Watching Uncle J.J lead the fight for resource control was how I prepared for the future. I had read a lot about Martin Luther King Jnr. but Uncle J.J personified him for me. He like Martin Luther lived for the struggle.
He breathed it.
Slept it, ate it and loved it.
I wanted to be like him- get the bad guys and end the woes plaguing our land, then our land would be restored to the era of my mother’s stories; a time when the fishes lived on the shores because the river was full of fish, when our cassava’s were as big as our yams and were as long as an adult’s arm length, when our blurred water could give you a clear reflection of your face and soothe our thirst.
J.J Sagana, was one of the pioneer fighters for resource control, in the good old days my uncle would don his resource control hat- a fedora hat, and march to TV stations claiming we had the oil and should earn a major share from its proceeds.
Naturally when militancy began Uncle J.J consulted for the foremost militant group-Revolutionary Soldiers of The Niger Delta. He gained local and international recognition and reputation as a selfless crusader, but at a point I noticed the bags. When Tabai, Uncle J.J’s trusted aide of a decade decided to move on, I took his place. I became his personal assistant; I was the only one allowed into his room. I read his messages and handled his sensitive documents.
One cool January afternoon while on an errand to my uncle’s room, the black refuse disposal type bags beckoned to me from the corner where they sat in the room. I thought they contained dirty clothes; on closer inspection, I saw- money. I touched the notes they were cool and crisp, my fingers tingled as I rifled through the bag, it was all money! Somewhere along the line Uncle J.J had begun to enjoy the struggle in cash.
I became eagle-eyed, I scrutinized every document and listened to every conversation; in less than two weeks, I uncovered a Mafioso kind of set-up. They loaded stolen crude oil on vessels for foreigners, militancy became the cover for indiscriminate pipe bursting. Uncle J.J blossomed from militancy, while the oil and land he was supposed to be protecting rotted.
I was disillusioned.
I could barely stomach the betrayal. While we were lounging in the patio one evening, I stylishly broached the subject, “Uncle J.J I pray nothing will ever make you forget the cause.”
He laughed his deep rich laughter at me and looked at me knowingly, “Preye the oil was put there by God, not man, it’s for everyone. If you have the opportunity to take from a well that’ll never run dry, won’t you? I have come to realize that the cause will fight itself and besides if we don’t eat how will we fight?” he sneered.
All I could think of was how to wipe that smirk off my uncle’s face. My uncle went for a funeral when I decided to ‘take’. I picked up one refuse bag, it took me two hours to sell three cars and choice properties whose title deeds were in my possession. I couldn’t clean him out totally but I had a good stash, got out my passport and left for Europe but before I left I dropped him a single paragraph note; it read- Thanks for the advice: if you have the opportunity to take from a well that will never run dry, won’t you?