Ibani Furo Awo
2003 Boro Day
Nigerian Elections 2003




2010 was the 13th Boro Day/INAA Service Award Ceremony




Gen. Azazi - presenting the Keynote address

General Andrew A. Azazi (rtd.)

Former Chief of Defense Staff, Nigerian Army



The pattern of global politics has radically altered, however in the Niger Delta it seems that the picture has remained the same. The villages and towns...are still locked into a cycle of extreme poverty, widespread unemployment, environmental pollution and social injustice.

                              The Next Gulf (Rowell, Marriott & Stockman)

In the Niger Delta we need leaders who have foresight, are committed and can give us good education, clean water, electricity, basic healthcare, infrastructure, justice and fairness. While we look up to those we have elected, we should accept that we are all leaders in our own right and could contribute to development if the new dawn we are seeking is not to elude us.                                                                   


Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro remains the most acknowledged iconic figure in the entire Niger Delta even though he lived for barely 30 years and had died since 1968. He is remembered for meeting thoughts with action, selflessness through seeking the greater good for the Izon people and the ability to sensitize his people to fight a good cause. We must also acknowledge several others like Ernest Ikoli, Chief Dappa Biriye who demonstrated political astuteness in projecting our cause. King Jaja of Opobo and King Koko of Nembe had in the 1860s suffered severe humiliation in the handsof the British. The interpretation of the man Isaac Adaka Boro and his deeds seen as revolutionary extraordinaire has engendered diverse actions through the years, including serving as a rallying point for self determination in the Niger Delta. Others in the Niger Delta like Ken Saro-Wiwa were inspired by the efforts of Boro who set out to improve the lot of his people. I must also recognise those who have recently worked in that light. Some others have denigrated his name by claiming that their actions are in consonance with the ideas propounded by Isaac Boro. We must however, recognize that time has changed the nature and means of making requests as of right and the necessity to learn from others (including the Izons in diasporas) how to achieve our set objectives in a manner that would endear us to other nationalities in the region and the international community.

The awareness engendered by heroes of the Niger Delta has created opportunities for indigenes to hold important portfolios in government and the necessity for oil multinationals to ensure best practices in their operations in the region. To buttress the point, Izon sons and daughters have excelled in different endeavours and have held or are holding key positions in the Nigerian government, from the position of President to the Petroleum, Foreign and Niger Delta ministries as well as headship of the Amnesty Programme. Some of us have excelled in the academia, in business and in their different chosen fields. There are also a good number of Izon people in diaspora having knowledge of better ways of doing things. What remains undone is to provide the required leadership that would ensure sustained development in the area through optimal utilization of the opportunities that now exist. There is also a requirement to build the psyche of the Izon people to see themselves as having equal stakes in the country and to stop feeling like the crumbs must be passed before we can eat. It is on these terms that I intend to consider the Isaac Boro phenomenon and current efforts in bringing development and sustainable peace to the Niger Delta. I will also take a cursory look at self determination efforts, the post amnesty situation, Izon unity, sustainable development and youth empowerment.


Effort towards actualization of group interest begins with the determination of one’s own fate or cause of action without compulsion. Self determination is the concept of a group with a distinct culture having the right to choose their own political arrangements and political destiny, right to equality under the law and a right to nationality. Borrowing from Wikipedia, ‘Self determination is the free choice of one’s own act without external compulsion, especially as the freedom of people of a given territory to determine their own political status.’ History of Izon peoples’ quest self determination began with agitation for state creation. State creation became important to minorities in Nigeria because it gave some identity and space in the polity.

With the inauguration of the Rivers Division Peoples’ League and the Rivers State Congress from 1944, the campaign graduated from self identity to a separate Izon State. Izon leaders pressed on and formed the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference (RCPC) on July 4, 1956 to strengthen their emancipation from the tyranny of their neighbour.  In 1957 the colonial office invited RCPC to present their case at the Constitutional Conference in London.  The Conference referred the matter to the Willink’s Commission who also rejected the demand for a separate Izon State. The Izon people were not deterred by these setbacks; they formed the Niger Delta Congress and eventually formed alliances with the NCNC and other political parties but could not make any demonstrable impact because in all regional parliaments they were outnumbered.

An interesting aspect of self determination effort of the Izons is that the quest has always been to find political space within the Nigerian State, to have equal rights as other ethnic nationalities and not essentially to dismember the country. After the creation of Rivers State in 1967, Adaka Boro stated ‘...with the creation of our state (we) are now free to help not only our people, but also Nigeria to peace, unity, stability and progress’. The desire has always been to bring prosperity to the Izon nation, hence the agitation for resource control’ believing that with adequate resources, development could be brought to the people within the territory. Experience has however, shown that there is a leadership challenge across the states in the Niger Delta. From 1999 till date we could make assessment for ourselves how our region has fared with the leaders we have had and resources available to us. As Nigeria matures in democratic governance, we must find the best methods to pursue our objectives through constitutionally acceptable means. Avoiding the Yugoslavia scenario and embracing the UK and Central Asia models to self determination is therefore suggested. 



The failure of politicians to make an in-road into the central government in the First Republic came as a disappointment for the younger generation led by Adaka Boro. He toyed with socialism which taught him both its exciting and nuisance elements. He combed the West African Countries exploring collaborations with President Nkrumah, the Russians, Chinese and Cuban embassies for social revolution in Nigeria. At the time, his effort to seek external support failed. He had to take his destiny into his hands, sold his property and returned to Kaiama. With 150 Nigerian pounds he started recruitment at the Taylor Greek. After six weeks training his band of freedom fighters struck, believing that armed revolution would bring about the desired change. Addressing his men he stated

 ‘Today is great day, not only in your lives, but also in the history of Niger Delta. Perhaps, it would be the greatest day for a long time. Not because we are going to bring the heavens down, but because we are going to demonstrate to the world how we feel about oppression…fight for your freedom’.

With these words Boro, the General Officer Commanding the Niger Delta Volunteer Service declared an independent Niger Delta Peoples Republic. Twelve days later, the revolution was foiled. The revolution however succeeded to the extent that it led to the creation of Rivers State with an Izon as the first Governor. Till date, I must say that this young man then, Lt  Alfred Papapriye Diete-Spiff, aged only 24 years made us very proud, because he built a solid foundation which sadly has not been followed through.

Historic wrongs and official insensitivity to the rights of minority people of the Niger Delta threw up and sustained bloody agitations and insecurity in the region.  According to Boro ‘there were no adequate educational opportunities, no infrastructure, no empowerment, and no openings.  Economic development of the area is the most affecting aspect. The closest fishery industry was at Aba at 80 miles inland’.

Those with military savvy will confirm that the decision to take on a state with the number of soldiers available to the NDVS was an impossible task.. However, some lessons as I stated in my introductory remarks have been learnt from the event. The lesson which I find relevant for today’s event is the need for visionary leadership in the Niger Delta and the requirement to seize fleeting opportunities to ensure development in the area. As was the case in the past, it is only the Izon people that can ensure that set objectives are achieved. Heaping the blame of our situation on others would in the near future be an argument for pity, which may not find support.  Moreover, it is no longer fashionable to wear the revolutionary toga, so we need to act differently, assisted by information and knowledge. Listening to the echoes of Adaka Boro’s speech, it is time to bring about development in the Niger Delta and also empower the youth, so that there can be hope in the land. 


There seem to have been a lull in agitations for prosperity in the Niger Delta within the periods following the Nigerian Civil War. This could be attributed to the expectation that with the creation of states, development could be brought close to the people. After several years and a number of governments, development still remains elusive in the Niger Delta. Since governments remained unresponsive to the yearnings of the people, the oil multinationals became the surrogate Governments. Dialogue with the government or the multinationals have however not produced any meaningful outcome.

Just as in the past, the youths thought the elders from the region had failed to guarantee their future. The failure of dialogue may have influenced the decision to adopt a more confrontational approach. On 11 Dec 1990, Kaiama Declaration by the youth with a 10-Point Resolution called on IYC “to coordinate the struggle of Ijaw people for self determination and justice”. The significance of Kaiama was not lost on the youth and from that point there has been a state of insecurity in the region as rival gangs clashed and even indigenes became victims of all kinds of atrocities. All activities in the region became incorrectly dubbed fight for self determination or for resource control. Ideological struggle became intertwined with criminality and self seeking opportunities.  It is doubtful that threatening fellow indigenes would qualify as genuine quest for self determination. Neither can the distrust between elders and the youth, with the latter considering anyone going to discuss matters concerning development in the Niger Delta as seeking his own settlement. This situation has been taken advantage of and often deviously to undermine the support structures that we as a people could create for ourselves.

The recent events in the Niger Delta give the world the impression that the territory constitutes an ungovernable space where the cost of doing business is high, mainly because of insecurity. The acts that led to insecurity in the region have not benefitted the region in anyway because the violence that brought the region to global attention was not properly managed. In fact, it is a departure from the selflessness that Adaka Boro represented through his struggle. Many observers doubt that there was any form of leadership in the entire Niger Delta struggle from 1999. In that situation it was impossible to discern a pattern or the next level to which the region aspired. What one observes is that no serious private investors have staked their resources in the region for over 20 years because of the risks involved in doing business in the area. Any process that would change this perception became a welcome development, provided it was done correctly and meant to serve the interest of the people. This was the spirit that informed the suggestion to utilize Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDR&R) to bring conflict in the region to a closure. This process was expected to be a deliberate, well coordinated effort that would take care of all interests and aimed at addressing the causes of the conflict. 


Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, then President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, signed a proclamation in 2009, granting amnesty to the genuine freedom-fighters of the Niger Delta and asked for a change of strategy in our quest to liberate the region. Imperfect as this may seem, the response from arms-bearing individuals in the Niger Delta was encouraging. What the nation needed was to utilize the United Nations DDR&R standards to ensure that the gains made from the declaration of amnesty were sustained. There have been worries that individuals would play politics with the process and that the aspirations of the people may be scuttled. We must remind ourselves that a general amnesty without a corresponding presence of justice, equity and development of the Niger Delta will be ineffectual, if not counter-productive. Because the process is on-going it would be incorrect to pass a judgment as to its success. I believe that lending support to the programme would be in the best interest of the region. I therefore, implore anyone with expertise in the field to approach the coordinators of the programme and make inputs, because at the end of the day we must provide our youth with requisite, and not just popular skills.  

Our expectations following the grant of amnesty and implementation of the Federal Government’s programme is to see a region that has its youths constructively engaged in more productive activities. To be gainfully employed, youths need to acquire new skills. I grew up knowing Izons to be a very industrious group, but the disturbing trend all over is that our youth have mostly resorted to begging and other rent seeking practices. There must be a culture of enjoying the fruit of your labour and the realization that hard work has its benefits. This would require a deliberate sensitization programme aimed at moral rectitude. There is also a need for vigilance because it is possible that some of the criminality in the Niger Delta is perpetrated by non-indigenes. Elders should therefore, take interest in knowing what our youth are engaged in to be sure that they are not being misled into criminality. We cannot afford to lose the opportunity presented by having Izon children at the helm of affairs at this period in Nigeria’s history.

States and local government authorities across the region have a huge stake in ensuring that the gains from this amnesty programme are not frittered away by sheer abdication of responsibility. I believe that at the appropriate time these organs of government need to claim ownership of the various programmes and sustain them in the interest of the region. There is a need to encourage those in authority at these levels of governance not to abandon facilities/processes within the amnesty programme on the account that it is a Federal Government project as we have experienced in several other instances. Experience has shown that those in authority within the region are often isolated, not given the benefit of informal advice/exposure to methods adopted elsewhere to achieve sustainable outcomes and oftentimes are not accountable to the citizens. It is on this count that it is suggested that increased interaction between Izon diaspora and those at home could produce beneficial outcomes for the region. If it is not happening, you must demand for it.


Travelling through the states in the Niger Delta reveals huge contradictions - the presence of luxury cars, flamboyant homes (which owner’s fortunes always seem to dwindle after a few years) and a large population of people living below the poverty line. Several years after the creation of States, it is a sad commentary on the ability of citizens to ensure sustainable development of the region. The infrastructure in the entire area without exception indicates that the welfare of people living there is not a priority now and in the future. In the past 12 years governance in the region has been in the hands of indigenes and so we cannot continue to blame others for the state of infrastructure. Even in areas where attempts have been made, they may not always meet the best standards. My assessment is that the planning processes have been faulty, being based on wrong assumptions and satisfying mainly political considerations. I wonder how we will fare if we have to assess the performance of all our Councillors, Local Government Chairmen, Legislators and Governors in the last one decade of democracy in Nigeria.

As an optimist, I see hope. We need to learn how others not so far away from the Niger Delta have been able to rise above our standards. We can draw examples from what is currently happening in Lagos and few closer home who are making effort. In these places, the new infrastructure is impressive and meets international standards. The visions have been the handwork of individuals in position of leadership. Clearly, what has happened is that the states created enabling environments for development to thrive, utilizing the vehicle of business models that are available on the open market. Apart from that, indigenes are encouraged to participate in commercial activities that generate wealth. For this we need to wake up our entrepreneurial spirit and encourage each other to contribute to the development of our area. 

Apart from infrastructure there are other areas of development for which government efforts need the support of the private sector. I should acknowledge that some States in the region have made appreciable effort towards providing food and shelter for its people in the near future. Unless there is a departure from what obtained in the past, these are also going to be ‘white elephant’ projects. 


The greatest asset that we could have is possibly human capital development and the need for our youth to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities available to us to be able to compete favourably with all others in all spheres of life. Youth empowerment is a multi-facetted concept that cuts across social, political, educational and technological spheres of life. In the Niger Delta it should go beyond negotiated relationship between government agencies and the ‘restive youths’ born out of fear of destabilising the exploitation of natural resources, but the need to develop the creative potentials of the youth. The anomie in the area is as a result of disillusionment that pervades the region.  The Izon youth remains the hope of the people in the Niger Delta region. We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that they view the future as having possibilities. While counselling remains relevant, the first step is to provide them with functional education that would guarantee their ability to create jobs on graduation. In my opinion, education in all forms is key to empowering our youth. People are quick to point out that the famous Bill Gates did not complete university education, but we forget that he had the skills to excel in his field. Establishing skills acquisition centres in various communities is a commendable effort but the skills must be relevant to the industries that exist in the region. Since international certification is a requirement for engagement in some of the industries, effort could be made to accredit the centres that teach those skills.

Our communities are degenerating because we seem not to have identified that the challenge we have is poverty, lack of ambition and lack of knowledge. We have different needs at community and individual levels and how we depart from the belief that oil is our God given right so, it is either oil or nothing will affect how we rise above the difficulties we have. The Niger Delta environment is fertile ground for entrepreneurship, but most of the local exploration, logistics, procurement, engineering companies are owned by people from outside our environment. You can guess who they will employ. Meanwhile, I see most of us submitting CVs for nonexistent Government appointments.

Globalization has provided the opportunity for individuals to network across national boundaries. Our youths must be exposed to the use of the internet to broaden their knowledge base and to learn how youths in other climes face the challenges of growing. States that are yet to establish internet centres should be encouraged to provide such in some of their schools. Individuals could also contribute in this regard by providing computers in their communities. Actualising these ideas depend on the provision of constant electricity in the communities. It is a surprise that after several attempts at providing electricity using gas turbines none of the states in the Niger Delta can assure its people that power can be guaranteed for 4 hours a day.

States should be encouraged to embrace national empowerment schemes like the poverty eradication programme and the National Open Apprenticeship Scheme. Beyond these there should be a deliberate effort to ensure the following.

1.     Employment counselling service.

2.     Skill acquisition and entrepreneur development training.

3.     Provision of transient jobs.

4.     Access to micro credit schemes.



The spread of the Izon nation through 6 states in Nigeria presents a special challenge for its unity. Although culture and language remains a unifying factor, there is a need to nurture trust among our people. The organizers of this event deserve commendation for bringing together Izons in diaspora and others living at home. Beyond this, there should be concerted effort to establish links with the people at home to pass progressive suggestions as well as showing interest in activities in our respective communities. There needs to be coordination among community leaders so that the entire Ijaw nation speaks in unison in matters of common interests.

When we find ourselves outside our environment, and when things happen to Izons, we tend to band together. This could be very good and quite encouraging, but I don’t know if that is the only sort of unity we desire. I am inclined to contend that Izon unity could be an illusion if not broadly defined. Could unity be common Izon economic purpose, a desire to create institutions that would educate our youths to be self reliant people, a desire to choose responsive leaders for ourselves? Of course we could easily talk of a unique Izon identity in our language, culture, art and institutions and exploit them in creative ways for modern living. Our riverine environment is a huge blessing so we could exploit it in architecture that is suitable; make available potable water using the rivers and unique means of transportation, all in creating Izonness. The reality however is that all around us we have very diluted societies and the Izons also do not exist as isolated entities in the Nigerian space. I like to think that progress and development should not be hinged on ethnicity, tribal unities and monolithic trend of thoughts.

The networks we create in business and politics, the attractiveness of the Izon lifestyle will ensure that the non Izons are able to live gainful lives in Soku, Agbere, Arogbo, Peretorugbene and not just Port Harcourt, Yenagoa and Warri. Our self identity and the focus on improving our circumstances could be the basis for our unity. Our communities must matter to us. We must Let us therefore encourage our diaspora establishments and institutions like Ijaw foundation, Izon historical society to create knowledge for progress.



As Nigeria matures in democratic governance, we must find the best methods to pursue our objectives through constitutionally acceptable means. To realize Boro’s dream, Izons must be conscious of the need for visionary leadership in the Niger Delta and the requirement to seize fleeting opportunities to ensure development in the area. The followership also has a role to play by constructively engaging with those in positions of leadership. Izon diaspora should encourage those with relevant skills to spare no effort in ensuring that those at home learn about best practices in diverse fields of human endeavour. However, we must remind ourselves that our solutions may not always be the best, so don’t be disappointed or discouraged when they are not implemented.

Izons are a hardworking people and we must be projected as such by disowning criminality in the Niger Delta. Our present predicament is caused by poverty, lack of knowledge, inhibited ambition and the inability to focus on activities that could generate wealth for the region. We, therefore have an obligation to ensure that the youth rise above rent seeking by ensuring that they are given skills that would awaken their entrepreneurial spirit. Such awakening is likely to engender harmonious living between Izons and non-indigenes living in the Niger Delta.

The Izon identity remains unique, and we must strive to ensure that our culture and lifestyle is passed to generations yet unborn. I note with pleasure that gatherings like the Adaka Boro Day provides the opportunity to enlighten and remind ourselves of our situation and the need for self-assessment. We simply must raise our standards to fend for ourselves. While ensuring Izon unity is a necessity, I like to think that progress and development should not be hinged on ethnicity, tribal unities and monolithic trend of thoughts.

Today, we find our son, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, and rightly we expect prosperity and the opportunity for all us to change our lives. True, we have suffered long enough and that may not disappear overnight. I see a desire for many of us to be in key positions and indeed many could benefit, but let us also remember that while we think of the benefits to the Niger Delta, he is the President of the whole country. We need to be very patient with him, but most importantly, we need to work with him so that he could become the President that Nigeria will remember for a long time. If he succeeds, the whole country will be proud, but the Izons will share more in the blame if he fails.  That is our challenge.

Finally, let me put on record my deep appreciation, the noble values which motivated the organisers of this event. I have my highest regards for you and please be assured of my support of your programmes now and in the future. You all deserve to be celebrated as true Izon citizens within the larger society of our nation Nigeria. I pray that God blesses us all as we strive to create for ourselves a new dawn in the Niger Delta.


Photo Gallery

 Cross section of the High Table - Listening to the keynote address

Cross section of the High Table, listening to the keynote address. (L/R): HRM King Alfred Diete-Spiff, HRM King Dandeson Jaja, HRM King Ayemi Botu, Amb. and Mrs Felix Oboro

Hon. Mr. Ibrahim Auwalu, Consul-General of Nigeria - Listening to the key note address

Hon. Mr. Ibrahim Auwalu, Consul-General of Nigeria - Listening to the Key Note address

Corss section of attendees - Listening to the keynote address

Cross Section of attendees listening to the keynote address

INAA Member, Mr. Dennis Amakor listening to the keynote address


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