More than hundred socio-cultural institutions and youth- driven, community-based groups have converged in Lagos to deliberate on the lingering ethnic intolerance, induced crises ravaging the country, and have proffered that the restructuring of the country in a way that would respect the rights of the various nationalities that make up the country as way out.
Leaders of these groups that cut across all ethnic nationalities in the country, unanimously agreed that the present structure in the country had deprived a lot of ethnic nationalities of cohesion engendered by palpable balkanisation and its attendant deprivations.
At the event, put together by the Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), and supported by Ford Foundation, a United States of America-based donor organisation, participants took turn to x-ray the problems besetting their zones and what should be done to ameliorate such.
The Chairman of the Supreme Egbesu Assembly, Chief Werinipre Noel Digifa, in his address titled: “Democracy in Nigeria: Oil, the Niger Delta, Peace Building and the crisis of Sustainable Development”, bemoaned the travails of the Ijaw nation under the present national geographical arrangement and doubted the peaceful co-existence of people under such shoddy arrangement.
“Since 1950, when oil was found in our territory, more than 500 trillion dollars have been taken by people mostly unknown to us; by authorities that view us with contempt and by companies that hate and deride our values and our age- long heritage.
“The Ijaw people did not make a choice to be where they are today. God made the choice for them and they found it good. The Ijaw people did not create the oil, but God in His wisdom gave them the oil, so as to develop their home land and make it the pride of the people that own the land,” he stated.
But rather than being a blessing it should have been, Digifa lamented that the discovery of oil in Ijaw land has brought untold hardship, division and untimely deaths among the people.
“It is very unfortunate that successive Nigerian governments have chosen to deliberately malign the Ijaw nation and her people. Institutions of the Nigerian state were created to our disadvantage.
“Take a look at the creation of state where the Ijaw nation has only one homogenous state of Balyesa. The Ijaw people have been deliberately balkanised into different states of Ondo, Delta, Rivers, where they are in minority and their voices stifled,” he said.
The Egbesu leader condemned the present political order that only allows for five Ijaws senators in the nation’s senate of out of 109 members and 10 Ijaw in the House of Representatives out of 360 members.
Other participants blamed the current ineptitude on the shoddy amalgamation of the country by the colonial masters in 1914 without due consultations with the various ethnic nations that made up the present Nigeria.
Executive Secretary of Juiz Zakat and Waqf Trust Fund, Abuja, Imam Abdulahi Shuaib, posited that the shoddiness in the national arrangement had led to a terrible situation of ethnic distrust with its attendant greed by the zone that found itself at the helms of affairs.
“The competition for power which appropriate and command economic opportunities in a zero sum of winners take all, employs any viable social variable amenable to the realisation of such objectives,” he noted.
The Executive Director of JODER, however enjoined participants to endeavour to promote peace at their various domains while efforts should be intensified among every nationality that made up Nigeria to negotiate on ways for a peaceful co-existence
He promised that his organisation, in conjunction with Ford Foundation, would do its best to ameliorate the lingering animosity among the zones.
“I wish to say that there have been conferences and summits. Ours is not the first and it is not likely to be the last. We want to make a difference through the activities of each one of you present in this hall. We want you as leaders of your organisations to act fast and safe our communities from real or imagined chaos,” he said.