Spotlight on Isaac Adaka Boro

The courageous and visionary martyr.


Thursday, May 16, 2024 at 12:33 PM

Written by Editorial Board

Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, fondly called Boro was an Ijaw nationalist, activist and soldier, who gave up his personal comfort to fight for the rights of his people. He is known to be one of the pioneers of minority rights activism. 

He was also referred to as the first person to lead a protest that pushed for a secession of a region from Nigeria. Boro meant different things to different people. 

For former Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, Boro was an epitome of the Ijaw struggle. He was quoted to have said that "although Boro was dead, his sacrifices and contributions were alive and ever present in the lives and minds of Ijaw people". 

An indigene of Kaiama in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area but born in Oloibiri, Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State in 1938, Boro dedicated his life to agitating for the equitable dustribution of the wealth gotten from the exploration of oil in the Niger Delta. 

In his autobiography, "The Twelve Day Revolution", Boro wrote: "I am reliably informed that I was born at the zero hour of twelve midnight on 10 September 1938, in the oil town of Olobiri along humid creeks of the Niger Delta. My father was the headmaster of the only mission school there. Before I was old enough to know my surroundings, I was already in a city called Port Harcourt where my father was again the headmaster of another mission school. 

"This was in the early forties. The next environment where I found myself was in my home town, Kaiama. My father had been sent there to head a school yet again". 

As an undergraduate student of Chemistry and Student Union President at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he left school to lead an armed protest against the exploitation of oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta areas which benefited mainly the Federal Government of Nigeria and Eastern region with capital in Enugu. 

Nothing was given to the Niger Delta people, which fuelled their anger as he believed the Niger Delta should enjoy a larger part of the oil wealth. 

He went on to form the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, an armed militia with members consisting mainly of his fellow Ijaw ethnic group. They declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966 and fought with federal forces for twelve days before being defeated. 

During his February 23 1966 declaration of the secession of the “Niger Delta Republic”, Boro said: “Today is a great day, not only in your lives but also in the history of the Niger Delta. Perhaps, it will be the greatest day for a very long time. This is not because we are going to bring the heavens down, but because we are going to demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression. 

"Remember your 70-year-old grandmother who still farms before she eats; remember also your poverty-stricken people; remember, too, your petroleum which is being pumped out daily from your veins; and then fight for your freedom". 

Boro and his comrades were jailed for treason. However, the federal regime of General Yakubu Gowon granted him amnesty on the eve of the Nigerian civil war in May 1967. He then enlisted and was commissioned as a Major in the Nigerian army. 

He fought on the side of the Federal Government but was killed under mysterious circumstances in active service in 1968 at Ogu (near Okrika) in Rivers State, with many insisting that Boro was betrayed by the Nigerian government. 

Worthy of mention in Boro’s exploit was the heroic role played by his second in command, Chief (Captain) Samuel Owonaru (Rtd). For a long while, he was the only surviving Captain who fought alongside Boro. 

He was a Chief of Staff of the Niger Delta volunteer force in 1966. He was arrested, just like Boro, tried by the Nigerian government and sentenced to death. He spent a few months in prison awaiting execution until a counter coup brought General Gowon to power who released him from jail. 

Between 1967-1970 Samuel Owonaru was a captain in the Nigerian army. He fought on the side of the Federal government against the separatists for the Biafra State. He sustained a serious injury during the Civil War and was left wheelchair bound until he died in June 2020 at the age of 76 and was buried in his hometown of Kaiama. 

The Bayelsa State Government decided to immortalise him by renaming the State owned Ijaw National Academy as Captain Sam Owonaro Academy just as the Isaac Boro Park in Rivers State was named after the late hero. 

As the struggle for equitable dustribution of the nation's wealth continues, Isaac Adaka Boro and Samuel Owonaro remain strong sources of inspiration to Niger Delta Youths, as they persist in their agitations for better economic outcomes for the region.

Edited By: fadil

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