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Boro: Real Lessons For Niger Delta Youth. Godknows Igali Ph.D

One common character trait of revolutionists is that they often place their beliefs and commitments above their very existence. That is why, until the Treaty of Paris of September 3, 1783, General George Washington and other Leaders of the 13 colonies who waged the eight-year long “War of Independence” or “The American Revolution” against King James III of England and the British Empire were regarded as rebels; with prizes on their heads.

Typically, revolutionists are often regarded as villains by establishments, but in contrast, esteemed as heroes by those whom they stand for. But it is in very few cases in history, like the exceptional experience of Major Isaac Jasper “Adaka” Boro, who combines accolades and honours from both sides.

This is premised in the fact, that Major Boro, with so much fire in his bones, found it impossible to keep quiet in the face of the atrocious drift in post independence Nigeria. At first, solely on behalf of his Niger Delta and latter in defence of the Green-White-White flag. So he is today, idolized and immortalized in the South-South of the country as a revolutionist of first grade, especially amongst the Ijaw ethnic nationality.

Beyond that, within the annals of Nigerian history, the gallantry, heroism and life sacrifice in the search of unity of the country, at the most critical hour, remains indelible and casted on steel; making him the ultimate Cavalier.So the date May 9 is no ordinary day for the people of the Niger Delta and unitarists in Nigeria in general.

On that date, 50 years ago (1968), the sun came to standstill as gloom, darkness and despair blew across Federal troops as one of their most trusted and needed, Major Isaac Jasper Boro had mysteriously fallen in the theater of war. A budding hero of the war in the tough “Third Marine Commando”, he was fearless, audacious and visionary hence earning the nickname “Adaka”, which means Lion in Ijaw language.

But he succumbed to the lone bullet of a mystery killer, likely, from friendly fire in Ogu town, around Okrika in present Rivers state. The true story of the plot, conspiracies, intrigues are still shrouded in the recesses of the wicked hearts of some evil men. Fifty years gone gives not just the Ijaw and people of the Niger Delta but all of Nigeria, a good opportunity to properly discuss the intellectual and ideological foundations of the Isaac Boro Revolution and the worth of his heroism at death.

The story goes that Boro and his lieutenants were appalled by the political, social and economic order which prevailed in Nigeria in the dawn of the country’s independence and decided to embark on the first futile effort on self determination and secession. This was in early 1966; even before Biafra was conceived. But when later convinced that “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” under certain conditions which sadly do not appear to have been still fulfilled, the Adaka the lion moved into the creeks of Nigeria’s coastal belt with unimaginable doggedly zeal, to earn for himself a place as a Nigerian wartime hero.

Though power had been wrested from colonialists on October 1, 1960, the 56 years old forced marriage between very diverse and heterogeneous peoples in 1914 by Lord Lugard, had only produced a country where ethnic, religious and social divisions as well as internal suspicions and antagonism were rife and palpable. At independence, perhaps like most of post-colonial African states, leading political movements such as Northern Peoples Congress, Action Group, National Council of Nigerian Citizens were ethnically entrenched or tended to follow religious proclivities.

At another level, the scenarios in Nigeria even from the beginning typified George Orwellian ‘Animal Farm’ situation, where “some pigs were more equal than others”. Although the Willinks Commission Report on Minorities of 1957-1958, set up by the British, had clearly adumbrated the fact that “the fears of the minorities around the country, were well founded and that the case of the Ijaws who live in the swamps of the Niger Delta was peculiar”, dominant political interests by the larger ethnic groups did little to assuage such concerns. The Minorities, from the very beginning of the life of the new country, therefore, nursed feeling of being treated as second class citizens, indeed in biblical allegory of “hewers of wood and fishers of water”.

The case of the Niger Delta was peculiar. Commercial quantities of Crude Oil had been found all over the area, and first shipments had left Oloibiri in present Bayelsa State where Boro was actually born on 10th September 1938. The mega dollars which now come with oil boom had not started to register at the time, but the numbers began to make a modicum of impact in the Eastern regional and federally distributive pool. Alas, nothing came in to the areas producing that smelly substance which the aboriginal tribes of the Americas once called “the excreta of the gods”.

From those early day, a loom of g:oom and despair began to spread across the areas.

Isaac Boro was actually a trained teacher, who later migrated to have a secured career in the Nigerian Police Force. He later resigned to enroll at University of Nigeria, Nsukka to read Chemistry and was already on honours roll and set to graduate the following year. After failed attempts, he finally became President of the Student Union Government and embarked on some of the greatest welfare programmes, including Campus transportation, not seen before in that institution.

But he was a radical and very restless. He followed the unending political crises in Nigeria, ensuing from 1962 General Elections. He pained by the accusations and counters accusations of corruption, a very familiar cord amongst politicians even today. He bemoaned the violent and fratricidal instinct of the political class. The last straw that broke the Carmel’s back was the January 15, 1966 military coup and the gruesome killing of the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, whom Boro regarded as a symbol of moral rectitude and moderation, along with Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, Chief Samuel Akintola and many others.

Boro questioned the legitimacy of such a violent change and needless show of disrespect for the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions which the General Aguiyi-Ironsi decided to set aside via the obnoxious Decree 1 of 17th January 1966. In his view this was the height of political intolerance and the trend towards imposition of unitary system of governance, a direct affront on the covenant of federalism agreed to by the founding fathers of the country. Major Boro was perfectly right! By 24th March 1966, while in incarceration, he heard of the almighty “Unification Decree” no 34 which abolish federalism.

 To be continued.

Dr. Igali, is a Diplomat, writer and a Fellow Historical Society of Nigeria; former Permanent Secretary .

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