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THE IJAWS AS CUSTOMARY TENANTS: A REPLY TO THE MOVEMENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF IWERE HOMELAND

By Fred Brisibe

ijaw

You deserve to be accorded plaudits for the rare ability with which you are endowed to distort established truths and dress sacred historical facts in the filthy robes of falsehood. Well, this has been long established as your stock in trade by several groups and individuals, including two Urhobo scholars, Victor AK Denila and Chris Akiri, who took time to neatly decimate certain spurious claims you made over the ownership of Warri through one of your best in the field of law,  Prof. Itsey Sagay in 2003. You truly exhibited this sly and devious trait of being consistent with lies and tenacious with glib propaganda in your recent write up.

On Friday, November 18, 2016 ,you danced out, by way of reply to our honest expression of universally acknowledged observations about the Pan-Niger Delta Dialogue Team’s outing with President Muhammadu Buhari, with primordial sentiments and dangerous lies consciously promoted to attract undeserving public sympathy. Without doubt, the ultimate goal you set out to achieve was for you to create a situation of anarchy to justify your clandestine plans to stimulate invasion of the Ijaw communities in Gbaramatu kingdom. The friends of the Olu palace, the Nigerian Army, is in desperate search of such an occasion to descend mightily on a people that are already thrown into an atmosphere of ruthless apprehension. That is not smartness but sheer treachery.

Your susceptible audience may not have the knowledge that the middleman role you play with admirable finesse, now with Gen. Tukur Buratai and President Muhammadu Buhari, runs in your blood. You have done it at all times with a view to subduing your neighbours and dispossess them of their inherent and inalienable rights as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was, therefore, a surprise not to be taken too far when the military was encouraged from the Palace to perpetrate the barbaric act of molesting innocent fishermen and farmers in Gbaramatu kingdom. Chris Akiri aptly stated in the Guardian Newspaper of Tuesday, June 17, 2003 that, “In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the Itsekiris came to the limelight as middlemen between the white (mainly British and Portuguese ) slave traders and the Urhobo, Isoko and Ukwani peoples to the hinterland of the Niger Delta. Armed with the Whiteman’s meretricious ornaments as gifts for their unwary victims, the Itsekiris aided and abetted the heartless white slave raiders and traders to enslave countless able-bodied Urhobo men and women, and consequently occupied a comfortable niche in the heart of the whiteman.”  It is enough to conclude that Ayiri Emami ingratiates himself with the current administration because he has a purpose to stir a replication of the historical reality Chris Akiri captured without ambiguity in his piece.

Who is ignorant of the events that led to the famous Warri crisis in 1997? Your deliberate attempt to be economical with the truth about its remote and immediate causes epitomizes your argument as an article of no commercial value. Was it not your insatiable quest for power or to perpetually remain in political control that gave rise to that unfortunate crisis? In truth, the immediate reason for the unprecedented bloody confrontation was your mischievous attempt,  through the connivance of certain cruel minds in the military junta of Gen. Sani Abacha, to move the headquarters of Warri-South West Local Government Area from Ogbe-Ijoh (an Ijaw town ) to Ogidigben (an Itsekiri town). The craze for political control is endemic within the pith of your cultural life. Victor AK Danila found no reason to conceal this fact in his reply to Prof. Itse Sagay in the Vanguard Newspaper of Sunday, May 25, 2003. According to him, “They (itsekiris ) have fought the Urhobos for political control of the Warri area. That control did not come until the late Obafemi Awolowo decided that the Urhobos of the area must come under the Olu of Itsekiri. History has nothing like the Olu of Warri kingdom, rather there was the Itsekiri kingdom presided over by the Olu of Itsekiri.”  The last few lines perfectly settle the admixture of arrogance, pride and insincerity you dished out ,to the disappointment of other notable kingdoms within the Warri metropolis, when you stated to deceive that,  “the Itsekiri people, the aboriginal owners of the territory called Warri kingdom covering the three Warri Local Government Areas and beyond… ”  At this point, we would refer you to the volume of articles –  “Warri & British Colonial Rule In Western Niger Delta “(Edited by Peter P. Ekeh ) – painstakingly written by a collection of Urhobo scholars in response to J. S. O. Ayomike’s article, “Before We Lay To Rest The Corpse Of “British Treaties With Urhobo In Warri District ” (Vanguard Newspaper of Tuesday, October 21,2003).

We found it shocking to observe that you avoided the salient points raised in our missive. The whole of your strenuous exercise was but to address yourself to the diversionary and inconsequential issue of landownership. It is not just ludicrous, it is beyond the pale for any one to equate the Niger Delta struggle to the narrow and selfish dispute over ownership of a tiny part of the region. Who would blame the Gbaramatu people for adopting available alternatives to seek justice when you woke up early in the day with a dream to manipulate them out of their ancestral homeland with a litany of spurious court judgements? Relying on judgements known to have been fraudulently obtained shows the flawed attitude of dishonesty. The truth about who actually owns the communities or lands you took so much enthusiasm to paint, to suit the convenience of your fictitious claims, with unconvincing colours resides in extant historical records and in the lores of the respective lands. The moment has come, and we believe that the Gbaramatu kingdom would seize upon it to constitute a team of lawyers and historians with astounding pedigree of competent practice to reexamine the so-called judgements with the view of opening  routes of escape.

An attitude of betrayal finds expression in the mythical Supreme Court judgements you made so much noise about without ceasing as your legal authority over lands that you came to occupy on account of the magnanimity of your hosts. This your attitude of ingratitude is not known to the Ijaws alone,  it extends to the rest of your other neighbours. Victor Danila lamented in the same article about it in the following way, ” The Itsekiris originally were settled in Ode Itsekiri from where they began to expand to other areas and were granted spaces by the Urhobos. Coming centuries later to lay claim to areas not belonging to them is an affront to the settlers who had taken the Itsekiris as brothers for long.” Do you now see why the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Godfrey ikonwoli followed the honourable path of peace by making implicit reference to this fact you intended to obfuscate?

Reading your lines more carefully, it comes to the fore how your sinister intention is to frustrate the establishment of the Maritime University, which is designed to benefit all of the Niger Delta, because of your untamed petty desire to change names of communities that existed and owned by the Ijaw aborigines long before the advent of the white slave raiders and the arrival of your first ancestors. It is pertinent to bring to your knowledge that the era you always made success with this type of inglorious propaganda has passed.

From your repertoire of adulterated facts, you showed marked enthusiasm to bring Tompolo into contempt and public ridicule as a man who harbours predatory tendencies towards the Itsekiri nation. This villaneous task into which you throw yourself transfers to you the tripartite attributes of Satan the devil. That is,  to steal, with compromised court judgements, lands that are not yours,  to destroy, with your lying tongue, kingdoms that have shown you kindness and to kill, with the Nigerian Army, a people who treated you as brothers. You did not need to have stated it again in your write up that Tompolo exists in your mind as an enemy that must be hounded down. What is his offense?  That, he refused to stand on your side, the side of injustice, when the Ijaws of Warri South West Local Government Area pushed for the reinstatement of the local government headquarters at Ogbe -Ijoh. That, he is too famous and wealthy as a legitimate business man. That,  he has become “a difficult bone to swallow in the Niger Delta as far as” the fight against injustice, marginalisation and economic and political slavery are concerned. Your propensity to cut him down is increased by this status he acquired for himself through sleepless nights of diligent labour. Therefore, it smacks of envy that  Prof. Itse Sagay would have to say that , …”like Tompolo who accumulated billions of dollars and became a little god running his own private army and living the life of a king of an independent country,”.  That statement can be found in the Sun Newspaper of June 19, 2016.

As we conclude, we contend that your pseudonymous “Movement For The Protection Of Iwere Homeland” picks up ideas at random and flies at a tangent, an attitude which cannot produce reliable history. To further demolish the half-truths, concocted facts and manipulated judgements, we turn to page 216 of the book referred to above. The “Urhobo Historical Society” made the distinction. According to them,  ” Four prehistoric peoples, the beginning of whose existence date to immemorial times, inhabit the Western Niger Delta. These are the Ijaw, Ukwani,  Isoko, and Urhobo. Of these, the Ijaw and Ukwani are considered to be the aborigines of the region. It is unknown, it is probably unknowable,for how long the Ijaws have been in the swamps of the Western Niger Delta. Their language is estimated by linguists to be thousand of years old.” This, without doubt, includes the Gbaramatu axis which you intend to bring into dispute with concocted facts. In continuation, the Urhobo group wrote,  ” In addition to these four prehistoric peoples, there is one historic nationality in the Western Niger Delta. The Itsekiri are a historic people in the sense that the beginning of their existence can be date accurately. Their existence began more than thirty years after the arrival of the Portuguese in the Western Niger Delta in 1485.”  We advise you to study your facts more deeply before hurrying to market them to those who are unaware of it.

Emai: gbaramatuvoice@gmail.com
Twitter @gbaramatuvoice

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