By Fred Edoreh
The recent disturbances between Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh communities in Delta State may have come as an acid test for the young administration of Governor Sheriff Oborevwori.
For decades, the people had intermittently taken up arms against themselves over land ownership. There had peace accords in 2018 and 2022, by which they were expected to adopt civilised and peaceful approach in the pursuit of their claims. Disappointingly, they, once again, abandoned peace and took to violent clash just a few weeks into the inception of the new administration.
Incidentally, Oborevwori was ahead, having noted in his inauguration speech that “while Delta State has been relatively peaceful in the last eight years, recent security breaches in the Warri area (which includes Aladja and Ogbe Ijoh) are troubling,” and that his administration, with the aid of security agencies, “will take decisive steps to ensure that the situation does not degenerate.”
Being a grassroots man with deep knowledge of the street, he also knew that the alleviation of the socio-economic condition of the people is sine qua non to sustainable peace as, with more opportunities for employment and enterprise, mischief makers and warmongers would find less hands to recruit.
Accordingly, he indicated in same inauguration speech that Warri, the commercial nerve centre of the state, will be given special attention under his administration.
“The process has already commenced with the establishment of Warri, Uvwie and Environs Development Agency (WUEDA). Before the ongoing Storm Water Project will be completed, government will commence efforts at giving Warri and its environs a total facelift,” he assured.
Rather than support the government and position their communities for the prospects of renewed socio-economic development in Warri area, they chose to take up arms against themselves.
As the Chief Security Officer of the state, Oborevwori responded by not just swiftly deploying security forces to go in and instill order, warning that the Government would visit troublemakers with the full wrath of the law, but also assuring that government will revisit the White Paper on the bone of contention.
Not stopping at that, indications are that he has personally moved in with quiet diplomatic engagements towards achieving collective understanding.
In his support, traditional rulers of both Ijaw and Urhobo nations have also taken responsibility to engage themselves towards the same goal.
Coordinated by the Ovie of Uvwie, Oborevwori’s second homeland after Okpe, HRM, Abe I, Chairman of Urhobo Traditional Rulers Council, it was so beautiful seeing the high-powered delegation of Ijaw Traditional Rulers Forum led by HRM Elder (Capt) Joseph Timiyan, the Ebenanaowwi of Ogulagha Kingdom, go over last Saturday, to put heads together with their Urhobo counterparts, with HRM Major General Felix Mujakperuo, Orhue I, the Orodje of Okpe and Chairman of the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, playing host to the royal gathering in his palace.
It is worthy of mention that in the meeting were
HRM Solomon Okukeren III, Ovie of Arhavwarien Kingdom and Vice Chairman, Urhobo Traditional Rulers Council; HRM King Obukohwo Monday Whiskey JP, Udurhie I, Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom; HRM F. F. Tabai, Pere of Tuomo; HRM Barr Shedrack Erebulu, Pere of Kabowei; HRM Dr. Wilson Ojakovo, Ovie of Ughelli; HRM Noble Eshemitan, Ovie of Oghara; HRM Oghenevwogaga Ebelle, Ovie of Agbarha Otor; HRM Couple Oromoni, Pere of Ogbe-ijoh; HRM Bosu Dio, Ebenanaowwi of Iduwini; HRM Johnbull Polokowei, Pere of Ogbolobiri Mein; HRM Sunday Odogu Okpurhe, Uduaka I, Ovie of Mosogar, amongst others.
The gathering practically speaks to Oborevwori’s assurance on the inclusiveness and partnership with our royal fathers and call for their continued support and wise guidance in the governance of the state.
Accordingly, as the representatives of the ancestors and bearers of the destiny of their respective people, they converged to save their children of Aladja and Ogbe Ijoh from mutual destruction. With such eminent assemblage, there remaineth no more sacrifice.
In their communique, they made it clear that Urhobo and Ijaw nations “do not have personal problems and are not at war with each other.” That should be a clear message to the leaders of Aladja and Ogbe Ijoh.
While allaying fears about a mischievious ultimatum declared by a faceless group as fake and of no consequence, they also resolved that the Ukoko Re-Ivie Urhobo should engage the Urhobo Progressive Union on a said provocative publication that tended to escalate divisive sentiments.
It is expected too that, notwithstanding their recent solidarity visit to Ogbe Ijoh, the Ijaw National Council led by the respected Prof Benjamin Okaba will also stand on restraint.
On the revisit of the Government White Paper, it is gladdening that the royal fathers, being the custodians of the history, culture, bilateral and multilateral relations of both Urhobo and Ijaw nations, are engaged in the mediation and arbitration and, expectedly, their united views would inform the process.
The onus, however, is ultimately on the leaders of Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh, to either continue to burn their communities in the cauldron of unending mutual killings and destruction of hard earned properties, thus jointly consigning their people to perpetual poverty, or choose to co-exist in mutual peace and tolerance in order to enjoy the manifestation of a new Warri.
As Governor Oborevwori rightly pointed out to them, “no amount of land is worth dying for because when you fight and kill yourselves the land will still remain.”
Indeed, they need not be reminded that where there is no peace and social stability, there never will be development, prosperity and progress, except for the leaders who merchandise in violence and build personal profit from the blood of their people: those who provide guns, not education, and bullets, not jobs.
Fred Edoreh is Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor of Delta State