OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR IFEANYI OKOWA, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE ON THE OPPRESSIVE AND UNJUST CREATION AND ALLOCATION OF ADDITIONAL WARD IN WARRI SOUTH LGA OF DELTA STATE
We the undersigned write on behalf of the people of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State to express our utter dissatisfaction and total rejection of the oppressive and unjust allocation of additional electoral ward in Warri South Local Government Area. We wish to state from the outset that we are aware that creation of state electoral wards is the statutory responsibility of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DISEC). However, it is a matter of common knowledge that state electoral committees are only independent on paper and dependent on the state chief executive in actual fact; hence our decision to address this open letter to you on this subject matter as the chief executive and chief security officer of Delta State. The bulk as we know stops on your table. This is more so considering the fact that the aftermath of this unjust action is capable of truncating the fragile peace existing in Warri after the 1997 to 2003 fratricidal war between the Ijaw and Itsekiri on one hand and Itsekiri and Urhobo on the other hand.
We state that it is unfair, oppressive and against all sense of justice for wards to be created to the exclusion of a section or ethnic group in any political setting. It need not to be stated that the Ogbe-Ijoh people are indigenous to Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. As a result, prior to Nigeria’s independence and since the introduction of electoral suffrage in Nigeria, the Ogbe-Ijoh people have always had electoral wards in Warri Urban which now forms the Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. For example, when the Warri Urban District Council which is now part of the Warri South LGA was created in 1955 by the Western Region Local Government Law No. 177 of 1955, the Ogbe-Ijoh people had two electoral wards which were the Ogbe-Ijaw C1 and Ogbe-Ijaw C2. This was in addition to the electoral wards in the Alder’s town area which also included some parts of Ogbe-Ijoh people in Warri Urban. These two Ogbe-Ijoh wards existed until the introduction of local government administration in 1967 when the old Warri Local Government Area replaced the then six districts councils.
With the division of Warri into three local government areas, the Ogbe-Ijoh parts in Warri South Local Government Area were balkanized into four different electoral wards to wit: Pessu, Okere, Bowen and GRA wards. It was in this state of affairs that the Warri Crisis erupted and in the Warri Road Map to Peace proposed by Former Governor James Ibori in 2003, the then Board of the Delta State Independent Electoral Committee under Late Justice Omo-Agege at the instance of Governor Ibori engaged the leaders of Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo on how to achieve just and acceptable ward delineation in the three Warri Local Government Area as part of efforts to address the crisis. An agreement was reached on sharing of electoral wards in Warri South, Warri South-West and Warri North LGA. The agreement was peacefully implemented in Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas between the Ijaws and Itsekiris.
In the case of Warri South Local Government Area, the leaders who met with Justice Omo-Agege, then DISEC Chairman agreed that the GRA ward which covers majority of the Ijaw areas should be for the Ijaw people, but this was not complied with. The Itsekiris used their vantage position in the Uduaghan administration which took over from Governor Ibori to hijack the GRA ward from the Ijaws after it had been agreed during the Ibori administration that it should be for the Ijaws. The implication is that out of the then nineteen (19) state electoral wards, the Ijaws in Warri South LGA were left with none and without representation. We were made to only vote during elections and cannot be voted. This situation is pathetic and most unjust when it is considered against the background of the fact that that 65 years ago in 1955, the Ogbe-Ijoh people had control over two electoral wards and then in 2020 had none.
It was in this state that the Ogbe-Ijoh people welcome the call by DISEC for communities wishing to have ward created for them to apply to the Commission. The Ogbe-Ijoh people applied, DISEC came for physical verification of our claims on 30/10/2020 in Warri and we presented our pathetic case to them. One of our neighbouring ethnic nationality in their sense of humanity even supported our case for an autonomous ward to be created for us to give us representation in the affairs of Warri South LGA. However, we were shocked beyond measure to read in the news that DISEC created Bowen Ward for the Itsekiris as an additional ward in Warri South LGA as against our Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Urban ward which justice and fairness demands that should be created.
It is shocking that your government decided to create additional ward from Bowen and Otovwodo ward because of the conflicts between Itsekiris and Urhobos in the past and decided not to consider our case for only one autonomous ward when the Itsekiris and Urhobos already have control over 10 and 9 wards respectively. This is most unfortunate and sad considering the fact that the issue of conflict in Bowen and Otovwodo ward could be easily addressed by adjusting or taking of units predominately dominated by either Urhobo or Itsekiri to one of their autonomous wards within the Warri South LGA. This is perfectly within the powers of DISEC to do and with that, the conflict between the Urhobos and Itsekiris would have been addressed and create room for the Ijaw people in Warri South LGA who vote in all elections including your election and pay taxes to have an autonomous ward. However, you choose to take the pact of suppressing the already oppressed Ijaw people of Warri South LGA as it has never happened before.
The Ogbe-Ijoh people totally reject this your unjust and repressive action. We consider your government to be most unfair to our survival as a people. It is on record that for the past five years, your government has failed and neglected to resolve the boundary dispute between Warri South West LGA and Udu on one hand and Ogbe-Ijoh Community and Aladja Community on the other hand. This your deliberate refusal has led to avoidable death of a lot of young men and women and properties worth millions of naira destroyed. And as a result of your refusal to address this problem, the Ogbe-Ijoh people in Warri South West LGA just like those in Warri South LGA have not recorded any development under your leadership. Ogbe-Ijoh as headquarters of Warri South-West LGA is the only LGA headquarters in the whole of Delta State that you have not initiated and commissioned any project since your assumption of office more than five years ago. The Ogbe-Ijoh market in Warri South LGA which is the oldest fish market in the whole of Delta State is also completely abandoned by your administration despite the fact that markets that are not of any economic importance like the Ogbe-Ijoh market are been constructed and commissioned by your administration. Also, your administration bluntly refused to pay His Royal Majesty, the Pere of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom his entitlements as a member of the Traditional Rulers Council in Warri South LGA like other traditional rulers despite express provisions in the Traditional Rulers and Chief Law of Delta State.
Your Excellency, your administration has not treated the Ogbe-Ijoh people fairly. We are shocked that you, a man from Ika ethnic nationality could be this unfair to us. Even former Governor Uduaghan, from a neighbouring ethnic nationality with documented history of hostility to Ijaw people was not this unfair to us. We feel that if you were the Governor of Delta State like former Governor Ibori during the Warri Crisis, maybe Warri would not have been in existence anymore. Former Governor Ibori had a sense of empathy, fairness and the spirit of live and let live; hence he was able to restore peace to the troubled Warri when he was Governor. This is despite the fact that he had Itsekiri and Urhobo blood in hm and these are the neighbours to the Ogbe-Ijoh people. If anything, it is you as somewhere from far away Ika ethnic nationality that ought to manage the competing ethnic interests and tension in the Warri areas to give all ethnic groups a sense of belonging, but you have been most bias and insensitive to the ethnic diversity in Warri. Your Excellency, how do you sleep after giving your nod to the creation of additional ward in Warri South LGA to increase the number of wards in Warri South LGA to 20 without the Ijaws; one of the ethnic groups in the LGA having no control and representation in the LGA? It is very sad considering the fact that your Governorship is a product of equity and fairness and you were expected to be fair to all Deltans!
Flowing from the foregoing, we have resolved to totally reject your oppressive, lopsided and unfair decision to create Bowen ward to increase the wards our neighbouring Itskeiris control in Warri South LGA while leaving the Ijaws without control over any ward. We demand that an autonomous ward be created for the Ijaws of Warri South LGA. If we had two autonomous Ogbe-Ijaw C1 and Ogbe-Ijaw C2 wards in 1955, which is 65 ago, there is no reason whatsoever for you to reduced us to level zero. We have a right to be represented in the affairs of Warri South LGA. We cannot only vote and pay tax in the Warri South LGA without been represented. As the saying goes, peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of justice. We demand for justice to be done.
Signed for and on behalf of the Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom: