By DANIEL GUMM
WARRI — AS reactions continue to trail the non-inclusion of Itsekiri among delegates to the proposed national conference as recently published, Warri chief and women activist, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, has petitioned the Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Pius Anyim, urging him to intervene and ensure that Itsekiri have delegates in the confab.
Similarly, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Daniel Reyenieju, has appealed to Itsekiri people to be calm over the development.
Meanwhile, the Alpha-May Club has also faulted the non-inclusion of Itsekiri in the national confab.
Reyenieju, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, noted that while the criticisms and anger against the absence of an Itsekiri among the names recently published, it should be noted that both the federal and state governments that were involved in drawing up the lists, are no doubt now aware of the serious and intolerable omission.
He explained that the fact that the Delta State Government had “even made public its role in the nomination of delegates from the state, including that an Itsekiri, Chief Isaac Jemide, as being among the names it sent to the Office of the SGF, that is indicative of the fact that the omission did not emanate from the Delta State Government, and that the state is equally concerned over the omission.
“It is unthinkable that Itsekiri ethnic group which occupies parts of both Delta and Edo states, and most importantly, that it occupies the second position among ethnic groups that are oil-bearing nationally, should be excluded from such an all-important conference that will determine the future of oil-bearing ethnic groups vis-a-vis the ownership and control of crude oil in Nigeria.”
He called on the authorities to make quick amend, adding, “the real issue now is the number of Itsekiri persons that will form part of the delegates to the proposed conference, as the robust and tall positions of the Itsekiri ethnic group in terms of contribution to the daily national wealth is more important for the sustenance of the Nigerian State than claimed population status of the big ethnic groups.”
Lori-Ogbebor petitions SGF
Lori-Ogbebor in her petition, said: “There are 15 delegates and none of these is an Itsekiri man or woman. It is needless to emphasise the position of the Itsekiri people in the region. Apart from the huge economic contributions of the Itsekiri people, is the fact that the Itsekiri people have been crying for many years about their marginalisation and subjugation.
“Itsekiri people are very important minorities being suffocated by majority ethnic groups. Before now, it is on record that we have prayed Nigeria and God for a review of Nigeria’s political structure. Our case as a minority is not a new source of nationality challenge. It has always been a serious matter in restructuring Nigeria in a way beneficial to all as historical records dating back to colonial era abundantly demonstrate.
“The Itsekiri, therefore, welcomed with joy and gratitude to God that this administration, thought it fit to encourage or bring about this national conference. That we are therefore, excluded from the South-South political zone cannot be imagined.
“What is more painful is that in the 15 delegates chosen specifically for the South-South geopolitical zone (for socio political/cultural and ethnic nationality groups), one can count about four to six Efik/Ibibio, two to three Ijaw, two or three Ikwerre – but no Itsekiri, and no Ogoni? I seek your urgent intervention in this matter to bring about peace and confidence in this confab and Nigeria,” she added.
Alpha-May Club faults non-inclusion
Meanwhile, the Alpha-May Club, faulting the non-inclusion of Itsekiri in the national confab, said: “We express our great concern and embarrassment over the absence of the Itsekiri on the list of delegates so far published in the news media by the Office of the Secretary of the Federal Government, SGF.”
The club, in statement by Mr. Robinson Eyoyibo and Isaac Sobotie, Chairman and Secretary, respectively, yesterday, said: “We now note the assurance given by the Government of Delta State, that the name of Chief Isaac Jemide was on the list submitted to the Federal Government, and that his nomination would be regularised before the inauguration of the conference. We hold them to this and hope that their word is their bond.
“We, hereby, confirm our confidence in Chief Jemide as a fit and proper person to represent us at the conference, and that he is capable of presenting to the conference, Itsekiri core interests, the most significant of which, is the protection of our people as an ethnic minority in Nigeria, by way of special provisions that are enshrined in any constitution or other arrangement that might result from the conference.
“In this connection, we respectfully urge that the conference should examine the analogous examples of the American federation and that of the Indian nation. The USA with a population of about 300, million people, has 50 states, the largest being California with a population of 37 million, while Wyoming, the smallest state of the Union has just about 600, thousand people. As for India, its largest state is Utter Pradesh with a population of over 167, 000, 000 persons, while its smallest state is Sikkim, having a population of just over 500, 000 persons; yet, Wyoming and Sikkim, small as they are, are recognised state and union within their respective federations.