The crisis between the Ijaw and the Bini over the coronation of Pere of Olodiama Clan, Godwin Ogunyeibo, as well as ownership of the land where the Ijaw settled in Edo State, has taken a new dimension as the Ijaw claimed the installation of their traditional ruler was not new.
They insisted that it was on record that late Oba Akenzua 11 sent his son, then Crown Prince Solomon Akenzua (late Oba Erediauwa) in 1958 to Ikoro to represent him in the installation of the Pere of Olodiama, Pere Asulu Ogunyeibo, the traditional head of the Ijaw of Olodiama.
The Ijaw also contented that the land where they had settled in the state since time immemorial belongs to them, quoting a historian, Prof Allan Rider in his book, “Bini and the Europeans” 1485-1897 and published in 1967, page 27 to support their claims.
In a statement issued in Benin, yesterday, on behalf of the traditional rulers, the Amaakosuabu, chiefs, and people of Egbema, Okomu, Furupagha and Gbaraun clans by Prof. Christopher Dime, Deacon Robinson Agbede, James Okubokekemi, Chief A. Oweikuro, Chief J. Wodubamu, Elder Paul Atite and Elder Paul Owu, the Ijaw expressed shock at the statements issued by the Palace of the Oba of Benin and the state government on the matter.
They said: “We are not bothered with the press conference addressed by the Bini Traditional Council on behalf of the Oba of Benin, but we are shocked with the statement of the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who in the course of his campaign, came to the Ijaw people at Gele-gelegbene to solicit votes.
“These Izon people comprising all the five Ijaw Kingdoms of Edo State, where you were duly introduced to the Ijaw Peres (Kingdom) and elders. You recalled that this same Pere Godwin Ogunyeibo was the person you solicited support and blessings from. He prayed for you to win the election with our native kolanut and local gin.
“It is our contention that government all over the world stands as the umbrella body that protects its people irrespective of tribe, race and religion and cannot be different in the case of Edo State.
“Every government must be non-political, non-religious and non-tribal. However, we felt disappointed that the Government of Edo State under the leadership of Godwin Obaseki through the SSG (Osarodion Ogie Esq) has become the official mouth piece of the Bini Traditional Council, what a pity.
“It is ironical that the Government of Edo State, through its SSG, has exposed its ignorance when it claimed that Ikoro community and all other Ijaw communities in Edo State and the title of the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom are non-existent and as such criminals.
“Our position is that our communities with the Peres as King have been in existence since time out of mind. The Pere of Olodiama is gazetted in the Mid-West State of Nigeria, Gazette No. 56 of October 18, 1973.
“Even before the said gazette, the Ijaw people of Olodiama clan have their recognized Pere of Olodiama with the seat at Ikoro in Ovia North- East local government area of Edo State. A case in point was the coronation of Asulu Ogunyeibo as the Pere of Olodiama at Ikoro which was evidenced and published in the Daily Times Newspaper of 27th February, 1958.
“The recent display of the Edo State government in the said statement claimed that the actions of the Ijaws of Edo State to continue with the coronation of the long existing title of Pere (King) of Olodiama of Olodiama is sacrilegious is another irony. They know that our culture, language, dressing code and custom from birth to death are different. Can the Binis impose their king and traditions on the Ijaws?”
They stated that it was more sacrilegious to deprived the Ijaws of Edo State of their rights to existence and their customs and traditions, adding that on the contrary, their fundamental rights was preserved in the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and African Rights among others.
Quoting from Prof Allan Rider in his book to support their claim of being the aboriginal owner of the land where they have settled, the Ijaws said, “Whichever of the State Rivers “ the Portuguese frequented , the people they first met would have belonged to the Ijohs (Ijaws), which dominated the coastal belt and swamp forest extending hinterland to a depth of 30 to 40 miles in this region.
“The Bini Edo lived now ad they seem then, outside the swamp forest area…. And there are now reasons for believing that it ever extended to the coast not the Edo of Bini ever river farers or canoe men”