Warri Ownership: Ogbe-Ijoh kingdom writes open letter to Okowa over Itsekiri monarch’s claims

Warri Ownership: Ogbe-Ijoh kingdom writes open letter to Okowa over Itsekiri monarch’s claims

…Cautions Itsekiri monarch, Ogiame Atuwatse III, to avoid another round of crisis in Warri

The Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Traditional Council has called on the governor of Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, to call the Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Atuwase III, to order concerning his recent remarks concerning the four State Constituencies in the three Warri Local Government Areas.

It was reported that in a recent viral video, the Olu of Warri was heard commenting about the four State Constituencies in the three Warri Local Government Areas and the Warri Federal Constituency seats and also talked about the Ijaws running away from the lands of the Itsekiris.

This video clip has sparked so many reactions as the Urhobos had previously responded to it.

ALSO READ: Call Olu of Warri to order, Urhobos tell Governor Okowa …insist on Warri South Constituency II  

Also, reacting to the development, Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Traditional Council, in a statement issued to the press and signed by the chairman, Chief John Ajemitolu, and secretary, Chief Anthony Jolomi, stated that the monarch should be cautioned in order to avoid another Warri crisis.

The statement said: “In the last couple of months, certain provocative comments/remarks have been made by the Olu, Oguame Atuwase III since his coronation. These comments/remarks are not only provocative but capable of undermining the existing fragile peace in Warri and its environs. We are more worried and disturbed that these comments/remarks are coming from a monarch that is expected to play a fatherly role to ensure that the existing peace in Warri and its environs are maintained especially in this politically sensitive and tense period.

“It is important to mention some of these comments which can at best be described as reckless. First, His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwase III, in a viral video was heard saying that after reconciling aggrieved Itsekiris, especially the royal family and appeasing the gods, he will send Itsekiri nation guarding spirits against Ijaws occupying Itsekiri land and the Ijaws will have no choice but will run away from such lands. Secondly in another audio that went viral, HRM Ogiame Atuwase III was heard loud and clear while addressing some Itsekiris that the four State Constituencies in the three Warri Local Government Areas and the Warri Federal Constituency seats are the birthright of the Itsekiris to occupy. He, therefore, warned politicians especially from the Itsekiri nation to stop forthwith any plan to allow others (in the instance case Ijaw and Urhobo) to participate in terms of seeking to represent any of these Constituencies as he will decisively deal with such politicians.

“Arising from the last comment of His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwase III, the Urhobos of Warri responded as captured in the Wednesday edition of Vanguard Newspaper, 14th February 2022 wherein they mentioned the three ethnic groups in Warri including Ogbe-Ijoh. Further response from one Oritsegbubemi A. Edema obviously sponsored by Itsekiri leaders was reported in the Vanguard Newspaper of Thursday, February 17, 2022, on page 20 wherein he ignorantly described the Urhobos open letter to the governor as laced with lies, especially the mention of Ogbe-Ijoh as part of Warri South Local Government. He went further to question the inability of the authors to mention which ward the Ogbe-Ijoh people occupy in Warri South Local Government. He cited many unrelated suit numbers to justify his myopic and unfounded claim.

“It is very unfortunate that at this era of human existence, we still see elective offices as the exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group as it relates to the three (3) Warri Local Governments Areas of Delta State. This is more disturbing coming from a young traditional ruler who most people thought would be cosmopolitan in thinking and behavior because of his age and exposure.

“For the records, we wish to state that the Ogbe-Ijoh people are indigenous to both Warri South and Warri southwest Local Government Areas with legally backed up facts till date. When the Colonial Government introduced District Councils for Ijaw, Urhobos, and Itsekiri in Warri and its environs, two distinct laws were made with an emphasis on geographical location – WRLN 176 and 177 of 1955 (The Western Region Local Government Law, 1952).

“The WRLN 176, created the Warri Divisional Council with seven (7) distinct Districts – Benin River Local Council (mixed), Egbema Local Council (Ijaw), Ode-Itsekiri Local Council (Itsekiri), Gborodo Local Council (Itsekiri), Gbaramatu Local Council (Ijaw), Koko Local Council (Itsekiri) and Ogbe-Ijoh Local Council (Ijaw). Then Western Region Local Law 177 of 1952 created the Warri Urban District Council consisting of the following wards:

“Alders Town A1, Alders Town A2, Alders Town A3, Alders Town B1, Alders Town B2, Alders Town B3 (Ogbe-Ijoh), Ogbe-Ijaw C1, Ogbe-Ijaw C2, Agbassa D1, Agbassa D2, Agbassa D3, Agbassa D4, Agbassa D5, Okere with Ajamogha E1, Okere with Ajamogha E2, Okere with Ajamogha E3, Okere with Ajamogha E4, Government Area F 1 (Ogbe-Ijoh), Odion G1, Odion G2 and Odion G3. The area covered by the defunct Warri Urban District Council is what is now known and addressed Warri South Local Government which indeed comprises of three ethnic groups, namely Ogbe-Ijoh (Ijaw), Urhobo and Itsekiri. We are aware that a lot of younger Itsekiris including Atuwase 111 may not be aware of these historical facts especially as the older Itsekiris may not be willing to tell them the truth.

“In 1976, the Obasanjo Government introduced the reformed Local Government system which gave birth to the present Local Government structure across the federation. In that exercise, a prominent Itsekiri son (Stephen Ayida) who served as Secretary to the Obasanjo Military Government influenced the then National Electoral Commission under late Justice Ovie Whiskey to split the Ogbe-Ijoh wards (Alders Town B3, (Ogbe-Ijoh) Ogbe-Ijaw C1, Ogbe-Ijaw C2 and Government Area F 1 now GRA wards into Pessu Ward, Okere Ward, Bowen Ward and GRA ward. A total of fifteen (15) units were scattered into hitherto existing wards to make the Ogbe-Ijoh people in Warri South LGA minorities that can only vote but cannot be voted into either Councillor or member of the State House of Assembly.

“Only recently, during the state ward creation exercise, as part of the former Governor James Ibori Road map to peace in Warri, it was agreed at the instance of a meeting of Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo leaders represented by Justice Atake (Itsekiri), Chief F. P. Oweikpodor (Ijaw) and Rev. Ovwomakpa (Urhobo) agreed that all the Ijaw units in Warri South LGA be under GRA ward and that ward should be for the Ijaws but again the Itsekiris upon Uduaghan assumption of office, used their vantage position to hijack the political representation of the GRA ward from the Ogbe-Ijoh people. This injustice against the Ogbe-Ijoh people has been repeated again in the recent ward delineation in Delta State despite a positive recommendation by the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DISEC).

“The historical facts of Ogbe-Ijoh ownership of the areas covered by the aforementioned areas have been stated times without number and confirmed by none less a person than Chief Dore Numa of Itsekiri who, in his letter to the Ogbe-Ijoh people before his demise, stated that he only signed the lease covering Ogbe-Ijoh lands in Warri as Government representative through the Warri Province Resident Commissioner. And that Ogbe-Ijoh people are the rightful owners of lease B2 (NPA/Miller areas down to Ogbe-Ijoh market and its environs) Vol. 1 dated 30th July 1906 measuring 360 hectares and lease B5 Vol. 1 dated 13th July 1908 180 hectares (Alders Town and its environs). Furthermore, the Warri Assessment Report of 1927, Delta State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law 1999, Delta State Community Development Law 2004 and host of others affirms Ogbe-Ijoh ownership of the areas covered by the Ogbe-Ijoh wards in the Warri Urban District Council.

“It is indeed sad that the Ijaws wholeheartedly supported minority ethnic group like the Itsekiri to become governor of Delta State for eight (8) years, yet the Itsekiri monarch will make comments that the entire Warri Federal Constituency belongs to the Itsekiri and threatening to deal with politicians, to say the least, is worrisome and quite disturbing.

“And in any case, what is the basis of the Itsekiri monarch’s assertion that only the Itsekiri people would represent the four warri State House of Assembly Constituencies and the Federal Constituency seats? Is Atuwatse 111 aware that the Itsekiris are physically minorities in all the three Warri LGAs? This is the truth. In Warri South West, the population and land mass of the Ijaw areas is more than seventy percent (70%) of the LGA. Any interested member of the public can verify this fact on ground and from the map of the Warri South West LGA. Then in Warri North, the Ijaws of Egbema have more physical human population than the Itsekiris. And in Warri South, the Urhobos have the highest population. We are not talking about fake and fictitious units and wards without human population but physical human population. And this is why electoral reform is urgently needed to stop the arrogance of people like the Itsekiri monarch. Which population does he want to use to perpetually occupy all elective offices in the Warri Federal Constituency?

“And if Itsekiris without a single Local Government Area of their own are agitating to represent the Delta South Senatorial District in the Senate, why must their traditional and political leader utter such a reckless comment? You want equity but you don’t want to do equity to others!

“We advise His Majesty, Ogiame Atuwase III, to be careful considering our no-good distance past. It would be recalled that similar disposition and actions by his father, Atuwase 11, led to Warri losing the capital of Delta State to Asaba and the unfortunate Warri Crisis. What we need in Warri is ethnic collaboration and not arrogance. Such arrogance in the past brought Warri to its present abandoned state.

“While we will encourage qualified Ijaw sons and daughters to fully participate and seek election to the three of the Warri State Constituencies (Warri North Constituency, Warri South Constituency 1 and Warri South West Constituency) and the Warri Federal Constituency) in the forthcoming general election 2023, the Olu, Ogiame Atuwase III, must be reminded that such comments/remarks diminishes the Throne and his peoples’ chances in politics. An Itsekiri can only be a Councillor without the support of others. If all that he want his people to be is a Councillor, then the choices is for the Itsekiris to make. A word is enough for the wise!”

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