Ijaw, Itsekiri on Collision Course over Warri North Chairmanship – THISDAYLIVE (2024)

Omon-Julius Onabuin Asaba

Indications of a fresh wave of ethnically related tension have emerged in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State over who, between Ijaw and Itsekiri, should produce the next council chairman in the election fixed for July 13 by the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC).

This followed warnings of readiness to disrupt the council election by an Ijaw pressure group, alleging that Itsekiri political leaders from the area have perfected plans to impose an Itsekiri candidate as the next local government council chairman, a plan reportedly presented to the state governor without consideration for Egbema Ijaw that produced the immediate-past council chairman for the first time in the history of Warri North.

Specifically, what has sparked the latest division is the alleged nomination of an Itsekiri, Mr. Festus Asima, as the PDP chairmanship candidate for Warri North council in the coming election.

Although a predominantly Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled area, sharing of political appointments and infrastructural projects, whether state or federal, has often been a source of disagreement between the two, which constitute the main ethnic groups in Warri North Local Government Area.

The Egbema PDP Advocacy Group in a statement made available to THISDAY in Asaba yesterday said that the Ijaw in the local government area would not fold their arms while their constitutionally guaranteed rights were being trampled with ignominy by their Itsekiri neighbours within the same area.

However, the group noted that they had high hope of political inclusiveness when the former Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, had conceded the position to Ijaw in 2020, but expressed dismay that that hope was being threatened by the alleged attempt by the Itsekiri PDP political leaders in the area to shut out the Ijaw yet again.

The group called on Governor Sheriff Oborevwori to wade into the matter urgently to correct the “aberration and heinous act of injustice” in the interest of peace, equity and justice in the oil-rich local government area of Delta State.

The statement made available to THISDAY in Asaba yesterday was signed by Mr Carson Tarilade, group chairman; Mr. John Timiyo, group secretary; and Brandly Coupa, member of Egbema PDP Advocacy Group.

The statement read in part: “As PDP group of Ijaw extraction in Warri North Local Government Area, we are vehemently opposed to the nomination of an Itsekiri, Mr. Festus Asima, as the PDP flag-bearer for Warri North Local Government Area Council in respect of the forthcoming election. It is an insult for only Itsekiri political leaders to sit and decide for the Ijaws without their input and consent.

“With this so-called nomination, the three key positions of Chairman of Council, Member of the Delta State House of Assembly and the member of the State Executive Council (Commissioner), it means power in Warri North is now effectively and exclusively with the Itsekiri, contrary to the statutory Federal Character Principle; and it would also complete the exclusion of the Egbema Ijaws of the local government area. This is an aberration, and it is a heinous act of injustice in any civilized society.

“Today, all the symptoms of the obnoxious apartheid regime are present in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State. Every successive government has keyed into making it a state policy to exclude the Ijaws in political decisions and provision of infrastructure; and this is in spite of our valuable votes and oil resources. Indeed, we are considered to count for nothing. This has hampered our free and progressive existence in the local government area of our birth.

“The Itsekiri with six Federal Wards as against the Ijaw’s four Wards since 1991 took the chairmanship position for about 27 years until former Governor Okowa corrected the injustice in 2020 when one of our own, Cpt Smart Asekutu, became th chairman of the council. His tenure just ended in March 2024. They (Itsekiri) have not relinquished the House of Assembly position running for about 33 years with an Itsekiri son, Hon. Fred Martins, serving as the current member. By 2027, the Itsekiris would have had it for 36 years to the exclusion of the Ijaws!

“When our amiable Governor Sheriff Oborevwori came to power, he appointed two commissioners from Warri North; but to our chagrin both were Itsekiri. We were told that they were slots given to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, former governor of the state, and Hon. Michael Diden and Ebosa on one side. It seems individuals were considered over and above the Federal Character Principle as enshrined in Section 14 subsection 3 and 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the exclusion of the Egbema people. The section provides: ‘The composition of the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the government or in any of its agencies. The composition of the government of a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council shall be carried out in such a manner as to recognise the diversity of the people…”

Ijaw, Itsekiri on Collision Course over Warri North Chairmanship – THISDAYLIVE (2024)
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