*Says Gbaramatu Ijaws are the original owners of Escravos
The acting secretary and Chief mobilizing officer of the Gbaramatu traditional Council, Chief Godspower Gbenekama in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State have warned Itsekiris not to make them return to the old ways of 1999.
Chief Godspower gave the warning in an interview with newsmen today at Warri, stressing that certain inflammatory comments from the Itsekiris claiming to be owners of Gbaramatu Kingdom is not only annoying but “a lie from the pit of hell ” alleging that the leadership should call their sons to order if its not an Itsekiri agenda.
“I think these claims need careful examination. Are they promoting Itsekiri agenda or personal agenda? If it’s Itsekiri agenda, it is too bad, because we don’t want to go back to those days in 1999 when we were dealing with each other. It’s bad and unfortunate but if it’s a personal agenda, Itsekiri leaders should call them to order, if they don’t, it means it’s an Itsekiri nation agenda which is very bad.
“My take is that all those shouting here and there had their own agenda. I can’t say specifically if what we are seeing is Itsekiri agenda or the interest of a very few who are out to stoke trouble between Ijaws and Itsekiris. For some people to come out to say we own Gbaramatu land, we own this and that and that Gbaramatu people should stop paying tenement to them since 1999 is shameful. It’s the worst lie from the pit of hell.
“Who paid tenement to them in 1998, 1980, 1970, 1975, 1966, 1963? Who paid tenement to Itsekiris in Gbaramatu? Nobody! I think that statement is enough to annoy every right thinking Ijaw man and Gbaramatu man especially, it’s creating more insecurity in the area.” Gbenekama asserted.
Commenting further, the Chief mobilizer of Gbaramatu Kingdom stated that the Itsekiris are using a borrowed culture, emphasising that the Ijaws have been original with their culture from time immemorial.
“There was no need to go and borrow somebody’s culture but the Itsekiris went and borrowed, that is why you have a cross in their crown. There is nothing like a cross in our culture.The cross was borrowed from Europe, so they borrowed European culture, we did not borrow and we shall remain Ijaw people.
“We are not slaves to anybody, we are not customary tenants to anybody. I was born in 1963 and I have lived my life and schooled in Itsekiri environment, in Ogidegben and as I was schooling, I never paid any tenement. I never saw anybody pay any tenement to an Itsekiri man as a young man and I became a chief in 1986.
“Since 1986 till now, it’s 30 years I have been in Gbaramatu Traditional Council and I have not seen any Itsekiri man coming to take 50 kobo from Gbaramatu people least of all for anybody to say Gbaramatu people paid tenement to them since 1999. It’s shameful. When will all these lies stop? They have tried the court and failed and now they are resorting to this cheap blackmail. The Federal Government should know that the Ijaws in Gbaramatu are indigenes of Gbaramatu, we don’t live in anybody’s land. In fact, there are documents by late. Chief Dore Numa, a prominent son of Itsekiri Kingdom which suggests that Ugborodo people came to meet Ijaw people, that they are the owners of the Escravos land and there are documents that prove the Ijaws have lived around Benin River before the Itsekiri people came to live there.
“They have some spurious judgment from some customary courts giving them partial ownership of some small camps in Gbaramatu and Gbaramatu people have challenged them at the Court of Appeal and won. As I speak, it’s Itsekiri people that are appealing. Let me tell you, my father was among people that cleared Madagho opposite Chevron Tank Farm because there was need for them to go to court. Itsekiri people from Ogidegben and other adjourning communities had to come to court in Madagho. The Ijaw people from Kpokpo down to Kokodiagbene need to come to court for their cases, so the Itsekiris and Ijaws came together and said let’s have a place where we can all gather without traveling a long distance and they came together and cleared the portion now called Madagho. My father participated in the clearing of Madagho.
“Unfortunately for the Ijaw people of Gbaramatu, they were not into giving out children in marriage even though they’re adults and they don’t mind. The Ijaw man’s private part was regarded as gold and they don’t expose themselves, so they did not embrace Westerners when they came to take people for training in UK who wanted to marry them and that’s how the Itsekiri people embraced education and not because we felt we are autonomous and our livelihood is good for us and
“For us, we didn’t have any role to play in court because we couldn’t interpret. The court clerk was an Itsekiri man, the president, an Itsekiri man too. So, they built houses round the courts and they started dominating Madagho and that was how the place became an Itsekiri enclave. We have not laid claims to those places, we co-opened up Madagho and because of live and let live, we have left all those places and if they are claiming it we will also say Madagho is Ijaw land. They should stop all these rubbish they are doing and face facts. We want to live with our brothers in peace, if they so desire, but if they don’t, so be it.
“They have the military might, they have everything but God will stand for us and also I want to say the military is not doing well, we don’t have one paramount ruler in Warri South-West.
“I have my king from Gbaramatu. Anybody can pay homage to any ruler, I don’t care. You should not think the homage you paid to the Itsekiri king should suffice for all, it doesn’t. If the military wants to address us, they should address us. Actually we have not been briefed on military invasion, we don’t know what they want to do. If they have briefed their friends, I think they have an agenda and if their agenda is good, for us to be on the same page, we were supposed to be briefed, so that we can tell the military our part of the story”. Chief Godspower alleges.