By Egufe Yafugborhi
WARRI—The Itsekiri Economic Summit which aims to propel renewed Iwereland’s drive for greatness held yesterday in Warri, Delta State, amidst alleged threats by opposing forces which caused economic experts, Bismarck Rewane and Prof. Pat Utomi to rdecline participation.
Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, Igba of Warri, who is the inspiration behind the summit organised by the National Association of Itsekiri Graduates, NAIG, accused Prince Yemi Emiko and Chief Ayiri Emami of “masterminding scare tactics which caused double change of venue and deterred Bismarck and Utomi from coming to the event.”
A prominent member of the Olu In Council of Warri Kingdom, in his reaction, charged the accusers to leave Prince Yemi out of it, saying that the Palace’s efforts to caution the organisers to shift the event for proper communication of its import and content to the Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli was the collective decision of the council.
Chief Lori-Ogbebor, Itsekiri rights defender, had told participant at the summit that, “It is heartbreaking that interests close to the palace were at the centre of trying to thwart a well thought gathering by the younger generation, taking the initiative from the failures of our elders, to address the common problem of the drift into the culture of few Itsekiris stealing the people’s commonwealth.
“Incidentally, some of these same forces who had impoverished Iwereland in the midst of plenty are the ones who have tried to drag His Majesty into the mud over the bad politics of the Itsekiri Regional Development Council, IRDC, where billions of naira had disappeared and we are in court to recover all as they have failed to stop our right to sue them for every penny stolen.
“The Inspector General of Police had frozen N2.1billion in the IRDC accounts. Now, we want to brainstorm on collective blueprint to use these funds and other Iwere resources to develop the land and Utomi and Bismarck told me they were called that their safety could not be guaranteed if they come. They threatened the management of the two different venues not to allow us hold the event. But it has held.”
A source from the advisory Olu –in- Council, who spoke to Vanguard on ground of anonymity said, “There is a process for doing things. These guys are youths grouped as graduate associations. In a kingdom where you have a king, a council of chiefs and the Olu-in-Council, none of these entities was properly briefed.
“If Itsekiri graduates were holding a summit, that’s fine, but when they tag it Itsekiri Economic Summit, you have involved the entire Itsekiri and the palace and it’s institutions have to be properly informed. They only brought a letter inviting the Olu for the event. None of these entities knew what they had in mind. So the matter was referred to the council.”
“The Igba who is pointing fingers is a member of the council, but she’s not a team player, so she prefers that things must only be done her own way. The council advised the body to postpone the event pending when they have followed due process and let everybody understand what it was they want to do.
“They didn’t show up because they had one to two persons telling them to do what to do. We can’t stop them, but it is not a healthy conduct no matter the insinuations anybody wants to give to it. If anyone is accusing anybody, he or she is not telling the truth.”
Meanwhile, Mr A S Mene, Secretary, Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, Nollywood personality, Alex Eyengho, Segun Manuels, And Prince Oji Churchill, who addressed the summit all stressed the need to fashion out a development blueprint to fast track the development of Itsekiri under a unified agenda.
President of NAIG, Collins Edema, felt fulfilled, saying “The event satisfactorily achieved its objective of sensitizing Itsekiris, who feel the brunt of underdevelopment and deprivation, to voice what they are going through and for the resource persons to proffer solutions under one umbrella.”