OPINION: Which Ijaw is Governor Dickson Talking About? –By Azibola Omekwe

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Governance is all about the one who has the power to rule and what the person should be trying to achieve. Presumably, the government sets for itself the objective of protecting its people and acting in their best interests. It, therefore, follows that an individual who takes the helm cannot be said to have started leading until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
This piece is intended to decry the recent unfounded and unintelligent assertions of Governor Seriake Dickson and his apparatchiks. Dickson and his cohorts are at it again. This time raising the bar of deceit to new heights, deliberately spreading a tale of deceit and sinisterly backing it with warped history. The governor and his party are currently embarking on a voyage, brainwashing the Bayelsa public and blackmailing the All Progressives Congress as a Northern Peoples’ agenda that does not intend to carry along the interest of the Niger Delta, while portraying the Peoples Democratic Party as the Ijaw Peoples’ party. Sadly, they are doing everything they can to make this narrative gain a foothold in the consciousness of Bayelsans.In my very candid and prudent opinion, that assertion is the most laughable and thoughtless blackmail against the politically consciousness of Nigerians. It carries with it the worst misinformation and disorientation and has beaten the imaginations of many. Let me remind Dickson that more Nigerians, Bayelsans inclusive, are becoming more sophisticated in how they perceive and handle issues. Instead of allowing sentiments sway their judgment, they would rather want to see things as they are.

Hear the governor in an interview he granted one of the national dailies: “…on the day of voting, Bayelsans will vote to defend their Ijaw home land. This Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation will not be handed over on a platter of gold to those who ganged up to humiliate us in this country.”What a beaten imagination. To serve his selfish interest, he wants to bring to the fore the fault lines that have always being inimical to the fabric of the Nigerian society. In fact, many Nigerians believe this same attitude also contributed significantly to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s loss in the last elections. He was made to wear the toga of an Ijaw president. That was the thinking of many Nigerians. And the governor had only gone to prove them right once again with his very nauseating comment.It is, indeed, a sad thing to recall that in the wake of political awareness a personality is trading in such blackmail devoid of substance. That is to say, Bayelsans are left to vegetate in the present situation that they have found themselves. Therefore, they should maintain a graveyard silence over their rights, lest the northerners would extend their own governance. But sorry, Mr Governor, Bayelsans have long outgrown that style of “Niger Delta emancipation”. Sorry again, Bayelsans are rather hungry for development and true governance. Growth can only come by increase and not by decrease.

Dickson also asserted that our heroes such as Isaac Boro, Harold Dappa-Biriye and Melford Okilo, would be turning in their graves, disappointed with Bayelsans for not knowing what it means to protect the collective Ijaw national interest.Let me go into the archives of the Niger Delta that Dickson is trying to confuse. Decades before the emergence of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the surfacing of the Okahs, the Dokubos, and the Saro-Wiwas, Major Isaac Adaka Boro, an Ijaw nationalist, had had a celebrated campaign for greater Niger Delta for the inhabitants of the region. In my opinion, no Ijaw nationalist of any record can beat the passionate zeal of Isaac Boro. But it will interest us to know that the same man enlisted himself on the side of the federal government during the 1967—1970 civil war. He is fondly remembered for that. That was a true show of national interest overriding personal or regional interest, to say the least.The present day Bayelsa is not complete without the mention of Chief Melford Obiene Okilo. He was one of the founding fathers of Bayelsa State. He was a personification of Bayelsa, if you ask me. This patriot and nationalist was a unifying factor between the Niger Delta and the federal government. Despite his experience as an agitator for the interest of Bayelsa and the Niger Delta, he never used any divisive statement against the federal government.

He maintained a cordial relationship with all other regions of the country, and that earned him the unifying factor that he came to be in the politics of his time. He saw beyond Bayelsa, he walked further than the Ijaw nation; he ran beyond the South-south and built Nigeria. It is instructive to remind us that Chief Melford Okilo was able to successfully champion the cause of the Niger Delta when he leaped over the National Congress of Nigeria and Cameroun, the then favoured party in the region, and aligned with the Northern Peoples Congress of Tafawa Balewa at the federal level.Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye was one of the founding fathers of modern Rivers State. After a brief stint with NCNC as well as the Action Group, he later formed the Niger Delta Congress, which he aligned with the NPC. It provided a useful bridge between the Niger Delta and the North. He was a politician and statesman par excellence.How did PDP suddenly become Ijaw peoples’ party? At the inception of the Fourth Republic, if my memory is serving me well, this same party was labelled a Northern party that should be rejected. Rather, the National Solidarity Movement, floated by Chief Melford Okilo to serve the collective interest of the Ijaw people, should be embraced. However, with political realities staring at his face, Chief Okilo was later to dump his party and clinch the Senate seat under the PDP platform. The point at which the PDP suddenly became Ijaw peoples’ party still remains unclear. This is just the political shenanigan of the governor in trying to distort Bayelsans’ perception, using twisted history that is only aimed at serving his personal, selfish and myopic interests. That is cheap politics.

Dickson said people who had identified with the APC should be ashamed of themselves. And their children should be ashamed of their fathers. This governor never stops to amaze me. Out of desperation, he is throwing insults at everybody and acting in such uncouth and dishonourable manner. It has now become a taboo to identify with what best suits one’s interest. Well, I want to announce to the governor that I am not ashamed of my decision, neither will my two daughters. But, come to think of it, it is Dickson that should be ashamed of his despicable behaviours. Someone who could raise his hand and shout down his benefactor’s spouse without giving a hoot. Even more distasteful, doing it in the presence of his benefactor. What can be compared to such a shameful behaviour? As President Muhammadu Buhari pointedly put it in his remark on gay marriage during his last US visit, such behaviour is “abhorrent to our culture”.Bayelsans are yearning for pragmatic leadership that will provide meaningful development and good governance. They are not concerned with cheap blackmails, as it would not put food on the table. The PDP led by Dickson should stop treating us as naïve and foolish people. We know when something is working. We also know when it is only a decoy, which is exactly what it is. To divert our attention from asking important questions on where we are, and where we are heading to. That should have been the major talking point preceding the forthcoming governorship elections. Rather, we are being bogged down with hollow talks. Anyway, like the saying goes, desperate times require desperate measures. As it is said in local parlance, all follow. That is Dickson’s unique brand of politicking.

My brothers and sisters, we are all Bayelsans. APC is not concerned with frivolities. We are rather concerned with striving to improve the standard of living of the people. The party is poised to offer a better social contract with the people. As a party, we will take advantage of sharing the same platform with the government at the centre to attract more attention to it. It is a win-win model for everybody, if you ask me. APC is committed to serving the best interests of Nigerians, Niger Deltans inclusive. Only a few days ago, Buhari gave the directive on the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on the environmental restoration of Ogoniland. A move hailed by Nigerians. Can anyone still claim it is a party only interested in foisting a Northern agenda, as the governor wants us to believe?My “contriman” governor should just peep through the window. The crowd is surging forward. They are tired of the lies, deceit and blackmails. They want to also experience the change that is blowing across the land. Thus, they are determined to boot him out of Creek Haven. And they will sure do it.

–– Omekwe is a former member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly


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