By Dayo BENSON, Charles KUMOLU, Gbenga OKE, Japhet ALAKAM & Chukwuma NWAKANMA
FROM FormerÂ Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, came a message of reconciliation for Itsekiri and Urhobo urging them to put their differences aside in the interest of the nation, just as he lamented that the present Nigeria is not the one he wanted.
He however charged Nigerians to think of what they could do to correct what was wrong with the country rather than harp on it.
Gowon spokeÂ yesterday in Lagos at the public presentation of the book; WARRI: A Focus on the Itsekiri.
The event which was attended by prominent Itsekiri sons and daughters was another forum to reaffirm Itsekiri â€˜s ownership of Warri which six reviewers of the book amplified in their respective presentations.
Those at the event include Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu(Rtd) Mrs Oluremi Tinubu, Uncle Sam Amuka, Mr. Allison Ayida, Chief Hope Harriman, Chief Mrs Rita Lori-Ogbebor, Mr. Kayode Fayemi.
Others are,Â Mr J.O.S Ayomike, Prof Itse Sagay, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ambassador Segun Olusola, Prof Tony Afejuku, Barrister Fred Agbeigbe, Chief Adolor Okotie Eboh, Mrs Doris Rewane among others.
Gen Gowon, whose comment was prompted by a question posed by one of the book reviewers Mr. Agbeigbe, said, â€œ Certainly this is not the Nigeria I want, but the fellow that asked this question should ask himself what he has contributed to make Nigeria better. If we are all committed, we would have the Nigeria we want.
Gen Gowon further said, â€œBut why are you focusing on the Itsekiris? I believe there is a simple answer to this i.e. History must not be left in the hands of people who have no sense of history. If we make the mistake of allowing just anyone to tell a story, all that we shall get in the end would be inaccuracies, deliberate distortions and outright falsehood that can only help spread of ignorance. In this kind of situation, we shall have a case of what a leading Nigerian writer would correctly describe as â€˜combative ignorance trumpeting its own values.â€™ We must not allow this to happen.
In addition he said, â€œI believe that the writing of this book arose out of the intuitive need to correctly record the history of a people for posterity, especially in the light of events of the past decade that have occasioned widespread misinformation about the Itsekiri following the spate of upheavals in Warri and its environs. This book should help a great deal to clarify all areas of misinformation and help restore trust and confidence amongst all the people in the area who have live in the area and intermarried overtime.
â€œDistinguished ladies and gentlemen, I will like to end my remarks by urging all our country men and women to imbibe the spirit of living together as one and in peace for the good of our people, our society and our country.â€
While reviewing the book from a legal stand, Professor Itse Sagay stated that, â€œWarri: A focus on the Itsekiriâ€ is about some political, business and intellectual elites obsession with Warri and the Itsekiri response to this obsession is not borne out of love for Warri but out of pathological pleasure in denying the Itsekiri their entitlement to the city founded by them and named after them”.
In addition he said,Â â€œIf we look at the Warri land cases, all conclusively confirm Itsekiriâ€™s ownership of Warri and some of these cases have been reproduced at the back of the book as Appendices A, B, C, and D. They are in order: Ogegede v Dore Numa (High Court), Ometa v Chief Dore Numa at the Divisional Court (High Court), and the Privy Council,The Chief Commissioner, Western Provinces v Ginuwa 11, the Olu ofÂ Itsekiri and two others.”
â€œAll sources of evidence lead to that single conclusion, namely, historical, cultural. Judicial, sociological evidence and valid treaties all point to one direction that Itsekiriâ€™s ownership of Warri adding that â€œas the respected and renowned Warri/Itsekiri historian has ably documented on pages 5 to 6 of the book, the name Warri is synonymous with Itsekiri and the Warri kingdom and the writer cites 13 instances in which established historians used variants of the word Warri to describe the Itsekiriâ€™s and the kingdom founded by the Itsekiri royal dynastyâ€,
In his contribution Professor of English and Literature, University of Benin, Professor Afejuku described the book as an excellent work of history and culture about the Itsekiri who have gone into diverse history books written by European and non-European scholars, historians and travelers alike as a highly civilised people.
According to Afejuku â€œgenerally, the forthrightness of the writer of this book is courageous, unsentimental and unsubjective, even though they are Itsekiri men who might be expected to write history from the biased stand-point of Itsekiri, they wrote the book without romanticizing, without exaggerating, without fanaticizing, it was simply and profoundly objectify and objectivizeâ€.
He further stated that, â€œthe Prologue of the book contains an account of how Warri came into being and the breakaway from Benin, it focuses on the Itsekiri and their early settlements, ownership of Itsekiri homeland, their Ijaw neighbours, the establishment of the Itsekiri kingdom of Warri; Itsekiri links with European and their Yoruba neighbours adding that it contains a graphic description of Itsekiri homeland and focuses on the interregnum in Itsekiri landâ€.