WELCOME ADDRESS: Presented by Dr. Matthew O.
Sikpi at the 2003 “BORO DAY OBSERVANCE” & 5th
Annual INAA “Service & Devotion Award”.
The keynote speaker Professor Ebiegberi Alagoa, Ambassador
Mrs. Kurubo; distinguished panelists- Professor Peter Ekeh, Attorney
Oronto Douglas, and Mrs. Umoh; the delegates of the Ijaw organizations
represented here; and distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas
(INAA), I welcome you all tonight, to the “2003 BORO DAY
OBDERVANCE” and the 5th Annual INAA Service and Devotion Award
Ceremonies. On this occasion, we honor and celebrate the lives of two
illustrious Ijaw sons- Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro and Brigadier-General
Isaac Adaka Boro died about 35 years ago, but remains,
arguably, the icon of the struggles and yearnings of the people of the
Niger Delta for fair and just treatment by the Nigerian Government.
In 1966, Isaac Adaka Boro, a young Chemistry graduate of the
University of Nsukka, carried out a revolution in Nigeria so that all
Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic origin, are treated fairly and
has the opportunity to succeed in life. In his quest for justice and
fairness, Adaka Boro confronted the then Government of Nigeria to
change the inequities and injustices in the treatment of its own
citizens in the Niger delta. Isaac Boro risked his life to challenge
the government so that all Nigerians, including those of minority
tribes, are treated justly and fairly.
Isaac Boro’s revolution, arguably, resulted in the
creation of states, and subsequently greater autonomy and
self-determination, for the people of the Niger Delta. I must say that,
many of us
here, including myself, benefited one way or the other from the actions
of this man in 1966.
Every year, from May 16 to May 23, Ijaws and others in Nigeria
and abroad who cherish the tenets of justice, celebrate the life and
legacy of Isaac Adaka Boro. Today, we, like thousands last week,
observe “Boro day” that is dedicated to honor this
courageous and visionary son of the Niger Delta.
On this occasion, we shall also present the 5th Annual INAA
Service & Devotion Award, which recognizes individuals and/or
groups that have made personal and selfless sacrifices to advance the
Ijaw people. Past honorees of this Award include Isaac Adaka Boro;
Chief Dappa-Biriye, a pioneer in the struggle for self governance in
the Niger Delta; and Chief Alfred Diete-Spiff, the first governor of
Rivers State. Today, INAA presents this prestigious award to another
Ijaw son Brigadier-General George Kurubo. Since a significant portion
of this occasion shall be devoted to the Award presentation, I shall
not comment any further on General Kurubo.
The “Boro-Day Celebration” and the “Annual
Service and Devotion Award” are very important components of
INAA’s strategic plan. The organization celebrates the life of
Adaka Boro and other Ijaw sons like George Kurubo, so that their
contributions to Ijaw land and the Niger Delta are not forgotten. But
more importantly, the organization uses this occasion to bring together
people of the Niger Delta, particularly Ijaws, to reflect on
Boro’s vision for the people of the
Niger Delta, to reckon our progress and shortfalls, and to
plan for the future. To this end, INAA sponsors a conference, amongst
other activities, during the celebration each year. As indicated in the
program, a symposium entitled “The Ijaw, the Niger Delta, the
Nigerian 3rd Republic”, follows after my presentation.
My fellow Ijaws and Nigerians, more than thirty-five years
after Isaac Adaka Boro’s efforts, the problems in the Niger Delta
and in the Nigerian system that led to his actions have been solved.
Unfortunately, they still linger. Obviously, the political landscape
has changed since Boro’s revolution. Today, we have several
states in the Niger Delta. However, the Federal and State governments
have failed to address the fundamental issues that caused the
revolution. In fact, in many areas, the situation has worsened.
In the Niger Delta, environmental degradation has worsened as
a result of increased oil exploration and exploitation by the Cheveron,
Texaco, Exxon-Mobil, and other multinational
Companies. Our lands are barren and our rivers devoid of fish because
of continued pollution. For a people whose primary occupations are
farming and fishing, the major source of livelihood for the people of
the Niger Delta is almost completely destroyed. Without any research to
determine the health and other effects, either directly or indirectly
from the pollution, only God knows how the activities of these oil
companies have affected the lives of our people.
Further, the cornerstone of Boro’s revolution for a
greater control of the resources from their land by the people of the
Niger Delta remains unfulfilled. Thus, the main resource- crude oil-
that God has endowed on Ijaw land and the rest of the Niger Delta is
controlled by the central government. And while the Niger Delta wallows
in poverty, the enormous wealth derived from the area is used to
develop other parts of the country.
The present conditions in Ijaw land and the rest of the Niger
Delta, and in Nigeria for that matter, are not acceptable. The Niger
Delta and other regions of Nigeria must have the freedom to determine
their future without interference from the Nigeria government. The
Boro’s and SaroWiwa’s are gone. And others like Chief E. K.
Clark’s, Chief Dappa-Biriye and Senator David Dafinone, who are
leaders in the struggle for fairness and justice for the people of the
Niger Delta, are getting old and getting weaker by the day. It’s
now our turn to take the mantle and continue to advocate for changes
that will make life better for the Ijaw and other Nigerians. That much,
we owe to our children and grandchildren.
My fellow comrades in the Diaspora, INAA do not have the
recipe or the magic wand to solve all of our problems. However, as we
face the challenges now and in the future, we must be united in our
efforts to help in the development of Ijaw land and the Niger Delta. As
the saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall”. To my
brothers and sisters who are here to represent the various Ijaw
organizations, I must emphasize the need for unity. We must be united
in our resolve to improve the conditions of our homeland even if we
belong to different organizations and may differ in our approach to
achieving our goal to help improve Ijaw land and the Niger Delta.
Organizations such as the Ijaw National Congress must work more closely
with other organizations in Nigeria and those in the Diaspora. We must
coordinate our activities and be more focused in our efforts. I believe
that the meeting of all Ijaws held earlier today, is a step in the
right direction. But let it be the beginning of stronger ties amongst
Ijaw organizations in the Diaspora and between organizations in Nigeria
and those of us in the Diaspora.
As the Ijaw National Alliance of the Americas honors Isaac
Adaka Boro and George Kurubo, the organization would also like to pay
tribute to Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, Ken SaroWiwa, Chief Edwin Clark,
Senator David Dafinone, and all those who have fought or are still
fighting to defend fairness, justice and equity. INAA as well as people
around the world cherish their efforts
because ideals like service, devotion, justice and equality are
fundamental to human existence. Their steadfastness stimulates us all.
Indeed, the Ijaw needs the stimulation to move beyond the present.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you all, once again, for
making out the time to come out today to celebrate with the INAA
family. Some of you came from as far as Nigeria and England. We are
God Bless the people of the Niger Delta. God Bless Nigeria.
God Bless the United States of America.
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