BEING A TEXT OF A LECTURE DELIVERED BY EKANPOU ENEWARIDIDEKE AT AKPAREMOGBENE IN BURUTU LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF DELTA STATE ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR AKPAREMOBOU CULTURAL DAY CELEBRATION ON THE 4TH OF JUNE, 2016.
Once upon a time there was a man. This man lived happily in the creeks of Kurutie and Ogulagha. Smallish and fragile in physique, he had brought honour and fame to the sixteen clans of Ijaw and beyond though he was not a wrestler like Okonkwo of Umuofia in Chinua Achebe’s THINGS FALL APART, neither was he Idi Amin of Uganda.
This taciturn, self-effacing and unassuming man had fought many battles, always home laurelled, glowingly laurelled. But for king Temugedegede of the forest of flowers, the de jure ozidic king of Toru-Orua, this man must be hunted, dislodged for a rain of laurels; so the vicious hunt for this man began.
From a glowing laurel-winner this man became the monster of the forest, the only plague in the forest. Through no wish of his, this is the story of transformation of a laurel-winner into the monster and plague of the forest. Story! Story! Story!
Because Tompolo considers himself, patriotically considers himself, an heir of the glories of the Niger Delta his becomes characteristically a life of inheritance of the development aspirations, dreams, reflections, ideals and unfulfilled hopes associated with the Niger Delta struggle. Long before the birth of the 1957 Sir Henry Willlinks commission – a product of, and a long-suppressed response to, the ululations of the minorities for developmental recognition spearheaded by late Dr. Harold Dapa Biriye, the revolutionary rise of major Jasper Adaka Isaac Boro in 1966 and the heroic fall of Isaac Boro in 1968 through federal complicity after the creation of his dream state Rivers state, Tompolo was sufficiently equipped with a knowledge of his own people in the Niger Delta – their impoverishment, exploitation, underdevelopment, sufferings, weaknesses, strengths, their capabilities and potentials for phoenix-like metamorphosis and rise aided by functional leadership prepared and well aware of indelible martyrdom. Tompolo did not know where was Isaac Boro’s Twelve Day Revolution – a book possessed of the power to fertilize and concretise his burgeoning revolutionary thoughts – neither did he have a knowledge of Sir Henry Willinks Commission, its compositions and objectives.
However Eric Teniola writes dexterously, however his felicitous turns of phrases in his article ‘We can’t be free until they ‘re free’ in the Vanguard newspaper of 7 June and 8 June 2016 that Major Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro was handed a death-sentence by hanging for his Niger Delta emancipation struggles by Justice Phil Ebosie in Port Harcourt on 27 March 1966 during the government of General Thomas Johnson Umanakwe Aguiyi Ironsi (1924-1966), that Sir Henry Urmston Willink (1894-1973) was a British politician, a public servant, minister of Health (1943 – 1945), Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1953 to 1955 whose minorities commission of 26 September 1957 to 30 July 1958 had remotely influenced the arrival of Decree 22 of 1992 and the creation of Oil Minerals Producing Commission (OMPADC), Niger Delta Development Commission (2000) and the Amnesty Programme of 2009, unto the view I still hold, strongly held with all the conviction in the world, that Tompolo was not aware of the existence of the Sir Henry Willinks Commission, not even its recommendations in paragraph 26-30 that:
We were impressed in both the Western and Eastern Regions, with the special position of the people, mainly Ijaw, in the swampy country along the coast between Opobo and the mouth of the Benin Rivers. We were confronted, first, with their own almost universal view that their difficulties were not understood at headquarters in the interior, where those responsible thought of the problems in quite different forms from those they assumed in those riverine areas; secondly, with the widespread desire of the Ijaws on either side of the main stream of the Niger to be united…
This is a matter which requires a special effort and the co-operation of the Federal, Eastern and Western Government; it does not concern one Region only. Not only because the area involves two Regions, but because it is poor, backward and neglected, is the whole of Nigeria concerned. We suggest that there should a Federal Board appointed to consider the problems of the area of the Niger Delta…
The declaration of the Ijaw country as a special Area would direct public attention to a neglected tract and give the Ijaws an opportunity of putting forward plans of their own for improvement. It would be difficult for either government to justify to the electorate either a blank refusal to accept a plan recommend by the Board or a failure to implement an accepted plan; in this, as in all our recommendations, we assume a desire to continue with democratic institutions; it is on this assumption that all the steps leading to independence are based.
His vast knowledge of his society came majorly from myths and legends he was exposed to right from birth during story-telling and story-listening sessions in Kurutie and Ogulagha – undeniably an art, a component of oral literature that was treasured in pre-literate societies. Where Tompolo is today – a clearly pigeonholed ideology-governed freedom activist – daily subjected to insidious hysterical dislodgment by charcoal-hearted people, is an ODE to the regulatory potentials of myths and legends in the life of a man as:
Myths, legends and epic narratives, songs and praise poems and heroic recitations were created to communicate people’s historical consciousness, especially, their Origins, warriors, great events and memorable deeds in the lives of the people (Introduction to oral Literature, 388)
Tompolo as a refined product from the cauldron of myths and legends I feel rather intellectually constrained and empowered to castigate and differ from Plato in the REPUBLIC for his position that myths and legends have the potential to corrupt people in an ideal state. To Plato: ‘They encourage bad behaviour at the level of undiscerning. On this account, he recommended censorship (F.O.B Akporobaro, 75). It is perhaps Greek myths and legends that corrupt, not Ijaw myths and legends which have refined Tompolo in the articulation of his directional philosophies.
The clangour of oppression pierced and reached Tompolo in the womb from which warm enclosure, at the appointed time of expulsion, he was born an activist, probably with a strong retention of the memories of exploitation from Carl Jung’s ‘universal unconscious’. Swayed by Wole Soyinka’s directional philosophies of ‘Justice is the first condition of humanity’ and ‘The man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny’ (all embedded in The man Died), the world only came to know of Tompolo’s activism in 1996/7 when he stood against the relocation of the Headquarters of Warri South-West from the original Ogbe-Ijoh to Ogidigben in Delta State – a position he consistently held until the Federal Government of Nigeria ultimately yielded to the voice of justice and reason. In 2005 he formed MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta) to confront the Nigerian Federal Government using only EGBESU-soaked moulded clay, stones, catapults and sticks as potent neutralizers of invading Federal bullets, bazooka, grenades, bombs, drones etc, etc. Here he resolutely stood up against the long-existing exploitation of the Niger Delta people systematically masterminded by the Nigerian Federal Government and the multi-national oil companies; this battle of resistance raged ferociously between the Federal side and Tompolo until 3 October 2009 at 8pm when he reluctantly yielded to pressures from prominent sons and daughters of the Niger Delta region and took the AMNESTY oath of allegiance from the late President Alhaji Umaro Musa Yar’ Adua of blessed memory.
Tomplo’s stand in 1996/97 and 2005 were normal ideology-governed responses to the dictatorially exploitative tendencies/gimmicks of the Federal Government and the oil companies, as it is usual to solidarize with the people when man-made abnormalities, obscenities, barbarities cascade ceaselessly upon law-abiding citizens of a country, viciously invasive and intrusive beyond bounds of toleration. George Mangakis would have been more provoked than Tompolo if he were a Niger Deltan; in fact he would have teamed up with Tompolo ideologically in his (Tompolo’s) reasoned stand against the exploitative tendencies of the Federal Government and the oil companies because he (Mangakis) believes that:
When a dictatorship is imposed on your country, the very first thing you feel, the very first day – and it is a feeling that has a totally spontaneous immediacy, free from all mental elaboration – the first feeling is humiliation. You are being deprived of the right to consider yourself worthy of responsibility for your own life and destiny. This feeling of humiliation grows day by day, as a result of the oppressor’s unceasing effort to force your mind to accept all the vulgarity which makes up the abortive mental world of dictators. You feel as if your reason and your human status were being deeply insulted everyday. And then comes the attempt to impose on you by fear, acceptance of various barbarous actions of theirs that you hear about, or that you actually see them commit against your fellow human beings. You begin to live with the daily humiliation of fear, and you begin to loathe yourself. And then deeply wounded in your conscience as a citizen, you begin to feel a solidarity with the people to whom you belong (The man Died, 14).
In a world of varied religions such as Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and African traditional religion, competing vigorously for the conquest of man’s mind, all in their varying sugar-coated sermons, Tompolo chooses to be with us, and Tompolo also chooses to be away from us. He fails to deny the existence of God; he fails to deny the potency of the African traditional religion; he fails to deny the potency of Islam; he fails to deny the potency of Christianity.
Affirmations of the Universality of his religious inclinations and leanings have become subject of debate and interpretation. To those who believe he is with us, he is a Christian, a Muslim; to those who believe he is away from us, he is a bloody idol worshipper. To the mystically-inclined mind, Tompolo is on a spiritually healthy path as his daily life confronts us with exemplifications of the positive components of all the world religions, as he treasures only the functional, sacred codes of the religions, their meaningful theologies, not the man-made names, appellations, eulogistic dogmatic embellishments, adornments, pretensions, beautification, canonization, elevation, etc, etc – a position that parallels that of Soyinka who declares that:
I must not be misunderstood. I extol, indeed, I partake of, with creative and humane enlargement, in the inherent and productive values of all religions, their monumental legacies to the world, their piety and unflagging spirit of the search for truth. I acknowledge that the world would be much poorer place without the phenomenon of religion, and I do not refer merely to their architectural and artistic legacies but even to the inspirational value of their exegeses (The credo of Being and Nothingness, 18).
To err is human and to forgive divine. Failures, mistakes, errors, missteps that are obviously man-made should be admitted, apologetically admitted and corrected. The shifting of or evasion of culpability over a human failure identified, the attribution of the human failure to invisible forces – probably the one called Lucifer – and prayerfully fighting SATAN with all the energies in the world, pummeling and spitting, invoking all the monstrosities upon him (SATAN), when a simple act of admission and reversal would magically bring the problem to an end is most disgusting to Tompolo. Prayerfully boxing SATAN like MIKE TYSON over a simple human failure or error, subject to correctional reversal through apologetic admission, strikes him as a pure hypocrisy – moral or religious – as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Purples Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, walks on the same path as Tompolo when she spoke through her character Ukamaka in the short story ‘THE SHIVERINGS’ in the book The Thing Around Your Neck thus:
‘She wanted to interrupt and tell him how unnecessary it was, this bloodying and binding, this turning faith into a pugilistic exercise; to tell him that life was a struggle with ourselves more than with a spear-wielding Satan; that belief was a choice for our conscience always to be sharpened (Adichie, 143)
There is nothing absolutely wrong with being deeply religious and having a vast knowledge of culture in all its varied manifestations and expression. Tompolo is a deeply religious person with a vast cultural awareness built around his people. In a conscious effort to inject, infuse cultural elixir into the lives of his people and forestall cultural atrophy and encroachment, annual cultural festivals are usually held in Oporoza; he also, usually, extends tentacles of supportive financial aids to communities that hold annual festivals of different dimensions. With amazing degree of constancy he does these and for his constant observation of these ceremonies, he is differently appellated as an unrepentant idol worshiper. Those who daily flaunt their chronic gargantuan ignorance and link Tompolo’s mere cultural expressions to an irrepressible desire to purchase idols from communities and immortalize the practice of idol-worshiping, let it be known to you that cultural festivals broaden our cultural horizon and equip us with the power to face the inherent challenges of our environment. Tompolo deserves nothing but only commendation for his annual cultural expressions channelled through dramatic festivals because:
African dramatic festivals promote moral education aesthetic and artistic creativity and develop people’s religious awareness, cultural sensibility and faith in the people’s institutions.
A fundamental function of festival drama in the African world is the promotion of the life-continuity of the people, their property, security, fertility and safeguard from evil forces (F.B.O. Akporobaro, 457 – 458).
I Must confess that with this sanctimoniously chronic lackadaisical attitude towards culture and its varied expressions, we are likely to resurrect and re-ignite derisively a debate that had already been consigned to the dustbin of history with the publication of JP Clark’s Ozidi Saga, D.T. Nianne’s Sundjiata, Mubima Maneniang’s Elima Ngando Epic of the Congo and the Lianja epic, The Mwindo epic, the sagas of D.O. Fagunwa, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Ruth Finnegan’s Oral Literature in Africa, Oyin Oguma and Abiola Irele’s Theatre in Africa, G.G. Darah’s studies on Oral Literature and many others. Europeans were the trail-blazers in the denigration of the African culture – a dead matter some of you are attitudinally tempted to resurrect and further bastardize the African image, the African identity.
As you labour like hunger-stricken fishermen on Akparemogbene fordable creek, carrying minds disdainful of your own culture, be reawakened to the fact that top on the list of those notorious for intellectual minimization of African culture is the French anthropologist Claude Levy-Bruhl. Levy-Bruhl arrogantly maintains in his book PRIMITIVE MENTALITY that primitive man (black man) lacks the capability for logical, rational and intelligent organization of thoughts, ideas and experience. This is purely a denigration of the intellectual capabilities of black men all over the world. To him, the primitive man’s organization of ideas, his creativity, and modes of perception are chaotic, lacking the coherence and intellectual qualities characteristic of the whiteman’s rational, logical approach. On the arrogant intellectual sophistry of Levy-Bruhl many 18th and 19th century European thinkers and writers contend that the primitive man has no literature, no culture, though Chinua Achebe promptly countered this intellectual degradation with the publication of THINGS FALL APART in 1958 (F.O.B. Akporobaro, 42). However, another French anthropologist rose to the defense of the intellectual diseimo, denigration of the primitive man: he is Claude Levy-Strauss. In his work PENSEES SAVAGE, he dished out correspondingly intellectual refutation of the claims of Levy-Bruhl. On the strength of his theory ‘the universality of nationality in man’, he held the view that: ‘The mind of the civilized – The European and of the Primitive did not differ in kind and only modified by cultural external accidents’ (46).
To authoritatively lend weight to his theoretical postulations, Levy-Strauss collected and studied the folklore of pre-literate societies and laboured to identify the structure and logic common to both whiteman and blackman with a view to establishing the universality of the logic of the human mind – whether black or white. Clear and loud is the fact that Tompolo’s Cultural expressions, often ignorantly dismissed with searing castigation, are de facto exemplary moves towards the extension and immortalization of the theoretical postulations of Levy-Strauss which should be seen as sources of inspiration for this our blundering generation.
Because we have shamelessly and sanctimoniously appropriated the apparel of a blundering generation, we can no longer distinguish between what is African and what is Western in Origin. Denuded of a knowledge of folklore, culturally rudderless, through self-imposed acts of insouciance over the years, aesthetic bodily adornments, bodily beauty enhancements, using tattoo and anklets – all obviously rooted in African cultures – have not only been appallingly branded European creations/fashion invading Africa but also sanctimoniously termed faustic, mephistophilic, demonic, satanic encroachments on the secular space by some benighted religious JUGUDUS (fanatics) and pathological votaries of God. Since when did mere bodily beauty-enhancement accoutrements, aesthetically hypnotizing artistic creation of butterflies, crocodiles, pythons, flowers, dolphins, eagles, doves and owls tattooed on the body become satanic encroachments? Or has art lost its appeal to this blundering generation?
This assignment of the artistic authorship of FASHION such as tattoo-adornment, waist-beads-adornment and anklet-adornment – fetishly labelled abikuical and ogbanjeical in whimsically ignorant territories, to the western world perpetually remains fertilized by the hiatus in the continuum of folklore-knowledge occasioned by non-challance towards culture and it’s gratifying artistic enhancement of the society at large. It is perhaps insouciance of this magnitude demonstrated by this blundering generation that propelled the French anthropologist Levy-Bruhl to make the arrogant pronouncement denigrating the creative capabilities of blacks. Must this generation, this blundering generation, resurrect the dead Levy-Bruhl?
Blundering generation, stop the false ignorant attribution of authorship of African fashions/creations to Europeans. Africans are great imaginative creators of artistic fashions. African, nay Nigerians, are blessed with mesmerizing artistic creations. The Nok culture, the artistic creations of Ife, Benin and others readily come to mind. In your precipitate move to manufacture a FASHION-VACUUM for Africa – as attested to by your current perspectives on tattoo-adornment, waist-bead-adornment and anklet-adornment – you may be irresistibly tempted to attribute the celebrated traditional creations of Igbo-ukwu, Ife, Nok and Benin to Europeans. Before you do that in your abysmal ignorance and insouciance, let it snake through your insensitive bodies, culturally insensitive bodies, that:
The great traditions of Nok, Ife, Benin and Igbo-ukwu are all fine and impressive testimonies to the great artistic aspirations of Nigerians people since ancient times. The numerous folktales, lyrics, epic narratives and mythical creations are extensions and continuities in the verbal medium of the great tradition of artistic creations established down the ages (F.B.O. Akporobaro, 85).
Tompolo is the elephant constantly credited with sight-seeing visits which always produce multiple descriptive perspectives bordering on the anatomical compositions of this creature traditionally poeticized in the poem ‘salute to the elephant’ as:
Huge Beast who tears a man like a garment
And hangs him on a tree.
The sight of whom causes people to stampede towards a hill of safety’.
A blood-thirsty hound. An implacable apostle of peace. For pathological apologists of mask-existence in opinion-formulation, their shameless marketability of such formulated opinions for public consumption, they would not feel any twinge of conscience in their public denunciation of these two contradictory positions on Tompolo; yet down the inaccessible compartment of the hearts of such lily-livered, effeminate, babuyorbabuyor, bonsoronbonsoron, sibiritical detractors they live as much by perceptions of Tompolo as a bloody revolutionary as by perceptions of him as an implacable lover of peace.
Uncountable miles away from the characterizations of a blood-thirsty hound, villainious revolutionary, he lives in the labyrinthine creeks, his constantly voiced aversion to revolution as his commanding philosophy but when revolution is conceived, positively geared towards transformation, only as the unavoidable ultimate recourse in the face of the crumbling of all other available interventionist organs, his sensibilities, his sensitivities, would be moved fractionally – fractionally moved to effect the desired transformation. It would be wrong to term him a blood-thirsty hound without being grounded in his philosophical background.
History is replete with examples of personalities who are identical to Tompolo in terms of directional ideologies held. It was the same philosophy Soyinka professed when he was incarcerated in the wake of the Western region upheaval that polarized Chief Obafemi Awolowo and S.L.A. Akintola into UPGA (United Progressive Grand Alliance), a merger of NCNC and AG, and NNA (Nigerian National Alliance), a merger of NPC and NNDA. Soyinka’s offence was possession of firearm and holding up a radio station during which the recorded speech of Akintola, hitherto programmed for broadcast, was exchanged with another of Soyinka’s, broadcast at gunpoint thus:
‘This is the voice of the people, the true people of this nation. And they are telling you, Akintola, get out! Get out, and take with your renegades who have lost all sense of shame (THE PENEKELEMES YEARS: A MEMOIR 1946 – 1965, 362).
Having held up ENBC (Eastern National Broadcasting Corporation), a radio station with mobile and detachable transmitter temporarily domiciled in the West in the heat of the Western convulsion, ingeniously creating an outlet for a DENUNCIATORY broadcast in place of Akintola’s recorded speech at gunpoint, he later turned himself up for arrest by the police. Incarcerated, Soyinka was seen more as a blood-thirsty, vicious, psychopathic revolutionary and less as an infectious intellectual though he promptly rose in deprecation of this reactionary image-battering stand of his gaolers, spelling out the colours of his revolutionary ideology through his alter ego Maren – which is, interestingly, a reiteration of the much-demonised revolutionary compositions of Tompolo:
And I am trying to explain why I never join those who call for a violent revolution, in spite of the fact that I accept violence as a sometimes necessary component of positive change. Yes, a sometimes necessary component, and one that I am always ready to endorse, instigate and even partake of, where circumstances leave one no option…
The difference is that I will not den such a fundamental truth of myself, even in a court of law. But the rhetoric of violence only disgusts one (THE PENKELEMES YEARS, 315).
No doubt, Soyinka’s interventionist revolutionary role to revive, restore, resuscitate a fast sinking political sanity over and above political cant and systematic basterdization of the democratically secured, democratically guaranteed, popular will of the people in the Western region, ideologically links the two together in their exploration of the philosophy of revolution at different stages of their lives. On the strength of this unambiguous philosophy of revolution Tompolo had unceasingly repudiated programmed disparaging media attempts to obfuscate his untainted philosophy of revolution and link him to renewed violence in the Niger delta. To repudiate the infantile disparaging publications on him and to register his unambiguous stand on current events in Nigeria, the unbroken historic taciturnity of Tompolo was verbally broken by him in his repudiatory counter-publications: ‘APC members in Bayelsa, Delta States are framing me (18 January 2016, VANGUARD), ‘I am not part of the Niger Delta Avengers Group’ (3 May 2016, Vanguard), ‘Open letter to the President’ (10 May 2016, VANGUARD), ‘The continuous military siege on me and Gbaramantu kingdom, unfortunate’ (17 May 2016, VANGUARD), ‘The harassment of Tompolo: Is President Jonathan next on APC’s hit list?’ (1 January 2016, VANGUARD, a publication by Alliance for the Preservation of Nigerian Democracy) ‘An open letter to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on the current issues in the Niger Delta and specifically on the case of the Nigerian Maritime UNIVERSITY, Okerenkoko, Delta State, the case of Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo): a passionate appeal for your intervention’ (22 January 2016, VANGUARD, a publication by Chief Dr. EK Clark), ‘Jesus and the Criminals’ (29 September 2016, VANGUARD, an article by Ekanpou Enewaridideke), ‘Sunset and a Coronation’ (3 February 2016, VANGUARD, an article by Ekanpou Enewaridideke) and ‘Time to Tame Iconoclasts’ (15 April 2015, VANGUARD, an article by Ekanpou Enewaridideke).
The Niger Delta had long been willfully suppressed and marginalized with impunity and panache. The crude oil dwells in our territory but its fertilizing aroma we can never claim and be soothed – the fertilizing aroma of the crude oil perpetually becoming okilitic (slippery) in its flow. A rivulet DAMMED UP always follows torrentially when the embankment source is suddenly tampered with. The resurgence of violence in the Niger Delta could be the KARMIC visitation of a long suppressed voice, not Tompolo’s vindictive reversal of his philosophy of non-violence testified by his oath of AMNESTY taken in 2009. For Karmic lessons, Karmic consequences of voice-suppression, as it relates to the resurgence of violence in the Niger Delta, we must not look too far, as Soyinka is always there to navigate the tortuous course:
However long it takes, there comes that destablizing response of a people’s anger, even under military dictatorship. It is that moment when the stolen voice miraculously returns to its rightful proprietor, when the vocal cords are tuned to a strident register that shatters chains, stones, bricks and confronts guns. It was manifested in the political history of Ondo and other States in 1983, and it was equally manifested in the response to the manipulations of June 12, 1993 elections (The Deceptive Silence of Stolen Voices, 6)
Traceable contours of ideological intersection point emerged between Tompolo and M.K. Gandhi right from the day the former took the 2009 Amnesty oath of allegiance. Prior to the 2009 Amnesty Tompolo took some firm ideological positions on the issue of marginalization and injustice perpetuated in the Niger Delta by veterans of exploitation. He was firm, very firm in his principled positions because he had allowed himself showered by the exhortation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu that: ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’. On second thought it would appear that Tompolo’s anguished irrepressible revolutionary ululations were, to all intents and purposes, more responsive to the inspiring words of Martin Luther King Junior that: ‘The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people’ (The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Junior, ).
So the anguished ululations of Tompolo, rooted as they were in revolution, prior to the 2009 Amnesty, were normal responses of a good man to dismantle man-made oppressive monstrosities. He ideologically turned Gandhi after the 2009 Amnesty, leaving behind traceable radiant contours of ideological-connectivity between the two. Though the entire psychology of Tompolo is immersed in M.K. Gandhi’s philosophical exhortation of ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’, the life he now leads after subscribing to the 2009 Amnesty oath exemplifies that of M.K Gandhi – as culled from the back cover of his book, NAKED AMBITION:
The pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India’s independence movement, pioneer of non violent resistance through mass civil disobedience, and the man honoured in India as ‘father of the nation’; Mohandos K Gandhi has inspired civil rights and liberation movements the world over.
Like the wind which appears and disappears of its own volition, occasionally ambivalent in her MAMBO of destruction and construction, no amount of vicious media campaigns irrationally teleguided with propagandist flamboyance would dislodge Tompolo from the philosophical ISLAND of Gandhi he now occupies – an ISLAND accessible to EGBESU for occasional telepathic communication with the IZONISED Gandhi.
Tompolo the IZONISED Gandhi had only been involved in armed battle against the federal Government of Nigeria to resuscitate, liberate and reclaim the hijacked voice, the suppressed voice, the stolen voice of Niger Delta. Now faithfully married to Gandhi on the philosophical ISLAND of M.K Gandhi, Tompolo is only burdened by the human misery he sees everywhere; the inexorable desertification of religious faith, the precipitous drift of morality in the world, the desertification of spirituality in the world, the fast-receding attention paid to developmentally impoverished people in the Niger Delta producing resurgent violence in the Niger vindictively attributed to him, the corrosion of once treasured existential values and man’s humongous capacity for lies-consumption without the reliability of a sieve, a filter – the kind of ‘filter’ Abraham Lincoln called for in his Letter to his son’s teacher. Catapulted willy-nilly into a world rendered daily bloated, gratuitously bloated, turbulent, turgid, turbid, clangorous , cacophonous by vindictive man-made lies of persecution, a world dead to wise counsel of peace and development, he feels sheltered by the words of Matthew Arnold in his poem ‘Dover Beach’ – words that awaken him to remain faithful to the Gandhian path he had chosen despite the invasive disillusionment upon his soul everyday:
‘The sea of faith was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled;
But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar;
Retreating to the breath
of the night wind down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night’.
Tompolo! Tompolo! Tompolo! What is indeed tompoloic about Tompolo?As something was Julius Caesaric about Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR, something is definitely tompoloic about Tompolo – the resonance, the echoes, the reverberations that always accompany the name either in the vindictively and positively hyperbolised styles of INDIVIDUALIZED prefixation or suffixation embody a message for mankind. Having taken the Amnesty in 2009 he had since worked devotedly with the Federal Government of Nigeria towards a safe Niger Delta conducive to both indigenous and foreign investors engaged in commercial maritime activities. Working in partnership with NIMASA (Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) through Global West Vessels Specialist Limited, the revenue-generation capacity of NIMASA was astronomically boosted to the joy of the Nigerian Government. While his patriotism-inspired maritime engagement lasted, the daily crude oil production of Nigeria was far above the projected amount. The entire Niger Delta was calm like the ‘calm sea’ in Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ as he further engaged countless youths to guard crude oil pipelines in execution of his pipeline and oil facility surveillance contract awarded him by the Federal Government.
Beyond attracting projects like the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, dockyard, EPZ project which has two components designated as Gas City in Ogidigben, and Deep sea port in Gbaramatu, rehabilitation, reintegration/empowerment programme of Niger Delta ex-freedom fighters and many others to the Niger Delta, Tompolo had, through Tompolo Foundation, spent over N50M (Fifty Million Naira) on the provision of educational materials such as school sandals, shoes, books and instructional materials for schools in Warri South-West Council in Delta State. Fifteen Primary Schools and five Secondary schools were beneficiaries of this largesse. To be more specific, one million naira was dished out to me in RAW CASH for the purchase of copies of my own books The Wanted Man in Camp Four (a play) and A Sail in the Dark (a novel) by Tompolo Foundation. These two books purchased in large quantities were freely given to various secondary schools to build their intellectual capacities towards a better society. Again before the birth of Tompolo Foundation, it was Tompolo who personally bankrolled the publication of my own book The Road to Ken Saro-wiwa – and surprisingly, and interestingly, The Road to Ken Saro-wiwa was selected as the Winner of the Isidore Okpewho prize for Literature (in prose category) in 2004 in a literary competition in which participants were drawn from the different states of the Federation; the literary competition was organized by Association of Nigerian Authors, Delta state Chapter. Doesn’t the name Tompolo sound like Julius Caesar in Julius Caesar? Must we roll our eyes enviously because the name sounds like Julius Caesar in its reverberations?
Health, they say, is wealth. When health goes on strike like Grand master Pereama Freetown’s musical portrait of poor people going on strike out of provocation, development cries, development cries pitiably, for attention that would never come. Alerted to the dangers of pitiable cries from development in the absence of health, the Tompolo Foundation renovated and equipped Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital, provided 42 medical and non-medical staff and paved the way for the OPERATIONALIZATION of the hospital in April 2013 to August 2015. This Cottage Hospital had been abandoned by the Delta State Government in the wake of the Major-General Sarki Bello-led JTF (Joint Task Force) military bombardment of Gbaramantu Kingdom in 2009. The Cottage Hospital was medically home to 160 communities drawn from Burutu, Patani, Bomadi, Warri South-West, Warri North and Warri South Local Government Areas with a record of ten thousand patients during the period of its OPERATIONALIZATION; it recorded a safe delivery of 480 bouncing babies, carried out 600 surgical operations, donated drugs, hospital equipment and consumables to Cottage Hospital, Ogulagha, Central Hospital, Warri, General Hospital, Ekpan, General Hospital Ogbe-Ijo, Primary Health Centre Ugbokodo, Primary Health Centre Yenezeugene, Bayelsa State, Primary Health Centre, Abonema, Rivers state, and Primary Health Centre, Patani, Delta State. It is also on record that Tompolo Foundation built and expanded the Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital laboratory and acquired State-of-the-art equipment now on waiting wings for installation.
To fly off zones of misunderstanding and misinformation, let it be known to you that the OKerenkoko Cottage Hospital was originally built by NDDC. DESOPADEC came and used the hospital for their free medical programme for about two years and abandoned the Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital. In its abandoned dilapidated state, GIANT WEEDS came and used it also for their free medical programme of uninhibited, untrammeled luxuriant proliferation, thus making it possible for snakes, antelopes monkeys, alligators, pythons, leopards, eagles, kites, weaver-birds and squirrels to seek free medical attention there. It was from this pitiably despicable state the Tompolo Foundation Salvaged Okerenkoko Cottage Hospital and spent over N350 Million on the health of Niger Deltans – to the thunderous applause of well-intentioned Niger Deltans. Are all these not the steps of a freedom activist with a pan-Niger Delta vision?
Away from the probing eyes of Tompolo Foundation, Tompolo individually gives scholarships to brilliant students to further their education; he also builds houses for both literate and illiterate people who suffer financial disablement to the extent of being deprived of a decent shelter. The followers of Tompolo, most of whom were beneficiaries of his FREE HOUSING SCHEME, can bear witness to this. In his occasional walk through the length and breadth of Oporoza on hallowed days, sometimes rambling into the encroaching forest, any dilapidated structure with a perilously sagging roof spotted always commands immediate unsolicited renovation from him. So frequent were these house-renovation miracles from him that the Oporozans had to petition God for the constancy of Tompolo’s occasional walks through the town on hallowed days.
However, when it comes to financial generosity or material generosity extended by Tompolo to people, his operational principles sound odd, very odd. For him it would be sacrilegious to tell Mr. A what he had done with Mr. B. This is why most of his acts of generosity do not ring bell. His rather odd principle of ‘acts of generosity must not be parroted, must not be heard by others who have no business with it’ ranks him philosophically among the elders of Umuofia who communicated in low tones when it was time to take Ikemefuna to his own people as demanded by the oracle – which was a conspiratorially ostensible reason to lure him away to be killed as a sacrifice to the gods. Though odd, Tompolo’s uncommunicative financial or material generosity is, unarguably, borne out of his philosophy of self-effacement and kiminakumoism.
To merit Tompolo’s human capital development largesse – a man who is a product of cultural deep-rootedness – you must first revive and deepen your roots in culture through self-willed immersion in Ijaw waters of folklore. Towards cultural renaissance through immersion in waters of folklore, hitherto foolishly discarded in pursuit of Western culture, we must first of all turn to the Caribbean for directional inspiration – the Caribbean for whose writers literature becomes a weapon for empowerment and articulation of their inhibitions, oppression, exploitation and harrowing experiences towards a paradigm shift from knowledge of Europe to that of the Caribbean people. The word Caribbean came from Caribs. Caribbean is an Island from North to South of America. The red Indians are the original owners of this island, otherwise called Emeridians, before the infiltration of the island by the imperialist Christopher Columbus and the killing of the Red Indians for being resistant to imperialist control of the invader. The largest of the Caribbean Island is aboriginally occupied by countries like Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti – Haiti, the country that first recognized the Biafra Republic during the Nigerian Civil war. Trinidad, Tobago, Antigua, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia and others are the countries found in the smaller Island in the Caribbean. Caribbean is home to the most beautiful beaches in the world. And that the African slaves transported to Haiti were predominantly Ibos just like the ones to Brazil who were predominantly Yorubas. This explains why there are cultural Ibo artifacts and Yoruba artifacts in Haiti and Brazil.
Precisely, between the 15th and the 19th centuries a large number of Africans, Indians and South Africans were taken to the Caribbean through the instrumentality of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The descendants of these slaves become producers of literature that thematically dwells on stories of survival, exile, resistance, endurance, emigration, search and discovery of roots. Caribbean countries share inseparable linkage with history borne out of the colonialism and imperialism of the invaders – Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, France and English. Uprooted from their various ancestral bases, the Caribbeans become inheritors of fragmented culture in a strange land, burdened by a sense of cultural rootlessness. It is the knowledge of this cultural fragmentation and rootlessness they collectively or individually labour to transcend through cultural literacy authentically created in the context of the idioms and allusions of the people.
For Caribbean writers like Paule Marshall and Kamau Brathwaite it is their intellectual task to transcend this cultural fragmentation and rootlessness. Similarly, we must labour to transcend our cultural fragmentation, our cultural rootlessness mediated by immersion in waters of folklore. Let us revive our culture of story-telling at moonlight, the culture of DERIADERIA (comedy), the culture of AGBUDA(riddles), the culture of EKPEDESE, ONGUSE, the culture of AKARIBEBE (proverbs), the stories of Ato kudu ebomini ebomini yo, the stories of Ewiri, the stories of Otobra and many others. A world of wisdom is imprisoned in our folktales – wisdom bound to equip you for the challenges in the environment. A society mediated by immersion in waters of folklore grows astronomically in terms of development – materially or humanly – because:
…. Folklore provides a vast tapestry in which are woven in terrifying images and colours, many actions and incidents which can chill, terrify, depress and or excite the human imagination. Whether written or oral, tales and lyrics are in a significant sense “creative refractions” of human condition into its varied colours to express vividly the realities of good and evil inherent in the soul of man (F.B.O. Akporobaro, 425-426).
Towards the transcending of cultural desertification, cultural rootlessness, you have been urged to emulate the Caribbean. To sink cultural rootlessness mediated by immersion in waters of folklore, we must equally turn to our musicians like late Jim Rex Lawson, late king Robert Ebizimor, late professor I.K. belemu, late Chief Echoe Tokumo, late Bestman Doupere, Agbeotu Teyeibo, Pereama Freetown, Barrister Soja Smooth, King Pius Fezena (Alabeni), King Alfred Izon-Ebi, Triple Chief kennedy Duduku, Sir Godfrey Smooth, Imperator Omoko Ogbomudia, Alex Kimaki, Dr. Ball-ere, Eseimokumo Ogiren, Beinta, Queen Cement, Fred Eniekenemu and others. Listening to the songs of these musicians could facilitate cultural initiations because their songs demonstrate healthy exploitation of the Ijaw folklore in different dimensions.
Specifically, listen to king Robert Ebizimor’s OFONIA MA PUKE, Amamatortoryo; listen to Teyeibo Agbeotu’s LATE DUKE of OJOBO, BENABAFA; listen to Bestman Doupere’s ENAMALAYEFA. Compositionally in terms of instrumentation, vocalization, lyrics and message, these songs are musical master-pieces; there is creative use of folkloric resources in the songs. There is always something striking about these three musicians. Ebizimor, Doupere and Agbeotu were together right from the cradle of their musical careers; yet none of their individual musical compositions shows element of musical plagiarism. These three musicians, despite their age-long togetherness, have distinctly individual musical philosophies. Their healthy use of AGBUDA, DERIADERIA and AKARIBEBE – which are folkloric resources – always invest their songs with distinct colouration, necessitating fanatical cries of ENCORE anytime they are played. A whole world of proverbs is skillfully created in their songs, didactically giving a panorama of society for ethical revolution. No wonder Akporobaro holds the view that:
A collection of the proverbs of a community or nation is, in real sense, an ethnography of the people which if systematized can give a penetrating picture of the people’s way of life, their philosophy, their criticism of life, moral truth and social values (Introduction to Oral Literature, 79).
Towards the establishment of a society of integrated personalities, a society where the continuum of sanitizing voices would not be gagged, a society friendly to the reincarnations of Tompolo, a society where cowards, agent provocateurs, saboteurs, ministers of lies, ministers of galabagalaba would be naturally choked to retirement; a society where access to Tompolo Foundation’s life-improvement largesse would not be barricaded by Government functionaries, immersion in the Ijaw waters of folklore is a desideratum – because only such waters refine, purify and equip you to survive in this forest of flowers teeming with savage lions on the prowl, a forest where KING TEMUGEDEGEDE has settled for the cannibalistic methodology…
Before God Almighty, therefore, we all stand as supplicants like the supplicant in Christopher Okigbo’s poem ‘Idoto’ desirous of poetic inspiration, poetic growth, poetic progression and poetic fame from the goddess mother Idoto:
‘Before you, mother Idoto naked I stand,
Before your watery presence a prodigal…
Under your power wait I On barefoot
Watchman for the watchword at Heavens’ gate’.
For Tompolo, prayerfully: may this cup pass away from me through deus ex machina-visitation divinely sanctioned; for the students here it is a simple prayerful wish: may we happily leave our various universities at the appointed time; for me it is very simple: may this lecture snake through all culturally insensitive bodies and summon them for immersion in the waters of folklore where the key to clear perspectives on our present societal encumbrances lies. Upon our genuine words of supplication I can see a humongous harvest – a transformation of our supplicatory mustard seed sown on the soil. That I can see the burgeoning seed is a conviction derived from the re-invigorating, hope-infusing lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox in his timeless poem ‘The law’:
From cycle to cycle, through time and through space,
Your lives with your longings will ever keep pace.
And all that you ask for, and all you desire,
Must come at your bidding, as flames out of fire.
(The Mastery of Life, 2).
These time-tested lines are the unsolicited words to slake the quest of Tompolo while he awaits the responses from his epistles mystically channeled to DEUS EX MACHINA – epistles that only thrive on telepathic communication.
In a country of over 150 million people with a worsening unemployment rate of 36.8 percent, let us adopt as a policy thrust in this our Ministry of Prayer and Miracle that Nigeria be miraculously awakened to embrace realistic moves to stabilise and PEDESTRIANISE the pump price of premium motor spirit (petrol) to the joy of the ordinary people. Towards genuine stabilization of the pump price of fuel may we prayerfully add that the country be chastened by happenings in other countries, particularly in countries like Venezuela in Latin America where the minimum wage is N95,639, the litre of premium motor spirit N3.61; in Iraq where the minimum wage is N25,813, the litre of petrol N59.66; in Qater where the minimum wage is N101,250, the litre of petrol N34.54 and Iran where the minimum wage is N86,585 and the price of fuel per litre N102. As captured by Chuks Iloegbunami in her article in the Vanguard of 23 May 2016 entitled ‘Are you see what I’m saw’, the Nigerian Government could be prayerfully arrested to be awakened by happenings around other oil-producing countries and walk on the right path. Nothing is beyond the power of prayer, not even the current N145 per litre of petrol in Nigeria.
Now that the drought which once ravaged the people of Abazon in Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah over which Ikem Osodi and others fought the Government of General Sam for a corresponding attention is all over the world, let us also, from the Ministry of Prayer and Miracle, prayerfully awaken Nigeria to the challenges of CLIMATE CHANGE so timely steps could be taken to tackle its devastating challenges. In ‘Hunger, not war can end the world’, an article in the vanguard of 20 May 2016, written by Owei Lakemfa out of genuine concern for humanity, the Lake Chad, economically beneficial to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Nigeria in terms of its resources, had long been ravaged by drought and famine. As statistically highlighted by the Basin Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), the Lake Chad had 25,000 square Kilometres in the 1960s but it shrank to 4,800 square kilometres in 2014; there was also a population explosion from 17 million in 2005 to 38 million in 2016. These are signs of hunger and suffering upon humanity in the world.
To Ertharin Cousin, the Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP), the impact of climate change on sub-saharan Africa is devastating. Like the drought-ravaged Abazonians, countries such as India, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia have had their bout of ravaging drought. Even Latin America, the Caribbean, Honduras, Guatemala, Germany, Czech, France, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, United States and many other countries are exposed to the ravages of climate change in varying degrees. However, towards formulation of realistically sustainable policy on climate change, consciously away from rhetorical BAMBOOZLEMENT, as supplicants before God like the supplicant before mother Idoto, let us faithfully hold unto our meditative prayerful commitment, anchored on the belief that the falling of the walls of Jericho could still be re-enacted in the lifetime of this blundering generation – though, personally, I still fear the world like Hon. Teyeibo Agbeotu who musically declares ‘I fear the world’.
FINALLY, even after all these landmarks, contours – ideological, developmental, sociological, economic, cultural, philosophical and metaphysical – meticulously traced in linear progression, are de facto products of, or epi-phenomenon of, Tompolo’s CHASTISEMENT of Nigeria, the mephistophilic metaphorisation of Tompolo as the MONSTER and the PLAGUE in the forest should henceforth be THUNDEROUSLY claimed with pomp and pageantry by all the believers of Tompolo. Therefore, away, away, away to our various ROOSTS we must, the two eyes hermetically closed, minds ecstatically incalculable fathoms away from thoughts of Tompolo as the monster, minds imprisoned like a compulsive listener to a captivating folktale told by Timiebi Maika in Akparemogbene, comforted by effulgent indicators that Tompolo’s incandescent revolutionary philosophy is DE FACTO FAULTLESS and INSPIRING.
BY EKANPOU ENEWARIDIDEKE