By Gabriel Olawale
Rights activist, Chief Rita Lori Ogbebor, has called on Delta State governor, Den Ifeanyi Okowa, to avert another crisis between Ijaw and Itsekiri by calling those threatening to sack Itsekiri communities from their lands.
She also warned that recent events in the area were reminiscent of the early days of the Ijaw/Itsekiri crisis also known as Warri Crisis.
Briefing newsmen yesterday in Lagos, she called the attention of the federal and state governments to a video that has gone viral on the social media where a certain Ijaw youth leader threatened to sack Itsekiri from their communities.
In a speech titled :Averting Another Warri Crisis, Lori-Ogbebor warned that another war would notdo anyone any good.
Her words:”As I am writing, war is going on in Warri North. I want to assure everybody concerned that another war will not do anyone any good. I am now asking Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, whom I have always respected as a deep thinker going by his education, to look into this matter urgently and seriously. This is to avoid another war.
“It is history repeating itself should we allow bad history repeat itself when we know it is bad.
Do we allow it to repeat itself? It is not long ago when we had the Ijaw/Itsekiri war, which we now call Warri Crisis.
That crisis was one which we never thought would happen in our land, because the Itsekiri and Ijaw have a lot in common including marriages. But it happened. There were a lot of killings, destruction of homes, separation of families, divorces among couples among others.
It took the whole country, the President and governors to bring the war to an end. Both sides have never forgotten the war. The consequences of the war are still felt everyday.
I am a witness of the war. I was involved in ensuring the war ended.
All the old men in ijawland remember the war. I am, therefore sad and shocked to see a video on the social media by an Ijaw group led by one Shedrack Ebikeme, beating the drum of war.
He threatened to bomb Chevron’s facilities and sack all Itsekiri from their homes. He threatened to stop boats from moving up and down the rivers in Itsekiriland. I was afraid and sad. It reminded me of the war between the Itsekiri and Ijaw. This is how it started gradually before snowballing into a huge crisis.
“Most Ijaw elders said they didn’t know and didn’t support what the youths were doing. The more they denied the youths, the more they carried on until there was a full blown war that took the whole nation to stop it. Just like what happened during the crisis, the war started with kidnappings and random killings. It was reported yesterday that two men were kidnapped. One was killed while the other one is still missing. The pictures were posted on the social media.
What is the cause of the problem?
Like the previous Warri crisis, it was said the Itsekiri and their Olu were getting all the oil royalties. The Itsekiri looked at themselves and wondered how and where they were getting the oil money. A lot of people who don’t know the workings of oil prospecting companies in Itsekiriland, were spreading the rumour that every Itsekiri man is a rich man while the Olu is a billionaire. So, the war raged, destroying the little we have in our villages. It was at the end of the war that the Ijaw found the Itsekiri were as poor as themselves. The Itsekiri and Ijaw are in the same terrain. Poverty, hunger and under development is the lot both sides.
Now, here we are again. The cause of this problem is the oil spill in Itsekiriland. Government and Chevron planned visiting the site of oil spill in Itsekiriland but the Ijaw are kicking again the inclusion of Itsekiri oil producing communities.
“For us, it is laughable. There is no way oil spill that flows in the river along all our coast can be restricted from flowing from one point to another. On a very serious note, all the lands in that area have been adjudicated upon from High Court to the Supreme Court. The lands belong to the Itsekiri. However, both sides came to an agreement by court judgement that proceeds from the resources should be shared with Itsekiri taking 60 percent while Ijaw takes 40 percent. I am sure Mr Shedrack who is now talking must be very young during the Warri Crisis.
“He must be very ignorant of the different cases that have been adjudicated upon in Warri and its environs. I will ask the young man not to create unnecessary war that will bring huge devastation to the area by peddling rumors about what he doesn’t know. ”