PLACE OF NIGERIAN YOUTHS IN THE EMERGING WORLD ORDER

It was a rare opportunity for me as a student to have attended Law Colloquium in Honour of retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Kayode Eso, at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria on July 25, 2006 where former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, was invited as the guest speaker. While delivering his lecture, Prof. Soludo quoted famous Danish Philosopher and Theologian – Søren Kierkegaard– that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. He made reference to this Philosophy with respect to the socio-economic environment in Nigeria as one beckoning for a social revolution rather than ready for an industrial revolution as once argued by late Pius Okigbo. His thought inspired further discourse on the need of our dear nation to join the first world economy and subsequently place of youth in national integration and development. Thus, my focus in this paper is to identify place of Nigerian youths in colonial and post-colonial struggles and more importantly to elaborate on social inclusiveness of Nigerian youths in the emerging world order.

Another perspective to Søren Kierkegaard Philosophy essentially mirrors the struggle of our founding fathers during their youthful age towards Nigerian independence. From August 6, 1861 when The Treaty of Cession between the then Oba of Lagos, his chiefs and the British Crown was signed through 1914 when the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated resulting in the birth of Nigeria until October 1, 1960 when the union jack was historically lowered at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in Lagos, Nigerian youths have been at the forefront of national development.

Despite the discrepancies in colonial policy in terms of socio-economic projects, social development and establishment of administrative centres recognized by scholars and writers, Herbert Macaulay in his youth belief in the necessity for the people living in the British colony of Nigeria of multiple backgrounds to unite as one in order to be able to resist colonialism. This same philosophy led to the formation of National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) together with Dr Nnamdi Azikwe in 1944. Thus, Herbert Macaulay became NCNC first president, while Azikwe was its first secretary.

Obviously, the role of Nigerian youths in agitating for independence cannot be underestimated. The likes of Sir Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo together with aforementioned nationalists – Macaulay and Azikwe – including but not limited to Eyo Ita, Samuel Akisanya, Kofo Abayomi, Ernest Ikoli and H.O. Davies all of whom were at the forefront of Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) founded in Lagos in 1933, fought in their youthful days to deliver the political independence we all enjoy today. We can easily recollect with nostalgia how a young and vibrant Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activities, Anthony Enahoro, in 1953 became the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence. Despite several political setbacks and defeats in parliament including an attempt by young SL Akintola in 1957, Remi Fani-Kayode revisited Enahoro’s motion and the motion was successfully passed by the parliament in 1958 which led to Nigerian independence on October 1, 1960.

On the other hand, the post-colonial struggles necessitate an inclusive social development for the youth. As noted by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the Focal Point on Youth aims to build an awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations.

Furthermore, the Agenda also works towards greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means of achieving peace and development.
Summarily, the Focal Point on Youth works to: enhance awareness of the global situation of youth and increase recognition of the rights and aspirations of youth; promote national youth policies, national youth coordinating mechanisms and national youth programmes of action as integral parts of social and economic development, in cooperation with both governmental and non-governmental organizations; and strengthen the participation of youth in decision-making processes at all levels in order to increase their impact on national development and international cooperation.

Coincidentally, the theme of the International Youth Day 2018 dwell exclusively on safe spaces for the youth whereby they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth.

Moreover, Goal 11 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) specifically emphasizes the need for the provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization. Additionally, UNDP New Urban Agenda (NUA) reiterates the need for public spaces for youth to enable them to interact with family and have constructive inter-generational dialogue as we are now having with Association of Nigerian Students, University of KwaZulu-Natal Independence Day Colloquium.

Furthermore, the United Nation (UN) framework on World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) which is the UN framework for youth development, prioritizes the provision of “leisure activities” as essential to the psychological, cognitive and physical development of young people. The framework asserted that as more and more youth grow in a technologically connected world, they aspire to engage deeper in political, civic and social matters, and the availability and accessibility of safe spaces becomes even more crucial to make this a reality.

In February 2010, three key objectives were identified and adopted by the UN Framework for specific actions essential to implement the objectives, which are:
Firstly, create awareness by increasing commitment and investment in youth. This can be achieved by increasing recognition of youth development as a smart investment by the public and private sectors; advocating for the recognition of young people’s contributions to national and community development and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals; promoting understanding of inequalities amongst youth and how to effectively address the needs of the most disadvantaged; and fostering research and knowledge building on youth to better inform youth policies and programmes.
Secondly, mobilize and engage by increasing youth participation and partnerships. This can be achieved by institutionalizing mechanisms for youth participation in decision-making processes; supporting youth-led organizations and initiatives to enhance their contribution to society; and strengthening networks and partnerships among Governments, youth-led organizations, academia, civil society organizations, the private sector, the media and the UN system, to enhance commitment and support for holistic youth development.

Thirdly, connect and build bridges by increasing intercultural understanding among youth. This objective can be achieved by promoting youth interactions, networks and partnerships across cultures; and empowering and supporting youth as agents of social inclusion and peace.
This UN Framework also situate my submission in this paper in engaging Nigerian youths for national issues and programmes that are crucial in the prospect for nation building and national development. As a matter of utmost priority, Nigerian government should make concerted efforts in putting in place youth development structures as a catalyst for her national growth.

Above all, Nigerian youths are surely among the most talented and creative youths in the world. From Jessica Osita led five-member team of Save-A-Soul that won the 2018 Technovation Challenge in US through Aliyu Jelani, the famous Nigerian Chevrolet Car Designer at General Motors in US to Silas Adekunle who is credited for building the world’s first gaming robot thus becoming the highest paid in the field of Robotic Engineering in 2018 and several other Nigerian youths who are among “the thousands and one shining flowers in the jungle unseen” (apology to William Shakespeare) including but not limited to Dr Chukwuka Monyei in South Africa, Nigerian youths are fast learners; they have the ability to work under pressure and bring out desired result for any organization or institution.

Undoubtedly, I will like to conclude with the words of British statesman who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Benjamin Disraeli that: “We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the future are represented by suffering millions; and the Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.” God bless Nigeria!

 

[Being a keynote address delivered on September 29, 2018 at Independent Day Colloquium of Association of Nigerian Students, University of KwaZulu-Natal (ANSU), Howard College Campus, South Africa.]

G24 EMBASARA Leadership Summit: The Long-Awaited New Dawn, No More Business As Usual

”It is known that all over the state that our politicians and political leaders are the cause of our woes. They introduced several serious social ills into our society namely election violence with rigging, militancy, kidnapping and fraudulent mismanagement of our resources.” This was part of a speech delivered by Chairman of the G24 Embasara Foundation Summit, Chief Amba Ambaiowei, who attributed problems governance and development to the failure of the elected officer to follow laid down codes of conduct.

Yesterday, stake holders among Ijaw people, under the auspices of G24 Embasara Foundation, proved that good governance is possible. During a one-day summit held in Yenegoa the state capital of Bayelsa, the group offered a code of ethics, leadership and governance template which prospective political office holders needed to abide by. The warned that whoever would succeed Seriake Dickson, the current governor of the state, must abide by these ethics.
Former

State Commissioner of Environment, Barrister Iniruo Wills, made the presentation of the template which was entitled “Ijaw Nation Code of Ethics, Leadership and Governance.” The template states that the next Governor and other elected political officers in the state needed to declare their assets, imbibe a participatory governance, abide by freedom of Information and ensure proper audit of government account by impartial Ijaw leaders.

 

The forum’s Ijaw stakeholders comprised politicians, past office holders, youth group representatives, as well as elders under aegis of the Ijaw Elders Forum, including, of course, former member of the House of Representatives, Honorable Walmer Ogoroba, former governorship aspirant, Reuben Okoya, former Secretary to State Government, Dr. Gideon Ekeowe. Interestingly, all were unanimously agreed that the successor to Dickson and other elected officers must adhere to the code of ethics for good governance In the State.

Chief Amba Ambaiowei was a founding father of Bayelsa State. He indicted politicians in the state for fomenting instability in their bid to win elections. He said the problems of militancy, kidnaping, and other vices” are mainly the handiwork of digruntled politicians.
According to him these politicians “also mismanage our resources and live an ostentatious life style of alliance while abandoning development, thus attracting public hatred public hatred and rebuke. Our legislator fail to play the expected role of team work with their respective constituencies in evolving developmental objectives.”

Continuing the former ambassador stated that “Constituency project in spite of funds collected, are yet to be seen executed across the state to supplement the State government’s development agenda. The expected team work and cooperation between state and national legislators to attract both Federal Government and international developmental projects to Bayelsa state are yet to manifest.”

Ifieye Brebina, a pastor, agreed that both the summit’s message as well as its key focus were timely. Representing Ijaw Elders Forum and Ijaw Professional Association (IPA), he congratulated the conveners, pleading that politicians would indeed abide by the template for leadership as provided. Speaking, he said thusly: “there is the need to agree on principle in Bayelsa over the issue of governance, environmental justice, self-determination and many others. If we have a common position, we will be rest-assured that no matter the political position, we will be assured of good governance.”

With a global implication in leadership terms, the summit was a demonstration of and pointer to brighter futures for Bayelsa State and Ijaw peoples worldwide.

 

Image source: Ijaw Project: http://ijawproject.org/2018/07/g24-embasara-foundation-2018-summit-key-indices-to-visionary-leadership-and-sustainable-development-in-bayelsa-state/

The Revolutionist As the True National Knight: Retelling Major Isaac Boro Fifty Years After

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 3rd September 1783, General George Washington and other Leaders of the thirteen colonies who waged the Eight-Year long ‘War of Independence or ‘The American Revolution’ against King George III of England and the British Empire were regarded as rebels, with prizes on their heads. Typically, revolutionists are often regarded as villains by the establishment. In contrast, they are 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 honors from both sides. This is premised on 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. First and solely on behalf of his Niger Delta and later in the  defense 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 9th May is no ordinary day for the people of the Niger Delta and unitarists in Nigeria in general. On that date, fifty years ago (1968), the sun came to stand still 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 1st October 1960, the fifty six 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 (NPC), Action Group (AG), National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) 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 gĺoom 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 farmiliar cord amongst poloticians even toda. 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 Gen 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.

So about five weeks after that military coup, i.e. on 23rd February 1966, Boro, who had spent ample time reading Franz Fanon, Ernesto Che Guevara and his associate Fidel Castro, declared the secession of the Niger Delta from the rest of the country, i.e. he proclaimed Niger Delta Republic! Typically, he recruited his army of young volunteers (Niger Delta Volunteer Force), mostly from his kith and kin from his home Kaiama, in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, Bayelsa State and along with few close friends, decided to take on the Federal might and the largest army in Africa. His career, comfort, young family, including a young pregnant wife and even his own life were nothing compared to the common good and interest which he sought to pursue. Boro and his comrades in arms were determined, resolute and totally self abnegated. They envisioned a Niger Delta which will one day become the beacon of true human civilization and progress.

In his auto biography he entitled “The Twelve Day Revolution”, which lasted from February 23 to 6th March, 1966, he avowed his commitment to truth and justice. It was not only the first challenge to the lack of equity and fairness, but also a protest against political recklessness and unnecessary bloodletting in Nigeria. To Boro and his close associates, including Capt. Sam Owonaro (the only survivor of the ring leaders still alive), Captain Nottingham Dick, Capt. Boardman Nyanayo, Capt. George Amangala, etc, there was no possibility of failure. Despite the superiority and sophistication of the Nigerian Army and political establishment, they were sure of victory. Even in the face of possible death sentence before trial Judge Phiļ Ebosie of Portharcourt Assizes Court, they were unruffled and fully committed. They knew that if the death was not by the bullet from federal troops, they will have to face the hangman’s nozzle for treason. Not surprisingly, after their defeat and capture, those who were alive were initially sentenced to die

The Nigerian Civil War broke out shortly afterwards. By twist of destiny and irony of history, Major Boro accepted pardon in the hand of General Yakubu Gowon. Thereafter, he and his comrades-in-arms numbering about 150 young men decided to enlist in the Nigerian Army and due to their knowledge of the creeks of the Niger Delta, fought gallantly to liberate the most critical Oil and Gas belt of Nigeria. Adaka Boro liberated the very important export terminal town of Bonny, needed to nail a death-knell on the rebel efforts. His next move was to take on the liberation of Port Harcourt which he had already planned out. Sadly, this same Boro who took up arms to liberate his Niger Delta, ended up paying with his life and those of over a hundred of his men on behalf of Nigeria at the age of 30 years.

Fifty years down the lane is a good time to take stock. Its apt to evaluate how we have faired as a nation and how the Niger Delta has evolved. Yes. A lot has happened since then. From twelve states, we now have thirty-six states. But then, cries of marginalization, political intolerance, political violence, political exclusion and over centralization of political power in the centre are still loud and re-echoing. We know that election 2019 is at the corner and it represents a fresh watershed in the history of partisan policking in Nigeria. The season today is symptomatic of the mood during the days just before and after Nigeria’s independence, when each political, social and ethnic cluster had to canvass hard and convince all of its plans for the future of the country. Many questions trouble the minds of most Nigrrians. Like, who will be our Councilors, who will be our Local Government Chairmen, who will be our Assembly Members, Federal Representatives and Senators? Who will be the Governors, and for that matter our President? Will the status quo remain or alternative scenarios will surface at the different levels?

Fifty years after Major Boro’s death, do we have a mindset as a generation of political elite and leaders of men to ensure the building of a new Nigeria where truth, equity and justice truly reigns? The sing-song now is return to the original federalist dream of the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe- Zik of Africa, great Sir Ahmadu Bello,m- Sarduna of Sokoto and great Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the likes of Dr. Michael Okpara, Chief Tony Enahoro, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, etc. That is lets Restructure for a better nation. But are we prepared as patriots and civilized people whom we claim to be, to jaw-jaw and do away with the politics of sectionalism, sensationalism, atavism and division? After all other great and people nations are built by men of goodwill and Godly disposition; not by Angels.

Economically, Crude oil which was just beginning to bring in single digit figures in 1968 when Boro died in service, is now mega money spinner. According to Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), it has raked in over 96 trillion Naira to Nigeria since 1958. Gas which has continued to be flared in sacrilegious abundance has itself brought in over $11.8 billion in ten years of Liquefied Natural Gas exports (2004-2014) and about same amount in domestic gas sales. Today oil sells for $80 per barrel with a production level of 2.3 million barrels per day or about 65 billion Naira daily. Petrol-dollar has built Nigeria, built a brand new Federal Capital city and proceeds continue to keep Nigeria together, with monthly sharing of money. But the oil money itself is a metaphor of “resource curse” as we have abandoned agriculture, mining and other viable sectors. At another level, the Fiscal and Resource Allocation Regime remains contentious, a far departure from what was agreed at independence and were entrenched in the 1960/1963 Constitutions for which Boro died for.

At another level, oil bearing communities continue to cry of estrangement from the sector in terms of allocation of oil blocks and presence in the bureaucracy of the National Petroleum Company – Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its parastatals. The oil companies themselves tend to operate parasitically, preferring to keep their administrative and operational offices outside the Niger Delta, but fly in daily to carry out upstream activities in choppers and fly out at the close of work. No community impact, no downward integration, no local/community content and nor spread effect. The most devastating aspect is that the Niger Delta with a fragile ecosystem and biodiversity is today regarded as the most polluted territory in the world.

If Major Boro were alive today, he would have been about 80 years of age so possibly young and cerebral enough; and would have remained one of the moral consciences of Nigeria. He is likely to have been restless, uncompromising and fiercely incorruptible. He is therefore likely to have taken a good reflection and raised many questions, concerns and heartaches. The answer to these questions, many of which stare at our consciences is what we owe to many other fellow countrymen and women who at different times poured out every drop of blood in their bodies to water the Nigeria of today. Their spirits may be talking from the land of the dead and becking on us to leave enviable legacies for those beautiful ones still natal, or even yet unborn.

Oga Major, the Lion, be sure that your patriotic flame glows within the hearts and souls of many Nigerians and will one day fully consume us all for collective good of this country.

The author, Igali, is a Diplomat, writer and a Fellow of the  Historical Society of Nigeria.