Chairman of this Occasion – His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diete Spiff, the Amananabo of Twon Brass, Chairman Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers and Co-Chairman, Conference of Ijaw Traditional Rulers and Elders (CITRE).
His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State – Senator Douye Diri. His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State – Senator Lawrence Ewhrujakpo.
His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Delta State – Dec. Barr. Kingsley Otuaro
Her Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Rivers State –Dr. (Mrs.) Ipalibo Banigo The Hon Minister of Petroleum Resource (State)–Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva. The Distinguished Guest of Honour – Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Immediate past President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Federal and State Legislators (Present)
Top Government functionaries
Chairman and members of the INC-BOT, led by Chief Edwin Clark
Royal Majesties and other Members of the Conference Of Ijaw Traditional Rulers And Elders.
Leaders and Representatives of Ethnic Nationalities (Present) Captains of Industries and Heads of Institutions. Distinguished Invitees
Gentlemen of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen
I humbly, on behalf of members of the incoming National Executive Council of the Ijaw National Congress (INC World Wide), return adoration to the Almighty God for the journey mercies granted to all of us to this epochal occasion and for the successes recorded in the electioneering process culminating in today’s inauguration. I equally welcome you all to Yenagoa, Capital of Bayelsa State, the Glory of All Lands, the home of hospitality and the Jerusalem of Ijaw Nation. This event marks a turning point in the political history of the Ijaw race and our apex social– cultural organization, the INC.
The sounds of celebration, the feelings of relief and the avalanche of congratulatory messages received after the declaration of the nal outcome of the Friday, April 30, 2021 elections into the National Executive Council of the INC from eminent sons and daughters, home and abroad, friends and well wishers of Ijaw nation, including leaders of other ethnic nationalities in the country indicate high level acceptability of our victory and speak volume of the credibility of the e-voting system adopted and adjudged as the freest, fairest, transparent and most innovative in the annals of Nigeria’s political history. By the feat, the Ijaws have set the pace for credible and peaceful elections worthy of emulation not only by other ethnic nationalities but also by civil society and professional organizations and the Nigerian State.
To say the least, our co-contestants, who also fought gallantly but lost and conceded defeat, have demonstrated a sense of uncommon sportsmanship that serves as a beacon of hope for love, unity and progress of the Ijaw nation. This is an important lesson, especially for the political class, against the backdrop of the prevalent political culture of desperation, litigations and protests.
To demonstrate our magnanimity in victory, show commitment to the principle of inclusiveness, and tap from their expertise and wealth of experience. I have proposed to the INC-NEC to appoint these compatriots as heads of some statutory committees of Congress.
Mr. Chairman Sir, permit me to profusely thank His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, Governor of Bayelsa State, the workaholic, dependable and forthright Deputy Governor and the good people of Bayelsa State for providing the enabling atmosphere for the successful INC elections. We are particularly grateful to the leadership and members of CITRE, members of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee led by King, Justice Francis F. Tabai and the Chairman and members of the INC- Electoral Committee headed by Emeritus Prof. Dagogo Fubara for their courage, sacrifices and commitment to doing Ijaw nation proud. These individuals deserve to be accorded the status and privileges of Distinguished Citizens of Ijaw Nation. To the over 400 delegates, we equally appreciate you for your maturity.
3. The Task Ahead And The Imperative Of A Paradigm Shift
We the members of the new National Executive Council of the INC consider our privileged elevation as the will of God and a supreme call to dedicated and sacrificial service to the entire Ijaw nation and humanity. We are very conscious of the huge expectations, and trust from Ijaws (home and in the diaspora), in our collective capacity to reposition the INC to promote Ijaw core-values of unity, truth and mutual trust; and protect and defend our collective rights, safety, source of livelihood and well-being.
We are not oblivious of the immediate challenges of recalibrating the fearless and resilient voice of the Ijaw people on national and regional issues of interest. The new Exco will not undermine the urgent need to re-institute the structures of the INC at the zonal, clan and chapter levels and the task of rebuilding a virile, self-sustaining and self-propelling INC; strong enough to advance and defend our collective identity, socio-political and economic heritage.
The Ijaw Agenda on self-determination, self-actualization and by extension, the expansion of our political and economic space and the desire for sustainable peace and development will be pursued and prosecuted with renewed vigor. As the first step in this direction, we have after due consultations, decided to immediately put the machinery in place for the conduct of credible election into offices at the Zonal, Clan and Chapters of the INC, within the next 60 days.
Permit me to leverage on the remark of our Elder Statesman, King Alfred Papapriye Diete Spiff, that “we could rule the world, if we can stay together”, to call on all sons and daughters of Ijaw nation, irrespective of political affiliations, ideology, class, gender and spatial differentials, to prioritize Ijaw unity of purpose. As a pre-condition to actualizing our dream of greatness, I plead with all of us to consider Ijaw First and accord Ijaw the BEST. Moving forward, the spirit of Ijaws centrism must not be compromised. The task of Ijaw rebirth is a collective one, and can only be achieved through our sense of oneness of purpose and action.
The new leadership of the INCis equally conscious of the perilous times we nd ourselves in a nation that is already exhibiting symptoms of a failing state, and the compelling need for a paradigm shift in our modus operandi of activities and programmes on the one hand and the character and mindset of not just the ‘dramatis personae’ in dealing with our concerns and challenges on the other hand. We must shift from mere rhetorical advocacy to intellectual engagement, trans-regional and national networking, strategic partnership and systematic collaboration. The INC shall review its scope of interest to include the expansion of the political space, strategize on wealth creation and demand accountability from those who hold and manage our common wealth in trust.
4. The True Ijaw Narrative
The time to change the Ijaw narrative is now. Every Ijaw man is therefore obliged to articulate and advertise who truly we are, our contributions to the Nigerian state; and the fate of the Ijaws in this pseudo-federation called Nigeria.
Mr. Chairman Sir, permit me to remind us that the Ijaws with a population of over 18 million people are the first aboriginal settlers in Nigeria, the predominant ethnic group in the Niger Delta region and the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria. The Ijaws are criminally balkanized as perpetual minorities in the states of Akwa-Ibom, Ondo, Edo, Delta, of the Niger Delta except in Rivers State and Bayelsa where they enjoy a semi-homogenous and homogenous status respectively. Recent studies have indented a few aboriginal Ijaw settlements in Abia and Cross Rivers States of Nigeria and among communities in the West African Coastline.
In the midst of the harsh conditions we find ourselves, the Ijaw nation and people have made significant contributions to molding and sustaining the Nigerian project from the onset. These roles from the era of the struggle against western domination, independence struggle and press freedom and the promotion of the unity and democratic consolidation in Nigeria are well documented.
In the light of the above, it is imperative to pay glowing tributes to a few Ijaw patriots such as Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, the stimulator of the Willink Commission on the right of the minorities in Nigeria; GKJ Amachree, the first Solicitor-General of Nigeria; Rear Admiral Bossman Soroh, first African captain to navigate a war ship from Europe to Africa; Brigade-General T. Kombo, the first Nigeria Chief of Air Staff; Chief Emeritus Prof. Dagogo Fubara, first African Professor of Geodetic Surveying, Prof. John Pepper Clark, the first African Professor of English Literature, Ernest Sisei Ikoli pioneer journalist and first editor of Daily Times, Prof. Eyo Ita, pioneer Premier of Eastern region, the Great Zik of Africa, who paternally hails from the Lewis Apah family of Agbere Community and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the first elected president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from the minority ethnic group and the current Face of Africa Democracy.
The supposedly difficult terrain of the Ijaw people has since 1958 when the first commercial shipment of crude oil was taken from oil well No. 1 in Oloibiri, remained the treasure trove and mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Colonial records indicate how fish, timber and palm oil accounted for a substantive proportion of colonial revenue base. Today, what qualified the states of Akwa Ibom, Edo and Ondo as oil bearing states and beneficiaries from allocation from the NDDC is the huge quantum of oil and gas exploited from the bowels of Ijaw land in these states. The Forcados, Burutu, Bonny and Brass ports all in Ijaw territory have continued to serve as key spinners of Nigerian marine transportation and economic system from pre-colonial times.
We are aware that, it is for the purpose of annexing these resources that every single group in Nigeria, with a secessionist or expansionist agenda has intention or has attempted to forcefully appropriate parts or whole of Ijaw territory into their dream republics. This plan is evil and will fail abysmally.
The Ijaw National Congress wishes to use this special occasion to, and in an unequivocal term, remind and warn such characters that the Ijaw territory was never and will never be ceded or conquered. We belong only to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Should there be a compelling necessity to pull out of the present Nigeria, we shall go our separate ways in fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors to exist as a united people, who are territorially contiguous and culturally homogenous. From Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Andoni, Okirika, Kalabari, Buseni, Epie/Atissa, Engene, Abua, Odual, Ndoki, Egbema, Gelegele, Apoi, Arogbo, etc we are a united Ijaw people with a common heritage destiny and aspiration. We know our territorial boundaries and our map. Ijaws are also well prepared to protect and defend her territory, come rain, come shine.
The Ijaw nation, in addition to her wealth in oil and gas resources, has rich biodiversity and human capital whose finesses and polish are comparable only to places that have enthroned great civilizations.
It is therefore extremely apposite to debunk the negative reference to the Ijaws as mere strangers and spectators in the Nigerian project, idle minded, renegades and economic saboteurs by a cross section Nigerians including a former Head of State in this country. Of a truth the Ijaws are by nature peaceful, truthful, trustworthy, enterprising, industrious, civilized, amiable, and accommodating but resilient in their quest for justice, equity and fairness.
5. The State Of Ijaw In The Nigerian Project
In spite of the sacrificial contributions of Ijaw land over the years to the survival, sustenance and maintenance of the Nigerian State, the Ijaws and their ecosystem, in the true sense of the word, has become the greatest target and victim of state cum International Oil Company IOC induced economic exploitation, political balkanization, exclusion, marginalization and environmental degradation and despoliation. Human rights abuse, infrastructural deficiency, lack of basic amenities and standard institutions of learning and health care delivery are our common decimals, according to the recent human development and poverty index reports on the Niger Delta region. The description and palpable fears of domination expressed in the Willink Commission report, 62 years ago of the Ijaw territory as though rich but poor, backward and neglected, is still very apt and worsened by the prevalence of oil pollution induced health hazards, serial intra and inter communal clashes, youth restiveness and criminality. The several obnoxious and discriminatory land and mineral resources ownership laws and policies by successive administrations in Nigeria after the military takeover have caused systematic underdevelopment in most part of Ijaw land.
The Ijaws’ demand for justice, equity and fairness dates far back into precolonial and colonial epochs. Their struggle for self-determination became more cohesive from 1939 in reaction to the colonial policy of criminal alkanization and through the pains of regionalism as expressed in their submissions to the Willink commission. The same issues are captured in Isaac Boro’s 12 day Revolution (1966), Kaiama Declaration (1998) and the Ijaw position paper, to the National Conference (2014). It may suffice to note that there is always a limit to human patience and forbearance.
The call for strategic collaboration among the Ijaws and other minority ethnic nationalities particularly in the South South and the Middle Belt who share same slavish and endemic deprivation, repression and depression though at different magnitude is imperative. We must identify our common enemies as the hegemonic centrifugal state powers, internal collaborators and the multinational oil companies. These forces simply conspire to get us disunited and divided by igniting internal squabbles over our own resources. Systematic networking, premised on oneness of purpose is all that the ethnic minorities need and urgently too to constructively engage the state powers, the IOCs, the various interventionist agencies, development partners, (foreign and local) on the issues of security, socio political inclusiveness, environmental friendliness, youth and women empowerment, wealth creation and sustainable development.
Permit me to appreciate the ingenuity and doggedness of the PAN NIGER DELTA PEOPLES FORUM(PANDEF) and other sister regional organizations for taking the bull by the horn in this auspicious time and for the successes recorded so far in promoting regional unity and development. The Ijaw nation is very proud of the outstanding pioneering leadership role played by one of our distinguished Elder statesmen and foremost South South leader, Pa Senator (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark in the sustenance of the regional struggle for freedom, equity and justice. The duly elected leadership of the various ethnic nationalities and the entire South South must be linked together to support and complement the prime efforts of these regional organisations in our pursuit for a peaceful, prosperous, just and equitable society. It is in this vein that the Ijaw ethnic nationality commends the recent pronouncement and legislation by the South South governors’ forum on the prohibition of open grazing in the region. The INC shall provide the necessary support to ensure strict adherence to these policies/laws that are aimed primarily to protect our people, land and heritage from external incursion.
Mr. Chairmen sir, it suffices to reiterate that from main stream to social media and intelligence reports, it is obvious that NIGERIA is at precipice. If the prevailing precarious situation is not properly handled, this country might disintegrate into political oblivion. The Ijaw National Congress lends its voice to support earlier calls from different ethic nationalities in the country on Mr. President to x this country. Mr. President should as a matter of urgency dispassionately and aggressively address the problems of insecurity of lives and properties, mass poverty, infrastructure and institutional decadence and give equal sense of belonging to all citizens of this country irrespective of their creed, class and tribal affiliations.
Members of the National Assembly, at this crucial stage of our existence should sink their political and ideological differences and collaborate with the executive and judicial arms of government to provide pragmatic solutions to the lingering crises of insecurity, kidnapping, banditry and other social vices that have created serious fears and disillusionment among the citizenry across geographical, religious and political divides.
6. Our Demands The Ijaw National Congress presents the following demands to the Federal Government of Nigeria, as guarantee for our continuous commitment to the Nigerian project
I. Immediate restructuring, scal federalism and resource control in accordance with the principles laid down by the founding fathers of this great nation
ii. Immediate withdrawal of the water resources Bill and the repeal of other obnoxious land and mineral resources laws that have kept the Ijaw people in the state of perpetual slavery and penury
iii. Immediate remediation of our massively polluted and endangered environment and the enforcement of adherence to international environmental best practices by IOC’s operating in the Ijaw territories
iv. Immediate inauguration of a substantive board of the NDDC with a Bayelsan as Managing Director and Deltan as chairman in line with the provisions of the law establishing it.
v. Allocate operational licenses for marginal oil helds to Ijaw people
vi. Promote ownership of modular refineries by Ijaw people
vii. Allocate at least 10% of oil and gas revenue to host Communities as demanded by Hostcom and South South Governors forum
viii. Create at least two additional states and more local government areas for the Ijaws
ix. Ensure a fair balance in appointment at the federal level (civil service, the military, and oil companies) to reflect the principles of federal character.
10. Stop all negative actions by EDO and Akwa-Ibom states intended to deny our kith and kin ownership and management of their God given land, economic potentials, cultural identify and heritage.
7. The Way Forward, Moving Forward
At this precarious moment of our nationhood, the entire Ijaw nation as a matter of utmost urgency should envision and develop pragmatic strategies that would guarantee our continue existence even in the event of any eventuality. Therefore, after far reaching consultations, I have put forward to the 8th National Executive Council of the INC a proposal to inaugurate a ten man ad hoc committee to draw up plans for an all-inclusive Ijaw summit. The summit shall be convoked at the shortest possible time as recommended by the ad hoc committee and approved by NEC.
A call for all ijaw citizens to remain vigilant and security conscious has become expedient in the climes and times such as now. Every Ijaw man should see it as a sacred duty and civic responsibility to protect and defend his or herself, community and territory against any intrusion under any pretense and guise.
In furtherance of our unalloyed commitment to promoting the Ijaw identity and heritage, I have also proposed to the INC NEC to institute the appropriate statutory committee of congress to prepare a Bill for the establishment of Ijaw Language and Culture Academy. When passed into law, it would among other things facilitate the development of a common/ standard Ijaw language and the teaching and learning of Izon in our institutions of learning.
Mr. Chairman sir, permit me to thank the Ijaw Elders Forum Lagos, the Patriotic Ijaw leaders of Thought, the Ijaw Women Connect, INC North America and Europe, Ijaw Nation Organisation, Ijaw Peoples Development Association, the Ijaw Monitoring Group, the Ijaw Youth Council and many other similar Ijaw associations and patriotic individuals who have courageously kept the flame of the struggle burning during the trying times of the Ijaw National Congress.
Against all odds and by your dexterity and sagacity the INC has been resuscitated and shall grow from strength to strengths through your collective resolve to always promote and defend Ijaw cause.
I have deliberately repeated the phrase of the Ijaw unity and oneness of purpose as sinequanon for jaw progress and continue existence. This is the maestro of this administration. We believe that together we are stronger.
Together we can achieve greatness and achieve the dreams of a people in dire search for justice, equity and development. We are open to your advice and constructive criticisms. We plead with you to remember us in your prayers in this onerous task of revitalising the INC and the Ijaw nation.
Thanks for your patience and anticipated co-operation
Haa IZON, Haa IZON, Haa IZON
ADOU ADOU ADOU