TOWARDS THE 2019 RIVERS STATE GOVERNORSHIP: The Rivers Ijaw position

      RIVERS IJAW RENAISSANCE GROUP   TOWARDS THE 2019 RIVERS STATE GOVERNORSHIP: The Rivers Ijaw position   INTRODUCTION  The Rivers Ijaw

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      RIVERS IJAW RENAISSANCE GROUP
 
TOWARDS THE 2019 RIVERS STATE GOVERNORSHIP: The Rivers Ijaw position
 
INTRODUCTION 
The Rivers Ijaw Renaissance Group is the think-tank for the Riverine People of Rivers State that draws membership from the following clans: Abua, Andoni, Bille, Bonny, Engenni, Kalabari, Nkoro, Okrika, Odual and Opobo.
These are Rivers Ijaw clans that derive their origins mostly from the main Ijaw stock of Central and Western Delta. They share linguistic affinity, same ecology and culture. Rivers Ijaw communities have lived in the wetlands of the Niger Delta for over ten thousand years and are virtually synonymous with the geographical area called Rivers State and from where the state derived its name “RIVERS”.
Rivers Ijaw leaders led by the late Chief Dappa-Biriye spearheaded the over two-decade long agitation that culminated in the creation of Rivers State in 1967. These Rivers Ijaw leaders steered the agitation in conjunction with other Ijaw leaders from the Central and Western Delta and some non-Ijaw leaders. They were the founding fathers of Rivers State.
The demand for the creation of a separate state for the minorities of the then Eastern Region (when the rest of Nigeria was yet to show awareness and desire for creation of states), was anchored on the desire to have a state in which Ijaw and other ethnic minorities could have ample opportunities for self-determination; freedom from domination and oppression.
Unfortunately, fifty years after the creation of Rivers State since 1967, Rivers Ijaw for whose development Rivers State was created primarily, have remained underdeveloped and her pre-1967 human and infrastructural achievements have been truncated and reversed by most Rivers State governments, especially since 1999.
Fifty long years after, Rivers Ijaw communities (no matter their proximity to the state capital) have remained undeveloped, rural, swampy and inaccessible; completely cut off from the civilization in the state capital of Port Harcourt. For instance, of the two universities and the two polytechnics owned by the Rivers State Government, none is located on Rivers Ijaw soil – a people that embraced western education, and produced graduates in several fields of human endeavour ahead of some major tribes in Nigeria.
As it stands, Rivers Ijaw has been shortchanged in the affairs of Rivers State. Its human and physical growth, including its political fortune, have been deliberately undermined and eroded specifically since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999.
WHERE THE RAIN BEGAN TO BEAT US: The Upland/Riverine dichotomy
It is significant to note that after the creation of Rivers State in 1967 and especially after the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970, Rivers people lived largely in unity and harmony. This was due to their long history of interaction and coexistence which was strengthened by the common struggle against oppression and marginalization. This peaceful atmosphere engendered the rapid development of the state capital, Port Harcourt under the military administration of Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff, a Central Ijaw son (now of Bayelsa State).
This harmony was shattered during the twilight of Governor Diete-Spiff’s administration when he reshuffled his cabinet and dropped seven Commissioners. Incidentally the dropped Commissioners were from the mainland section of the state, including Dr. Obi Wali of blessed memory. These Commissioners ganged up and fought back vigorously, claiming victimization and marginalization against what they called the “Upland” section of the state. This gave birth to the concept of “Upland and Riverine Dichotomy” and led to the agitation for the creation of a Port Harcourt State.
Consequent upon the division created by this agitation, the principle of rotation was introduced in deciding the sharing formula for major elective and appointive positions in the state. This was done to ensure equity and harmonious co-existence amongst the Upland and Riverine (Ijaw) people. For example, when a Riverine (Ijaw) man is governor, the deputy is chosen from the Upland and vice versa. The office of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Secretary to Government, Head of Service etc. rotate between the Upland and the Riverine (Ijaw). It is pertinent to note that anytime the power rotation principle was disregarded, it had always resulted in bitter agitation and ethnic violence as witnessed in the 2007 and 2015 elections.
In accordance with the Upland/Riverine principle of rotation, prominent Riverine (Ijaw) leaders led by Alabo T.O. Graham-Douglas and the late Dr. Marshall Harry spearheaded the election of Governor Peter Odili, an Upland person in 1999.
This defining action was informed by the fact that as at 1999, the only ex-civilian Governor of Rivers State, Chief Rufus Ada-George was a Rivers Ijaw son. Two former governors: Alfred Diete-Spiff and Chief Melford Okilo had been carved into Bayelsa State. The new Rivers State therefore had only one former governor as at 1999 and he was Rivers Ijaw.
It is instructive that those Rivers Ijaw leaders allowed the governorship rotate to the Upland in 1999 despite the fact that Chief Ada-George was governor for less than two years (January 1992 to November 1993). It was a commendable and patriotic act that has been abused and is still being abused by its beneficiaries.   
In 2007, Dr. Peter Odili, the beneficiary of this just and noble rotation principle, thwarted the policy at a time when the governorship ought to rotate back to the Riverine (Ijaw). Odili insisted on ‘anointing’ another Upland (Ikwerre) candidate and ‘enforced’ his decision. That self-serving decision of Dr. Odili led to the emergence of Barrister Celestine Omehia and later Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, when the former was sacked by the Supreme Court.
Rivers Ijaw leaders protested the betrayal of trust by Odili in 2007. They objected the violation by Odili of the subsisting power rotation agreement of 1999. They accused him and the state chapter of the PDP of causing disaffection among Rivers people. 
On the provocative pronouncement by Governor Odili that there was no more Upland/Riverine dichotomy, the Rivers Ijaw leaders said that “Nobody can abrogate the Upland/Riverine divide by fiat when the overwhelming disparity in development and the lopsided distribution of amenities stare us in the face; our diverse languages, mangroves, mud skippers and periwinkles define us as a distinct people”. “Riverine is not about having rivers in one’s backyard” they said.
The worse happened in 2015 when in total disregard for our shared aspiration and in direct confrontation to our shared sensibilities, Barrister Nyesom Wike, another Ikwerre man was shot into governorship to succeed his kinsman, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. The argument was that the zoning policy which should have precluded Wike from the position, was suspended when consideration was being made on who could fly the PDP flag to victory in the 2015 gubernatorial election. They argued unashamedly that because they could not find anybody in the whole of Rivers Ijaw land to lead PDP to victory in 2015, our common patrimony was mortgaged to Nyesom Wike.
This happened in spite of the fact that prominently qualified Rivers Ijaw sons like Barr. Odein Ajumogobia SAN, Engr. Beks Dagogo-Jack, Barr. Dumo Lulu-Briggs, Engr. Sampson Ngerebara, Major Lancelot Anyanya rtd and Dr. Silver Opusunju were all PDP governorship aspirants in 2015 – each of whom was more capable than Wike.
The question is: If the Upland/Riverine dichotomy was unilaterally ‘abrogated’ by Odili in 2007 and the Zoning Policy was brazenly ‘suspended’ by the PDP in 2015, what would their next action be; what would be their next excuse to deny Rivers Ijaw the governorship seat in 2019?
THE ISSUES AT STAKE
11       In 1999, Rivers Ijaw political leaders in the spirit of give and take the mutual coexistence of all Rivers people, voluntarily handed over the governorship seat to an Upland person. Since then, there have been concerted efforts by succeeding regimes to deliberately re-write the political history of Rivers State and undermine the growth of Rivers Ijaw.
22.     Rivers State has three major ethnic nationalities: The Ijaw, the Ikwerre and the Ogoni. The other ethnic groups are Etche, Omuma, Ekpeye, Ogba, Ndoni and Ndoki.
33.      While the Ikwerre and the Ogoni occupy 4 (four) LGAs each, Rivers Ijaw alone occupy 11 (eleven) of the 23 (twenty-three) LGAs in Rivers State. These are: Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru, Degema, Okrika, Ogu/Bolo, Bonny, Opobo/Nkoro, Andoni, Abua/Odual and parts of Ahoada West and Port Harcourt. 

 

4. Since 1999, two ethnic groups, Ndoni and Ikwerre have monopolized the governorship position to the detriment of all other groups. In fact, Ikwerre alone has produced three successive governors since 2007.

 

55. These governors without exception have, as a matter of unwritten state policy, neglected the human and physical development of Rivers Ijaw people and towns. They have used their offices to divide and rule, sow discord and sponsor violence in Rivers Ijaw communities.

6. The argument of Ikwerre for holding tight to power since 2007, is that Ijaw monopolized the governorship in the old Rivers State (before Bayelsa State was created in 1996).

 

7. But a critical look reveals that Rivers Ijaw have occupied the Rivers State governorship seat for only twenty-three (23) months; (Ada-George Jan. 1992- Nov.1993). This is because Diete-Spiff who was a military appointee and Okilo (until his death) are now Bayelsa Ijaw although they were governors of old Rivers State. Ijaw is a large tribe found in more than six states of Nigeria.

 

8. It is therefore clear that since the creation of the old Rivers State in 1967, the current Rivers Ijaw have only occupied the Rivers State governorship seat for less than two years while the upland shall have occupied the seat for twenty years by 2019 (Ndoni 1999-2007 and Ikwerre 2007-2019). Therefore, power must change hands in 2019.

9. To deny Rivers Ijaw the governorship of new Rivers State because Diete-Spiff and Okilo were governors of old Rivers State, is like denying Ikwerre the governorship because Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Okpara and Odumegwu Ojukwu were premiers/military governor of old Eastern Region that included present Rivers State.

 

110.  In any case, the so-called period of Ijaw dominance did not witness the hegemony of a single group. Diete-Spiff is a Nembe; Okilo was Ogbia and Ada-George is from Okrika (now in different states). On the contrary, it has been Ikwerre, Ikwerre and Ikwerre since 2007 in total exclusion of Etche, Omuma, Ekpeye, Ogba and Ndoki not to mention the entire Ogoni nationality. Ikwerre have been unfair even to their Upland brothers.
111. To ensure the dominance of the Ikwerre, succeeding Rivers State Governors since 2007, have skewed population and voters’ registration figures against the hitherto more populous Rivers Ijaw people in a manner to suggest that while the Ikwerre were procreating and growing in numbers, the Ijaw were dying, sterile and degenerating. This blatant distortion is to propagate and institute a new political hegemony over and above Rivers Ijaw people.
112. There is no gainsaying however, that Rivers Ijaw remains the largest single sub-tribe in Rivers State, bigger than the Ikwerre and bigger than the Ogoni nationality.
OUR POSITION
11.    That the foundation for peace and development of Rivers State should be anchored unconditionally on the adherence to the principle of mutual co-existence among all ethnic groups in an atmosphere of justice, equity and fair play.
22     That in the spirit of the “federal character” principle as provided for in part 1(c) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, governance in Rivers should always ensure even development of all sections of the state and guarantee equity in power sharing in order to promote inter-ethnic inclusiveness.
33.    We condemn the human and infrastructural underdevelopment of Rivers Ijaw clans and communities fifty years after the creation of Rivers State.
44.      We commend the Rivers Ijaw PDP leaders led by Alabo T.O. Graham-Douglas that installed an Upland Candidate, Dr. Peter Odili in 1999. They acted in good faith.
55.      We denounce the action of former Governor Peter Odili for betraying the 1999 power rotation agreement; his refusal to honour the Upland/Riverine rotation principle and for denying Riverine (Ijaw) the governorship in 2007. His action gave impetus to subsequent breaches.
66.      We condemn the Rivers State chapters of political parties that disrespected the zoning principle in the 2015 elections, especially the PDP that disregarded its own Constitution that guarantees “Adhering to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness”. {Chapter 1 item 7.3 (C)}. We call on all political parties in Rivers State to respect the zoning principle in 2019.
77.      We commend former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi for spearheading the emergence of a Rivers Ijaw governorship candidate in the APC during the 2015 elections. Truth be told, Amaechi could have shut out Rivers Ijaw if he did not believe in the principle of power rotation amongst Rivers ethnic nationalities.
   
88.      In this respect, we reject any attempt by the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) to abandon the zoning principle it adopted in 2015. We reject the attempt to balkanize Rivers Ijaw into Opobo, Kalabari, Okrika and Odual etc. Rivers Ijaw is one and must be seen and treated as such.
99.      The emergence of Barrister Nyesom Wike as governor of Rivers State was an aberration and a rape on Rivers sensibilities; an act that should be relegated into the dark pages of Rivers State history and must not be allowed to continue beyond May 29, 2019.  
110.  The struggle to forcefully actualize the personal and inordinate ambition of Barrister Nyesom Wike to succeed his fellow Ikwerre man as governor of Rivers plunged the entire state into turmoil since 2013. It was the harbinger of the now infamous Rivers of Blood.
111. The flimsy and untenable excuse, that Governor Wike was recruited in 2015 because there were no capable persons to lead the PDP to victory, was an insult not only to Rivers Ijaw, but to all other ethnic nationalities in Rivers State
112. We reject the shamelessly padded and utterly fictitious population and voters’ registration figures that are being bandied with the intention to intimidate Rivers Ijaw to submission. We insist that the violence and bloodshed that have characterized elections in the state were perpetrated to protect these fake figures that cannot withstand any form of scrutiny. These fake population and registration figures shall fall flat in the face of one-man-one-vote.
113. We reject the insinuation that Rivers Ijaw politicians left the task of defending Jonathan to Barr. Nyesom Wike alone. It is well known that Rivers Ijaw political leaders and ex-militants were the political pillars and the fulcrum on which Wike anchored his selfish and deceitful support for former President Jonathan.  
114. We condemn the actions of Ijaw sons and daughters that gave the governorship seat as a “REWARD” to Governor Wike in 2015. It was undeserved.
115. Painfully, the President Jonathan’s re-election bid under which guise Nyesom Wike grabbed the PDP governorship ticket, failed. It was a case of double jeopardy because Ijaw lost the Presidency and Rivers Ijaw mortgaged the Governorship. Now that the factors that were orchestrated to deny Rivers Ijaw the governorship in 2015 are no more tenable, the governorship must revert to Rivers Ijaw in 2019.  
116. We regret the actions of all Rivers Ijaw ex-militants and ex-agitators who shot Governor Wike to power in 2015 in support for President Jonathan.
OUR DEMANDS
11.   That Rivers Ijaw should produce the next Rivers State Governor in 2019 as the only basis for equity and peace after 20 years of Upland domination (Ndoni – 8yrs, Ikwerre 12 yrs.). 
22.  That all political parties should adopt and present Rivers Ijaw candidates for the 2019 governorship election because Rivers Ijaw in all fairness should produce the next governor of Rivers State.
33.      That the leadership of Ogbakor Ikwerre, the highest authority in Ikwerre land should call Governor Nyesom Wike to order because his selfish ambition is portraying the Ikwerre ethnic nationality in bad light and creating disharmony in Rivers State.
44.      We call on the Ogoni, the Ekpeye, the Ndoni, the Ogba, the Etche, the Omuma and the Ndoki ethnic nationalities in Rivers State to rise up and reject this  political hegemony.
55.     We call on all the clans and people of Rivers Ijaw to wake up, speak with one voice and take their rightful place.
66.      We call on Rivers Ijaw governorship hopefuls to show restraint in declaring for the 2019 governorship in order to avoid the proliferation of multiple Rivers Ijaw governorship aspirants on the same platform. The strongest and most viable Rivers Ijaw governorship contender must be supported by all.
77.    Finally, we call on all genuine Rivers Ijaw sons and daughters to shun immediate personal and pecuniary benefits from enemies of our people who would want to raise phantom groups and publications against this patriotic call for Rivers Ijaw governorship in 2019. We must unite to liberate our people and give hope to our future generations.
AFFIRMATION
Rivers Ijaw shall continue to uphold the principle of power rotation with all other ethnic nationalities in Rivers State as a basis for equity and peaceful co-existence.
Rivers Ijaw Renaissance Group as the think-tank for the Riverine people of Rivers State is capable of robust articulation of Rivers Ijaw position without recourse to lawlessness and extreme ideology.
 Signed:
Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
For: Directorate of Communication & Strategy
                         08033088997

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