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Widespread disillusionment in Itsekiri-land

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Tony Afejuku

(A keynote speech delivered in Warri at the second Session of the Itsekiri International Summit)

The letter (dated March 23rd, 2018) inviting me as a “guest and keynote speaker at the 2nd session of the Itsekiri International Summit” stated, among other things, that I would be required to join the organizers of the summit in a discussion with Itsekiri representatives in government agencies such as DESOPADEC, NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and IRDC. These are “interventionist agencies” that were established by government(s), federal and our state’s), to spear-head the “strategic development” of the under-developed Niger Delta region, which Itsekiri-land is properly part of. Of course, the summit organizers, who are progressive Itsekiris, want the Itsekiri representatives in the said agencies to disprove the public perception, that is, the “public knowledge that our areas are the most underdeveloped in the Niger Delta.” In fact, the summit organizers, die-hard visionary progressives of our great land and ultimate champions of the cause of Itsekiri proletariat and masses , want to know from the Itsekiri representatives why the “huge funds earmarked for the development of [Itsekiri] areas….. have not been committed to the strategic development of Iwereland because the scanty physical evidences of these funds are poorly reflective of the wealth that have streamed into Iwereland over the years.”

Clearly, the patriotic summit organizers’ letter tells me that there is no “Strategic Importance of Interventionist Agencies and their Relative, Economic and Infrastructural Impact in Warri Kingdom, which actually is the theme of the Itsekiri International Summit, that I have been requested to build my keynote speech around. I thank profusely the organizers for the invitation and for this request, but I am neither an economist nor an engineer. I am also neither a geographer nor an architect. Yet it is good and worthy of them for giving me this honour of speaking truth, the real truth and nothing but the real truth, to ourselves and to power – which many of us here are known for – men of truth, who must ask the aforesaid representatives why, for example, there is no borehole for drinking water in an Itsekiri oil community such as Deghele in this wonderful age of civilization?

All about us is the smell, the stench of cynicism. The condition of pessimism in Itsekiri-land today is the kind that has produced a “widespread disillusionment with disillusionment itself”. The picture of our land that we see is so dishearteningly bleak that we cannot but hold our representatives in the said interventionist agencies responsible for it. All of them, without exception, stand accused and discredited before our very eyes. The economic condition and infrastructural features of decay of our land are as bad as any can be. While each and every one of our representatives (and the political group or class they represent) glitters economically, our land is economically and environmentally useless. We know each and every one of these representatives (and their cohorts of bandits christened personal assistants or personal advisers or whatever) very well. What each one was before he found himself in this or that “prestigious” interventionist agency, and what each one is today we know perfectly. The reality we know and have before us is the one that nothing can dim. What is this reality? It is the reality that must prohibit our discredited representatives, the ”prestigious” men of the moment, and their political over-lords, from the politics of our land, the politics that planted them where they are now.

As I deliver this speech, my eyes cannot but stream with tears to see a blessed people such as ours being led by select persons who are bereft of the patriotic vitality and capacity and essential brains and visionary stratagems needed to citify our harsh environment and its denizens. Any time I see the picture, imaginatively or realistically, of Eko Atlantic City of Yoruba-land of Lagos I bleed with pain on the realization that no-where in my beloved land of Warri has been so refurbished despite our bottomless, in-exhaustible wealth that some useless Itsekiris want to control, or better put, want to confiscate perpetually. Hell! Swine! Let our bottomless, in-exhaustible patience burst today! Let us end what is gradually turning into the classical Itsekiri conundrum today!

But I must pose some questions: How will this summit banish, prohibit the jesters we want no more from the politics of our land? Does the reality that we see, which gives us a blanket rejection of them give us an alternative that will be patriotically and nationalistically committed to the Itsekiri cause? Indeed, do we have alternatives that will be totalistically committed to Itsekiri capitalism, patriotism, nationalism, economic, infrastructural and modernization theory we crave as per our presence at this progressive summit of Itsekiri progressives? And can our representatives’ critique of our subject at this summit give us any profound meaning for those Itsekiris who still believe that the day shall come when they will enjoy the fruits of the damned representatives’ postulations that will continually produce grand illusions?

The success or failure of this summit will be determined by the answers we get to the posed questions. We must hope that our respective discussants will rise to the challenge(s) the posed questions may present. But I have one fear: This summit may go the way of other summits or other Itsekiri contemporary activities, which is: There is so much to do, but there is so little (or nothing) done. There will be no action to match our words. And our widespread disillusionment will continue. I will be glad to be proved wrong.

I am not done yet.

Many persons have argued that the Itsekiri nation is what it is today in contemporary Nigeria because several of our representatives in Itsekiri Regional Development Council (IRDC), Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Delta State Legislative Assembly, Federal House of Representatives are not sufficiently schooled to possess the propensity to do the rightful for our Itsekiri people and nation. I may have alluded to this earlier. Still, I must observe, as an objective observer, which many of us here are, why is it that the insufficiently schooled or unschooled political living fishes have huge appetites for our wealth that they are gulping to the huge disadvantage of our economic, political and infrastructural benefit? Perhaps it may interest many persons here to know that Sir Winton (Leonard Spenser) Churchill (1874-1965), who was two-time British prime minister (1940-1945;1951-55) was not a particularly good pupil/student, but he has gone down in history as arguably British greatest personality on account of his wonderful deeds for his people. He was a great humanist who had great capacity for the music of humanity. On the contrary, our own people have great capacity for sterile things and the music of sterility. Why will widespread disillusionment not be in our land? If you didn’t know why, you do now.

Thank you all for your perfect attention.

* Prof. Afejuku, a poetical writer and peace activist, is of the English and Literature Department, University of Benin, Edo State.


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