By Ahmed Eniyeketon Saibakumo
“Honesty has a value that is priceless, hence, the
cheap in the society can never buy it”.
Annkio Briggs, born in England 29th July, 1952 to the prestigious Briggs family of Abonnema in Rivers State, married to an Ijaw marine engineer and blessed with four children. Ironically, she was brought up in the humid creeks of the Niger Delta at Abonnema by her paternal grandmother. After her secondary school education at Holy Rosary Girls in Port Harcourt, she returned to England and graduated in Marketing.
Briggs came back to Nigeria in 1998 to establish the AGAPE BIRTHRIGHT in D/Line, Port Harcourt, an organization which assisted in development areas in the Niger Delta, including documentary; cleaning of all oil spills and fight against injustice and marginalization among the indigenous people of Ijaw land while synergizing with International Organizations.
Not done, Briggs reflected on the over 13million Ijaw people in Nigeria bound by the same blood, language, culture, contiguous geographical terrain balkanized into several states in Nigeria, largely as minorities. She was a Protagonist of the famous Ijaw Republican Assembly (IRA) in port Harcourt. From Nkoroo through the mangrove creeks to Arogbo/Apoi-Ijaw. She mobilized the Ijaw for political emancipation. She became the spokesperson of that group advancing the cause of the Ijaw Question in Nigeria .
In an interview into Barth Ndu, she concluded that the problem of the Niger Delta is sustained blackmail, injustice and greed of a few. She opined; in Texas, U.S.A oil there belongs to the owners who pay an agreed percentage as tax to the Federal Government.
She also become an advocate for Sovereign National Conference where justice, fairness and equity of the federating units in Nigeria be resolved . She was also in the frontline for the abrogation of the devious Land Use Act.
She also championed the cause of the NIGER DELTA SELF-DETERMINATION MOVEMENT (NDSDM) where she told the Nigeria people that the agitation in the Niger Delta is not about secession but Self Determination. She was a loud and vocal voice in the OPOROZA HOUSE where I was also an active member. She kicked against the proposed six-zonal structure for Nigeria, rather she preferred Nigeria be restructured along ethnic lines as recommended by Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory. Chief Awolowo indeed recommended Ijaw as a Federating Unit among the ten federations he proposed.
When President Buhari announced the Presidential Amnesty Programme would end by December 2015, Annkio Briggs came out smoking, “IT WOULD NEVER BE ACCEPTED”. Two weeks later the federal government made a volte-face and extended it. She was a golden voice in the Constitutional Conference convoked by President Goodluck Jonathan as regards issues concerning the Niger Delta.
When Gbaramatu-Ijaw Kingdom was bombarded from the air, sea and land by the Nigerian Military under President Yar’Adua government, the Ijaw nation found lone voices in Chief E. K. Clark and AnnKio Briggs. While Chief Clark confronted Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, then Nigerian Defence Minister for breach of trust in the local media, the English-Ijaw born Briggs was at the International Media (E.g. CNN, ALJAZEERA) campaigning culpable genocide in Ijaw land.
Prior to 2015 Presidential election, she addressed a Press Conference saying it would be oppressive and offensive not to return President Goodluck for second tenure. She declared “IF A MAN FROM THE NIGER DELTA IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO GOVERN THE COUNTRY, THEN THE OIL FROM THE NIGER DELTA WILL NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH TO BE USED TO SUSTAIN THE COUNTRY”.
When teenager, 13 year old Oruru was raped and abducted to Kano by one Keke driver Yunusa, Briggs was in Bayelsa State to execute justice. She was at the court premises in all sittings.
The Ijaw Nation is made of proud people with overwhelming history and ancestry. The Ijaws were the first to have trade/diplomatic contact with the Europeans in Nigeria when Lokoja, Lagos and Abuja were not known. We were never conquered in history. God created the Ijaw man as a distinct race on this planet earth. Nigerian government created Rivers & Bayelsa States for mere administrative and political convenience. And Bayelsa has become the Heart and the Brain of the Ijaw Nation. We must identify and celebrate our living legends.