By Egufe Yafugborhi
THE Ibibenimowe (Chief Mobilizer) of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, has implored the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli I, to control his subjects, especially the Ajuwaoyiboyami of Warri Kingdom, Chief Ayiri Emami, aka Akulagba, to avoid rupturing the existing peace between Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities. Chief Gbenekama, who was reacting to the Itsekiri leader’s outburst in an interview, last week, with Niger-Delta Voice, said he (Emami) was even disrespectful to the revered monarch, who he (an Ijaw leader) has tremendous respect for because of his personality. Excerpt.
RECENTLY Chief Ayiri Emani defended his role in the recent blowup of pipelines in Warri South-West area and his comments in another unfolding Tompolo saga. How well does his explanation settle the scores with the Gbaramatu people?
Normally, his so- called defense should not have sprang any surprise knowing the character that is involved, but I must tell you that after reading his reaction, I am even more surprised at his utterance and unruly character more than ever before. He now even went as far as insulting the respected stool of the Olu of Warri and the amiable persona, who occupies that stool currently. It spoke of his character, he has no respect for anybody and will not subject himself to the control of any body or entity, including his respected monarch. You can now see why we must maintain the clamor to call him to order.
That is a strong conclusion to draw, where in Ayiri’s interview did he insult the Olu of Warri?
If you probably did not read him, he exhibited his clear show of disrespect for the monarch when he revisited the issue of the Export Processing Zone, EPZ, where we share stakes in Warri South West area. In his remarks flawed with much misrepresentation, a subject surreptitiously for the first time, insulted the respected stool of Olu by saying His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli I was not a king when the EPZ issues started. Therefore, he should sit where he is and the only person strong enough to say bring Ijaw nation to its knees is Ayiri.
Personally, I am surprised because we respect the stool of the Olu of Warri. We respect it even more now because of the persona, who currently occupies that stool. We see him as somebody who has a profile and who believes in live and let live. No person, especially a subject, has spoken against this authority and it is not coincidental that it turned out to be the same character that first broke that tradition. Now, he is not also subservient to the Olu, his monarch.
Recall that this same character whose penchant for not submitting to any constituted authority had earlier gone to court in defiance of the mutual understanding reached by both the Ugborodo Interface Committee of which he is a member and the Gbaramatu people on the imperative to move the EPZ forward.
The Augustine Oborogbeyi chaired Ugborodo Interface Committee resolved with the Gbaramatu party that we allow this project to go on because it is going to give a new lease of life to the people. The issue of nomenclature was critical, we said let them name the Gas City after Ogidigben, an Ugborodo community and name the Sea Port sited in Gbaramatu after it.
Both parties believed we have done justice to that matter and we signed that agreement in presence of Delta State Government, Federal Government, NNPC and other stakeholders. We celebrated the development and went home. The same character that would not put himself under any control came up said he is not subservient to that decision. This is a group, which he is a member and the decision was binding on the entire Ugborodo, which they represent. However, he said he would not accept the agreement duly signed, so he alone went to court.
Understanding and maturity
For us, their Interface Committee showed a lot of understanding and maturity and so we were ready and still ready to collaborate with them to ensure that the project materializes. That is why we appeal to the Olu of Warri to call his subjects, including Ayiri to order because the inflammatory statements he makes are capable of destroying the peace we now enjoy. This same character has come up to say he is not also subservient to the authority of the Olu, his monarch.
Let me also add for the records that I, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, the Ibibenimowe of Gbaramatu Kingdom, led all discussions on the EPZ project as it affects that kingdom. I led the protest and addressed the press conferences; I remain spokesperson from the beginning of the protest to when we had a resolution. So for somebody to come up to say a Tompolo influenced, directed or took center stage in the protest was so wrong.
Yes, Tompolo is a Gbaramatu man. He has every right to say anything pertaining to Gbaramatu, but on this particular subject, I led the protest and still lead the process for the kingdom. So we are compelled to maintain our appeal that the King should discipline his subjects and ensure that those getting out of control do not cause another crisis.
There has been much tongue lashing, especially by your folks against Ayiri for leading the military to the points where vandals recently blew up pipelines, what was so misplaced in his role?
We have a commissioner in Delta state overseeing oil and gas who I am sure is Itsekiri. We have another young man who is Special Adviser to the governor on Petroleum Matters, Barr. Bosin Ebikeme. Therefore, you have both Itsekiri and Gbaramatu sons elected to oversee oil and gas- related issues in the state, who could easily access these areas, where they blew up the pipelines.
When we saw the face of Ayiri Emami in the front pages of the papers as chief tour guide, we felt worried knowing his character. True to his character, not quite two days he was blabbing on Channels Television that the perpetrators of the act was at Oporoza and that if leaders of Oporoza do not handover those persons, there would be a lot of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, if the military come and destroy those places where the people reside. True to that talk again, two days later, the military toed that line, saying they would hold the leaders responsible for acts committed by people in their community.
Ikpokpo where Ayiri took the military is a boundary town between Itsekiri and Ijaw. Who is Ayiri in Delta state? Is he still the chair of the Delta Waterways Security Committee. He wrote in the papers that he is the chair, Itsekiri Regional Development Committee, IRDC, under Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL community development platform in the area. The pipeline that was blown does not belong to Chevron. It is a NNPC facility. What brought a Chevron IRDC chair to this matter? Therefore, we saw the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau in the role Ayiri played.
True to his words, everybody has run away from our area. There are many IDPs already as he predicted because he is working in tandem with the security agents, but we warn that security agencies should be professional in their duty to fish out the perceived culprits. We have repeatedly condemned any act of criminality, including destruction of pipelines. We do not support it under any guise. We do not allow it in our domain.
However, they should not be listening to people who are out on personal vendetta missions to mislead their professional judgment. I call on all sons and daughters of Gbaramatu that have left our communities to return home. I believe in the professionalism of the Nigerian security forces. If there is no distraction or undue influence, these people are going to do a good job, security operatives cannot molest law-abiding citizens molested going about their duties.