An Address by the President of Rivers Ijaw Foundation, Chief Nemi Adoki

An Address by the President of Rivers Ijaw Foundation, Chief Nemi Adoki

                         

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                              RIVERS IJAW FOUNDATION
             INAUGURATION OF CENTRAL WORKING COMMITTEE
ADDRESS BY THE PROTEM-PRESIDENT, CHIEF NEMI WISDOM ADOKI, FNIM, KSC, JP. ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2017
Greetings…
In the ethnic nationalities discourse in Nigeria, we only hear of the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo as the major tribes. The Hausa-Fulani are based in the north, the Yoruba are autochthonous in the south-west of the country, and the Ibo have their natural home in the central part of the south-east.
In a country with about two hundred and fifty ethnic nationalities only three are regularly mentioned whereas in the 1970s the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation Radio read news in about nine major Nigerian languages. The current emphasis on a tripod is a power game to deliberately undermine the Ijaw as the fourth largest ethnic nation in Nigeria.
Not only are the Ijaw the fourth largest group, we actually have homes throughout the south of Nigeria, from the Yoruba region of Ondo and Lagos on the western border, through ancient Benin, Delta, to Cross River and Akwa-Ibom on the south-east border, and even in Iboland. The Ijaw occupy Bayelsa exclusively and form the majority tribe in the Rivers State. Yet, the question is: Where are the Ijaw in the affairs of Nigeria?
One would think that the fourth largest ethnic nation among over two hundred and fifty ethnic nations would wield enormous political and economic influence, even without considering the fact that most of the wealth of Nigeria is buried under her soil. But as I said before, it is about power politics, a power game in which the Ijaw have not properly projected themselves because of a flawed strategy. This flawed strategy has been the cause of the marginalization of the Ijaw even in the little Rivers State that we created.
An Ijaw man, Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye, now of blessed memory, gave his life to the struggle for an autonomous Niger Delta region from 1941.Throughout the Constitutional Conferences in London 1957-1959, he represented the interest of the Niger Delta people on the same platform as Dr. Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo and others, that negotiated Nigeria’s independence. At the onset of the civil war, it was Chief Dappa-Biriye who advised the Head of State, Yakubu Gowon to create states for the minorities in the Eastern Region in order to gain their support for the Federal Government. This was done and Rivers State was created as one of the twelve states created from the former four regions.
Chief Dappa-Biriye was ably supported in the co-ordination and anchoring of the creation of Rivers State by other eminent Ijaw sons like Dr. Isaac Fiberesima and Godfrey Kio Jaja Amachree, Barrister Wenike Briggs, Chief Melford Okilo, Chief P.G. Warmate and Dr. Melford Graham-Douglas.
When Rivers State was created and an Ijaw man, Papapriye Diete-Spiff, a naval officer, was appointed Military Governor but resided in Lagos due to the civil war, an Ikwerre man, Captain Elechi Amadi was appointed the Administrator of Port Harcourt and an Ogoni man, Kenule Saro-Wiwa was appointed the Administrator of Bonny. When eventually the Rivers State Government was formed, it was composed evenly of Ijaw, the Ikwerre sibship and Ogoni – the three major constituent ethnic groups of the Rivers State.
For purposes of clarity, the Ikwerre sibship comprises the Ibo-speaking Ikwerre and their upland brothers encompassing the Orashi region and the Oyigbo people, currently comprising eight local government areas of Rivers State. The Ogoni are the monolithic smaller ethnic group covering the LGAs of Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai.
The largest of the constituent ethnic groups has always been the Ijaw that currently have eleven of the twenty-three local government areas of the state, viz: Abua/Odual, Akuku-Toru, Andoni, Asari-Toru, Degema, Bonny, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika, as well as parts of Ahoada West and Port Harcourt.
Despite retaining their majority status even when Rivers State was spilt into two and the homogenous Ijaw state of Bayelsa was created the question is: Where is the Ijaw man? Where is the Ijaw woman? Where is the Ijaw youth? Even in this little Rivers State, half of what was originally created for us, where is the Rivers Ijaw?
I have said that we have a flawed strategy as Ijaw people, that is why we are nowhere in the affairs of Nigeria even as we are the fourth largest ethnic nation in the country. This flawed strategy arises from the non-use of one word in our daily parlance. You do not need to wonder, it is simple. We do not use the word IJAW. We do not call or describe ourselves as IJAW in our daily conversation.
We rather see ourselves as Okrika, Kalabari, Abua, Odual, Engenni, Bonny, Andoni, Nkoro, Opobo, Bille. We do not think of ourselves as IJAW. Thus, we do have disparate political and economic goals, we do not speak with one voice, we do not have an amalgamated leadership, we do not treat ourselves as siblings, we do not have a common front. We totally ignore the adage of the broom that says that we are stronger as a bundle.  
Thus while the Ikwerre sibship and Ogoni are acting and consolidating to better the fortunes of their tribes in all fields, we (Rivers Ijaw) self-destruct because we are weak as individual Ijaw clans; we become easy pickings to a united economic and political predator. We therefore play the role of underlings to them. The result is that since the advent of the new political dispensation in 1999, only the Ikwerre sibship and their upland brothers have produced governors in Rivers State. Where are the Ijaw?
Throughout the election of the last four governors in Rivers State, notable Ijaw political and economic personalities, who should spearhead Ijaw ascendancy, rather worked to elect another ethnic group. Ijaw militants and private armies did no better as they provided illegal security and acted as enforcers against their own people.
So empowered and emboldened, seeing that Ijaw have cast ourselves in the defeatist mode of second fiddle, other ethnic groups have gone on to arrogate to themselves the right to rule over us. They manipulate and marginalize us economically, politically and diminish us in other ways. While the mainland communities are developed with infrastructure, our riverine communities with our rather difficult and challenging terrain are neglected. Even within the state capital, the old Port Harcourt township where Ijaw live are allowed to run down. They have even gone on to produce fictitious population and voting figures in which they portray us to be lesser in numbers than they are.
It is therefore against these background that we elect to convoke ourselves into an all Rivers Ijaw Foundation to do the followings:
(i)                  examine deeply where we had fallen, how we fell, and to proffer lasting and sustainable remedies.
(ii)                to galvanize the Rivers Ijaw into a patriotic entity over and above self-effulgent clannishness and narrowness of thought.
(iii)               to address the existential disunity that ever so often confronts us and forge a common ground for the needed unity and true brotherhood.
(iv)              to confront the devastated state of our environment, ecological disaster and the on-going wanton destruction of our eco-system.
(v)               to work closely with our youths at reviving the extant Ijaw spirit by evoking the Ijaw passion as exemplified by the patriotic Isaac Adaka Boro and his colleagues.
(vi)              to begin the process of political re-engineering such that will potentially enhance our chances and prospect of re-inventing our leadership potential.
(vii)            to herald loudly, not timidly, not taking a dramatic recluse, the emergence of a new dawn for all Ijaw in Rivers State.
Given all of the above therefore, if there are in this gathering any persons who do not believe in this noble goals and who are opposed to these areas of activity, then they may excuse themselves. It means that they are not mentally and emotionally ready to participate in the actions necessary to ameliorate the unacceptable conditions Rivers Ijaw has found itself.
As pioneer members of the Central Working Committee of the Rivers Ijaw Foundation, you have been called with one overriding objective: turn around the fortunes of the Ijaw in Rivers State and place him where he rightly belongs, economically, politically, culturally and socially, in cooperation and peaceful co-existence with other ethnic nationalities. You have been called to build a strong and united Rivers Ijaw that would speak for and defend Ijaw interests. You have been called to provide the leadership of the new Ijaw consciousness and identity that seeks to optimize Ijaw interest in place of clan identity and interest.
It is therefore, in this new leap of faith that we are all summoned together in one entity to raise our voices against all forms of injustice and unfairness, the decimation of our true brotherhood resulting from hatred and intolerance based on ethnic leanings and cultural diversity. As scripture says, “let us contend with those who contend with us” looking beyond our current travails, hopelessness and grief.
Understanding our current painful and brutal experiences in the hand of our brother ethnic nationalities should of necessity provide the plank for a new breath, a new vision and an engaging mission. We should not unduly bemoan our self-inflicted injuries but rather, take up the cruel and rugged cross as was done by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in order to redeem and free our people from stranglehold of near slavery and servitude in our own God-given state – Rivers State.
The battle ahead promises to be very interesting, sometimes turbulent and at other times joyous. We will, as in all worthy struggles, experience mind burgling betrayals, disloyalty and treachery but since our cause is impelled from within our minds, genuine and in tandem with the aspirations of our people and the blessings of God, we shall overcome and reign, reclaiming our lost pride of place in the comity of ethnic nationalities in our state. History is replete with people who got maimed, brutalized and even laid down their precious lives for their deep convictions, beliefs and ideals. Let us gladly and boldly step out to confront the indignities, betrayals and criminal neglect of our people, our communities and our nationality.
I strongly believe that together, in one accord, we shall be victorious as our struggle is just and faithful. Let us gallantly, without fear and distraction, walk this path of honour and redemption. The glorious Lamb of God, Jesus Christ the righteous, rejects injustice and ill-treatment of His own creation. As it was with Jesus, the strife currently bedeviling the Rivers Ijaw shall be over and the battle won through unity and oneness.
Thank you for your attention.
Chief Nemi Wisdom Adoki

 

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