• Says Ijaw not agitating, only pleading to be next gov
• ‘Uduaghan, Okowa never won on basis of zoning’
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, and Chancel Sunday
ALAOWEI Broderick Bozimo is an elder statesman and former Minister of Police Affairs. In this interview, he speaks on the need for the Ijaw to produce the next governor of Delta State in 2023. Excerpts:
Ijaw people in Delta have resolved to produce the next governor in 2023, appealing to other ethnic nationalities to support them, but the governorship seat has been something like senatorial arrangement. Why the resort to ethnic arrangement?
The facts of this proposition are there, whether or not the governorship rotation is based on senatorial or ethnicity, everything is there for us to see.
The truth of the matter is that it has never been the case that rotation is based on senatorial basis in the state, everybody knows that politicians go for elections because we practice democracy and, by the rules of INEC, every Nigerian who is qualified under the Constitution or under the law is free to take part in the primaries.
That is, you cannot stop a man from taking part in the primaries. So, that has been the case in Delta State where politicians from the various senatorial districts in the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, participate in the gubernatorial primaries in every election year. So, when somebody from a particular senatorial district wins in the primaries, you now say it is on the basis of senatorial district, there is nothing like that cast in government.
That is why you find that each time there are gubernatorial primaries, all the senatorial districts take part and they go there and fight stoutly. They fight as if their entire lives depend on the result. When one person is declared winner, you tick out that senatorial district. This situation played out in the primaries that produced former Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan and Ifeanyi Okowa.
That is the pattern and when a person has won, then you say, “oh Delta South has gotten it” and you tick Delta South. The same thing had happened in Delta Central, which has always dominated the gubernatorial space or leadership positions or political parties from the 1950s to 1960s with political leaders. First it was Mariere, then Felix Ibru and James Ibori. These are people from one senatorial district who have enjoyed the benefits of rulership of the state; one can go on and on.
Some think Ijaw case will be perfect in 2031?
Now, if you restrict this entire exercise to senatorial districts, as far as Ijaw people are concerned, it does not work. If you say we should wait till 2031, do we even know if Delta state and Nigeria will even be one till then? We want our share of the national cake which we have baked now, do not speak this grammar of zoning to us.
Before the British came, who knew these political boundaries and zones? We have supported all major ethnic nationalities in the state faithfully and honestly to produce governors such as Ibori, Uduaghan and Okowa, all of them. What we are saying now is that the Ijaw people, who have sacrificed so much for other ethnic groups in the state, should be given a chance to produce the next governor in 2023. I do not think you will find any Ijaw man who will listen to you and say we will wait till 2031.
Ijaws are occupying the swamps of the Niger Delta. In fact, I dare say we are the original dwellers of these territories. Then you tell me that because of some fake boundaries or zones, you ram it down our throats and you make sure that Ijaws are balkanized along the coast of Nigeria so that we can never be relevant, so that when you get to Delta State, they would say, “ah, you are within the Delta South with the Itsekiri; Itsekiris have got it, so you have wait”, you cannot preach that to us!
The people of Delta Central would think that with this position, Ijaw are against them as it is the turn of their senatorial district?
That is unacceptable, it is cheating and it is oppression. The people of Delta Central are our brothers, as you know, you will find out that about 80 per cent of the people of Delta Central and Ijaw are one either by marriage or by association. Therefore, I do not expect them to think that, after enjoying gubernatorial and chief executive positions for so many years, they will still feel we are clashing with them or we are not being reasonable when we now want to taste power.
No right-thinking, reasonable person will say that our position is unfair because we are bleeding, we are hemorrhaging and we are suffering. We feel that this is the time for us to enjoy the fruit of democracy that others have enjoyed. The Ijaw ethnic group has made huge contributions for the security of this country, the economic welfare of this country and also economic welfare and security of Delta State, and this is payback time.
Ijaw were quick to back Gov Okowa’s recent stance that there is no formal agreement on power rotation in the state. Whereas some people interpret it as Okowa challenging the stance of his political leader, Chief James Ibori, who has said there was agreement and there should be power shift to Delta Central in 2023…
Chief Ibori is a political leader and I admire him, he is a young man barely older than my first born and I believe he will appreciate the position the Ijaw have taken. I do not think he is going to take it personally and feel that Ijaw are challenging him.
How would you advise Ibori to take Gov Okowa’s stance that there is no agreement on power rotation?
These are very complex issues. I would not go and advise Chief Ibori on anything. We know what we know as Ijaw people, that power rotation never existed as an agreement but it was a pragmatic and sensible arrangement whereby when one senatorial district had produced the governor, then it moved to the next, which is meant for peace, justice and equity generally. It is not that it was signed as an agreement, but a practical and sensible arrangement whereby the various ethnic groups can live in peace and that is what it is about.
The Ijaw are saying we have paid our dues, we have supported all the major ethnic groups to produce governors and, this time, we want to be supported as well. Just because Ijaw are cornered into Delta South Senatorial District, we have continued to suffer injustice endlessly, not by our making. In any event, the debate has become unhealthy and academic. Accepting without conceding that zoning the governorship is amongst the politically demarcated political zones as against the ethnic nations of Delta State, the same result canvassed by the Ijaw ethnic nation is achievable if the zoning this time around begins with Delta South. With that, the Ijaw of the South Senatorial District could legitimately and justifiably be entitled to seek the ticket and the injustice of keeping the Ijaw out of tasting gubernatorial power can be addressed.
What is your impression, satisfaction or otherwise with the first major attempt by the Ijaw ethnic nationality in Delta State, May 22, to come together and declare their stance on 2023 governorship race?
I was very happy and overwhelmed. I was humbled by the presence of great sons and daughters of Ijaw from both within and outside the state, as well as the presence of various socio-cultural groups and members of various political parties. We are going to reorganize and appeal to the various ethnic nationalities in the state to reason with us. This is not an agitation; it is a simple expression of the Ijaw seeking the support of our brothers and sisters. We are going to make appeal to Urhobo, Anioma, Itsekiri and Isoko, we will continue to appeal to them to see the agony of the Ijaw people and lend their support to them.
But on the same day some Ijaw people gathered to make this declaration, some others differed by supporting Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, an Urhobo aspirant?
My attention has been drawn to comments by some ljaw who hold a divergent view from the very popular view expressed by the massive gathering of sons and daughters of the Delta ljaw ethnic nation on May 22. It was a gathering that included the President of the Ijaw National Congress and several distinguished sons and daughters of the ljaw people across political party divide. Some divergence of views is only to be expected, after all Nigeria practices democracy. The day of reckoning is not far off, the men and the boys in ljaw nation will be separated, we will know then who is who.