The devilish sponsored campaign of calumny and blackmail perpetuated by a gang of rent-seekers and political opportunists aimed at discrediting me and other leaders in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria came to a crescendo this past Sunday when a DISCREDITED online tabloid published a story in which I was named as a “symphatiser” of the Niger Delta Avengers.
My initial reaction to the report, which has been debunked by many of its targets, beginning from former President Goodluck Jonathan who was named as the “grand patron” of the militant group, was to continue my stance of dismissing previous petty attempts to distract me from my life’s work which is use dialogue, advocacy, and every peaceful means to draw attention to the decades-long environmental, economic, and political injustices perpetuated against my people – the Ijaw nation – and other ethnic minorities of the Southern Nigeria, and other marginalized and subjugated minority groups in Nigeria.
Following extensive consultations with my family, friends, and grass root support base, I submit to wise counsel and, am, therefore going on record refuting the wicked, deadly, and, indeed, unfortunate claims by a spineless group of cowards hiding behind a moniker, Cynthia Whyte, created in the early days of the Niger Delta struggle by the original Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND.
It is important to state that this dangerous wave of propaganda being used to attack leaders of the Niger Delta region, and indeed the people of the oil producing communities of the South South region of Nigeria, is orchestrated by Nigerians from all parts of the country.
This group of charlatans, who are completely sold out to the works of darkness and destruction, has proven to be selfish and greedy, focused on perpetuating an unjust system that robs my people of their opportunities and keeps them in perpetual slavery. They will go to any length to divide, kill, destroy, and steal from the people of the Niger Delta, even if it means burning down Nigeria in the process.
I, Annkio Briggs, have dedicated the past 18 years of my life, solely, to serving my people and my region on the platform of truth, equity, and justice. I have painstakingly built a reputation as a leader who fears God only, and stands fearless demanding for justice for my people using NON-VIOLENT means.
I am a public figure who lives in the oil city of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, in the Niger Delta. I am known in Nigeria and internationally as an advocate for justice and for peaceful resolution of conflict. My fearless and untiring advocacy on behalf of my people has earned me admiration and accolade both in Nigeria and internationally. All this has come by the grace of God.
I began my agitations for equity and justice in Nigeria in 1998, under the brutal military regime of General Sani Abacha. Since then, my position on the issues of injustice and oppression affecting my people and their future has never changed and will not change until the policies which subjugate my people and reduce them to 2nd-class citizens in a country in which they are major contributors to the wealth of the nation, the system that destroys their environment and robs them of their livelihood and gives nothing back is completely dismantled.
I will remain a non-violent rights activist. I have never and will never ever support the use of violence to achieve freedom – in any way, shape, or form. I am a proud and unapologetic Ijaw woman and advocate for the Niger Delta region, all her people, and all other oppressed ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. I will not be silenced. I stand on the back of TRUTH and by God’s grace, JUSTICE will prevail in the end.
I wish to use this opportunity to call on President Muhammadu Buhari and the leaders of the security forces in Nigeria to resist the temptation of falling for the tricks of political jobbers – especially those from the Niger Delta who have sold their people out for a momentary relevance. Buhari should remember that one who sells out his own blood, for whatever reason, would not hesitate to sell-out a stranger if the price is right.
Buhari must resist attempts by these greedy cowards to distract the government from focusing on solving the problems plaguing Nigeria for decades; problems which arise from an acutely unjust system.
I wish to remind the president that apart from the Niger Delta people’s long-time agitations for justice and equity, the decades-long and escalating crisis of herdsmen violence against the minority ethnic groups of the Central (Middle Belt) and Southern Nigeria is one that must be confronted and stopped. Also, the Islamist terrorism perpetrated against the people of north eastern Nigeria in the name of Boko Haram (and now ISIS) is one that must be resolved with a view of saving lives and ending the slaughter of the innocent.
In addition to fighting the 60-years old institutional corruption in the country, President Buhari must create a democratic environment where the agitations for freedom and justice – such as manifested in renewed agitation by the Igbo people for a free Biafra Republic – are heard and the issues addressed.
On the backdrop of crashing oil prices, the diminishing value of the country’s naira, and the threat of widespread starvation in Nigeria as predicted by the United Nations, the country needs a strong, focused, and solutions-driven government and not one that plays into the dangerous divide-and-rule games being played by political rent-seekers.
I wish to go on record again: The strategy of using a few black sheep from the Niger Delta with the hope of destroying our genuine call for equity and justice is from an old playbook. It has failed in the past, and will continue to fail.
These traitors of their own people should remember that though they live in Abuja today, their home would forever be in the Niger Delta.
I also wish to use this platform to appeal to the group called the Niger Delta Avengers to seriously consider the call for dialogue. I also appeal to leaders of the Niger Delta people to continue to seek means to identity the real militants with a view to resolving the current crisis through peaceful means.
I also wish to call on the federal government of Nigeria to be careful whom they deal with when it comes to matters concerning the Niger Delta. They must, of essence, identify genuine leaders with a heart for peace and not self-enrichment and engage them with a view of resolving the current crisis.
As a stakeholder in the Niger Delta and one who is passionate about the development and security of the oil-rich region, I will continue to pursue equity and justice for my people, and all the oppressed minority groups in Nigeria.
One sure truth is that the solution to the Niger Delta problem does not lie in bullets or bombs, threats or intimidation, lies or blackmail, mock trials or media trials such as the latest attempt to discredit respected leaders of the region.
I have always believed in Nigeria’s capacity to be great, and have always insisted that we have to collectively answer the question of how we can be great again.
I believe that the path to greatness for Nigeria lies in TALKING and LISTENING to the aggrieved people in the county and not to dismiss agitations or to carry on as if some people in Nigeria are conquered people or unequal partners.
The people of the Niger Delta are not slaves to any other region, neither are we willing to perpetually live under an unjust system. We are sick and tired of the degradation of our environment, the destruction of our livelihood, the oppression of our children, and paying the ultimate price for Nigeria to continue to plunder our resources and leave us to die of cancer occasioned by the poisoning of our water and land.
I remain unmoved from my stand to seek justice for my people and my region and the defense of their unalienable rights to choose their political leaders and to worship their own God without fear or threat to life.
A united Nigeria is not to be attained by force or at the expense of the people of the Niger Delta, but by justice, equity, inclusiveness, and fairness, not just for the Niger Delta region but for every part of Nigeria.
Annkio Briggs is a respected leader of the Niger Delta struggle for human rights and environmental justice. Connect with her on Facebook.