So much has been said in the media, bedrooms, clubs, or drinking joints around the country especially in the Niger Delta in the past week regarding boundary adjustments between Rivers and Bayelsa states. The fire works from both governments have all been because oil wealth of some oil producing communities in Rivers and Bayelsa states.
We have heard of the 10th, 11th and the 12th editions of the administrative map of Nigeria. The communities involved are now like pieces of clothing/fabric used by tailors to make dresses. They can therefore be split with scissors any how since there is no life in them by The National Boundary Commission (NBC), a government agency. Yes no life in them.
It must be pointed out here that government agencies should be able to do their work without fear or favour but must take into consideration, historical facts about existence and conviviality among communities when grouping them. If this is not done, then such government agencies contribute to the security problems we face in our dear country especially with intercommunal skirmishes.
I grew up knowing that the communities of Kula Kingdom are in Degema Local Government. When I was growing up, there was no secondary school in Kula. The nearest was in Abonnema. Even my First School Leaving Certificate I had to travel to Abonnema to do. Then later a new local government was created called Akuku Toru LGA with headquarters in Abonnema under which we are now governed. I understand this is now in dispute by the powers of the national boundary commission. But can the boundary commission do this without the will of the people involved? This is what we see when government agencies work and take decisions by talking to governors and government officials alone when they visit for such assignments in states.
I know that citizens of Kula Kingdom are Ijaw by tribe. The Kuleins were not Kalabaris but intermarriages and administrative exigencies have kept them under the Kalabaris. The history of Kula Kingdom with her territories is well known within Ijaw land. They have never been conquered when it comes to physical warfare and I do know that they shall never be by anybody around them. They know what belongs to them no matter who governs them administratively.
The fight for oil wealth around Kula, Soku, Idama etc did not start today. These communities have been bread winners for the LGA they have been tucked in but have been consistently marginalised politically and administratively. The level of marginalisation of these communities is so much so that they appear to have lost their pride and confidence. The marginalisation has been done by administrative means so that these communities which survive the LGA have to beg for appointments and posts.
That is why despite all the talk about which state these communities and the oil wells belong to, it does appear to me that this fight is about further marginalisation of these communities until they become extinct.
I saw the Kalabari chiefs including some chiefs from these communities protesting in Abuja on television. The question that came to my mind was on whose behalf are these protests and for what reasons? Are the protests for the welfare and development of these communities or for other reasons? It is obvious and most people I have spoken with agree that the protest has nothing to do with development or political equity concerning these oil bearing communities and this is a shame indeed.
I read a thread on Facebook from a young man from one of these communities and I could feel and understand the depth of hurt and dissatisfaction among the youths and some senior citizens from these communities. The young man stated the facts that since the creation of AKULGA the local government in which these oil bearing communities are encapsulated, there has not been any meaningful development whether politically or infrastructurally in these communities.
All the political appointments from Minister to Representatives in the various arms of government come from the headquarters of the LGA. So in my mind, I just wonder what the cries from by the Kalabaris about communities being ceded to Bayelsa is all about if not for what will be lost financially and authoritatively.
I am aware that there are 17 wards in AKULGA but only 4 are given to these oil bearing communities. There are two seats in the State House of Assembly and both seats are occupied by Abonnema. I am also aware that one of the constituencies cover these oil bearing communities and some wards in Abonnema but constituency projects are all sited in Abonnema. Since the inception of the LGA, the chairmanship position is permanently allocated to Abonnema. Of course, I have been told politics is population. But I also know that politics has to do with resources available to you. I could go on and on without end when talking about marginalisation of these communities. I cannot even remember when the governor or his commissioners even visited these communities despite the amount of resources these communities bring to the state. But we are shouting and crying about losing them.
I may be wrong but it was curious to me that the delegation to Asorock was led by the Amayanabo of Abonnema representing the Amayanabo of Kalabari. It became obvious to me that of course the areas to be ceded are under the Amayanabo of Abonnema. Yet we speak of one Kalabari.
Are there lessons to be learnt? I believe this is a wake-up call. In the Niger Delta, we are quick to shout about being marginalised as we produce oil. We cried until we got a son of Niger Delta as president. Yet amongst ourselves the real bread winners are marginalised to extinction.
Some are asking who cares which state these communities belong to. After all there are Ijaws in Ondo State, Lagos State and even Akwa Ibom State. What is needed is development of these oil bearing areas into what befits oil producing areas all over the world and political equity wherever they find themselves administratively. It should not be that being a community around where oil is prospected should lead to doom and gloom for these communities.
To my brother Ijaws in Bayelsa, I wonder why oil wealth is more important than the welfare and development of your fellow Ijaws? How will you claim the wealth around these communities whether Soku or Oluasiri without thinking about how these communities will develop? If the national boundary commission says that the boundary between Bayelsa and Rivers is San Batholomew (Aguda Toru) then they have inadvertently put Kula in Bayelsa. Are we ready for the practicality of a co-existence between Kula and Nembe under one roof? Because I forsee a situation where no one community will bow for the other? History! History! Is the government of Bayelsa ready to constitutionally follow up the creation of another LGA for these newly acquired communities? If the statement accredited to the Bayelsa Government that the communities are in Rivers but the oil wells are in Bayelsa is true, then one wonders what the aim of this exercise is. Is it our oil or our welfare? As Mr President intervenes I pray wisdom will lead in the decisions and may be just may be this will create the opportunity of developing these oil bearing communities to what they deserve.