Delta State traditional rulers, on Monday, walked out on Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, who was on one-day fact-finding visit to the state. The walk-out, which involved traditional rulers from Isoko, Urhobo and Ndokwa areas of the state, was in protest against their perceived treatment as second-rate monarchs by the Vice President.
On arrival at Osubi Airport, Warri, the Vice President was welcomed by Delta State governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and top officials of his administration. He then headed to Gbaramatu in Warri West Local Government Area, hometown of wanted militant, Mr. Government Ekpemupolo aka "Tompolo", to pay homage to the traditional ruler, HRM Oboro-Gbaraun II, Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, and the Olu of Warri, HRM Ogiame Ikenwoli.
The visit to the monarchs delayed the Vice President’s arrival for a stakeholders’ meeting with monarchs of Isoko, Urhobo and Ndokwa areas, who had waited for seven hours at the Petroleum Training Institute Conference Hall in Effurun. Running out of patience after waiting from 9am till about 5pm, the traditional rulers started protesting the perceived denigration of their stools by the Vice President. The protest then took the form of a walk-out, forcing Delta State government officials to plead with them to to return to the hall. They complained loudly that they had been treated as second-class monarchs. Just as the decibel of their complaint was rising, Vice President Osinbajo arrived the meeting venue in the company of Mr. Okowa who, fearing the potential for embarrassment, advised the Vice President to remain in the car.
Mr. Okowa then went in to speak with the irate monarchs and got them to return to their seats. One of the aggrieved monarchs told confided in SaharaReporters that the governor got them back into the meeting venue with a threat to withhold their monthly stipends.
"We were ready for the Vice President. How could he have left us to pay homage to a few traditional rulers in the state. We waited from 9 am to 5 pm. If not because of the threat issued by the governor to withhold our monthly stipends, none of us would have returned to the hall to hear what the Vice President had to say. The Oredje of Okpe kingdom left and never returned because it considered the situation an insult to his stool,” the traditional ruler told SaharaReporters.
Addressing the meeting after the drama, Vice President Osinbajo said it is unfortunate that the Niger Delta region has not had benefits commensurate to its huge contributions to the economic well-being of the country.
"No Nigerian can be proud of the state of development in the Niger Delta. We are all beneficiaries of the resources from the region, but we cannot have instability and be able to carry out speedy development of the region.
“The issues at stake are very clear. This is not the time for negotiation; it is time to act and we know the issues. We must all prepare for a future that will not be dependent on oil resources.
"The Lagos-Calabar Railway Project is in the 2017 budget and when completed, it will benefit all the people of the Niger Delta. The Maritime University will come on stream. I can assure you that it is a done deal. We must do it. Ports are revenue- generating, so plans are on to develop them. But the issue is how do we fund the projects," he added.
Vice President Osinbajo explained that his visit to the Niger Delta is clear evidence of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to address the challenges of the region and called on all stakeholders to contribute to its stability.