AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI (GCFR) COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ASO ROCK ABUJA, NIGERIA.
Your Excellency Sir,
SAVE OUR SOUL (SOS)
THE IJAW SETTLERS AND NON INDIGENES QUESTION IN EDO STATE, A RUSE
On behalf of the Traditional Rulers, the Amaokosuabu ( Village –Heads) and the good people of Egbema, Olodiama, Okomu, Furupagha and Gbaraun clans with over fifty (50) communities balkanized into three (3) Local Government Areas of Ovia South-West, Ovia North East and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs of Edo State. We wish to state as follows.
By the very nature of our geographical location along the coastal board of the nation, the Ijaws are found in six (6) states, namely, Akwa Ibom, River, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo States. In five (5) of these states, namely Akwa-Ibom, Rivers , Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo State, there is no question about their status as citizens with equal rights and privileges except in Edo State. Why? One may ask.
Bayelsa State that is an homogeneous Ijaw state the government fully recognize other ethnic nationality in the state as a show of sense of belonging for all. Same for Ondo and others.
Recently the Oba of Benin and his uncle Prince Edun Akenzuwa at Obazuwa Village called the Ijaws of Edo state Non indigenes and settlers, respectively on January 31st 2017. Also on the 6th of March 2017 during the visit of the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo in the course of his fact finding visit to Niger Delta States, the Oba of Benin asked him to caution the Ijaws who are claiming ownership of Gelegelegbene Community, and other Ijaw communities in Edo State.
These statements and actions led some Bini youths to stage a protest, threatening Ijaw leaders and their communities. This was reported in the vanguard on the 4th April, 2017 page 12. And the Benin National Congress (BNC) has even written to President Muhammadu Buhari threatening war against the Ijaws for their alleged ownership claim of Gelegelegbene land.
This name-calling, unless arrested, is likely to cause unrest, to say the least.
This name calling is a ruse; a deceit it is a trick, it is a crime against humanity in this 21st century.
It is on record that in 2001, there was an attempt by the Binis through the Edo State House of Assembly to change the Names of Ijaw Communities to Bini names. If they were the owners of these communities why the need for the change of names that have existed since origin?
This is a clear indication that Gelegelegbene is not a Bini town but an Ijaw land. Gelegelegbene is an Ijaw word meaning a hilly or elevated community or a community built on a hill that cannot be hidden.
We wish to appeal to the state, federal government and their security agencies and the international community to urgently call the Oba of Bini and his people to order, to avoid another ugly inter ethnic clash which is occurring in different parts of the country. A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE.
We want to state here that the Ijaws of Edo State have suffered the highest level of deprivation and marginalization politically despite the high population. This was appropriately captured in the constituent assembly report of 1988-1989 volume II.
Bendel State- Thus:
Ovia L.G.A. the Ijaw people in Ovia Local Government Area deserve a L.G.A. (i) Riverine Location (ii) Inaccessibility (iii) Not thoroughly assimilated by the Binis (iv) Denied Development (v) Very rich in natural resources (vi) Population high.
That the Ijaws are among the oldest ethnic Nationality in Nigeria and indeed in the West Africa sub region, is not in doubt, that the Ijaws in Edo State are indigenous to the Niger Delta and its fringes to the East, West and North is equally no News.
Gelegelegbene is one of the most ancient and historic Olodiama Ijaw speaking community in Edo State. To wit, it was in this historic city that Oba Ovonramwen Nogbasi of Benin was taken on board the Niger Coast Protectorate, Yacht on his way to exile in old Calabar on September 15, 1897. If Gelegelegbene community was a Bini community the British would not have pass through it in the Oba Ovonramwen saga without attacking it.
There is today a poll of incontrovertible scholarly evidence and documentation in support of this claim. Among them is Chief (Dr) Jacob Uwagboe Egharevba of blessed memory, the best known and celebrated Bini historian with Bini royal blood. He is the first curator of the Benin Museum, he state and affirms that the Binis met the Ijaw in this present geographical entity called Edo State.
“Many many years ago, the Binis came all the way from Egypt to found a more secure shelter in this part of the world after a short stay at Ife, tradition states that they met some people who were in the land before their arrival (A SHORT HISTORY OF BENIN, THIRD REPRINT: 1968 PAGE 1,). This people the bini met where the Ijaws the aborigines, in the same book Dr Jacob Egharevba wrote. In about 1170 AD Prince Oranmiyan the father of Oba Eweka 1 Oba of Bini came with his courtiers to the place now known and called Benin City, when he came he encountered much trouble at the Ovia river with ferrymen, several years after this incidents, Oba Ewedo of Benin also have a similar encounter with the aborigines. These ferrymen referred to by Dr Egharevba were neither Binis nor yorubas, they were certainly the aboriginal Ijaws in the Ovia River whose autochthonism has been acknowledged and recorded by almost all credible historians the world over.
The witness of Dr Talbot to the effect that the Ijaws are the earliest people in the land and that they occupy virtually the whole coast is very important, this is because he was the acting residence officer of the defunct Bini Division in 1920.Therefore he knows the people and knows what he was writing about.
Thus, it was possible for the Portuguese to trade in the rivers without knowing of Bini existence. In fact they are Aquaphobic people (fear of water).Thus it was possible to trade in the rivers without knowing of the existence of the Binis and they eventually had to penetrate the hinterland in order to established contact with the Binis.
According to E.A. Kenyo in his book: The Origin and Title of Yoruba Rulers” page 3. He wrote about:
“The New people” the Bini thus “up till this time of Oba of Benin and people were pure Yoruba and did not understand the language of the Aborogines who usually saluted themselves and the new people thus: A Doo” “Dolo O” and wherever the Oba’s people saw these Aborigines’ they used to call them “Ados” from where the name Edo was taken. The Adoo is an Ijaw prayer greeting from the root.
According to Prof. ALLAN Rider in his book “Bini and the Europeans” 1485-1897, published 1967, page 27.
Whichever of the “slave River” the Portuguese frequented, the people they first met would have belonged to the Ijohs (Ijaws) which dominated the coastal belt swamp forest, extending hinterland to a depth of 30 to 40 miles in this region.
He went further to state in page 28 thus……
“The Bini Edo lived now as they seem then, outside the swamp forest area………. And there are no reasons for believing that it ever extended to the coast. Nor are the Edo of Bini ever river farers or canoe men…
It is on record that Late Oba Akenzua II of blesses memory sent his son in 1953 to Ikoro to represent him in the installation of the Pere of Olodiama (the traditional head of the Ijaws of Olodiama). Why is Olodiama clan and other Ijaw clans now a threat to the Binis?
We the Ijaws do not call them settlers or “squatters or non- indigenes. But we call them “Yoruba immigrants, “Yoruba invaders” (people of Southern Nigeria, 1926, Vol. III, Pp 581-5840, Dr. P. Amaury Talbot).
Professor A.F.C. Ryder calls them “aliens” new dynasty”, “new rulers” etc. (Benin and the Europeans 1485”. 1969, pp. 4-5).
Prof. Bradbury says Yoruba language was the court language in the Oba’s palace until the 18th century (p. 174).“The Benin Kingdom and the Edo speaking people (1964) p. 179.
The desire to impose alien traditional Benin titles on us is a taboo, and will be resisted by us, by our ancestors and the gods of our Land.
We want the Federal Government through all her agencies to prevail on the Bini people to stop forthwith such embarrassing and provocative statement and actions such as SETTLERS and Non INDIGENES that are likely to cause inter-ethnic crisis in Edo State.
We refer PRESIDENT MUHAMMEDU BUHARI to the Map of 1910 and other pre-colonial and the colonial Era documents to ascertain the true position of our claims.
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended has addressed the issue of settlers and non indigenes question all to avoid this kind of intending crises.
IJAWLAND IN EDO STATE THE TREASURE ISLAND OF EDO STATE
The aforementioned Ijaw riverine clans of Edo State constitute the Western fringe of the Niger Delta. This area is the economic base of Edo State, the treasure island of the state. The area is stinckingly rich in natural mineral and forest resources including marine life. Major oil and gas in Edo State is from these areas. As you can see gas is being flared right in the middle of gelegelegbene with its environmental and health hazards to the people. This has been going on for over forty years.
Also the gigantic, massive and extensive Okomu-Gelegelegbene forest Reserve, the second largest in Africa, second only to that of Kenya, is in Ijaw land in Edo State.
(1) That the Ijaws of the above named clans are NOT at WAR with the Bini’s in the state.
(2) That the State, Federal Government, and all their security agencies to prevail on the OBA OF BENIN. OBA EWERE II to stop his attack, and that of his subjects/agents against Gelegelegbene, Ikoro and all the other Ijaw Communities of Edo State.
(3) That before his ascension to the throne there was relative peace among the Binis and the ijaws in the aforementioned area in the state.
(4) That our Communities were all founded and inhabited by Ijaw people from time immemorial.
(5) That the Oba Ewere II should acquaint himself properly with the correct historical facts on the true relationship between the Ijaws and Binis during the Pre-Colonial and Colonial era before making any expansionate moves.
(6) That any attempt by the Bini’s to forcefully try to occupy Gelegelegbene, Ikoro or any other Ijaw community will be highly resisted especially the recent attempt to build a palace at Gelegelegbene.
(7) That the issue of Gelegelegbene Seaport as conceived several decades ago , and was given attention during President Alhaji Shehu Shagari Administration who built a Jetty and Custom House at Gelegelegbene without any trouble.
(8) We are therefore surprise that the Edo State Government is working to actualize the project, our Bini Neighbours are trying to cause problem which is uncalled for.
(9) That the Gelegelegbene Seaport project does not belongs to any particular ethnic nationality, tribe or race. The project belongs to all Nigerians and we must all support it.
(10) That Ijaw is a distinct tribe from the Bini and do not have anything in common traditionally and historically except that they are our neighbours.
(11) That we the Ijaws want to appreciate the State Executive Governor. Mr. Godwin N. Obaseki for his Dynamic and committed Leadership Style in Edo State, that have diffused the tension in the state.
(12) We therefore appeal to his Kit and Kins and all well meaning people in Edo State to support him in other to move the state forward.
Thanks and God bless.
Long Live Ijaw Nation.
Long Live Edo State .
Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria.
LEADERS OF THOUGHTS
(1) PROF. C. A. DIME
(2) JAMES OKUBOKEKEMI
(3) CHIEF OWEIKORU
(4) CHIEF J.G. OROUPADEI
(5) CHIEF J. WODUBAMO
(6) MR. B. YABIK