Besides the killings of our Ijaw brothers and sisters in Delta State as a result of the fighting between JTF and the militants, another dangerous war is brewing among the youths of some ethnic groups in Rivers State over who should be appointed the Managing Director/CEO of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). To the Ijaw youths( see The Nation, April 24, 2009 page 9), supported by the Concerned Ijaw Citizens of Rivers State( see Thisday 23, 2009 pages 60 and 61), this appointment must go to the Ijaw in Rivers State since the position has been zoned to Rivers State. But Rebisi Progressive Movement and the United Rivers Progressive Front think otherwise. To them, the position of the Ijaw youths was overbearing given that Rivers State is made up of ten ethnic nationalities.
These positions were taken too far especially by Ijaw youths. Hence, let me clarify the issues by stating that the Ikwerre Ethnic Nation is not Igbo. The Ikwerre people are Ikwerre. The Ijaw must stop insulting Ikwerre by either saying or insinuating that Ikwerre is Igbo. The Ikwerre people speak Ikwerre language and they inhabit and own Port Harcourt, Emohua, Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre local councils. Ikwerre people participated actively (see Ken Saro-Wiwa’s On the Darling Plain, 1989) in the struggle for the creation of Calabar Ogoja Rivers (COR) and Rivers states in the 1950s and 1960s. Ikwerre population as published by the National Population Commission’s website for the four Ikwerre local government areas totaled one million, three hundred and ninety thousand, eight hundred and ninety five (1, 390, 895)heads. This accounts for 27% of Rivers State population. The six Ijaw local government areas have a total population of one million, one hundred and forty two thousand nine hundred and seven, (1,142,907) heads. This equals 22% of the population of Rivers State. Note that Opobo/Nkoro, Andoni and Abua/Odual peoples are yet to agree that they are Ijaw. Therefore it was wrong for the Concerned Ijaw Youths Congress to claim that Ijaw in Rivers State has nine local councils in Rivers State. Ikwerre deserves unconditional apology from the Concerned Ijaw Citizens of Rivers State.
Given the fact that in Nigeria, population figures are always tilted in favour of one group or the other, they are hardly believed; hence the crises that always follow them. It is therefore despicable and insulting to use such figures to cast aspersions at a people. Our youths must stop this habit. The question to ask is: the ethnic groups that claim higher population figures are they better developed than the others with lower population figures? The answer is a resounding no.
It is not true that Ijaw in Rivers State have been perpetually denied of opportunities and positions in the state. Infact, they have had and enjoyed the best of political and economic positions in Rivers State. They have produced a governor, secretaries to the state government, state chief justices, OMPADEC chairman/MD, Ministers, speakers to the state house of assembly, vice chancellors at University of Port Harcourt(UNIPORT) and Rivers State University of Science and Technology(UST), Ambassadors, etc. This has been the situation for 32 years from 27th May 1967 when Rivers State was created. It was just in the last 10 years, through the assistance of former governor Dr. Peter Odili that Ikwerre people got to the positions of governor, speaker, chief judge, vice chancellor (UST), Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and an ambassador. Ikwerre is yet to produce a minister, a vice chancellor of a federal university, Supreme Court justice etc. What our youths should concern themselves is the relationship between these appointments and the development of the state. They should abhor a situation where like one of the ministers in 1998 in an attempt to justify Federal Government’s neglect of the Niger Delta, claimed that his own village does not have motorable roads too. What do our politicians do with these appointments?
On the issue of violence in the state, it is cultism and secret societies that produced militants and kidnappers. If we are serious about the insecurity in the state, then the Rivers State Government must be bold to kill the systems that produce these aberrations called militants and kidnappers as well as stop encouraging them by way of amnesty or skills acquisition programmes. Indeed we all are guilty especially Odili, Sekibo and Amaechi who co-opted cult boys into state politics (probably to obey Niccolo Machiavelli) and implemented the cash-for-guns crude policy. Yet we can still ask: who are the leaders of all the cult groups in the state?
Ikwerre Youth Movement and Ikwerre Youth Congress are not cult or militant or kidnapping groups. They are Ikwerre socio-cultural youth organizations formed to project Ikwerre authenticity.
Since “every qualified Rivers man or woman” has the chance of being appointed to be the MD/CEO of NDDC, why the quarrel and throwing of insults at Ikwerre? Or still, why urging Mr. President to appoint from a particular group? In Rivers State, was it zoned to the Ijaw of Rivers State?
On the whole, I am sure that the conditions for the appointment of the MD/CEO of NDDC are not these issues mentioned above. I have mentioned them to make clarifications and warn that Rivers State is again heading for inter-tribal war. It is such in-fighting that has distracted the peoples of the state from demanding for their development rights as enshrined in the concept of self determination. Indeed whoever gets the appointment (given the current thinking and style of our rulers) will not develop Rivers State. After all, we have had them before: the NDBDAs, OMPADEC, states and local governments and now, Ministry of Niger Delta. These are creations that have continued to ignore true development but favoured building of infrastructure (both useful and non useful ones) which is the easiest means of lubricating the greed machinery of our exploitative elites who never loved the true people of Rivers State.
What true Rivers people need is their own development. It is a development that must spring from their environment, resources, talents, processes and institutions lubricated by their education. For example, Ikwerre, as an agrarian people, must start her development from agriculture such that her agriculture must be taught and learnt in Ikwerre schools and on the long run, Ikwerre agriculture shall feed Africa and the rest of the world. The same thing applies to the Ijaw: Ijaw development must start from fishery and other resources found in Ijaw waters. Over time, through Ijaw education and research, the Ijaw will be able to produce her fishing hooks, nets and boats and feed Africa. This also applies to Ogoni and indeed all ethnic groups in Nigeria.
True development flourishes only where political ideas in such places are congruent with the developmental efforts of the people. The only way Rivers people can commence true development is when the political environment of self determination is achieved. This will eliminate in-fighting for who will go for us to NDDC. Rivers people must prove that they are matured enough to avoid this avoidable. Let us prove that we will not fight because we know that we must allow any Rivers man or woman who is qualified to go for us, so that we can have our peace. We don tire to fight and make trouble!