BY CHARLES KUMOLU
SPOKESMAN of Ugborodo Community Management Committee, UCMC, Comrade Alex Eyengho in this interview highlights the points of divergence between the Itsekiri of Ugborodo and Ijaw over the proposed Maritime University and the status of Ugborodo community in Warri Kingdom.
On Itsekiri people
I am appealing to my Itsekiri brothers to forgive themselves in the interest of Itsekiri land. People are aggrieved but there should be a limit to it. We should not cut our nose to spite our face. We should not allow certain issues divide us. People should not feel unconcerned about Itsekiri affairs because of grievances. Itsekiri people should come out and see the Warri Kingdom as their heritage. They should not treat the kingdom without love because of past events that they may not have supported. The Warri Kingdom is bigger than the person occupying it. This is my appeal to my Itsekiri brothers. They should close ranks and defend the kingdom in face of internal and external aggression as currently being witnessed. Olu of Warri is the only rallying point in Itsekiri nation.
If anybody is competent to speak on the Maritime University, I am the person because I am paternally Itsekiri and Ijaw while maternally I am Itsekiri and Yoruba. That shows that I am from the major ethnic groups who are affected by the controversy. And I will not want my maternal side to fight my paternal side. On that basis, as a critical stakeholder, I am calling for equity and fair play. I have Urhobo blood, Yoruba, Itsekiri, and Ijaw blood. If today, the Itsekiri are doing anything against the Ijaw, I will be the first to raise a red flag. Going by that, I will advise that we stand on the side of the law on the Okerenghigho matter. If there is a Supreme Court judgment on the issue, which ruled that the place is Okerenghigho, that should be the end of the issue because the Supreme Court is the highest court in Nigeria. I expect any right-thinking person to obey the judgment. In this case, the Attorney General of the Federation ,AGF, sent an advisory memo to the National Assembly, NASS, drawing their attention to the judgment. He advised them to correct the name to Okerenghigho in a Bill before the NASS which was sponsored by an Ijaw man, Sen James Manager. But the NASS ignored the memo and proceeded to pass that bill. I am really taken aback that NASS ignored the advisory memo which was written based on a petition from the Itsekiri. I am aware that they will send the Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. I want to believe that Mr. President, who has preached law and order, will do the needful by considering the advisory memo from the AGF. I am confident that Mr. President will do the right thing.
Ijaw living in Okerenghigho
Itsekiri people have never asked the Ijaw living in Okerengigho to move out of the place. They have never said that they don’t want the maritime university. What they have said is that the Federal Government should recognise the owners of the land by law. They want the government to recognise that the community is called Okerengigho and it is owned by Omadino Community. They want it like that so that the owners of the land will enjoy future benefits from the government.
I don’t believe what the Ijaw are saying that there is no Itsekiri person residing in the community. There are Itsekiri people there. My appeal to both parties is to come together and accept the Supreme Court judgment.
They have to dialogue through a give and take process. I don’t want us to have another fratricidal war which was called the Warri Crisis. We can’t go back to those dark days just because of the naming of a Federal University. The Vice-Chancellor of that place may not even come from the state. It is a federal institution that reflects the composition of Nigeria. I want my Itsekiri and Ijaw brothers to put on their thinking caps and shun anybody fanning the embers of war. The Olu of Warri has said that he wants peace with our neighbours. He has demonstrated it by visiting Ijaw and Urhobo kings. He is barely two years on the throne and he has visited communities in the state to restate his agenda for peace. An ethnic crisis will not solve anything. We are brothers and sisters and it will be suicidal for us to go to war because of the disagreement.
On the Warri Kingdom
Some people are trying to have an unholy alliance with our Ijaw brothers of Gbaramatu. These are young people. Members of the public must have been seeing some publications by some persons claiming that Ugborodo is no longer part of Warri Kingdom. They claimed that it is an autonomous kingdom, saying that they want to be independent of Warri Kingdom. It is unthinkable because those behind it particularly Mr. Benson Omadeli, who is the Olaja Orori of Ugborodo is the number two man in Ugborodo. The number one person, who is the administrator, is the Olaraja of Ugborodo, Pa Wellington Ojogo. Olaja Orori is a juju priest of his family in Ugborodo. It implies that only members of the Orori family can emerge to become Olaja Orori.
Whereas any Ugborodo person can become the Olaraja. In other words, the Olaraja stool is for every Ugborodo person while the Olaja Olori is for the members of that family. There is a misconception in the public domain that Olarja means king in Itsekiri. That is the platform which some are using to justify an Ugborodo kingdom that never existed. As an Ugborodo man, I am saying that Ugborodo has always been an integral part of Warri Kingdom. Omadeli and the like should denounce their statement that Ugborodo is not part of Warri Kingdom. They should also denounce the unholy alliance they have with the Ijaw of Gbaramatu Kingdom which is against the Itsekiri.
It is very important for the public to know that those perpetuating the crisis in Ugborodo are criminal elements. Ugborodo is an island that is very difficult to access that is why there is lawlessness there. We want the army, navy, and police to go to Ugborodo and flush out the criminal elements there. These elements are the ones trying to divide Warri Kingdom. All Itsekiri communities are under tWarri kingdom and have only one king.