The Militant Writes Back; A Review of Epistle to Maduabebe by Nengi Ilagha.
Epistle to Maduabebe is Nengi Josef Ilagha’s ninth book in nine years. Its publication on December 18, 2009, virtually brought the author’s home state of Bayelsa to a standstill. Trenchant and uncompromising in all twelve chapters, brimming with prophecy for a world gone sour, the book has been hailed as “the height of polemic iconoclasm in Nigeria.”
Its author is the militant poet, journalist and broadcaster who served time in the government of Bayelsa State as Speech Writer. Its subject is corruption and greed. Its hope is redemption for a nation that is fast losing its dreams. Its righteous tirade is trained at Dr Edmund Maduabebe Daukoru, former OPEC President, two-time Minister of Petroleum in Nigeria, and paramount ruler of Nembe, a key oil producing community in the south of the country, and godfather of the incumbent government under Chief Timipre Sylva-Sam.
Published by Treasure Books, the following is the twelfth and concluding chapter of Epistle To Maduabebe.
The Militant Writes Back
“I know enough history to realize that civilization does not fall down from the sky”. – Chinua Achebe
THERE IS EVERY indication that the history of the struggle for resource control and self-determination is as good as complete. Ask Tompolo. Ask Boyloaf. If you can go that far, ask all the unidentified militants in the swamp who have given up their arms for peace to reign in the region. If you like, ask all the yellow journalists who carry the wrong reports at the right time of going to press for the wrong reasons.
Yet, as a young and vibrant graduate from the Niger Delta who received an excellent education from choice institutions of learning abroad, before and after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, you could have done a great deal to help realize the noble aspirations of Isaac Adaka Boro as expressed in his landmark autobiography, The XII-Day Revolution. Even if you didn’t want to take up guns personally, at least you could have raised a fist to the powers that be, in the manner of Ken Saro-Wiwa, as if to say Amandla! Instead, you put your glasses over your nose and stared at nothing.
Incidentally, a formal declaration of discontent by Ijaw youths in the Niger Delta region came to pass as late as December 1999, and you were not the propulsion. You were not even the sponsor. You could have defined a new edge to the struggle long before Oronto Natei Douglas and his fellow compatriots in the Ijaw Youth Council spelt out 100 Reasons Why We Must Control Our Resources! You could have staged a revolt against Shell, if you could summon the guts and act on behalf of your conscience. Given your intellectual stature, you could have even reasoned things out with Shell on a cordial note, around a round table full of tea cups and saucers. Instead, you sat back on your bourgeois sofa, crossed your legs and picked up a copy of The Geologist.
Today, I look through a long roll call of honour, and find your name missing. No discerning mind with any iota of respect for rectitude and good conduct mentions Dr Edmund Maduabebe Daukoru when the exploits of truly heroic sons and daughters of Izon stock are recounted. In our manuals of redemption, your name is omitted. Ask Alamieyeseigha. In the annals of patriotic history, you are lost. Ask Asari Dokubo. In spite of all their shortcomings, ask these purposeful sons of the land. It is obvious where you went wrong. You took sides with the wrong party for too long, and you are still with the wrong party. You bowed to the advocates of the Land Use Decree. In particular, you befriended Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and became his mirror image for intimidation and injustice in your domain.
Let’s look closely at the facts of the case against you. According to the history books and everyday economic lore, for that matter, oil has been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, accounting for 80 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, 95 percent of the national budget and 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Of this figure, production from the Ijaw country is estimated to account for 65 percent of the GDP, 75 percent of the national budget and 70 percent of foreign exchange earnings. Are you familiar with these statistics or not? Of course, you are.
It is on record that the principle of derivation was the basis for revenue allocation when groundnut was produced in commercial quantity in the Hausa-Fulani territory. This was equally the case when cocoa was produced in Yoruba land. The same principle was active for the Igbo when coal was the cornerstone of the Nigerian economy. In other words, when the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria provided the basis for the nation’s economic survival, they received their due recognition in full 100 percent.
However, between the Chicks Constitution of 1953 and the Independence Constitution of 1960, the percentage was slashed by half, from 100 percent to 50 percent. Ten years later, in 1970, under the regime of Yakubu Gowon, it was slightly adjusted to 45 percent, and fell down to 20 percent in 1975 under the Murtala-Obasanjo regime. The principle of derivation suffered the biggest blow in 1982 under the government of President Shehu Shagari when it dropped to 02 percent. Then, it climbed up to 1.5 percent in 1984 at the behest of Buhari, and descended yet again to 03 percent in 1992 under the Babangida junta. Since 1999, the percentage derivation principle has remained pegged at 13 percent, and General Abdulsalam Abubakar left it at that.
To complicate matters, the Federal Government willfully contrived the onshore-offshore dichotomy, which became a subject of prolonged litigation, following a volte face by nineteen northern governors and three of their counterparts from the south-west. Not surprisingly, the plight of the Ijaw became so bad that channels for distribution of finished petroleum products in Ijaw territory were blocked. The result is that the cost of fuel is ten times the approved pump price at any given time in Ijaw land, despite the existence of the Petroleum Equalization Fund and related agencies.
Dear Dr Daukoru, you know these things, don’t you? I am not telling you what you don’t know. These facts are at your finger tips. I will do well not to tell you what you know, but I am pining to tell you what you don’t know. What exactly did you do rectify the situation? Would it be correct to say that you preferred to sit on your high-horse in all the high-flying offices you have held so far, to say nothing of the consultancy and advisory roles you have played to governments at closed-door summits?
Are you sure there is nothing wrong with the Land Use Act, 1978, smuggled as it was into the 1979 Constitution? Don’t you see anything wicked in the fact that it transferred ownership of all land from individuals and communities to state governments? Even the colonialists recognized the rights of communities to own and control their resources, so why not the colonized elite? Haven’t you ever heard of a white man called Henry Willink? What did he stand for? What do you stand for, apart from your pocket? Clearly, you still prefer your village protocol over and above the Kyoto Protocol.
I mean, didn’t you see anything wrong with the Petroleum Act (51) 1969 which vested control and ownership of all petroleum resources in the Ijaw country on the Federal Government? Didn’t you find anything objectionable about the Offshore Oil Revenue Act (9), 1971, which granted the Federal Government exclusive rights over the continental shelf of the coastal areas?
Let me make the question easier for you to handle. When you got married to your spouse, did that deprive you of your body? Don’t you withdraw after intercourse, having donated a small percentage of yourself into the chosen parcel of land that would grow into maturity nine months later? Does that analogy bring you to a better understanding of the concept of paying tax to the Federal Government, and still being your manly self? I hope so.
You make me want to throw up my arms and punch your conscience, but I can’t find any conscience in you. Here you are sitting on your haunches and Henry Willink comes all the way from England and tells you that the territory now known as Ijaw country is “poor, backward and neglected.” And you nod your consent. You concur so much that you get a chance to go and study geology so you could return with great zeal to make a definite change in your environment for posterity to applaud. Instead, you acquired your degrees on the bill of Shell and connived with Shell to keep the territory covered by the three sorry adjectives, “poor, backward and neglected.”
I assure you this, and may the spirit of Henry Willink bear me witness. In fact, may Tonton Teme hold me witness. On account of your sworn complacency, your readiness to acquiesce to half measures quite against your better judgment, you shall remain poor in your morals. You shall remain backward in your thinking, stuck in a recidivist channel that leads nowhere. You shall continue to be neglected, even by the footnotes of history. Let your greed gobble you up forthwith like an insatiable flood. May you pine for audience in the belly of the righteous and never get a hearing until you are flushed down the foul sewers of eternity.
If the Ijaw nation has been cruelly impoverished by Nigeria, it is because of characters like you who settle for less than you could have gained on a corporate scale. If the Ijaw nation has been systematically abused over the years by Nigeria, it is because of treacherous personages like you who are content with the crumbs from the master’s table that looked large in your individual possession. If the Ijaw nation has been grossly neglected by Nigeria since 1960, it is because of fifth columnists like you who readily signed your conscience away for a proverbial mess of porridge.
Verily, verily, it is because of people like you that Bayelsa suffers the injustice that is clearly manifest in the eight local government structure of today, as against the constitutional provision at the time of creation which stipulated a minimum of ten local government councils for a state. If, out of 774 local government councils in Nigeria, the Ijaw do not have more than 24 across the Niger Delta states, it is because of fellows like you who sold out. How do you feel, knowing that all the Ijaw local government councils put together do not amount to that of one Hausa-Fulani state, namely Kano, which has 44 local government areas? Do you feel funky?
I say it is because of traitors like you that, out of 109 members in the Senate today, only six of them hail from Ijaw. Even more shamefully ironic, by a progressive order, out of 360 seats in the Federal House of Representatives, there are only XII seats for honourable members of Ijaw extraction. Take the next question. At what particular forum could you have argued the injustice of this gross national lopsidedness that it failed to be reported at all by Radio Bayelsa, to say nothing of CNN? And yet, you have the temerity to patronize the wishes of Isongufuro to hold Nembe in thrall over the outcome of mere council elections. How long will it take you to do what is right?
I wonder. I have never been able to understand why a candidate will come up to vie for a particular seat in an election, wins by an obvious margin against his fellow competitors, and is summarily replaced by some mediocre element who happens to be the candidate of some preposterous don griping over yahoos and bananas in some idle and God-forsaken corner. If there is any compensatory appointment at all, don’t you think it should go to the loser, rather than the winner? A labourer, says the scriptures, is worthy of his wages. And, in a democracy, when the people decide, God endorses that decision. Is common sense so uncommon in your dictionary? I wonder.
And you, Maduabebe, when will you become a staunch member of Ayeba Furo, and rise up to speak the truth for all time, at all times? I am the worldwide President of Ayeba Furo. Call me Pope Pen The First. Call me Calvary Head. Do you care to join me in revamping the world? Is there anything worth redeeming in your character? How dare you become the sole decision maker as to who becomes councilor and who doesn’t in local Nembe politics? Since when did you become the final screening point for the credentials of those who qualify to be Commissioners and Special Advisers and law makers from Nembe? Since when did you become a tribunal onto yourself in matters of politics, when you have so much to accomplish in geology? How selfish can you get?
I put it to you, squarely, that you are doing all this in your sole interest. You want to have every political office holder from Nembe pay homage to you with regular offerings and monthly tithes. That is the covenant you are desperately trying to uphold in the land. That’s the philosophy behind Covenant 2007, the campaign slogan of Timipre Sylva. Verily, verily, I put it to you that only God deserves our offerings and tithes, and therefore you have failed even before you began. Every dubious plot you may have conceived to undermine the land and people of Nembe will come to a big, fat naught.
Since you believe so much in your regal authority, you narrow-minded gladiator, why don’t you decide the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Come to think of it, why don’t you run for the office of President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Restoration in the next elections, and see how many voters will cast a ballot in your favour? If you want to make decisions, why didn’t you secure a seat on the populist Commission for Africa like Benjamin Mkapa and Fola Adeola and K.Y. Amoaka?
As you probably know, the clear and specific proposals of that distinguished Commission state that Africa’s development can only be shaped by Africans. That indeed is the way it is. History has shown that development does not work if it is driven from outside. “Regardless of how well intentioned outside donors may be,” says the report of the Commission, “they will never fully understand what Africa requires.” The dilemma couldn’t have been better expressed, and yet the solution is crystal clear. What Africa requires is that corrupt leaders in the mould of Maduabebe and Obasanjo should be hanged on the taut ropes of their greed. Let the mind of God take over from there.
In 1933, General Smedley Butler, a former US Marine general, made an honest confession of being a victim of moral decay. This is what he had to say. “I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Cuba and Haiti a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American Republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China, I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket.”
It will be nice to hear you confess in like manner how you helped to sustain corruption and graft in Nigeria. It is time for confession, your majesty, time for worship. How long is your record of racketeering? How swell was your racket? It is because of you and your kind that James Halloran, who manages Halliburton’s accounts in America, says the business culture in Nigeria thrives on corruption. Indeed it is heart-rending to hear him insult the sensibilities of the Nigerian people in the following words, and I quote: it will be naïve if we think we can clean up corruption in Nigeria. Unquote.
Needless to say, this is the greatest test of your patriotism. I challenge you to prove Halloran wrong. Be our town-crier of good conscience. Take a gong around the streets and alleys of Nembe, and tell our people that you did not receive one kobo from Halliburton. Like our former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, I expect that you will embark upon a credible campaign to clear your name over any possible links with the scandal. I expect that you will completely deny ever meeting Jeffrey Tesler, to say nothing of receiving a friendly kick from him. How can Tesler come from out there and undermine the Nigerian system to help the multinational consortium win a fabulous contract of six billion US dollars to build the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas project, if not for conspirators like you?
Who admitted you into the Niger Delta Peace Forum when you cannot negotiate peace with an open and fair heart? Who inducted you into the Ijaw Elder’s Forum when you cannot stand up for the rightful wishes of the law-abiding people of Bayelsa State? Who received you onto the Board of Trustees of the Bayelsa State Development Fund, when you subscribe wholly and completely to the ignoble tenets of underdeveloping every other pocket around you for the benefit of yours and yours only? In all the years you have served in the oil and gas industry, what case have you made to support the prime position of Nembe in crude oil production with a view to securing commensurate government attention for the ancient community?
Why do you bother making professional presentations on the Petroleum Geology of the Niger Delta, if it is only to enable you win the next appointment? Why bother to champion the membership of Angola in OPEC when you cannot persuade your nephew to forgo the next loan from the capital market, for the sake of future generations? And then, horror of horrors for the pride of the Nembe man, you are named in an international monetary scandal. Yet you want to sit tight as Mingi and compel our admiration and respect. How do you expect us to reconcile honour and dishonour in one breath? It is not done, your majesty. It is just not done. It is not right in the sight of God. Pure and simple.
Verily, verily, I ask to know who appointed you as Chairman of the Solid Minerals Committee for Bayelsa State when you cannot make a righteous advocacy for a well-deserved 100 percent derivation principle, and insist that the Federal Government pay tax to the oil and gas producing communities for the mineral resources they have been mining from the Nigerian coastline since 1954? Why did you advice Governor Timipre Sylva-Sam to stage the maiden summit on the amnesty process in Kaduna, rather than any city in the Niger Delta? Exactly how much of the tax payers’ money went into that pointless show of shame? What was he doing in that babanriga? How many times have you seen a northerner in woko or etibo? How hypocritical can we get?
Of course you know what is right and proper for you to do, but you just cannot bring yourself to do it. Your greed, in short, will just not let you extend fairness and parity to your fellow men and women in the oil producing communities. How do you expect God to be happy with you when you have been stealing money meant for your neighbours over the years? What kind of a nationalist are you? In spite of your status in Shell and the cardinal role you played in the establishment of the NLNG, you couldn’t be bothered about providing dependable power supply to the local communities where you hail from. What kind of a role model are you? What kind of a father figure are you, Maduabebe?
Of course you were comfortable jetting in and out of the country, attending international conferences, and having your face shown on cable satellite television. Of course you wanted your fellow citizens to know just how far one of their own could go, so that you could return and insist on being worshipped by one and all. But you misfired. You climbed up a wobbly ladder. You missed your steps and fell hard when Halliburton extended a choice bait the way Jerry sets a trap for Tom. There are bumps growing on your head, and I hope they don’t ever subside. While you swoon round and round and round on your shirt tail, ahead of your final fall to ignominy, please take note of the following XII questions coming to you at yahoo dot com.
I. How many obnoxious Acts, Decrees, Statutes and legislations have been enacted by the Nigerian establishment since Independence to subject the interest of the Ijaws to long-standing disregard, and how many deserve immediate repeal?
II. What should be transferred from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and vice versa?
III. What titles are taken away from the Ijaw nation by the Oil Pipeline and Lands (Title Vesting) Decree No 2 of 1993?
IV. What association does the Associated Gas Re-injection Act, 1978, belong to, and how many parades have been conducted by the Oil Terminal Drilling Act?
V. As a geologist, one that is fully aware that oil is a wasting asset, how many more years are left before this valuable mineral resource dries up completely from the shores of Ijaw land?
VI. The Niger Delta is believed to be in grave danger on account of excessive oil and gas exploration activities in the past five decades, without due compensation. What is your professional assessment of the situation so far?
VII. The land and people of the Niger Delta have been victims of uncountable oil spills and uncontrolled gas flare for over half a century. What is your selfless recommendation to the in-coming Reparations Commission for Resettlement of the Niger Delta Peoples?
VIII. Which of the 139 Niger Delta communities affected by flooding and coastal erosion deserve urgent construction of bulwarks against the rising tide of frustration?
IX. What is your disposition to the suggestion by the Pen Pushers Talking Front, PPTF, that the Niger Delta in its entirety should become the Federal Capital Territory henceforth, with the Presidency situated in the New Jerusalem, as a demonstration of the Federal Government’s seriousness to develop the region in durable terms?
X. What is your reaction to the suggestion by PPTF that the Ijaw should produce the next President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and that Nigeria should in turn produce the pioneer President of the United States of Africa, in much the same way that the European Union is seeking to install one?
XI. If Jesus Christ were to return as a white man, would that not put the black race at a disadvantage and undermine the concept of a judge coming to court in a black hood?
XII. How do you react to the idea that the new face of Jesus Christ should be the first from the core Niger Delta to grace the Nigerian national currency?