Ibani Furo Awo
2003 Boro Day
Nigerian Elections 2003




2009 will be the 12th Boro Day/INAA Service Award Ceremony

Random Thoughts on Niger Delta Militancy


Professor E. J. Alagoa

Acceptance statement by INAA 2008 Service and Devotion Award Honoree



The last invitation I received from INAA was to give a keynote address at Boro Day 2003. Today, INAA has invited me to receive its prestigious award for Service and Devotion. My wife, Dame Mercy Alagoa and I, are most grateful to INAA for this invitation and this honour. This is, without doubt, an occasion of great joy. In my home in Nembe, we recognize gradations of happiness and response to happiness. You smile or laugh; and dance in grades of ecstasy from ebiki to pegele. On this occasion, INAA has pushed me to the final stage of happiness where I should be doing double acrobatic pegele dances, if I had been a younger man.

I appreciate the great work INAA is doing. I thank the Executive and entire membership of INAA for this great honour, which I hope to work to deserve.

I am also grateful to the Acting Governor of Bayelsa State, Right Honourable Werinipre Seibarugu, for financial support.



In my 2003 address I had characterized the Niger Delta as a region plagued with violence generated by the political class. Today, that violence has gone out of the control of the political class into a militancy putting the future of the entire Nigerian nation in jeopardy. I see the roots of militancy very deeply embedded in Niger Delta society, but it has taken wings beyond the region, and those of you in the diaspora, representing the wings of that militancy, must play your part in the search for solutions.

Niger Delta militancy has had an internal and external dimension since the nineteenth century. King William Dappa Pepple of Bonny had carried the struggle for resource control to the United Kingdom in the 1850s, and King Jaja of Opobo to the West Indies in the last decade of the century. King William Koko of Nembe carried war to the British Royal Niger Company at its base in Akassa in 1895. The signature of Isaac Adaka Boro is to be found in virtually every militant activity in recent times, and even the externally focused militancy of Ken Saro Wiwa had to measure itself against the struggle waged by Isaac Adaka Boro.

We see continuity in the course of change in the character of Niger Delta militancy. I observe from the growing commitment of those of you in the diaspora to connect with all manner of players from the home front, that you already understand that the roots and wings of the struggle must eventually work together in unity. You in the diaspora must mobilize the intellectual resources of the nationalities to tease out ideas for sorting out the down side and the upside of militancy in the Niger Delta. Sustained intensive discourse must eventually lead to the discovery of a stable middle ground between militancy and enduring peaceful accommodation.


By the downside of militancy we mean the consequences of militancy which result in immediate and long-term damage to the welfare of the masses. We need to observe the long term damage to the environment caused by destruction of pipelines and bunkering. We have to pay attention to the damage to the economy and development caused by kidnapping and hostage- taking which drive away road construction companies and halt major development projects. We need to keep the limited structures that exist in the Niger Delta, rather than destroy them in the course of militant activity. We need to discuss these issues and confront their consequences for the future of our homeland.

From my reading of Adaka Boro and discussions with Sam Owonaro, these patriots took these downside consequences of militancy very much to heart. They were willing to give themselves up rather than put the welfare of the people in jeopardy. Some scholars have questioned Boro₼ s later service with the Federal forces as a contradiction of his earlier struggle. I see it as an extension of his devotion to serve the interests of the nationalities of the Niger Delta as he saw them. The least we can do is to discuss these issues dispassionately and clarify our thoughts.


There is, of course, an upside to militancy. That is why militants are heroes, and are protected by the people. Militancy becomes a necessity in a situation where the holders of power are deaf to reasonable appeal, and can only be called to attention by the sound of guns; and refuse to see reason until their vital interests are visibly threatened.

Adaka Boro and his valiant men were driven to militancy by just such factors. Violent action appeared to be the last hope. Our current militants have beendriven by similar circumstances of despair of the national political system.

Their struggle has already resulted in some gain which we are yet to utilize to our maximum benefit. And each new day reveals some new grounds for discontent with the system; but also hopeful signs for the future. The question is, where do we draw the line, and when do we draw a balance sheet and devise a new blue print?


Our elders say

Kumbubo fieye / Biotugu. What the short person says / Stops at chest level.

Niger Delta militancy has made us stand tall, and able to talk directly into every relevant ear, and gain visibility. What do we do with our heightened profile? If we look through hindsight into the future, we realize that the dividends of militancy can only be gained through peaceful actions of peacemakers. In Northern Ireland , a political party negotiated and received the credits of militancy. In South Africa , a political movement transformed itself into a militant organization and into a political party through time and circumstance.

Can we transform the INC and IYC or any other emerging organizations into a reliable negotiating and planning organ for gathering in the harvest of militancy?

The lesson of successful militancy in other lands is, that the struggle must, at some point, transcend militancy, and embrace intellectual and political struggle.


I thank you for this recognition of an award for Service and Devotion. The service must come from my scholarly output as a historian. The devotion must come from the questions that I have continued to raise in my writing.

I pray that you in the diaspora seek answers to questions and create ideas on wings to grow plants with deep roots in the Niger Delta of our dreams and struggle.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa

Emeritus Professor of History

University of Port Harcourt.

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