By Festus Ahon
CHIEF Owho Ovuakporie is a community leader, who is aspiring to lead the Isoko people as President General of the Isoko Development Union, IDU. In this interview, he speaks on the IDU, the Isoko people and other national issues. Excerpts:
Over 70 percent satisfactory at the State level but near zero percent at the Federal. I kept telling people that Governor Uduaghan is the most friendlygovernor that the Isoko tribe has ever had right from Mid-West Region to Bendel State and now Delta State.
In the political equation of Delta State, a governor that does not love and trust an ethnic group, cannot give that group sensitive appointments like Secretary to the State Government, many Commissioner slots, Chief Security Officer. However, at the Federal level, the marginalisation has reached a crescendo especially since 1999.
Why do you say Isoko people are marginalised?
The marginalisation of Isoko people is eclectic at the Federal level. Isoko population world-wide is about 1.7 million people. It is bigger in terms of population than 66 countries of the world out of 222 countries in this planet earth. In Nigeria, we occupy the 12th position in terms of population out of the about 250 ethnic nationalities. In Delta State, we are the third out of the five tribes that is Urhobo, Igbo (including Ndokwa), Isoko, Delta Ijaw andItsekiri.
But sadly, the Isoko people with 18.10 percent of Delta State population have just two Local Government Council Areas which is only 8 per cent of the 25 council Areas in Delta State. Isoko people have never had a Minister since 1976, no High Commissioner or Ambassador since Nigeria came into existence, no single federal establishment apart from Police Stations and no head of any Federal parastatal.
In the oil sector, the story is more bitter. Today, Isoko land contributes over 20 per cent of the total crude oil production in Delta State. Under the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Isoko marginalisation can only be said to be cruel. Isoko was next to our Ijaw brothers during the struggle in the Niger Delta Region.
Odi community in Bayelsa State that was completely razed down during the 1999 cruel invasion is 100 percent Isoko community. Yet Isoko people cannot boast of even five beneficiaries under the scheme despite our immense contributions in terms of lives and property that were lost during the struggle.
How true is it that you are interested in leading the IDU?
The answer is yes and no. No because it was not my original idea. And yes because a chain of events made me to accept to lead IDU.
In March 2009, I launched a book entitled “Isoko Must Unite in Jesus’ Name”. It was well attended by all the Isoko big wings. After the ceremony, two prominent Isoko people asked me to lead IDU.
I ignored them. In the following year, I organised the first world Isoko Day and it was well attended. The President planned to attend and scheduled his election campaign for Delta State the previous day. However, other State matters came up suddenly and the President directed Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, former Minister of State for Education to represent him.
After the ceremony, some prominent Isoko traditional rulers together with some other Isoko personalities including a Benin High Chief who represented the Oba of Benin summoned me to a hotel at Oleh and pleaded with me to lead IDU. You don’t expect me to say no to them unless I am not a true Isoko man.
What are your plans to unite Isoko if elected to lead the IDU?
First and foremost, I will remain apolitical. Secondly, I will give our brothers, especially those in Bayelsa State and Ndokwa West andEast full sense of belonging and bring them to IDU. IDU is for all Isoko.
What makes us Isoko people is the natural Isoko language we speak and not the artificial Local Government Council Area we belong to. Most importantly, any step I take+ will be a product of wide consultation.
What is your assessment of the Governor Uduaghan administration?
I believe he is one of the best governors in the country today. As I said before, he is the best friend Isoko people have ever had as their governor.