WHEN the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, first struck in the creeks, blowing up oil pipelines, we were all lost for appropriate response. This was despite the earlier Federal Government shakara that they would deal with them as ruthlessly as hell does with sinners. But somehow that was not to be. The Federal Government simply suffered a failure of nerves. And the government was lost not just for nerves but also for words and their meanings. Or, at least, they got mixed up in their use of words and their etymologies.
In error or ignorance, the government or its sympathisers started to canvass wrongly that the word ‘Avengers’ was completely out of place. According to their narrative, our lives in Nigeria are as harmonious as those of a self-governing colony of ants in their hives. Thus, it must be that no one needed to avenge the other. Even if there were to be vengeance it was better left in the hands of the gods, they canvassed. Of course, everybody it seemed, remembers the singular promise of God in the Bible: “Vengeance is mine I shall repay.”
While we were all waiting for the gods to do their revenge, men got into the fray. Almost to the last number, agents of the Federal Government or its confederates poured scorn on the choice of ‘Avengers’ for a name. The matter got its high point when the former dictator, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (Retd.), waded in. In his words: “All the insecurity we are experiencing now is uncalled for. What is Boko Haram? Nobody knows what they want. The Avengers are now out, what are they avenging?” (See Ex-head of state calls for dialogue with aggrieved group. PUNCH June 14, 2016).
But the lowest point must be when Ms. Ankio Briggs forgot to seek proper briefing before hitting the airwaves, at the African Independent Television, AIT, 04-07-16. Surprisingly she joined as one with the anti-Avenger-name traducers. To recall from memory, she made statements, suggesting that she is agreed to the canvassed nonsense that ‘Avengers’ as a name suggested vengeance. And she was there with Dr. Chris Ekiyo, who, it appeared, was on agreement with the perspective too. Both Ekiyo and Briggs are Ijaw/Niger Delta community leaders. And as if not to be beaten, on 11-07-16 at the African Independent Television, AIT, show, Kakaki, Anabs Data-Ibe, another Niger Delta activist, claimed and implied that the Avengers were avenging the ‘ungovernablity’ that some northern elements visited on the South-South presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. Well, he may know things that we don’t know. However, since he bases his assertions on his implied understanding of the epithet avengers, it is evident he ‘has not read the minutes of the last meeting’. And just like the rest of us, he needs to be properly guided. The reason is simple. Ignorance inflicts greater damage than insurgents or even armies ever can.
The truth is that both the sympathisers of the ideals of the Avengers, even if not their methods, on one hand, and their opponents on the other, are getting the lexicography and meaning of Avengers wrong. Avengers, especially with a capital A, does not mean to avenge or to give vengeance. Its etymology, root and meaning are rather derived from the United States TV drama asset, called the Avengers.
And this is without prejudice to the fact that the word avenge draws its roots from ancient French. However, like all living organisms, words are, ‘Avengers’ has taken and evolved new and other meanings. The relevant details are as follows. The ‘Avengers’ is a popular American comic cum TV and other media series that debuted in the 1960s. In those comics and other media, the Avengers were a band of self-sacrificing superheroes. Their mandate was to save the world and do great good, not to be petty or consumed by the urge to revenge. In fact, to be an Avenger is to be heroic and blessed.
The popularity of the Avenger series in the many media platforms was such that it lent its name as a generic for heroisms. And, of course, it is not the first such creative name lender. Today, for instance, an Oliver Twist is taken to mean a fellow who begs for more. Well, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, like the Avengers, by Stan Lee, are just imaginary creations, no more no less. Thus, if someone put you down that you are an Oliver Twist, he is not saying by any piece of the imagination that you are twisting or twisted. You are just a living clone of a character in his favourite book by Dickens. And lest we forget, Bikini is actually the name of an atoll, that was taken up by a French designer for his promotional purpose. Today, nobody remembers bikini started life as a geographical term. And, of course, Pele is already famous as a generic for a great footballer. And Abedi Pele [Ayew] of Ghana, is a totem of that reality.
But the question to raise is why did folks choose to demonise the Niger Delta Avengers by every means possible? And the answer is the simple old game of wars and their causalities. It is universally known that truths are the first causalities of every war. War, prostitutes every one of us, the mighty and the lowly too. That explains why and how both the behemoth Federal Government and agents are quick to come to error once their thinking is led by their guns and greed for wars.
The moral of all this is that, however, it is we go, we must be telling ourselves the truth, if only to save ourselves self-inflicted destructions. And the truth here is that the Avengers are symbolic of, and means superheroes, not revenge seeking gnomes.
However, the bigger issue is why and how do Ankio Briggs and, perhaps, the entire Niger Deltans allow a critical arm of their consciousness to be manufactured for them by others, in this and other matters? How can they join opponents of both what the Avengers stand for, which everybody shares, even if we don’t all share their methods, to mischaracterise Avengers as a name? [But the mischaracterisation is not a matter limited to the Avengers and the majority Niger Delta elite and community leaders alone. Ankio Briggs and Dr. Chris Ekiyo are just symptoms of a huge and cancerous decay. The pathology they exemplify pervades the entire south, especially the lower South, of the Southeast and the South-south. How it happens that the elite of these regions, lap up unprovable, untoward and even toxic ideas that are manufactured against their interest, befuddles one. How can the elite of a people choose their own death and the dearth of their peoples under the guise of false and forged logic made in Abuja and or Lagos? Are Aso Rock and the Lagoon the charm? One wonders.]
Anyway, immediately it is understood that the name Avengers is for the good, ok, the greater good of all, then it becomes clear it is a name we all should be welcoming.
It is in this light that we salute Alhaji Atiku Abubarka. It can be said that by his act of calling for restructuring, at great political risk to himself, Atiku has similar purpose with the Avengers, even if their methods vary. And, of course, there is nothing too exotic in this, as methods must vary.
Perhaps, what Atiku and the Niger Delta Avengers are saying is that Nigeria is too unjust to survive. To save her we need many more Avengers in the guise of NDA and or Atikus of this world.
Still on the Niger Delta
ON Channels Television, 11-07-16, one retired colonel, one of whose names is Hassan, cropped up on the same Niger Delta issue. He was talking almost self-satisfyingly to himself, even as he is poorly briefed. And his uncouth use of language betrayed him as a fanatic. To give an example, he claimed that if it were in the era of the military, the Avengers matter would not have festered this long. All that was needed in his mind was to bring the boots down and shoot the ‘bagas’ dead. The words, shoot the bagas dead, are actually his. But if that was all he did we would have let him go. It is that he wanted to pass the impression that armed military dictatorship, which by the way was a form of armed political robbery, was capable of providing the solutions to the problem in a way a people’s democracy is not.
The points however must be noted  The military, especially the Nigerian military, has never solved any problems outside their barracks or war theatres.  To expect the military to solve political problems, is like letting a butcher into the theatre to do the work of a surgeon. The two professions, all honourable, are separate and are not interchangeable.
In summary, we must all remember that it is actually one of the consequences of the military acting as political solution providers, that imposed the robbery and degradation of the Niger Delta as state policy in the first place. As one man put it, the Nigerian military, as tribal and regional as it remained, politically, turned the Niger Delta into a hell of pollution, so that Abuja and Lagos may be made into paradises despite the burning sun.
Thus the indication is clear: Nigeria is trapped and accursed as a consequence of the military in abandoning their barracks for politics, becoming a carrier of political pathologies. Someone said it is a question of ‘zoonotic’ or cross-species infestation, but we withhold my concurrences. For us the Nigerian military in politics is a classic case of an ecological crisis, here in political terms. A non-native species, the military, invaded a habitat and to thrive in it, ravaged and destroyed it. It is like the American quip on Vietnam, they had to destroy Nigeria, politically, to save it. Ahiazuwa.