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Ijaws demand for Toru-Ebe State
By Rhoke Okios
The Ijaws from Delta, Ondo and Edo states have joined the queue to demand for the creation of an all-Ijaw state to be known as Toru-Ebe state. Though fragmented and geographically dispersed but yet populated, the Ijaw nationality which spread across Delta, Ondo and Edo have a common history and cultural heritage and a state for them will enable them sustain that aged-long tie. The demand for the creation of the proposed Toru-Ebe State is therefore aimed at satisfying the long standing yearnings and aspirations of the people for self reliance, peace, stability, self determination and development.
Representatives of the Ijaws from the three states – Delta, Edo and Ondo states, penultimate week, converged at the Esenabe College, Bomadi in Delta State to strategize towards the realization of their dreams and aspirations. Chief J.O. Oyakemeagbeha who is the chairman of Toru-Ebe State creation, stated in his address that the meeting for the State creation was muted first in an interactive Session at the Government House in Yenagoa in 2007.
In attendance at that Port Harcourt meeting, were Chief J.O.Mieyebo, Lt Col. Edwin M.B Okokolo Carter (JP), Bar. V.B. Bamuza –Mutu and hosted by Brig-General Broderick Demeyeibo in Port Harcourt, River State. According to him, the movement for the state creation had initial setback with the fear that state creation was only possible during military regimes, until a wide consultation with personalities such as Chief E.K. Clark, Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni (Rtd), Chief Joshua Fumodoh, Prof C.A. Dime and Chief F.J. Williams. This led to the drawing of the proposed map for the Toru-Ebe state which made in-road to the technical committee on the Niger Delta. He disclosed that the meeting was convened to raise fund and strategize to present its memorandum to the National Assembly.
"When the national Assembly started the Review of the 1999 constitution, we submitted 15 copies each of our memorandum to both chambers of the National Assembly in September 2009. and when the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution visited the South-South in Port Harcourt in December, 2009, the movement presented and defended our State request before the Committee" he said. Bishop Hyacinth O. Egbebo MSP, not only commended the movement, but prayed for God’s intervention for the realization of their dreams and decried the federal governments neglect and underdevelopment of the Ijaw land. He expressed optimism that with President Goodluck Jonathan, Toru-Ebe state will be created.
In a document made available to DeltaVoice the Toru-Ebe State creation movement addressed to senate president senator David Mark, the proposed state shall have fifty Local government area drawn from Delta, Edo and Ondo states with 125 Signatures appended by prominent personalities from the Area. They said the rapid infrastructural, economic, industrial, and educational development attained by the newly created states attest to, and has further inspired the request. In addition, the Ijaws being the fourth largest tribe in Nigeria who were the first to request for a region of their own are now minorities in five states leaving them with only one state, Bayelsa State to call their own.
Unfortunately, today the Ijaws who occupy contiguous and culturally homogenous territory in Delta, Edo and Ondo States there by suffering from all attendant political, social, cultural, psychological and economic disabilities. This situation can be addressed properly and adequately by the creation of Toru-Ebe state which, despite the receipt of the 13% derivation revenue by these three states the Ijaws which are mineral producing has been denied of any meaningful development. As a result these, there are no employment opportunities for the youths thereby leading to the present youth restiveness and militancy in the area. It is their belief that the creation of the proposed Toru-Ebe state can reverse this inequitable situation. The area with a population of little over 2.1million people do not enjoy the federal character policy and suffer disparity in the distribution of government amenities in the three states that they were Balkanized into.
They asserted that the proposed Toru-Ebe state is viable with abundant minerals, oil and gas, River-bed sand and gravel, oil palm produce, timber, raffia palm for the production of industrial gins, mangrove trees for salt making, deep sea coastal and River fishing, shrimp and also farm produce in commercial quantities. The proposed states have natural landscape with beautiful beaches which can be developed into revenue generating tourist industry. The proposed state has enough human resources.
At the and of the meeting crucial resolution were taken, prominent were the constitution of committees to reach out and lobby interest groups to propagate the movement to request the senate and national assembly to consider the creation of Toru-Ebe state now that by divine arrangement a son of the Niger Delta region, Dr Goodluck Jonathan is the president of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
Speaking to Newsworld, the president Emeritus of the Ijaw Youth Council, (IYC) presently special Assistant to the MD of NDDC Dr. Felix Tuodolo said the agitation for Toru Ebe state did not start today and dated back to 1976, when the Ijaw being the economic mainstay demanded for their states. "Unfortunately during the scramble for state creation, we were given just one state that was Bayelsa state. Two other states that are economically viable remained uncreated. These are the Oil Rivers and Toru-Ebe state" He further stated that the movement did not stop with the creation of Bayelsa state "And of course, the Toru-Ebe, state creation meeting we are holding today is a constitution of a movement for a genuine agitation by the people to create a viable and self –sustaining state where the people can decide for themselves and more Nigeria forward. It is a movement that have been there overtime and hoped this time we will succeed. We are also in
support of the creation of the creation of the oil River state" he stressed.
He posited that the citing of the capital should not be a problem as capitals do not determine process of governance in advanced countries of the world. He said South Africa has three capitals, economic capital, judicial capital and political capital. In Nigeria, Abuja is the political capital while Lagos remains the commercial capital" Hence any part of Toru Ebe is capable of being the capital and we don’t expect that to cause division among genuine people of the proposed state. We are aware of such issues, but we will resolve that amongst us "he counseled.
On the outcome, Dr Tuodolo expressed satisfaction because the commitment showed by the large turnout signified that the peo0ple are in dire need of Toru-Ebe state just as he said the conspicuous absence of political appointees did not mean that they are not interested in the struggle. He said in every movement not everybody joined the process at the start as other would join later. "I don’t think the movement of Toru-Ebe is different. We know that they are all with us spiritually and financially as you may have heard at the meeting they were all taxed and levied to contribute their quota for the movement and if you know they all appended their signatures in the document." He said.
THE BENIN-IBIBIO-ITSEKIRI & ILAJE ETHNIC NATIONALITIES OF SOUTH-SOUTH & SOUTH-WEST NIGERIA.
The Distinguished President of the senate,
The Senate of the federal Republic of Nigeria,
National Assembly Complex,
The Hon. Speaker,
House of Representatives,
National Assembly Complex,
IJAW DEMAND FOR TORU-EBE STATE: PROTEST AGAINST THE INCLUSION OF OUR TERRITORIES
We humbly make this Joint petition on behalf of our above-named ethnic nationalities.
1. we are aware that a few weeks ago, the ijaw ethnic nationality, our neighbor in the Niger Delta, submitted to you for the creation of Toru-ebe sate. We are sad to note that the propose state out rightly includes our homeland territories, and for this reason, we make this petition , strongly opposing the proposal, and stating our reasons. Also we attach our document tittled: Recreation of the Benin-Ibibio-Ilaje-Itsekiri Ethinc Nationalities to the Demand by Ijaw… for… Toru-Ebe state dated 18th November, 2009 which we forwarded to the conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta (CENND), stating our opposition and reasons to Ijaw Ntional Congress (INC).
2. We are anguished by this ijaw claim which amount to a betrayal of the stand of CENND, a betrayal of the measures of gratitude we have accorded INC in the liberation struggle, and a betrayal of our faith in the total ideological position of the Niger Delta nationalities. We concede to the ijaw their right to demand for states and local governments, but we, however, are unable to accept a situation whereby the Ijaw will proposed Toru-Ebe state, lands owned from time immemorial by Itsekiri, Benin & Ilaje are included without their boundaries delineated. Surely, the Ijaw ethnic nationality is by nomeans the only ethnic Nationality of the Niger Delta. Niger Delta is not synonymoux with Ijaw nationality.
3. What makes this vexatious claim most painful is the apparent Ijaw denial of the homelands of others in the Niger Delta; homelands with well-known natural/traditional/historical boundaries thet enabled the various nationalities to, horizontally, trade, inter-marry and promote other relations before the British imperial rule was imposed.
4. Historians, anthropologists, missionaries and geographers have over the centries recorded these various homelands, their sizes and locations. For example, all such authorities say of Benin Homeland as follows:
About 4000 square-mile Benin contry is bounded on the NW by Ondo, on the East by Urhobo/ Ukwani and on tne South by Warri. The western boundaries between ondo (Ilaje), Benin warri is defined in the boundary of 1904 in gazette No. 193 on page 128 of February 1937. The Benin Eweka dynasty from the 12th centuary AD has had 38 obas to date, and the preceding long ogiso dynasty dates beyond the Birth of Christ. All available West Africa maps from 17th century (include in the enclosed document) doned by French, Dutch & British etc show Benin Kingdom/Empire as a massive land area across present-day southern Nigeria. In 1980, ethnicities in Benin were 26%, including Ijaw who were just6%.
Warri homeland-maps, referred to above, also show warri close to Benin City, as trding centre, in those early days. Historians and early intelligent reports record their existence in their 1520 sq. mile country delinested by lat 5 20’ and 6N & long. 5-5’ and 54E, bounded on the North by Benin, Ondo (Ilaje) on the NW, Urhobo to the East and Ijaw to the south. It is recorded by several historians,including G. T. Stride and C. Ifeka at p.321 of their book, that: “The principal peoples of the Delta are the Itsekiri and the coastal dwelling sobo (Urhobo) in the west, the Ijo in the centre, the coastal Ibibio and he Efik of old Calabar who lives in the easten delta” in 1963, Itsekiri in warri represented 64%, Ijaw & 14% & others 21%, and their 19th Olu is on he throme. Today, they are about 400,000 to 450,000
Ijaw Homeland: Two vwry authoritative Ijaw writers have definitively described the trsditional Ijaw country/homeland. Prof. E. J. Alageo and Jasper Adaka Boro have located theor 6000 square-mile homwland within the central delta: “from the Forcados River to the Opobo River and upstream to the Niger tributaries of the Nun and Forcados Rivers.” (the Twelve-Day Revolution by Adaka Boro edited by tony Tebekaeme). And prof. Ade Ajayi writes: “Pereira… saw all the coast from the Forcados River to the Bonny River (Rio Real) occupied by Ijo –‘Jos’ – This Stretch of coat, does in fact, correspond to that curretly inhabited by the Ijo…”The same source had earlier said in the same paragraph, “Elmina became an important trading station on the Gold Coast To the east, he poutuguese governor of Elmina Pacheco Pereira, found that the Itsekiri and Urhobo of the Niger Delta were already living around the Forcados river about 1500…”(people &
Empires of west Africa in History by G. T. Stride & caroline Ifeka, with advice from prof. J. F. Ade Ajayi, p.22).
And significantly, the Ijaw themselves have, unequivocally, IN THEIR Queen of Britain, and copied the fed. Attorney-General and Minister so too they made treaties of trade and protection with Benin in 1892, Itsekiri in 1884 and 1894, etc. And the “Oil Rives protectorate” (which became “Niger coast protectorate”) became the trading zone for not only the Ijaw, but the Ibibio, Itsekiri, Benin and Ilaje and other neigbouring nationalities.
Ibibio Homeland covers the area in the extream south Estern corner of Nigeria bounded by Ijaw on the west; north-east by Imo state, north by Ekoi and on the east by cameroons and has coastline on the Atlantic stretching over 130km. Aseries of court of their boundaries. Ibibio, numbering about 4 million, are the third largest group after Yoruba and Ibo in southern Nigeria. Ijaw on their coast represent less than 3% of Akwa-Ibom.
Ilaje Homeland : with a population eatimately at about 70,000, Ilaje are believed to be the earliest Oduduwa children from Ule-Ife to have settled on the coast abutting a vast shoreline, bounded on the west by Ijabu, on the east by Benin, south-east by Itsekiri and on the north by Ikale and on the south by the Atlantic. The 10th olugbo, Oba Akereti, allowed the first Ijaw migrants to settle under price Omobegbe in his domain early in the 18th century. In 1980, Ugbo kimdom had ijaw population of 15%, others 3% and Ilaje 82%.
There are authoritative records that Ijaw later moved both west-ward and east-ward from their homeland about early 18th century, P.C. Lioyd in the journal of African History iv. 2 (1963) p207-231 says: “the Ijoh coming from the southern delta, have moved as fishermen into the westherndelta area, extending northwards even ti the modern Yoruba town of Okitipupa”. Other sources confirming Ijaw movement to the neighboring homelands include:
Intelligence Report of 1938 by Lt. com S.E. Johnson (R.N) Age. District Officer;
Intelligence Report of 1938 on Ekhuan District by Mr. H. F. Marshall, District Officer
Another on Ilaje by R.J.M Curwen, District Officer in 1936
Prof. E.J. Alagoa, G. T. strke & C. Ifeka etc
In the course of these migration some Niger Deltans settled in one another’s homelands. Until recently, we had all lived happily among ourselves, respecting one another’s customs and traditions. The new expansionist agenda of our Ijaw brothers began early last decade, leading to a series of inter-ethnic crises between 1997 and 2003. this state creation proposal by the Ijaw to Forcefully claim our lands –the subject of this [petition-is part of this new agenda, and we reject it
As at today there are Isoko communities of Canaan, Trofani and Isoko have not sought to have Isoko kingdoms in Bayelsa, nor have they tried to excise them from baelsa. There are Urhobo communities of U duofori and odurubu in patani. We Burutu and Forcados, representing 16% and 17% respectively of the 1953 population figures of those towns, that have been wiped out during the crisis referred to above.
Pitfalss to avoid: we are a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural region, and there can’t be any cast-iron approach to make or mold us into a people. The failure of the manipulated willink Report to specifically underpin this verity has been its undoing.
Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S president proposed self-determination as a policy during world war Ito resolved the problems of the failed Russian, Austro-Hungarian & Ottoman Empires in Europe. His secretary of state, pondering the ambiguity of the term, wondered whether it applied to homelands, race or communities. It was not resolved until Adolf Hitler, twenty years on, misapplies the idea of dismemberment of, or exciting, German enclaves in foreign countries (homeland). In 1938, Hiltler imposed the Anschluss (i.e Germanization of Austria) aganst the peace treaty of 1919. in 1939 Britain and French signed the munich Agreement (appeasement policy) up her Sudetenland to ethnic Germans. And in 1936, Hitler attacked and seized Poland from Russia. Then the world war11!
Even, nearly 70 years after the war, the bitterness of Sudetenland Still lingers. Last year, the Czech Republic, the half of old Czechoslovakia (a sovereign state) that now inherits Sudetenland, refused initially to sign the Libson Treaty to avoid, apparently, strengthening the hands of the 3 million Germans that still remained there.
We think it was the dangerous Hitlerite approach to self-determination (i.e. grabbing other people’s territory) that sparked world war11 and its consequential humanitarian catastrophe. Our Ijaw brothers should not encourage that.
Benin, Ibibio, Ilaje and Itsekiri (and others) in the Niger Delta lived together for so long that, to us this new irredentism (i.e. expansionist agenda) is not only raw and strange but divisive. And we repeat, Ijaw cannot premise their existence in the Niger Delta on the denial of the existence of other neighbors. While they can request for the creation of state(s) in whatever name, we oppose inclusion of our lands.
Signed for and on behalf of the Benin-Ibibio-Ilaje & Itsekiri Ethnic Nationalities.
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