- Created on Friday, 22 February 2008 03:39
- Written by Tony Tekebaemi
Not all Nigerians believe that the late Major Isaac Adaka Jaspa Boro was a hero. This is true even among his own people, the Izons, whom he fought for; some think he was the lad who could not read his books and brought trouble on his people. The shadows of doubt cast on his saviour status are, of course, understandable. His sensibility to the lot of the Izons, the fourth largest linguistic group scattered along the Nigerian coast, was profound and amazingly personalized in a way that not many of his compatriots felt. And when he gave expression to his inner feelings, he could carry along with him only a few.
Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and the British colonialists left, bequeathing their administrative mess to an ethnically-based polity, presided over by three major tribes, the Hausa-Fulani, the Yorubas, and the Ibos. But tribalism is like sand; you hardly build a house on it that endures the test of nature's elements. Nigeria's foundation was rocked when the big three tore at one another's throats, while the minorities groaned over their deprivation of the national cake, in silence. It was obvious in those days that anyone outside the three major tribes who challenged the status-quo was only asking for destruction of his race.
The nauseating circumstances of national vice and disequilibrium that young Isaac met whetted his revolutionary appetite. But the youthful energy that he expended on his self-appointed mission was not necessarily carefully laid-out, leaping as he did most of the time before he looked; nor were his extreme methods considered orthodox.
It was inevitable, therefore, that he was generally misunderstood; a state of affairs that compelled him to distrust others and rely on his own capabilities. Now and then he butted against the world, ending up with painful bruises on his morale. In his perplexity, he came to see himself as an accused, and the rest of the world, prosecutor and judge.
It is not surprising that in this account of his life, Isaac devotes a lot of space to indulge in self-absolution. In doing this, he could not help but splash his venom on those he saw as exponent of the obnoxious national mileau: the Police Force where he himself was an officer; student politicians at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he played an active role in students' unionism; and in a more substantial way, the Eastern Region Government at that time, which he believed brazenly oppressed his people.
But whatever one may say about the youthful ventures of Late Boro, who appeared to have had an inborn penchant for leadership and power, his rare courage in standing up to be counted on the platform of his people in those years of political flatulence tells much of him.
When on January 15, 1966, a number of prominent political leaders in the First Republic were eliminated, including the country's prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa whom young Isaac had regarded as the beacon for the emancipation of his people, he knew that the moment for action had come.
It was a woeful moment, indeed, as embarking on an armed showdown against the might of the whole nation was farcical recklessness. Thus even before he took the desperate plunge with a ragtag force of a handful of native desperadoes, the ill-fate of his cherished cause was not in doubt.
The greatest predicament of the Delta uprising was the fact that the Izons were not in any way prepared. Thus Isaac's enlightenment campaign efforts in the heat of the revolution were at best belated and even sinisterly bewildering to this people.
He lost the cause. He and his men got rounded up, tried and condemned to death. But he had made the point. In the turn of national events, a state for the Rivers people was created along with eleven others. Some of Isaac's beloved Izons at last had a place where they could exist peaceably with others. Also, he and his men were pardoned by the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, in a singular act of benevolence. But fate is fate. Isaac died soldiering on the federal side in the war for Nigerian Unity, near Port Harcourt on the 20th April, 1968, I am sure, with a deep sense of vindication of his cause.
This book, THE TWELVE-DAY REVOLUTION, is the epic of a young man with a lion heart, who assigned himself the task of liberating his people whose yoke he felt squarely placed on his shoulders.
Today, Nigerian pray hard against exploits of the type that Isaac brought to bear on national stability. Nevertheless, the message brought to bear on national stability. Nevertheless, the message hopefully has been well received: that when a part of the national framework is aggrieved, every effort must be made to hear them so as to avoid untoward consequences.
I am very delighted to be associated with this thought-provoking autobiography, which it has been my rare privilege to edit. I only hope that those at the helm of the nation's affairs will have gained something after reading this book.
- Tony Tebekaemi