 1970. Without the strategic role the Ijaw Nation played and the enormous sacrifices it made, Nigeria would have been history by now.
Also, Statism which is a detour from regionalism when Nigeria was divided into three (3) regions: Northern, Eastern and Western and the later creation of the Mid-Western region to the creation of the initial twelve (12) states by General Yakubu Jack Gowon is the idea of an Ijaw man, High Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye.
It is however so unfortunate that at the end, the Ijaw Nation has been outsmarted severally and repaid with evils. The Ijaw Nation has always been treated unfairly, pitiably and shabbily with so much disdain.
But there is absolutely no way we can put the blame solely and entirely on the leaders of other ethnic groups and tribes. Our infighting, total disunity, the high spirit and appetite of pulling down our own, the prevalence of internal saboteurs and antagonists are responsible for our backwardness and gross underdevelopment.
While other tribes are moving forward and making so much progress, the Ijaw Nation which is the fourth largest ethnic group is pacing behind. The Ijaw Nation seem to be very comfortable at the backseat of the racketeered vehicle (Nigeria) where it is suffocating due to the fume that is oozing out of the damaged exhaust pipe.
For the Ijaw Nation to move forward, our people must stop antagonizing ourselves. We must stop infighting. We must strive to reunite our great people, and we must learn to speak with one united voice. We must support all Ijaw people who are occupying public positions of trust, instead of fighting to pull them down. We must strive to promote and protect our unique identity, brotherhood and Ijawness.
Most Senior Comrade Wisdom Oniekpar Ikuli
Mirror and Conscience of Society.