Today is BORO Day again.
At age 27, about five weeks after the first military coup in Nigeria, i.e. on 23rd February 1966, Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro declared the secession of the Niger Delta region, as a last response to the environmental assaults, oppression and marginalisation the region had suffered in the Nigerian State. It was a desperate measure in a desperate time.
Leading a lean number of armed revolutionaries, he took on the Nigerian State for 12 days in guerrilla warfare. He laid the foundations to what is now popularly known as the “Niger Delta Struggle”.
He had been a student union president at U. N. N., a teacher, and a police officer, among other things. He had spent ample time reading Franz Fanon, Ernesto Che Guevara and his associate, Fidel Castro. One may not agree with his methods (maybe the question only arises because they have not succeeded in this terrain), but Boro was driven by sound ideologies.
His 12-day “revolution” is not a testament to an inherent love for violence, but is proof, and a reminder, that when an oppressive establishment refuses to heed peaceful and insistent pleas/action, the people may be forced to employ the worst forms of violence.
This day, in many parts of the delta and beyond, women and men will dance owigiri, boys and girls will be filled with joy, fathers and mothers will peep into the streets and cheer, political leaders will make beautiful speeches over expensive banquets, and youths in colorful attires will sing and chant “Asawana!” in every corner. Today, they celebrate the man who, several years ago, laid down his life to make a statement on their behalf.
"Today is a great day, not only in your lives but also in the history of the Niger Delta. Perhaps, it will be the greatest day for a very long time. This is not because we are going to bring the heavens down, but because we are going to demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression. Remember your 70-year-old grandmother who still farms before she eats; remember also your poverty-stricken people; remember, too, your petroleum which is being pumped out daily from your veins; and then fight for your freedom.” Boro had charged in his declaration speech.
But the glamour, the frequent gathering of dignitaries to share handshakes over expensive banquets, and the chants of elusive freedom by youths in colorful attires, have not (and cannot) cut it. Like the gleaming of oil residue on our waters, it only gives the so-called struggle a superfluous charm—and has been of no actual effect in alleviating the plight.
The plight of the region is not charming. The trauma people suffer is not charming. The conditions of this home, especially when compared to other oil-rich regions of the world, are too sad to call charming. Even sadder is the fact that millionaires, if not billionaires, have been made in the name of the struggle, yet the pollution and injustice linger.
If it could be done with wine bottles and glasses in our hands, and meat in our mouths, it would have been done (with jara) by now. What do we do outside the walls of the stately banquet halls? What are we doing asides the charades? If there’s a game somewhere (and indeed there is) over our land and home, we have to learn the rules and play it better than we have been doing.
The recent report “AN ENVIRONMENTAL GENOCIDE” released by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission iterates the extent of damage to the health and environment of the deltans, and calls for urgent actions towards accountability and remediation. This is a commendable step.
However, the fact that the recommendations of the Commission do not include a moratorium on oil production, is not forward-looking in the least, in my opinion. It’s time to leave the oil in the soil. It is surprising that this is not part of the recommendations.
In the same vein, it is past time for the Niger Delta region to be taking disjointed steps. What we need is concerted action. What is expected is for governments of the respective ND states to come together to carry out or demand a region-wide health and environmental audit, and remediation.
Time is fast running for justice to be done for those who have suffered, to mitigate the harm done so far, and to prevent further devastation in the future, especially since IOCs are already beginning to divest off their onshore assets to shield themselves from liability for historic pollution. There needs to be a region-wide health and environmental audit of the Niger Delta, and remediation must follow immediately.
There is an urgent need for action now.
Happy Boro Day.