Gani Fawehinmi, LLD, SAN
culled from nigerian tribune February 14, 2004
It appears to me that there is a deliberate but undeclared policy of the Nigerian state, through successive governments, to eliminate prominent leaders and leading lights from the Niger-Delta, be they of the left, right or centre particularly those who have the moral capacity to influence, motivate and to lead their people.
Let no one be deceived that the Nigerian State is scared of the eruption of discontent that may develop from the avalanche of socio-economic and indeed political deprivation, neglect and exclusion of the Niger-Delta which is the confirmed hewers of wood and drawers of water of the Nigerian economy.
The Nigerian State tolerates leaders from the Niger Delta so long as they support the enslavement of their people. But the moment they show signs of independent thinking and preparation for action or opposition to the negative policies of the Nigerian State, all the coercive apparati of State power and might are brought to bear on them without pity or without human touch.
This is the pivot around which the strange, dastardly and brutal murders of their leaders in recent times can be understood.
ISAAC JASPER ADAKA BORO
Let us start with Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, a revolutionary of the Niger-Delta.
Jasper Adaka Boro revolted against the suffering of his people. Jasper was a former Police officer who later became a student leader in University of Nigeria Nsukka. He was imbued with rebellious instincts and aversion for poverty. With an unusual courage and determination, he led a revolt against the socio-economic system that imprisons the Niger-Delta people.
The following facts emerged from his trial in 1966. In 1966, Isaac Boro from Oloibiri in the Niger Delta area, returned home from Lagos and recruited other young men, forty in number, including Samuel Owonaru and Nottingham Dick into an organisation known as the Delta Volunteer Service (DVS). He had conceived and worked on this liberation plan for 3 years. He established these men in a camp which he set up first at Taylor’s Creek then later at Ton‑Ton‑Bau bush, supplied them with military-style uniforms, and trained then in the use of firearms and dynamite, using explosives which he bought for that purpose. A red flag bearing a crocodile emblem was hoisted in the camp. The training continued until the 23rd February when Boro divided the men into three groups, each of which he assigned to carry out certain operations.
Two of the groups led by Adaka Boro and Nottingham Dick attacked the police station at Yenagoa. They blew open the armoury and removed a quantity of rifles and ammunition. They also kidnapped the police inspector in charge of the station and two other persons. Later, one of the three groups proceeded by motorboat to Oloibiri, where they blew up the Shell‑B.P. oil pipeline. Their three prisoners were abandoned a few days later and they managed to make their way back to Yenagoa. Apart from the pipeline at Oloibiri, another Shell‑B.P. pipeline was blown up at Odi.
On the afternoon of the same day that the pipeline in Odi was attacked, eight members of the organisation engaged in a gun battle with units of the police force drafted to the area to restore law and order. After the operation, at which the police expended 450 rounds of ammunition, with no loss of life on either side, the police found erected on the Mbiama side of the river a signboard bearing the words “Welcome to the Niger Delta Peoples Republic”. They also found copies of typewritten documents titled “THE NIGER DELTA PEOPLES REPUBLIC DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE” and another headed “NIGER DELTA PEOPLES REPUBLIC STATE OF EMERGENCY D.V.S. OPERATION ON INTERNAL SECURITY”
The Niger Delta Peoples Republic Declaration of Independence made the following declarations:
1. That a state of Emergency is hereby declared in the territory to give adequate protection to the Niger Delta people against aggressors.
2. That all former agreements as regards the crude oil of the people undertaken by the now defunct Nigerian Government in the territory had become invalid.
3. That all oil companies were, in their own interest, to stop exploration and renew agreements with the new Republic. Defiance of the order was to result in dislocation of the Company’s Exploration and forfeiture of their right to renewal of such agreements.
(4) That all aliens were to report within 24 hours to the nearest D.V.S. agent to ensure their protection. An Alien was defined as one who was not originally by birth, of the Niger Delta People Republic.
(5) That all Elementary and Secondary Grammar Schools were closed until September to enable the new Republic advance a thorough and totally free Educational system for the people.
(6) That all former District and Country Councils, Courts and revenue collecting organs were closed and the territory had become ‘tax free’ until fully industrialised.
(7) That the Niger Delta Volunteer Service, hitherto referred to as D.V.S. had become the Law enforcing body and the standing armed force of the people. All citizens of the republic were to surrender all arms in their possession to the nearest D.V.S. agent.
(8) That the Provisional Senate consisted of 84 members, six from each of the 14 clans. The Provisional Senate was to advise the Liberation Government on a new constitution for the People.
The Declaration document was signed by Adaka Boro as General Officer Commanding the DVS and Leader of the Liberation Government.
After Boro lost his appeal at the Supreme Court and he was kept in the prison, the Nigerian civil war broke out. He was compelled by circumstances to join the Nigerian side in the Civil War. In suspicious circumstances, which are yet to be officially explained, he met his death. That eclipsed his “revolution”. He fought and died while trying to rescue his people from socio‑economic subjugation.
KENULE BEESON SARO-WIWA
Then came Ken Saro Wiwa. He saw injustice and fought against it. The Nigerian State descended on him and got rid of him by hanging him and eight others to death.
Ken was an intellectual, an administrator, a poet, an orator, an author, a great thinker, and above all he was an organiser of people per excellence. He had an overwhelming moral authority. He aimed to redress the political and socio-economic wrongs imposed on the Niger Delta people. His base was Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People. (MOSOP).
He was tenacious and determined in pursuit of emancipatory ideals. In all his struggles, Ken applied peaceful, non-violent means reminiscent of the strategy and tactics of Mahatma Ghandi.
The Nigerian State became uncomfortable with the spreading influence of the icon from Niger Delta. On Friday, November 10, 1995 Ken and 8 other equally prominent activist were hanged. Acid was poured on the dead body of Ken, perhaps to prevent (in their puerile and morbid thinking) the reincarnation of Ken Saro Wiwa.
In the words of Ken at the Special Tribunal set up by the Late General Sani Abacha:
“My lord, we all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly-endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living and determined to usher to this country a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted all my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory.
I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of the war be duly punished. The crime of the company’s dirty was against the Ogoni people will also be punished.
On trial also is the Nigerian nation, its present rulers and all those assisting them. Any nation which can do to the weak and disadvantaged what the Nigerian nation has done to the Ogoni, loses a claim to independence and to freedom from outside influence. I am not one of those who shy away from protesting injustice and oppression, arguing that they are expected of a military regime. The military do not act alone. They are supported by a gaggle of politicians, lawyers, judges, academics and businessmen, all of them hiding under the claim that they are only doing their duty, men and women too afraid to wash their pants of their urine. We all stand on trial, my lord, for by our actions we have denigrated our country and jeopardized 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, degrade our hospitals, as we protect injustice and oppression, fill our stomachs with hunger and elect to make ourselves those who subscribe 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 villains, some are tragic victims, some still have a chance to redeem themselves. The choice is for each individual.
I predict that a denouncement of the riddle of the Niger Delta will soon come. The agenda is being set at this trial. Whether the peaceful ways favoured will prevail depends on what the oppressor decides, what signals it sends out to the waiting public.
In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger Delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigerian to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side, God is on their side. For the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41: “All those who fight when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the oppressor” come the day.”
SENATOR OBI WALI AND PA ALFRED REWANE
We cannot but mention the murder of Senator Obi Wali, a prominent Niger Deltan of Rivers State extraction who was gruesomely assisinated in his house and matcheted to pieces. Or how can we forget the organised assassination of Pa Alfred Rewane of Niger Delta and of Warri pedigree. Pa Rewane was a national philanthropist and a die-hard defender of Niger Delta.
He loathed poverty. In several advertisements in major Newspapers in Nigeria before his death, he espoused the philosophy of governance that should cater for the welfare of the country in general and the Niger Delta in particular. His influence impacted effectively on both the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole. The government could not accommodate his criticisms through the written word. He was assassinated on Friday, October 6, 1995.
Marshall Harry was murdered on Wednesday, 5th March 2003. He was a former National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) South-South, Niger Delta. He later decamped to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Shortly after he decamped to the (ANPP), he was assassinated in Abuja.
Alfred Aminasaori Kala Dikibo was murdered on the night of Friday, February 6, 2004. The world woke up to hear of his death on Saturday, 7th February 2004 which was a weekend. The President had his media chat on Sunday, 8th February 2004 where he declared that Dikibo was killed by armed robbers.
Obviously no investigations had been carried out to justify General Obasanjo’s unnatural and diversionary conclusion. Since the President made an affirmative assertion as to the cause of Dikibo’s murder, it would be expected that the police would ask the President some questions. In fact, the investigation should start from Aso Rock, to PDP and then to Rivers State in that order.
Furthermore, the agenda of the meeting which Dikibo was to attend is important if the police is to get to the root of his death.
The following questions are very pertinent in this regard:
(a) What was the aim of the meeting?
(b) What agenda was in place?
(c) Was the meeting going to oppose some policies of the President?
(d) Was the meeting going to discuss the plan to amend the Constitution so that there will be another opportunity for the President to re-contest or to oppose the attempts by General Obasanjo to perpetuate himself in power?
(e) Was the meeting out to create a united front for the South-South people so that they could sponsor a Presidential Candidate in 2007?
(f) Would the meeting have affected the political calculation of PDP for 2007?
The setting up of a panel to investigate the murder of Dikibo is, I believe, a smokescreen and it should not be accepted by the Niger Delta people. When murder is committed, politically or otherwise, it is not the duty of a tribunal of inquiry to fish out the killers. It is a function assigned by Law to the Law Enforcement agents.
The panel appointed by Mr President is ostrich-like. The President had already spoken, 48 hours after the murder, when investigation had not been carried out. The President has come to a conclusion before investigation and
I do not see how a panel set up by him will have the authority and moral courage to disagree with him, within the context of Nigeria.
In addition to the investigations, which the Law Enforcement Agencies may be carrying out, the Niger Delta people, their leaders and their fighting organisations, should come together to conduct an independent investigation. The report of such independent probe should be made public and turned over to the police and the governors in Niger Delta for the prosecution of those involved.
Unless the Niger Delta people are united against oppression and they are prepared to put their destiny in their own hands to shake off the yoke of governmental barbarism and subjugation of their future, there may be no end to the murders.
In conclusion, all Nigerians, regardless
of ethnic affiliation, religious differences or varying geo-political
backgrounds, have a duty to rise up and resist arbitrary deprivation of
lives. Arbitrary killings by the State will continue for as long as such
odious criminal and despicable acts do not evoke mass anger and people’s
peaceful uprising. Only the fear of a volcanic social eruption from below
can stop barbaric behaviour by holders of political power.
CHIEF GANI FAWEHINMI, LLD, SAN
Thursday, 12th February, 2004