While my identity and nationality as an Ijaw was not of my making it is of my birth and my rights.
It is my choice to love, respect and protect my identity and nationality.
l stop no one from taking a position on any matter of their choice l expect no one to stop me from taking positions of my choice. I make no apologies that l love my identity and nationality, l make no apologies that l love Rivers state and l am proud of my River State.
In the past four weeks, the people of Kalabari Kingdom have been in the news, and publicly l have been silent.
I have discussed with fellow Kalabari and Ijaws of other clans in Rivers State. Fellow Rivers State people of other Ethnic Nationalities have spoken with me. My long silence is not from lack of opinion and position on these very sensitive and critical issues about our beloved state, our Governor Wike, particularly the Ijaws of Rivers State, the Soku Oil wells and the Gov Dickson visit to Kalabari Kingdom; rather, my silence was due to my need to watch, listen and consult with different stakeholders of Ijaw nation, Rivers State and Niger Delta.
l have no doubt that this is the right time to share what l believe, know, expect and ready to defend. I am not a politician but l am interested in what politicians do and say in our names and on our behalf.
On the 7th of Dec 2019, the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality honored their son, GOV. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and his wife Justice Eberechi Suzette Nyesom-Wike. It is the right of Ikwerre people to honor their son with the title of “Dike Ohah Ikwerre” meaning the pillar of Ikwerre people. I was invited and attended the function, l was amongst the people that delivered a brief goodwill message.
Amongst others that spoke was the former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili that clearly spoke on the need for the unity of our beloved Rivers State. I sincerely believe in the unity of Rivers state.
Governor Wike himself spoke and it is from sections of the speech of the Governor that l have received calls from home and abroad asking me to comment, react and take position. Specifically on the Ntoor word or expression.
On the 7th of December 2019, Governor Wike spoke and most sincerely, what l deducted from him and my own understanding of the background of his preamble was political, as he clearly referenced politics and politicians of Abuja and their interests in Rivers State. He clearly, in my opinion and understanding, referred to the aim of some politicians wanting to create discord amongst the indigenous peoples of Rivers State, his critics as they are referred to.
Port Harcourt is the capital of Rivers State, it is also a fact that not all the LGAs in Port Harcourt is Ikwerre. I am also aware that some Ijaw Ethnic Nationality LGA falls in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State. If at the end of Gov. Wike’s 2nd tenure in 2023 and three or five flyovers or even 20 flyovers are built in only the Ikwerre LGAs of Port Harcourt City that will be unfair but going back to the Ntooor issue, as an Ijaw daughter, l will not outrightly lay claim to it or own it, as if it has been directed to the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality, Ijaw is just one Ethnic Nationality of Rivers State; l will not immediately claim the Ntooor for my people. In my opinion as a Rivers State indigene, of the Rivers State Ijaw and knowing the politics of Dog eat Dog and Papa eat Pikin politics of Nigeria l will rather believe that Gov. Wike was addressing the external forces trying to create ethnic crisis in Rivers State in his tenure. He made it clear that forces within and without Rivers State fought him and continue to fight him with the hope of frustrating him from carrying out projects in Rivers State and campaigning that he is building three flyovers in Port Harcourt.
The three flyovers being built in Port Harcourt will not be used only by Ikwerre people, l say this because it is reckless to ignore the fact that we must work with and not ignore the fact that Rivers state belongs to all the Ethnic Nationalities that own it. It is not a secret other Ethnic Nationalities in Rivers State desire to govern Rivers State in 2023 and rightly so.
Every Ethnic Nationality must know we need each other for one Ethnic Nationality to emerge peacefully in 2023, assuming we still have politics in 2023. As an Ijaw of Rivers State, l will not claim every negative statement or every ridicule for the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality to feel victimized
The Kalabari Visit To Governor Wike
On the 12th Of Dec 2019, the Chiefs and people of the three Kalabari speaking LGAs of the Rivers State Ijaw Ethnic Nationality went on a prearranged visit to Gov. Wike, and due to circumstances beyond my control, l was unavailable to join my people on that visit.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike
Unlike the outing of the 7th of Dec 2019 where l was physically present, l was not present at the Kalabari visit to the Governor and can only rely on mouth to ear, video and audio information which at best is second hand information. Again at this visit it is not the positive speeches of solidarity and support of the people of the Kalabari Kingdom that have taken center stage rather it is Governor Wike’s complaints about the protocol, security and politics that took away the positivity of the visit and the long term support of the indigenous people of Kalabari Kingdom for Governor Wike was highly over shadowed. I am not a politician yet we must listen to and understand what politicians say to us and on our behalf.
At this point, l must express my unreserved opposition to Federal Government’s involvement in traditional and chieftaincy affairs. The stripping away of traditional roles in the affairs of communities and the people is what have reduced the indigenous peoples rights to choose their traditional heads and the responsibilities of Kings, traditional rulers and Chiefs to their peoples.
The politicizing of traditional roles, how Kings and Chiefs are chosen and the insistence of expectations that Government must be involved in the roles of the traditional heads and how they serve in their communities. In my opinion, the imposition of Federal and State Governments in chieftaincy affairs and the monetization of such have brought about the disrespect the people complain about. In the days of old, Kings, Traditional Rulers and Chiefs had respect of their people and government, today the role is reversed.
Kings, Traditional rulers, Chiefs, and communities have to decide what they want, tradition serviced by government or tradition serviced by the people.
There is a fine line between government and Chieftaincy issues. Politics, protocol, Oil company and divide and rule have come in to overtake and even disrespect the title or stools of any particular people and their tradition. That government can give or withdraw recognition, government pay the traditional rulers, government recognitions bring the perceived disrespect.
Politics and money have taken advantage of our tradition and custodians of our traditions.
I was not present at the Kalabari visit to Gov. Wike and l must be corrected if l am wrong, but it is said that the Governor of Rivers state Governor Wike complained that the Governor of Bayelsa State, Governor Dickson came into Rivers State without informing the Governor of Rivers State and that the Amayanabo of Kalabari receiving the Governor of Bayelsa was a breach of political and government protocol and even the security of Governor Dickson. Whatever goes on between Governors is political, positive or negative. Bringing the Kalabari people, the traditional rulers into the politics of personalities and using the desires and rights of Rivers State Ijaws to cover up a wrong is not brotherly.
The question is, is it the standard political and security protocol that a governor going into a state should inform the governor of the state he is going to?
Did Governor Dickson Of Bayelsa State inform Governor Wike of Rivers State that he was coming into Rivers state to visit his kit and kin?
Why then are the Kalabari people and the Amayanabo of Kalabari Kingdom caught between political and security protocols of the Governor of Bayelsa in his visit to Rivers State.
Is Governor Dickson of Bayelsa State an Ijaw man and the Governor of the only Ijaw State in Nigeria?
Does the Governor of Bayelsa State have kit and kin in Rivers State?
Does the fact that Governor Dickson have kit and kin in Rivers State take away the rights of Governor Wike as Governor of Rivers State in being notified of Governor Dickson’s visit to his kit and kin?
No. The fact is, Okirika, Kalabari, Bonny, Opobo, Andoni, Engeni, Abua-Odua (etc) are Ijaws of Rivers State. It is not only Kalabari people that are Ijaws of Rivers State. As Kalabari Ijaws, we have the same equal claim of Ijaw along with our other Ijaw kit and kin in Rivers State.
Governor Dickson has a right to visit the Amayanabo of Kalabari over the murders of his kit and kin in Abonnema in February 2019, even if it is 9 months after the killings. It is better late than never, l can’t help but ask why Governor Dickson waited 9 months before visiting his people who were killed in cold blood in an election where the opposition, in their determination to take Abonnema by force, not only killed his people but did not allow.
Abonnema people to vote on that date in the Presidential election As the murders of the Kit and Kin of Gov. Dickson occurred during elections is it not proper that he involves the Governor of River state?
The Ijaw people of Rivers State have clamored since 1999 to be governor of Rivers State, and Dickson has been governor of Bayelsa state for eight years l do not recall any private or public support he has extended to the Ijaws in our hunger to govern Rivers State. Therefore, creating selfish friction and antagonizing a governor in whose government Ijaw Ethnic Nationality have a Deputy Governor Dr. Mrs Ipalibo Harry and Secretary State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, is not only irresponsible, reckless, it is self-destructive and it is selfish. I am left wondering if this is the best way to go about supporting the Ijaw people of Rivers state.
If Dickson loves his in-law kit and kin and truly want to see an Ijaw Governor in Rivers state in 2023, he should not limit his visits to Kalabari Kingdom alone, he should visit his other Kit and Kin in Rivers state and even invite Gov Wike to drum up support for Rivers State Ijaws’ aspiration in 2023. Gov Dickson should not isolate Kalabari people or give the impression that Rivers Ijaw means Kalabari. Kalabari is one Kingdom in Ijaw nation in Rivers state.
Before Bayelsa was created out of Rivers state, Ijaws of Rivers state have lived with other Ethnic Nationalities of Rivers state and as long as another Ijaw State is not created out of the present Rivers State we still have to live with and share Rivers State with Ogoni, Ikwerre, Ekpeye, Etche, Egi, Elele, Ahaoda, Eleme, and all other Ethnic Nationalities in Rivers state. The Ijaw nation is a large people across the Niger Delta Region balkanized into all the states of the Niger Delta. This fact ought to unite us to watch each other’s backs wherever we are in our states, what is expected of us is to support each of us to be strong wherever we are and not to isolate us.
As Rivers state Ijaws it is a thing of great pain that the only Ijaw state is in the hands of a political party we believe don’t like us as a people. We have not called Gov. Dickson names, Governor Wike is the Governor of our beloved Rivers state and believe it or not, the majority of Rivers Ijaws supported and voted for Wike in 2015 and 2019.
Rivers State is made up of many other Ethnic Nationalities and the hope that Rivers people will give Rivers state away to a political party that dislike our state in 2023 will not happen.
Anything or plans to deny Riverine people of Rivers State peaceful coexistence with their brothers and sisters of other Ethnic Nationalities in Rivers state will not be encouraged and will be resisted, Rivers state Ijaws have no other state but Rivers State.
If oil wells are recognized as being in state A, how do you pay the derivation from those oil wells of state A to state B.?
Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson
The Rivers State Ijaws along with other Ethnic Nationalities contribute greatly to the revenue of Rivers state and that of Nigeria. Decisions made in the past to deny us our claims should be and will continue to be resisted.
How did the 11th edition of the administrative map of Nigeria published in 2000 give the rights of the derivation of the oil production of Soku in Akuktoru Of Rivers State to Bayelsa state while Soku is in Rivers State and remains in Rivers state?
Facts show that maps of colonial times and up to the 10th edition that the boundaries between the Kalabari clans and communities of Ijaw nation (today we refer to as Rivers state Ijaws since the creation of Bayelsa state) and their kit and kin of Nembe clan and communities ( today we refer to as Bayelsa Ijaw) is Santa Barbara River.
The question begging for answers is, how did the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Federal Surveyor General’s Office (FGO) prepare the 11th Edition Administrative Map and published it in 2000 with the boundaries between Rivers State and Bayelsa State from the initial of West of Santa Babara River to San Bartholomew River. The 11th edition map is different from previous administrative maps and historical records.
This distortion of facts is the reason Dr Peter Odili led Rivers state Government petitioned the chairman of the National Boundary Commission (NBC), Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
In a letter dated July 3, 2002, the Director-General National Boundaries Commission acknowledged the error and apologized, stating, “ I have discussed this issue with the Surveyor-General of the Federation and wish to state as follows: that the National Boundary Commission has taken note of the State’s observation on the INADVERTENT MISREPRESENTATION OF THE BAYELSA/RIVERS INTERSTATE BOUNDARY ON THE SAN BARTHOLOMEW RIVER AS SHOWN ON THE MAP” The Director-General also promised that “I am to assure Your Excellency that your observations have been noted and necessary corrections shall be reflected on the 12th edition of the map currently under production. I am to assure you that the boundary line as reflecte in the said edition of the map shall in no way have bearings on the current efforts”
From the 11th edition of the administrative map, the revenues from the disputed Soku wells were fixed in an escrow account pending or awaiting the resolution of the boundary dispute created by clandestine changes to the location of the boundaries.
The question was and remains why were the monies in the escrow account of the disputed Soku oil wells unjustly and unfairly released to Bayelsa State?
The Rivers State government instituted a Suit N0 SC/106/2009 Attorney General of Rivers State Government Vs. Attorney General of Bayelsa State & Anor and in which the Court decided that it would be appropriate to await the final delineation of the boundary by the National Boundary Commission.
By the content of the letter dated 3rd July 2002 from the Director-General of the National Boundary Commission to the Governor of River State shows clearly that the NBC accepted that the 11th Administrative Map was an error and will be corrected in the 12th Administrative Map.
Why did the Supreme Court rely on a map that is inaccurate and awaiting correction.?
The dispute between Bayelsa State and Rivers State over the Soku Oil wells are between two states and not between Nembe Clan of Bayelsa and Soku/Kalabari clan of Akukutoru LGA, Kalabari, Soku and Akukutoru LGA should never allow the unjust, unfair and immoral decision to be reduced to a fight between two Ijaw communities.
The monies that have so far been paid to Bayelsa state should be refunded to the people of Rivers state.
It is immoral for political and business cabals in Abuja, Bayelsa and Rivers States to continue to use Ijaws across Niger Delta and particularly the Kalabari Kingdom in Rivers state as their pawns and canon rudders.
The 11th Administrative Map of Nigeria that started this dispute of who owns the oil wells in Soku was published in 2000 and the then Governor Of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, rightly objected to the injustice. When the dispute started, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa state. Who made the decision to start paying Bayelsa State the revenue of the escrow account before the dispute was resolved?
Rivers state, Abonnema chiefs, Akukutoru Local Government, Kalabari Kingdom and Rivers State Ijaws and all other Ethnic Nationalities of Rivers state have every right to object to Boundary adjustments, or ceding of oil wells from Rivers state to any states, just as any other states have rights to object to any of its oil wells been ceded to Rivers State; it is self-preservation. If oil wells from Nembe or Akasa were ceded to Rivers State, will Bayelsa be quiet because Rivers State Ijaw have 9 and a half LGAs in Rivers state.?
The Kalabari Kingdom and Akuku Toru LGA saying NO to ceding of Soku Oil wells to Bayelsa does not make us bad Ijaws.
The Kalabari Kingdom and her clans are not the only Ijaws in Rivers State. We must not allow ourselves to be used against our interest, or Rivers Ijaws’ interests; we should not allow ourselves to be against other Ijaw clans in Rivers state or even be thrown up as enemies, not only of ourselves (Kalabari Kingdom) but of the rest of Rivers States.
The story of the ceding of Soku Oil wells to Bayelsa is a fact that can be accessed. Dr Peter Odili, Amaechi, and now Governor Wike have been in court to get back the oil wells Finally, during Governor Wike’s tenure, River State had Justice. Should Soku, Rivers State, Rivers State Ijaws; indeed, should Abonnema and Kalabari Kingdom not be happy? Any Governor of Rivers State has a right to fight for the reversal of the immoral decision to cede oil of one Ijaw community in Rivers state to an Ijaw State. Does that make such a Rivers State Governor a hater of Ijaw people, NO? Any Ijaw who wants to use that narrative does not love Rivers state Ijaws.
We are known for our civility, our strength and sense of right, wrong and justice. In fact in days of old and l met that day, we were known for our wisdom, even patience at the right time. What manner of politics are Kalabari people involved in today that will deny our men, women and youths pride in truth?
From 1998, l have watched politics tear Rivers state Ijaw and particularly the Kalabari Kingdom apart. I watched Rivers Ijaw in 1998/99 do to themselves what no Ethnic Nationalities will do to themselves.
Twenty years afterwards, fighting ourselves to create enemies we don’t need does not show we are powerful, it shows we have not figured out what we want, not to talk of why we want it. How do we get what we want if we don’t know we want it.?I am horrified that Kalabari people are set up to be seen as aggressive.
Kalabari people supported Governor Wike from 2015, Kalabari, along with other Rivers State Ijaws, are adamant that Rivers State will not fall into the hands of a group that have no tolerance for our survival, political and environmental rights. The desire for an Ijaw Governor is a right for all Ethnic Nationalities of Rivers State and not a hateful desire. All Rivers state Ijaws welcome all support and encouragement in our long term desire to govern our beloved Rivers State but we will not tolerate anyone to present us as hateful and aggressive in our own state in our bid for the highest office in Rivers state.
In all of this, l am convinced that Gov. Wike, at the end of it all, will not forget that Ijaws of Rivers state supported him and continue to support him as the governor of Rivers state, but if he forgets that will be a choice he will make, just as we choose to support him.
Political power is powerful, When You Give Political Power Away You Are Politically Powerless. You Do Not Need Enemies To Be Powerful.
Rivers State Ijaws have no other state as long as we accept the 36 States structure in Nigeria. There is no doubt that our Ijaw kit and kin are spread across Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, even as far as South West but our political rights is in Rivers State, and our survival is in Rivers state, while we must love our Ijaw kit and kin where ever they are Rivers Ijaw owe it to their children to cultivate and secure their political rights and development in Rivers state.
While we must, as a people of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality, love our Ijaw nationhood. We must not lose sight of the true fact that our survival as a people of an Ethnic Nationality spread across the states of the Niger Delta Region, our identity must first survive in our state of origin, which in our case is Rivers State.
Rivers State Ijaws are Wakirike, Bonny, Opobo, Andoni, Engeni, Abua/Odua, Kalabari etc. We are One Ijaw People. We are One Rivers State people.
Finally, as Ijaws of Rivers State, our commitment to good governance, security and development of River State can never be in doubt.
As Rivers State Ijaws, our people have supported past governments, particularly this government of Governor Nyesom Wike is one government of this Rivers state that our people have supported overwhelmingly as if we have something to prove.
The support for Governor Wike’s Government has not been for Political Party alone, it has been for survival and defence of our state, the support have been in our belief that in 2015 we saw in Wike against all odds a Rivers state son, an Ikwerre son who will back up his roar with action, we saw in him a man proud to be a Rivers State man, we saw in him a man who calls a spade a spade.
In 2019 we have come to see a man who is working, we can see what he has been doing, no argument that he has not done everything and have not reached everywhere, we want to believe he can reach everywhere and we expect him to reach everywhere. In 2019 we see a man who stood up in the name of l am a Rivers State Governor and l will not sell Rivers state. As long as Governor Wike will not sell or trade Rivers state away we should stand with Governor Wike. Standing with Gov. Wike is about Rivers state.
Rivers State Ijaws do expect Gov. Wike to touch all the 23 LGAs by 2023, as people of Rivers state we all want the best for our beloved state, we should join Wike to make sure that as 2020 roll in we will get the best from him for our people, State and Region, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring but by the political posturing, language, act and actions we have seen from Abuja we can’t say we are not aware that our Rivers state and Niger Delta is at risk, is under great threat.
If you ask who is capable to stand with the people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta region l will tell you without hesitation that it is Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike not because he is perfect because no one is perfect but because he has the capacity and the heart to back the capacity.
I use this opportunity to appeal to the people of Rivers state to put Rivers state first, and not a political party. The security, development and survival of all the indigenous peoples of Rivers state should be our collective concerns.
I use this opportunity to appeal to the Ijaw people of Rivers state that Rivers State is our state and our desire to govern Rivers state is a right just as it is a right for other Ethnic Nationalities of Rivers state. As Rivers state people in this new and different Nigeria, we have to protect our people and our state. The most important responsibility we owe ourselves is the unity of our people, our rights to development and justice.
[Annie Briggs writes from Port Harcourt, she is a rights activist and passionate about her people, her Rivers State and her Region].