By JAMES Ogunjimi
“There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel they have no stake in it, who feel like they have nothing to lose. People who have stake in their society protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Haven followed the story of Kelvin Ibruvwe (also known as Oniarah), the leader of Liberation Movement of Urhobo (LiMUP) who was arrested last month, I am more convinced of the facts that: (1) when you push people to the wall, there will always be fightback; it is a constant historical occurrence. (2) the poor and impoverished will understand and appreciate a struggle like the ones the LiMUP are waging and the one MEND still wages because even when the police are crying foul, saying Kelvin is a problem to the society, women of that same society have started protesting his arrest since Thursday. The question is, if Kelvin and his Liberation movement aren’t problems to the poor and impoverished people of Urhobo, who does Kelvin’s Liberation movement, represent threats to? (3) The government will never learn from history, they will keep on making futile attempts to crush a movement embedded in the very fabrics of society; this has historically been proved to fail and backfire eventually.
That said, one of the most dangerous and misleading ways of getting correct information nowadays may be the regular media, the regular newspapers and uninformed journalists who have become too lazy to actively pursue stories, but prefer to sit in the comforts of their offices and publish carefully-written scripts about issues handed to them by the government.
You see, our problem as a nation starts from when people don’t take time to follow a situation and see for themselves what may have transpired. Some people just hear of a situation like LiMUP and MEND’s issues and they are already taking sides without trying to understand what brought it about. While still pondering this issue myself, all doubts were cleared when I read the latest statement by the new leader of LiMUP, he summarised everything the Nigerian state has failed to see in their relentless attacks of liberation movements embedded in the fabrics of society. He said, “If one Kelvin is removed another Kelvin will replace him. Government is of the opinion that if they take the leader out, his followers will be demoralised and be dispersed, but that is a dangerous road to take….We are still willing to carry on the legacy; even a little child from this community today when he grows up and this level of injustice persists, will end up agitating for a better life.” That for me is the ultimate message to Nigeria.
I have always said it, that before you join government to criticise people for committing crimes, make sure you put yourself in those people’s shoes. That is what brought about the struggle of the Ogonis then, and Ken Saro Wiwa was killed when he was implicated in multiple murders. It’s what brought about the struggle of MEND in its early days and even to a large extent till now, until some people sold their people for amnesty money, while the same people they claimed to be fighting for and the same situation they were fighting to change remains unchanged and may have become even worse. That is the same situation that the Kokoris now face. Historically, attempts to crush liberation struggles embedded in the fabrics of society and supported by the impoverished of the society have always failed; this won’t be an exception too, it will only escalate issues beyond government’s reach.
Imagine yourself owning a certain natural resource, imagine watching that natural resource being taken and exploited daily, and imagine them taking it without using it to better the life of your children. Imagine them taking it without using it to build schools and hospitals for your community. You see them using money from your products to build huge companies elsewhere, building big hospitals elsewhere, building gigantic schools elsewhere. Your children walk around barefooted with tattered clothes while children of your exploiters have it good. Your children keep on dying of hunger and hunger-related diseases while children of your exploiters eat and grow fat. Your children go around hunting squirrels while children of your exploiters go round amassing certificates and wealth. You watch your children die because of the poor or non-existent health care, while children of your exploiters are flown out of the country to treat ridiculous illnesses like catarrh. Tell me, for how long could the Ogonis, the Niger-deltans and the Kokoris have sat down doing nothing?
Chancellor Willams, in his book, The Destruction of Black Civilization, summed it up even further:
“There must be developed a sense of national community among the various language groups that make up the country. This is so important that it cannot be left to wishful thinking or chance. It must be programmed in such a way that a sense of loyalty and of being an important part of a great united brother-sisterhood, which is the nation itself, will develop naturally and allow…the reign of law and justice to apply equally to all classes in the society. The people must feel absolutely secure as individuals, that in their country, there is equal justice for all.”
The question then arises again that, if the Urhobo women, the children, the poor and impoverished people don’t see Kelvin as a threat, who does he represent threat to?
The facts remain, the struggle the Kokoris are waging is one that has just few demands as highlighted by their new leader, they are not asking for amnesty money, all they want is for government to release Kelvin Ibruvwe and issue a presidential pardon for all the militants, including the immediate commencement of the development of Urhobo people. Is that too much to do? Or will the economy crumble if you better the lives of people whose natural resource a nation feeds on? The solution stares the Nigerian state straight in the face, the only question is, will they embrace the solution or will they make attempts to crush the LiMUP and risk a backfire? Time alone will tell.
Ogun State, Nigeria
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