- Why As A Monarch I’m Leading ‘Rise for Bayelsa’ Campaign
The floral crown, resplendent with incandescent adornments sits perfectly on his head. His grace and gumption are unmistakable as he approaches his throne. He draws a smile that seems to stretch the well-laid-out moustache on his lip. His dark face shines as undiluted crude oil. In his royal regalia, the first-class king, Ibenanaowei of w, His Royal Majesty, Bubaraye Dakolo Agada, is rising for Bayelsa. He speaks with Stanley Nkwazema about that. Excerpts:
I was born a fairly long time ago in this state, a few years after the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Bayelsa state In Oloibiri in particular. I am from the family that owns that land where the first oil well was sunk. I was born in a community called Uta-abaji in Oloibiri and schooled there a bit, particularly my secondary school was in the abandoned Shell headquarters buildings from the 1960s through the civil war. In Oloibiri, it was some kind of Eldorado at the time the whole civilization in Bayelsa was concentrated there. My primary school Ibulie Dikibo was in Okrika. Eleme is where the first crude oil refinery is situated. Every day, I walked on these pipelines. It was like my conveyor belt, I ran on them, went under them. My school is bordered by crude oil, hydrocarbon tanks and behind the school is the Okrika Sea that leads to the jetty where crude oil is exported from. Essentially my early life from birth till I became an adult has been more of oil and gas. A little bit of what one will call a university education. I was also in the Nigerian Defense Academy for a good number of years. I’m a member of 38 Regular Course of the Nigerian Military. I love reading.
Service in the Nigerian Army
I did not get commissioned in the Nigerian Army. I got withdrawn in 1990 after the famous Gideon Orkar coup where my elder brother Late Captain Perebo Dakolo was a prime actor. The underlying factor was an injustice for the Niger Delta People. It became fairly inappropriate from the Nigerian State point of view at the time for someone like me to remain in the military service. Maybe they were right so I was eased out of the system.
‘Rise for Bayelsa’
There is a proverb that says the first best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago and the next best time is now. This campaign Rise for Bayelsa is a laudable project of the Henry Seriake Dickson Government. I can tag it as the best effort ever. The governor has built an airport, he is tackling the health sector, tackling education sector, tackling all the sectors. For me, this is the most laudable venture of his. Coming at this time means that he is finishing strong. This campaign is saying the Bayelsans should stay alive, the Bayelsan has a second chance at living on earth. We were essentially being killed. What has been going on has been genocide we are being killed day after day without the world outside of this place knowing.
Oil majors and policies
Oil Majors are very smart. They do not employ anyone who is not intelligent or bright. You must have a first-class degree. When you have a first-class it means that academically in terms of creativity, they are the best. Their PR department, they call it external relations is full of eggheads from all over the world. They manage information so well that everything that happens here is only known here. The world of conscience out there is completely not aware that they IOC’s are very civil in Europe and America but very savage in the Niger Delta, from 1956 till this moment. Niger Deltans are being killed in droves. if your source of livelihood is taken from you, you are essentially a fish out of water. We are fishermen so we know what it means. If you don’t understand, you may go and procure a little fish and just try. For us, because we live with fish we understand. That has been our fate. Each year, over a thousand, 33,000-liter tankers of crude oil are spilled out here. The statistics say about 13 million barrels of oil has been spilled in the last 60 years.
That is so much and so no fish which means no protein in food. The forests devastated, no source of protein in your food. Then your crops are now something else, harvests are perennially low. Even the quality of the harvest is very low. If you harvest yam it doesn’t have the nutrients it ought to have. The vegetables don’t have the nutrients they are supposed to have and so on. You just manage to survive. Every Bayelsan that was born in the last 60 years would have been slightly taller, would have been slightly stronger but they have been weakened by all of this devastation. We are just like a shadow of ourselves and apart from the clear physical environmental injustice, there is the socio-economic injustice as well. For example, a girl child is abused before she is even 12. In my community Ekpetiama, in 1990 we woke up to about half a dozen houseboats and these houseboats had multi-decks like a four-storey building. The total workforce was about 3,000 persons. What was their job? To come and open up SPDC’s largest gas fields. They wanted to connect it by road because it was more economical to have road access than to keep coming by the Nun river. It was by a community that at the time that had about 1500 persons, women, men and children all-inclusive with a workforce of 3000 young men. If they were married, their wives were not anywhere near. And they had to stay there for 365 days plus. You can imagine what happened to our female population.
Girls were abused by white men, by black men, by people twice their size both laterally and vertically. That has also been a constant narrative where children are born out of wedlock to these same persons and when they stay for a year or two, they disappear and abandon these children and their mothers. These children grow up without knowing who their fathers are. So, imagine being born like that in 1990 that will make one about 29 years old now. What can he possibly do if he is not well catered for? He will be inclined to the oil industry because that’s what he sees around. But he doesn’t have access, right? Because of no proper education, no proper upbringing, no proper food, no father. And the oil industry has a way of luring everyone that is not well brought up into criminality. Essentially, they lure both those who have fathers and then their own children into criminality. They have their own offspring coming to kidnap them, years after, their own offspring committing all kinds of crimes. But overall, they look at the Niger Deltan as the one that has to be stigmatized. Most of these children are actually theirs. And it is a little natural, there is some kind of affinity between a father and son or a mother and daughter. If your son even if you don’t know him comes around you somehow there will be some kind of inclination towards you even if there were ten men there and he will be more likely to kidnap you. Then we will now say he has kidnapped somebody but it is the creation of the oil industry. That also brings us to so many drugs. Drugs are very commonplace.
Of course, with what I have said before, it is clear that there is prostitution in addition to the drug abuse problem. The Public Relations Department will encourage young boys who are not well brought up to come and burst pipelines, to come and kidnap white men, to come and kidnap their colleagues, because they have a huge budget for sorting out those who are kidnapped. They make a lot of money. It has taken so much for the communities around, for the State Bayelsa to begin to have community development projects and programs. It took decades of agitations, of having to shout, of going on strike before they now managed to say okay let’s put something where we work, essentially as palliatives to minimize the uprising. They have been managing it to prevent this from happening as they do that, once in a while monies will now be released for community development programs in fact in my kingdom I can tell you that about 10 years ago a few billion were released for community development but you know what happened, the funds were released in the morning in the glare of the cameras and the press but literarily returned in the night and took over 80% of the money by over invoiced projects, which they themselves provide the expertise.
They want to build a small road which might cost N1 million, they will make it N20 million since the communities don’t have the expertise, they just fritter the entire funds back into their private accounts. That is what has been going on. So, if you go around the Niger Delta you will see people living in slum conditions for the last 60 years. But recently in spite of all of these deliberate efforts to prevent us from getting an education, preventing us from getting the knowledge we deserve to also be part of making the oil industry because if there is an industry by you, that is where you should earn your living from. It will be completely inappropriate for a Bayelsan to be selling kola or cows for a living. A Bayelsan who is supposed to be farming his produce and fishing (his type of trade) now having been systematically prevented from doing this, he is now living side by side with the oil industry but blockaded from access to the oil industry. So, the man who is supposed to be selling Kola or cows is now working in the oil industry, the man who is supposed to be doing something else is working in the oil industry. Everyone else is in the oil industry except us.
Our communities and kingdoms are private business concerns of oil moguls. My kingdom is part of someone’s oil bloc, without my consent and knowledge. My ancestral kingdom for the past 60 years has been someone’s oil bloc. Making money for everyone else except for me and my people. What can be more vexing than that anyways? And it took us a very long time to know it was only recently we got to know that our home is someone’s business premises and they can come and just wire your home any moment, no wonder Finima in Bonny was displaced completely. That has been what happens to us, if go around the Niger Delta you will see pipelines crisscrossing people’s communities; as you come out of your house the first thing you see is pipelines. And these are recent what I am saying is our houses have been there and they just find their way and just connect these pipes in between our houses and place more premium on their pipelines. And of course, the business concern makes money for the moguls most of whom are Nigerians but they are not Niger Delta people.
It would have been manageable even if my son has our compound as his oil bloc and so the money is used to minimize the effect of the devastation that the business is causing but it is not so. So, someone has the bloc, makes the money and then we are polluted as our own dividend with spillages most of which are a result of their own failure in fact all. There is none that is not from their failure. Because if you have a business, it is natural that you should protect it isn’t it? And make sure that it is doing well. If you are not able to protect your pipelines, check that they are too old, not able to see that your valves are proper and then they spill crude, why won’t you take the responsibility? If you have a dog, it is your responsibility to tether the dog to take care of the dog, cage the dog, fence the dog. If your dog breaks loose because you did not train it properly and you were kind of careless and it comes to bite my son, you shouldn’t say that is a dog issue. It is your issue, you have failed.
You have vicarious liability to be responsible for that injury but SPDC, Agip, Total, Chevron will hardly want to take responsibility. Elsewhere if your dog breaks loose and bites anybody, you know you are liable so you begin to do all of those things that the law says you should do. But it is not so here in the Niger Delta. If there is a spillage what the companies will do is to set up a panel of inquiry to find out if it was caused by one man in my village or someone from somewhere else, meanwhile, it is oozing crude continuously. And that crude that is been oozed goes around the entire Niger delta. Anything upstream goes everywhere downstream. You cannot say that this crude release happened in Egbematoro so it is in Egbamatoro alone, No. this crude release happened in Gbarantoro so it is in Gbarantoro alone, No. that is how bad it is but they will never take responsibility. Apart from the crude oil spillages that have lowered our life expectancy. We have the lowest life expectancy (Bayelsan) everyone from everywhere else lives longer than the Niger Deltan man or woman except you are not living here.
Before crude oil, my parents and grandparents lived for well over a hundred years. It was commonplace. What else do you expect from people who have sufficient protein from the cradle? From the day you were born you have access to the river and the fishes were just there. Getting fish to eat for any child 30 – 70 years ago was just easy. You go to the waterside and just scoop out fish in a few minutes and that was not part of the main meal. Every child had access to fish. If you are well fed why won’t you grow to your full life span? It has gone down from 1956 to the point that now fishing is no longer a viable business. What else do we have as an alternative? What other skills do we have? So, you can see the genocide I made reference to earlier.
Why ‘Rise for Bayelsa’
This program ‘RiseForBayelsa’ is aimed at breaking out of the confines of Nigerian space to the international space of the countries where these IOC’s come from. This is because the regulator of the Federal Government of Nigeria, NNPC has failed dismally to properly regulate the oil industry. That is why the IOC’s are able to operate double standards successfully for 60 years. Now we want to reach the IOCs parents countries; Holland, India, America, Italy, Canada and everywhere else for them to know that your companies which are normal in Europe and America are criminals in the Niger Delta, we are appealing to the people of conscience and goodwill out there to prevail and hold to account the IOC’s, that what they don’t do here, they should not do there. We are for the first time unveiling, we are stripping the IOC’s naked before the world. For the world to know that this your father, this your lovable mother is a criminal elsewhere, she has been maiming and killing other people’s children, he has been destroying other people’s communities, kingdoms, and states. You should compel them to behave according to the rules.
What they cannot do in Europe, they should not do here. They should do Remediation. They should clean up the environment. They should pay adequate compensation. There is an international principle ‘Polluter Pay Principle’. It is only in Nigeria that polluters do not pay. Polluters are supposed to pay the highest price possible for any pollution they cause. Because the pollution that goes on the Niger Delta is contributing to ozone layer depletion. Somehow slowly it is affecting Europe and America as well, however, we bear the first major brunt. But God has been kind, our environment, the trees, the forest, and the rain is fairly resilient and that is why we are still alive talking and going on this campaign. If our environment was like some kind of environments elsewhere, there will be no to even campaign. We would have all been dead. By the Grace of God, I will say that the resilient environment has helped to keep us alive and we are equally now resilient. We are in this campaign. So, they must do that. Remediation!!! so Clean up, operate according to the rules, Pay Up. Polluters must pay. Henceforth you follow the rules. Our children must go to school, our communities must have a breath of fresh air, we must be trained, the Oil industry should be our industry.
There must be a deliberate effort towards getting the youths of the Niger Delta, trained for the oil industry. Anything short of that, you are alienating us from our own industry. You have made us violent, you have provoked a dog, calling it a bad name so that you will slaughter it. But this dog was not mad before you came, this dog was a sane civil dog. The Niger Delta man was essentially a peaceful man who was able to conquer his environment and live at equilibrium with his environment before they came. When they came, they saw us, we were here. The call is for all Human Beings of conscience in the world to join in condemning the activities of the IOC’s, and the Federal Government of Nigeria, the NNPC the regulator for everyone to be up and doing,