Rivers Ijaw, wake up lest you perish!Written by Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
By Rivers Ijaw, I refer to the Ijaw clans of Kalabari; Okrika; Nkoro; Ibani-Bonny; Ibani-Opobo; Obolo-Andoni; Bille; Engenni; Abua and Odual.
These are people that largely derive their origins from the main Ijaw stock of Central and Western Delta. They share linguistic affinity, same ecology and culture. Rivers Ijaw communities have lived in the wetland of the Niger Delta for over ten thousand years and are virtually synonymous with the geographical area called Rivers State and from where the state derived its name "RIVERS" although there are other ethnic groups in the state.
Rivers Ijaw is the largest single sub-tribe in Rivers State; bigger than the Ikwerre and bigger than the Ogoni nationality. Rivers Ijaw occupies 11 (eleven) of the 23 (twenty-three) LGAs in Rivers State. These are:- Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru, Degema, Okrika, Ogu/Bolo, Bonny, Opobo/Nkoro, Adoni, Abua/Odual and parts of Ahoada West and Port Harcourt.
Unfortunately, fifty long years after the creation of Rivers State in 1967, Rivers Ijaw for whose interest and development River State was largely created, has remained underdeveloped and her pre-1967 human and infrastructural developmental strides have been deliberately truncated and reversed by successive Rivers State governments, especially since 1999. Fifty long years after, Rivers Ijaw communities have remained rural, swampy and inaccessible; completely cut off from the economic activities in the state capital. These include communities like Isaka and Bakana that are a stone throw from the Rivers State Government House.
It is on record that between 1999 and 2007, Governor Odili awarded the contracts and ensured the construction of a modern dual carriage road to his hitherto inaccessible Ndoni hometown; in less than four years of his administration Governor Rotimi Amaechi awarded the contracts and ensured the construction of a modern highway that linked his Ubima village and currently, Governor Wike is constructing and re-constructing every footpath in his Eprikom village. Yet the Andoni-Opobo unity road; the Bodo-Bonny road and the Trans-Kalabari road have remained a mirage.
Most Rivers Ijaw communities are being washed away by sea erosion. The old Port Harcourt Township which is the Okrika-Ijaw section of the state capital is littered with colonial and pre-war structures, completely neglected since 1967 while a so-called GREATER PORT HARCOURT Project extends to Ikwerre LGA.
Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, Rivers Ijaw has had its political fortune deliberately and systematically undermined and eroded. The Igboid group (Rivers State is made up of three groups: the Ijaw, Igboid and Ogoni) has produced the governors of the state since 1999 and has used the governorship to give undue advantages to its people to the extreme detriment of Rivers Ijaw and Ogoni peoples.
Rivers State Governors since 1999 and without exception have, as a matter of deliberate state policy, neglected the human and infrastructural development of Rivers Ijaw people and communities. These Igboid governors use their offices to divide and rule, sow discord and finance violence in Rivers Ijaw communities only to turn around to taunt the same people about the rapid decline in Rivers Ijaw intelligentsia.
Succeeding Rivers State Governors since 1999, have skewed population and voters' registration figures against the hitherto dominant Rivers Ijaw people in order to propagate a new political hegemony. Because they know that these imaginary population and registration figures shall fall flat in the face of one-man-one-vote, violence and bloodshed have characterized elections since 2003.
Amidst this political dilemma, Rivers Ijaw people have not helped matters as they have continually played into the hands of people who hold clandestine ethnic meetings on how to subjugate Rivers Ijaw perpetually. Many instances abound:-
1. Prominent Rivers Ijaw leaders in-charge of the PDP in 1999 rejected and worked against all Rivers Ijaw PDP governorship aspirants and supported Dr. Peter Odili a non-Ijaw person.
2. All Rivers Ijaw LGAs voted against a Rivers Ijaw son, Ebenezer Isokrari in the 1999 governorship election.
3. After 16 years (1999-2015) of Igboid governorship (Ndoni and Ikwerre), notable Rivers Ijaw leaders enthroned another Ikwerre governor over and above more qualified Rivers Ijaw governorship aspirants in the PDP.
4. In the 2015 governorship race, most Rivers Ijaw political leaders opposed an Ijaw governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside in favour of Nyesom Wike an Ikwerre. They argued that they hated Amaechi (another Ikwerre) so they threw away the baby and the bath water.
5. Rivers Ijaw cultists and militants shot Ikwerre to power in 2015, using their guns against their own people.
6. Prominent Rivers Ijaw political leaders always make themselves willing vehicles on which non-Ijaw politicians ride to political power in return for personal and selfish benefits.
Rivers Ijaw has self-destruct. The sub-tribe is afflicted with self-inflicted political slavery and servitude. The Kalabari, Okrika, Obolo, Ibani, Nkoro, Abua, Engenni, Bille and Odual clans act like separate tribes whereas they are all Ijaw. Successive Governors of Rivers State since 1999 have taken advantages of the political insensitivity, nonchalance and general anesthesia of Rivers Ijaw people to subjugate them.
Through the vicious use of gubernatorial power, Rivers Ijaw that once boasted of the Dappa Biriyes, the GKJ Amachrees, the Wenike Briggs, the Nabo Graham-Douglas, the Ada Georges etc; Rivers Ijaw that had beautiful and historic towns of Okrika, Bonny, Opobo, Buguma and Abonnema even before Rivers State was created has been deliberately left behind in the fifty years of the existence of Rivers State.
Wake up Rivers Ijaw lest you perish.