Viewpoint

October 28, 2018

Farewell to a patriot: Allison Akene Ayida, CFR

Allison Ayida

Ayida

Tribute by the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought

BY CHIEF EDWARD O. EKPOKO

Late Mr Allison Akene Ayida was seen by us as a special breed Nigerian. He was a Civil Servant Extraordinaire and one of the finest and last of the crop. He assisted in steering Nigeria in crisis and in plenty.

Ayida

His upbringing and indeed his environment armed him with the necessary tools to develop the character that stood him out amongst his peers. Mr Ayida’s altruistic nature was exemplary. He was an embodiment of integrity, excellence, loyalty, patriotism, simplicity, hard-work, vision, openness and character.

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Among the attributes of Late Allison Ayida, two things stood out and separated him from other mortals – Humility and as Ahmed Joda, another outstanding civil servant put it,   the”gift of diffusing tension”. In his service to the Nation and Itsekiri people, these tools were effectively deployed.

In an email dispatched on 16th October, 2018, to the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, the children said, among other things that he was  “A celebrated, outstanding and revered son of Warri Kingdom…”  Nothing can be more apt.

Allison Ayida believed in the Itsekiri course as espoused by the Itsekiri Leaders right from the inauguration of the  Willink’s Commissionpreparatory to Nigeria’s independence which culminated in the “Special Area”  provision to protect the Itsekiri and other minority ethnic groups in the then Mid-West Region as contained in the Constitution of the former Mid-West Region by the Mid-West Nigeria Act 1964 (No. 3 of 1964).

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The provision was not only to protect minority ethnic groups from assimilation and possible annihilation, as it is with the Itsekiri in today’s Nigeria, but to principally accelerate the economic development of the Area. He was against domination and oppression of smaller ethnic groups by larger ones.

In the convocation lecture delivered on January 23, 1987 at the University of Jos, while the struggle for the creation of Delta State from the then Bendel was raging, titled:  The Rise and Fall of Nigeria, he said, among other things  “the cardinal principle to be observed at all times is that none of the nine communities delicately balanced in Bendel State should be in a position to assimilate or dominate others in perpetuity.”

Hence, he advocated that the then Bendel State be splitted into what it is now Edo and Delta States, with a rider that later the present Delta State should be further splitted into “Anioma State, Ethiope State for the Urhobos and Warri State for Itsekiri, Ijaws and possibly Isokos. The wishes of the various communities should, given the principle of self-determination, be taken into account”. Today, the call for the creation of Anioma, Urhobo and Coast States from Delta still approximates with his thinking.

Allison Ayida‘s patriotism and link to his Itsekiri people was clearly exhibited during the Warri Crisis of the late 1990s. He was among eminent Itsekiri sons and daughters who stood by the Itsekiri Nation during the Warri Crisis in provisions of amenities for those affected by the crisis and finding solution to the crisis under the aegis of  Committee of Concerned Itsekiri.

Other prominent members were Hon. Justice (Chief) F.O.M. Atake  (Aboludero), Ambassador Johnson Edremoda  (Tombrifa), Chief Hope Harriman  (Sobaloju)  (all now late),  Dr. E. A. Ikomi and others.

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After meritorious service to the country, Ayida in his later years devoted his time, resources and energy to the course of his people, the Itsekiri. Allison Ayida was the first Chairman of Itsekiri Leaders Forum. It was in this body that his gift of diffusing tension, hardwork, quick thinking, visionary prowess and humility were tested, showed and proved.

The body was an amalgam of different prominent Itsekiri groups and individuals with different political leanings, ideology and nuances. The politics of boundary dispute and ceding of some oil wells between Delta and Ondo States was one of the issues that thoroughly tested his acumen and problem solving ability. It was the darkest hour for the body.

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His calmness, humility and forthrightness played out in waving through the tumultuous water of ethnic and communal politics involved. He was leading the movement for the establishment of a University in Warri before he took ill.

Mr Allison Akene Ayida, a nationalist, an enigma, a profile of what Nigeria was and should have been is a big loss for Nigeria and particularly Itsekiri.

He will be greatly missed by all and may God grant him eternal rest.

CHIEF EDWARD O. EKPOKO  is the Chairman of Itsekiri Leaders of Thought