Ijaws Threaten January Council Polls in Delta

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  •  Okowa promises to look into their grievances

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Indigenes of Egbema Ijaw community in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State yesterday stormed Government House Asaba, protesting what they termed “political marginalisation” of the Ijaw ethnic nation and threatening to disrupt the local government election in the state scheduled for January 6, 2018.

The protesters led by a human rights advocate and former state commissioner, Hon. Joel Bisina, as well as community leader, Hon Dickson Asoka and the Secretary of Justice and Equity Forum, Mr. Francis Abulu, insisted that since the creation of the local government area 26 years ago, no person of Egbema-Ijaw ethnic extraction has been Warri North Council Chairman.

They argued that although electoral wards in the local government area was shared between the Ijaw and Itsekiri on a ratio of 4:6 due to what they called “political arrangement,” the population of Itsekiri in the area was not really larger than that of the Ijaw.

Apart from the discriminatory treatment of Egbema Ijaws in terms of nomination of the council chairman and lopsided appointment of councilors, Itsekiris have consistently represented the area in both the state and national assembly during the 26 years of existence of Warri North as a geo-political entity, they stressed.

Specifically, the protesters demanded that an Ijaw be allowed to become the next council chairman of Warri North; they also want an equitable sharing formula for all political offices or position available to the local government area, which should be mutually agreed by both Ijaw and their Itsekiri neighbours.

Some of the placards displayed by the protesters who chanted solidarity songs and denouncing their marginalisation read: ‘No Ijaw as Chairman, No Council Election in Warri North’; ‘Stop 26 Years Political & Economic Marginalisation in Warri North’; ‘Ijaw Contribute Less than 100 of the 600 Workforce in Warri North’; ‘Egbema-Ijaw Want Justice & Equity’; and, ‘Okwa, Give Justice to Ijaws in Warri North Now.’

Speaking to the large crowd gathered at main gate of the Government House Asaba, including government officials, various security agents and newsmen, Hon Bisina noted that his people in Warri North were greatly grieved by the monumental injustice against them in the scheme of things in the locality and the state in general.
“If you don’t have political space, you cannot express yourself or develop properly”, Bisina noted, adding, “There is nexus between politics and the economy.”

He maintained that even if the Ijaws in Warri North were actually small in population size that would still not be justifiable ground to deny them their fundamental human right to fair political space.
“In Lagos State, Igbos constitute a minority, but Igbos – and even Urhobos – are allowed to hold elective and appointive offices in Lagos”, he maintained.

Bisina pointed out that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his predecessor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, would never have become governors but for political arrangement that allows for equity in the scheme of things.

Also speaking, the Hon Asoka said that the people decided to come on a protest march to the Government House and the state house of assembly because Egbema Ijaws have implicit confidence in Governor Okowa because he is a grassroots politician and political leader in the state who believes in justice, and prayed “that God will grant His Excellency wisdom to give our long marginalized Egbema-Ijaw the justice they crave.”

Addressing the protesters, the Chief of Staff, Government House Asaba, Hon. Tam Brisibe, who said he was sent to speak with the protesters by Governor Okowa, assured that their grievances and demands would be duly conveyed to the Governor, saying Okowa was not a leader that would turn a blind eye when a case of alleged marginalization or injustice was brought before him.

While urging them to remain peaceful in their agitation for more political space particularly in Warri North Local Government Area, the Chief of Staff promised to extend an invitation which would enable leaders of Egbema-Ijaw community to have audience with Governor Okowa next week.

The people of Warri North are predominantly PDP, which about two weeks ago unveiled its chairmanship candidates for the 25 local government areas of the state in the January 6, 2018 council polls, but the Ijaws maintained that they did not recognize the candidate named for Warri North because they were not part of the PDP nomination process.