During the Biafran-Nigerian civil war, there were a few Biafran sons and daughters, who were deceived by the Hausa-controlled Nigerian government and used to fight their fellow Biafrans. Some of them were made to believe that Biafra was dominated by Igbos, who would commandeer all the resources. Isaac Adaka Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa were among the prominent sons who were misguided. They paid dearly for their betrayal of the Biafran Republic with their lives. And for more than fifty years, their kith and kin have suffered the nemesis of the errors of these sons who were misled and betrayed by the Hausas and their Yoruba friends.
Isaac Boro was killed at the peak of the war in controversial circumstances that strongly linked Colonel Benjamin Adenkule to the death, while Ken Saro Wiwa was eventually killed by Sani Abacha, who worked with him during the war, at Bonny. The stories of Isaac Adaka Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa are great lessons for contemporary and potential betrayals of the renewed movement for the restoration of Biafran Republic.
Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, from Kaiama (in present day Bayelsa State), was born in September 10, 1938 in Oloibiri.
Isaac Boro, while studying Chemistry at University of Nigeria Nsukka became the Student Union President of the University. Despite this support and political patronage he got from his Igbo brothers at the university, Boro led the first revolution of resource control in Nigeria few months after Aguiyi Ironsi became the Head of State of Nigeria.
He formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), the first armed militia of only Ijaw extraction. On February 23, 1966, Boro and his NDVF declared the Niger Delta Republic. This was the first time any part of Nigeria tried to secede. He believed that the Ijaw people deserved a fairer share of proceeds of the oil wealth than they were getting from the Federal Government.
For twelve days Boro and his militias battled the Federal forces before they were finally defeated by the far superior Federal firepower. Isaac Boro and some of his men were convicted of treason and sentenced to death, but Ironsi out of mercy decided to jail him instead of killing him as demanded by the law.
Isaac Boro Revolution
What’s known as Isaac Boro Revolution was a good or bad lesson to those who trusted the Hausa-controlled Nigerian government then. On the eve of the Biafran-Nigerian war in May 1967, Yakubu Gowon granted Isaac Boro amnesty and drafted him into the Nigerian Army. He was afterwards commissioned as a major in the Nigerian Army. With his army of 1000 Ijaw soldiers he fought alongside Col. Benjamin Adekunle, who was heading the 3rd Marine Commando Division of the Nigerian army. With their deep knowledge of the Niger Delta creeks, Boro and his men guided the federal forces and pushed Biafrans back from the region. Boro fought with the Nigerian forces thinking as they had promised him he was liberating the Niger Delta from Biafran forces. He however never realised he was handing his people and the huge resources in the region into the hands of Hausa-Fulani and Yorubas who pillaged the region for years to come and impoverished his people till date.
Isaac Boro was betrayed by the Nigerian forces he trusted. On May 16, 1968, after a successful battle against Biafran forces at Ogu (near Okrika) in Rivers State, Boro was ambushed by what many of his men then believed was a unit sent by Col Adekunle. In a brief and fierce battle, Adenkunle’s men gunned him down. His death went down in history as mysterious and as there was no conclusive evidence on who killed him.
Strong allegations are rife that treacherous, Adekunle, threatened by Boro’s rising prominence in the Nigerian Army, killed Boro in order to usurp the glories of the success Boro helped the 3 Marine Commando Division to achieve. He wanted to silence Boro as well silence the people of Niger Delta. Subsequent to Boro’s death, Adekunle took all the credits of the successes of the division.
A Regimental Sergeant Major under Boro was quoted as saying that Boro did not die in the heat of battle with the Biafran forces. He said the area had already been captured and secured by his company and Major Boro was on an inspection tour when they came under fire. The type of gunfire that erupted during the firefight that killed Boro was completely different from what the Biafrans were known to use in that sector of the war. This confirmed to them that it was one of the federal troops units that carried out the ambush.
As soon as Boro died, his 1000 band of soldiers was disbanded. According to Olusegun Obasanjo in his book My Command, Adekunle’s post-war political ambition pushed him into killing Boro, as he was using the war to building a ‘formidable’ name for himself. Obasanjo stated that “Col. Adekunle, at this point saw the war not only in terms of crushing a rebellion, but also as a means of building himself up for any future political position or responsibility which he might wish to seek, I knew of people of Western State origin who had felt politically victimized and who saw in Col. Adekunle a saviour and told him so, and he believed them.”
What Boro fought and died for had eluded his people for years. Niger Delta has remained impoverished despite the huge revenue it has continued to generate for the country. Oil fields and mining leases have been allocated to northern oligarchs and friends. Isaac Boro remains a lesson for future revolutionaries in knowing where to pitch their tent.