Lagos – The Yoruba and Ijaw communities in Lagos State on Saturday held a football match amid other cultural displays to foster unity and peaceful co-existence among them.
The move came amid heightened militancy in the state which led to some people accusing the Ijaaws of perpetrating the act.
In recent time in the state, there has been a wave of pipeline vandalism which has left many dead, kidnappings and violent robberies areas like Arepo, Ikorodu and Igando.
Many of the hoodlums are said to have carried out the nefarious acts using the waterways, a development that led people to suspect that it was the Ijaws that were responsible.
NAN reports that the competition, tagged “Unity Match’’, was organised by the Lagos Chapter of Ijaw National Congress at the Navy Barracks Football Pitch, Marine Beach, Ajegunle.
The event was graced by Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere Pan Yoruba Cultural Organisation, Keku Patrick, Chairman, Ijaw National Congress, Lagos Chapter, and Boma Johnbul, Chairman Ijaw Youth Council.
Other dignitaries are Rafiu Ladipo, President of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC) and Denznil Kentebe, National Organiser, Ijaw Congress and Sikaboro Alex, Chairman Ijaw Traditional Council of Chiefs, Lagos Chapter.
The match ended 2-1 in favour of the Yoruba team with crowd from both communities entertained by a Lagos-based Niger Delta Wrestling Group.
The spectators were treated to cultural music by the Ijaw Youth Cultural Dancers and the Nigerian Football Supporters Club (NFSC) band.
Odumakin told NAN that the Unity Match was to show the public that the two communities were not at war now but will continue to live in peace and harmony.
He, however, urged the Lagos State Government to intensity efforts in fishing out the criminals responsible for the vandalism of oil pipelines at Arepo and other parts of the state.
“The Ijaws and Yorubas are one, the two communities live in peace and their good relationship will continue just as seen here.
“On another note, I appeal to security forces in Lagos to expose miscreants and oil pipeline vandals who are sending negative signals to cause crisis among the two communities,’’ he said.
Johnbul, the Ijaw Youth chairman, described the Yorubas as their host, adding that they would never do anything to jeopardise their smooth relationship.
“We are peaceful people, it’s been a good partnership, peace and unity with the Yorubas and we also have them in our place and we will continue in that direction,’’ he said.
Ladipo, the NFSC President, applauded the Ijaw Community for the event, noting that football was a tool to strengthen peace in the nation irrespective of ethnicities and tribes.
“I am impressed by this peaceful gathering which shows that we are one and must embrace peace and live in happiness to make our nation a better place for all.
“We can see and read peace in the faces of the footballers, a spirit of love that we must promote to further engage our youths in spite of ethnicity,’’ he said.
Kentebe, who expressed delight with spectators’ turnout, said they were comfortable residing in Yorubaland and had recorded tremendous achievements as a result of peaceful co-existence.
“Most of us came to Yorubaland as youths, worked, married and raised our children here who are practically part and parcel of this community.
“We cannot and will never be agents of destruction.
“We want the Lagos State government and other security agencies to bring to book those behind unpleasant issues such as pipeline vandalism, kidnapping and other evil acts and disclose their identity,’’ he said.
The Chairman, Ijaw National Congress said that Ijaws were ready to work with the state government and security agencies to bring to justice the perpetrators of illegal bunkering.