Isaac Adaka Boro was by far the originator of active separatism in Nigeria, with his declaration of the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966, ushered in the beginning of an era. But sentiments aside should we look from an unbiased view was his aim for a Niger Delta republic realistic.
For we to be able to make sense of the situation we need to evaluate the reason for his move.
First of all, Isaac Adaka Boro wanted to save the oil-rich Niger Delta from the exploitation of the Nigerian government and the then Eastern Nigerian government, Isaac Adaka Boro did not have much problem with the general Eastern Nigerian state but the Igbo tribe. Since a large chunk of the then Eastern Nigerian government was controlled by the Igbos, it then becomes understandable to assume that a move against the Eastern Nigerian state was a move against the Igbos.
Some factors contributed to the agitation, such as the citing of the eastern Nigerian capital at Enugu a town in the Igbo heartland and the citing of the refinery in Port Harcourt which is Igbo (Igboid) dominated, again the domination of the Igbos in the Eastern Nigerian Government was another issue of interest to the agitators.
Bearing in mind that The Niger Delta is the Most Diversified Region in Southern Nigeria, one would wonder then, whose interest was Adaka Borro fighting for?, would it be safe to say that he was fighting for the interest of the minorities because if he was fighting for the interest of the Minorities, a Niger Delta without the Igbos will automatically imply that the Ijaws will become the majority and although the Igbos are perceived as being stubborn, loud and domineering, the Ijaws, on the other hand, are perceived as being aggressive by their neighbours and adversaries. An advantage the Igbos seem to have over the Ijaw is that the Igbos in the absence of provocation are seen as being progressive and peace-loving.
In the Niger Delta, more Minority tribes are much likely to associate with the Igbos than the Ijaws especially as the bigger brother role of the Igbos offers additional protection if not the Niger Delta would be like the North Central (Middle Belt), with no major tribe can easily be overrun by external forces or engulf itself in chaos. The truth is that the other tribes of the Niger delta may never see the Ijaw tribe as a big brother rather they are more likely to see the Ijaws as a competitor.
On the other hand, if the other interest of the agitation was for the citing of the capital in Igboland and the citing of the refinery in Portharcut then that also is another unrealistic effort, because while Igbo heartland had been demarcated from the Niger Delta heartland, two Igbo (Igboid) dominated city are still capitals of two states out of six states in the Niger Delta heartland, with Asaba as the capital of Delta State and Portharcut as the capital of Rivers state, it means that Igbos (Igboid) are the only tribe with two Capitals in the Niger Delta, a contemporary development that Issac Adakar Borrow’s ideology would have been against.
Now the big question is, did Issac Adaka Borro’s struggle yield any positive outcome or just created rancour between his tribesmen and the rest of the Niger Deltans, thereby putting the Ijaw tribe an emerging giant into a perpetual battle of supremacy with their neighbours where the rest of the Niger Delta tribes had united to make sure that the Ijaws are cut to size.
Up till today, Niger Delta oil is being drained with nothing to show for it in the Niger Delta region and up till today, just like the Igbos, The Ijaws are being systematically cut to size by the Nigerian government, The Nigerian State sure is wary about the Igbos but even at that, the Nigerian state is even more concerned about the Ijaws being a regional power in the Niger Delta.
An Ijaw regional power will cause a very big problem for the Nigerian state, the problem was timing, if Isac Adaka Borro picked his struggle after the coup of July 1966 which deposed General Aguiyi Ironsi, I would bet it that Ojukwu would have invited him to a round table, address some of his grievances in a bid to put the eastern Nigerian house in order in an anticipation of a possible showdown against the Nigerian state.
All in all, I think Isaac Adaka Boro’s struggle as at today could have been unavoidable but today we are more aware of the common enemy, the common enemy is neither Ijaw, nor Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba, the common enemy is not Islam or Christianity, the common enemy is our bad leaders who shied themselves with tribes, religion and government to perpetrate wanton corruption, human right abuses and orchestration of violence.
At last Isaac Adaka Boro’s struggle was a necessity but the direction and aim were hidden under the mask our politician and leaders still use today.