United Ijaw



Commentary Page 4

By Presidor Ghomorai

“How well have we faired in the area of getting a well articulated paper to push for our agitation for more States, Local Government Areas and Boundary adjustments?”

The oppressor never feels or knows oppression; only the oppressed feels or knows it. It is also only the oppressed that can put a stop to oppression; also only a determined, committed, united and virile group with all sincerity and sense of purpose that can functionally face the toughness involved in fighting oppression.

Therefore the Ijaw people of this world who are being oppressed must today first clamour for commitment and unity coupled with sincerity and genuine sense of purpose for us to put a stop to our oppression.

The Ijaws must know that the Ijaw question is a national issue. So there is the need for us (Ijaw) to come together and work consciously for the Ijaw nation to move forward. As the fourth largest ethnic group with a population of over 15 million, and the producers of approximately 85% of Nigeria’s wealth, Nigeria still does not perceive us as an important force in the Nation. Regrettably including the Ijaws themselves do not perceive themselves with the due importance. Thus Ijaws are the dejure senior partners in the socio-political arrangement called Nigeria. Paradoxically, the Ijaws and the Ijaw territories are the most under-developed, marginalized, abused and degraded segment of Nigeria. This blatant injustice has been tolerated by the Ijaws for various reasons.

The Ijaws who are one of the fourth largest ethnic groups after the Hausa Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo ethnic groups, who spread from Akwa-Ibom state on the East to Ondo State on the Western fringe are deliberately fragmented across six states of the Nigerian federation for obvious reasons by the oppressors. Added to this is the geographical nature of the Ijaw territories which is Deltaic, subsequently this atomizes the lands into countless islands though contigual, giving credence to the organized conspiracy of the Nigerian state against the Ijaw people.

Also, the difference in dialect imposes a clannish outlook on the Ijaws. So most Ijaws or Izons do not recognize each other as such, rather they believe in clannish distinctions such as Kolokuma, Apoi, Okrika, Egbema, Ogbia, Kalabari, Kumbo, Kabu, Arogbo, Andoni, Mein, Atissa, Epie, Biseni, Obolo, Nembe, Kou, Olodiama, Furupagha, Operemor, Tuomo, Tungbo, Seimbiri, Ngbelebiri, Igbani (Bonny) Gbaramatu, Gbaran, Oporomor etc.  Hence the Okrika man (Wakrikase man) sees the Kolokuma man differently just as he sees the Yoruba man at the centre. This has resulted in Ijaw not being able to unite to fight on a common front by coming together as Ijaw rather they prefer to identify in most cases with their clan and seek allies from the three so called major ethnic groups to solve their problems. Hence the Ijaws are where they are today.

Again arising from the clannish or insular out looking is what one regards as the suicidal angle, the Kalabari Ijaws in Rivers state sees themselves completely different from the Kumbo Ijaws (Izons) of Bayelsa states or Kabu Ijaws of Delta and Bayelsa states or Olodiama Ijo of Edo state or the Arogbo Ijo of Ondo state or Andoni Ijaw of Akwa - Ibom State until only recently.  Most surprisingly, the Ijaws of Kalabari, Nembe, Ogbia, Okrika, Igbani, Andoni and Apoi have in most cases seriously queried their own “Ijawness”. They claim the Ijaws (Izons) do not regard them as real Ijaws (Izons). But one must ask who can be more Ijaw than the Okrika, Ogbia, Epie, Kalabari, Nembe, Andoni, Igbani, Epie, Kou, Tungbo or Engenni?

Therefore one can deduce from the facts provided herein, that, the differentiation of one Ijaw plight to the other Ijaw either in Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Edo, or Ondo states is nothing but suicidal.  Honestly, the Izons of Central Ijaw, Izons of Western Ijaw and Ijaws of Eastern Ijaw are no more Ijaw that the other. Same goes for the pockets of dialectical differences prevalent in the Ijaw language. Critically viewed Izon, Ijo, Ijoh or Ijaw all refers to one distinct and unique ethnic group, the Ijaw nation.

The Ijaws are supposed to be a formidable group in the project called the Nigerian state. Without any fear of contradiction today, as we Ijaws by the grace of God are proud to say we occupy the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, we have a State Governor who is Ijaw, we have on record two Deputy Governors - one in Bayelsa and the other one in Rivers states - who are Ijaws. The Ijaws have in this dispensation five senators amongst the supposedly 109 Senators in the Upper House of the National Assembly, the highest number by any ethnic group after the Hausa\Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic nationalists.

It is also on record for now; we have two Speakers in the two State Houses of Assembly, Bayelsa and Rivers States with a Deputy Speaker in Delta State. Ijaw, also in this dispensation have three full time Federal Ministers in the Federal Executive Council of about 39 members. They are Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke - Petroleum, Elder Godsday Orubebe-Niger Delta Affairs and Henry Odein Ajumogobia –Foreign Affairs. We have about thirteen (13) persons representing the Ijaws in the lower House of the National Assembly making up the 360 seats.

Added to these facts are the various States governments where the Ijaws have Commissioners. There are also Ijaw Permanent Secretaries, Director Generals at both Federal and State government levels. There are also Local Government Councils under Ijaw control such as the Ese-Odo Local Government Council in Ondo, the Eastern Obolo and Ebeno Local Government Council of Akwa-Ibom state. The Ijaw local council areas of Patani, Burutu, Bomadi and Warri South West Local Government area of Delta State. Then the Ijaw local government councils of Ogu / Obolo, Okrika, Degema, Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru, Andoni / Opobo, Bonny, Abu/ Odua in Rivers State and of course we know of the conspiracy by the Nigerian nation State in the case of Bayelsa state Local Government Councils, where we have only eight local government areas in a whole state - Sagbama, Ekeremor, Nembe, Brass, Kolokuma / Opokuma, Ogbia, Yenagoa, and Southern-Ijaw local government councils. Then the unfortunate position of the Ijaws of Edo state who are being deliberately Balkanized and denied local government council areas but they have wards that they predominantly control, hence the best they can get in that situation are councilors at the council level.

The impact of this analysis is for us to ask ourselves, as Ijaws have we been able to harness adequately the available positive circumstances to brighten the Ijaw man’s position in the Nigeria Question. Our response to that is capital NO. And the evidences are there for all men to see.

With all sense of apology, we say the word Ijaw or the people Ijaw do not exist in the Nigerian psyche or consciousness. At least not until the recent Warri crisis when the Ijaws were spurred by the action of the various groups such as the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Ijaw Elders Forum, Mebutus, Supreme Egbesu Assembly (SEA), Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), etc., as the Ijaws did put in place,  credible platforms to articulate home the Ijaw position in Warri. Then, of course the proclamation of the Kaiama Declaration by the Ijaw youths which in all sincerity created the much sought awareness in the Ijaw nation.

Though before now, there were concerted and spirited efforts for the Ijaw struggle led by various great Ijaw leaders at various instances. We have to recognize amongst all, great leaders like Late HRM Harold Dappa Biriye, Late Major Adaka Boro, Late Ernest Sesei Ikoli, Late Capt. Nottingham Dick,  Late Capt. Amangala, Late Big Daddy George Weikezi, Late Comrade Tony Oladipo Engurube, Late Barr. Nebo Graham Douglass, Late Dr. Denni-Febiresima, Late Prince (Rev) DME Odondri, Late Chief M. Waritimi, Late Chief Edward Ekiyor, Late General C. B. Ndiomu, Late Chief Jonas Abam, Late Mrs. Grace  Kabowei, Late Chief Richard Jolowo, Late Chief Hausa Brisibe, Late Chief Zebulon Abule, Late Dr. Sammie Ebiye,  Late  HM. Prof. Egbe Ifie, Late Senator Melford Okilo, Late Rear Admiral N. B. Soroh, Late Chief Idoniye-Obu,  Late Chief G.O.C Oki, Late Goddy Ekiyor, Late Dr. S. A. Bobo-Jama, Late Barrister Eniwari, Late Chief Chris Ghomorai, Late Mrs. Alaere Alaibe, Late Prof. Don-Pedro all of best memory  as we also at this instance  mention names like HM Alfred Diete-Spiff, Senator Amatere Zoufa, Dr. Gabriel Okara, Hon. Ezeke, Amb. Lawrence Ekpebu, Amb. J.T. Iyalla, Captain Sam. Owunaru (Rtd.) Chief Ebitimi Banigo, HM Princewill, Prof. Tam David West, Brig.-Gen. C.K. Emein (rtd.) Chief M.Y. Mamamu, Chief (Hon.) C.F.Abeki, Chief Patrick Keku, Chief E. Senibo Princewill, Dr. M. T. Akobo, Professor Dagogo Fubara, Professor E. Allagoa, Professor Tekena Tamuno, Professor C.A. Dime, Chief E. K Clark, Chief Ombo Isokariari, AVM Emmanuel Ombu, Chief Anderson Eseimokumoh, Chief Bukazi Etete, Chief (Engr.) Pere Ajuwa, Chief Ebenezer Isokariari, Prof. Kimse Okoko Chief Francis Doukpolagha, Dr. Dele Cole, HM (Dr.) Edmund Daukoru, Chief Chamberlain Oyibo, Admiral Victor Ombu, Chief A.A. Ibiama, Chief Lulu Briggs, Chief Victor Ekiye, Chief J. B. Fumudoh , Chief Wellington Okirika, Ndutimi Alaibe,  Chief Dan Etete, Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinyan (rtd.) High Chief Francis Williams, Sir Gabriel Toby, Mr. Pius Uromi Owu, Mr. Patrick Erasmus, Chief A.K. Horsfall, Alabo Graham Douglas, Barr. H. S. Dickson, Rear Admiral F.B.I. Porbeni, Dr. Amba Ambaowei, Dr. Peterside Atedo, Mr. E. Iyabi, Chief (Dr.) DSP Alamieyesiegha J.P, Chief (Engr.) P.S. Kentebe, Dr. Pius Sinebe, Senator James Manager, Chief H.H. Krukrubo  Amb. (Dr.) B. Igali, Dr. Atuboyedia Obianime, Oronto Douglas, P.Z.Aginighan, Mr. Rowland Ekperi, Dr. Ebipamone Nanakumo, Dr. Abio Sokari, Chief W.K. Agamene  Prof. David A. Iyegha, Mr. Peter Edu, High Chief Karina Tunyan (SAN) Asu Beks, Sergeant Werenipre Digifa Prof. Otus Adukuwas-Osu, Navy Capt. Y. A. Ojujoh (Rtd), Dr. Aaron Foisi Nmungwun, Dr. Sofiri Joab Peterside, Chief (Dr.) Charles I. Numbere (JP), Elder T.K.Ogoriba, Alhaji Dokubo Asari, Dr. Oboko Bello, Wing Commander (Hon.) P.Y.Biakpara (Rtd.) Gen. A.O.Azazi (rtd.) Gen. K. Aprezi (rtd.) Gen. Toun, (Rtd.) Prince Tonye Princewill, Mr. Dan. Ekpebide, Col. Godfrey Okoro (Rtd.), Chief David Peres, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Mr. Ebilate Mac-Yoroki, Tony Uranta, Arc. Amagbe Denzil Kentebe, Comrade Joseph Evah, Patterson Ogon, Dr. Felix Tuodolor,  Dr. Chris Ekiyor without forgetting the womenfolk include the likes of Chief (Mrs.) Lucy Brisibe, HM Beatrice Agama, Dr. Stella Dorgu, Dr. Gesiere Dorgu, Chief Theresa Oke-Nee Denisah, Dr. Bolere Ketebu-Nwokeafor, Dr. (Mrs.) Grace Koroye, Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, Professor Ayebeami I. Spiff ,  Dr. (Mrs.) M. Ekiyor, Ms. Ann Kio Briggs and a host of others who have given their utmost (including their lives). Sadly, for the most part, Ijaw have failed to transform our fortunes to better the lot of the Ijaw in generality. At every instant, the Ijaw people tried hard to make their point beyond every reasonable doubt but go to sleep after establishing its fact. Hence we can conveniently say Ijaw under crisis can hold their own but we always fail to manage success. 

Otherwise, we ask what has happened in Warri South-West Local Government Council Area in Delta State? What about the Ijaws in Warri North LGC, are they benefiting from their position there? Then of course there is the question of the Ese-Odo Local Government in Ondo State. What has become of Bayelsa State that the Ijaws clamoured for? Are we harnessing the possible dividends due to the predominantly Ijaw State created by General Sani Abacha? Are we really comfortable with the news items emanating from our “BAYELSA”? What about Delta State and Rivers State? It’s the same unpleasant stories of backstabbing and character assassination, unhealthy rivalry and a seriously high degree of GREED. How well have we faired in the area of getting a well articulated paper to push for our agitation for more States, Local Government Areas and Boundary adjustments? Most recently what has come to play with the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission

NDDC? Has the Commission readily addressed the high degree of poverty and marginalisation in the Ijaw nation? Then the case of Amnesty and Post-amnesty programme that is being put in place by Federal government, are we anywhere better, we sure know your guess may be as inconceivable as we have on ground.

It is on this premise that we call for Ijaw unity now. Agreed the Ijaw people are a formidable group hence we must stop ourselves from being dogged by undignified pettiness. Let us with sincerity of purpose get rid of prejudice, hatred and selfishness that has closed our minds to the light of truth and denied us affection and peaceful co-existence. Let us all accept our predicament and jointly evolve the Holy Spirit to stand and tackle our problems holistically.

The Ijaws are special beings endowed with all resources including manpower but we have failed to appreciate this fact. So let us today stop and resolve to come together and re-appraise our position in the Nigerian State. We have number in our favour and our resources as an instrument to bid for a better arrangement for the Ijaw nation.

It is now time to take the rightful step to emancipate and assert our position in the Nigerian polity and the Niger Delta in particular where the Ijaws are in the majority. All this can only be possible if we all resolve to accept to live together in one spirit of reconciliation with brotherly love. Most of all as Ijaw let us unite and be God fearing. We have a resounding opportunity to change the fortunes of the Ijaw nation, the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large for the better. Posterity will judge us all for our commitment in bringing succor to our people.  

Please let us praise and give adoration to the Most High as we must in unison agree that the Ijaw Nation must grow and this we must proclaim because this we know, hence we affirm in the great axiom “Yes, we can” made popular by President Barack Obama of the United State of America. Therefore all hands must be on deck and May the Almighty God sees us through. Amen.
Izon otu annuanio!