By Daniel Dafe
President of Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), Youthwing, Comrade Efemena Umukoro, has insisted that Ijaw Nation cannot lay claim to the Amnesty programme as their brainchild, adding that other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta complemented the efforts of Ijaw Nation during the Niger Delta struggle and should not be sidelined but accorded the respect they deserve.
Recall that Comrade Umukoro recently held a press conference were amongst the issues raised was to condemn the appointment of an Ijaw man to head the Presidential Amnesty program, stressing that the program became a scam after other ethnic groups joined hands together in struggling for the program, but now only the Ijaws want to benefit from it and have hijacked it.
The said statement from the youth leader has since been greeted by reactions from Ijaw youths who called on Comrade Umukoro to apologise to Ijaw Nation and cautioned him to be mindful of his words regarding the amnesty issue, as they claimed that the Amnesty Program is an offshoot of the agitations of Ijaws against the Nigerian government and will therefore remain under the stewardship of the Ijaws.
The Ijaw Youths Council of Nigeria (IYC), Western Zone in a statement signed by its secretary General, Comrade Doubra Collins Okotete also described Umukoro’s claims as unguarded and derogatory utterance against Ijaws.
But, in a swift reaction, Comrade Umukoro in a statement made available to journalists insisted that “amnesty is not only an issue of arms struggle, but more of intelligent submissions to get the attention of political players at the federal level.”
According to him, he read the reply of IYC, Western zone, saying that “it is sad that instead of them to engage the issues he raised, they resorted to insults and assassination of his character.”
“As a well cultured youth leader who believes in the rule of law, I will not belittle myself into attacking personality, I shall speak the simple truth and state the fact the way it is without fear or favour,” he said.
He added: “To discount the intellectual aspect of the Niger Delta struggle is to discount the entire contribution of Ken Saro Wiwa. Alhaji Asari Dokubo of all people ought to know that Urhobos and many non Ijaws complemented the Ijaws by contributing immensely intellectually to the Niger Delta struggle.
“Where were guns when James Ibori and Obong Victor Attah were championing the resource control struggle? How many guns have you carried to ensure the 13% derivation? Why not shoot your way to ensure the derivation principle is now increased to 50%?
“What about the contributions of the likes of Dr. Akpo Mudiaga Odje, Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo, Prof. G.G. Darah, Prof. Itse Sagay, Rita Lori Ogbebor and a host of other non Ijaws too numerous to mention?
“Ijaw youths must know that the intellectual aspect of the Niger Delta struggle precedes, outweighs and is far more potent than the violent aspect of same. In fact, it was Niger Delta activists who brought the plight of the region to international consciousness; they provided the propaganda that justified the arms struggle, without which the militants would have been tagged mere bandits.
“It counts for nothing now that the likes of Dr. Akpo Mudiaga Odje held countless meetings and conferences with the likes of Pa E.K. Clark, HRM Pere Ayemi Botu, Dr. Oboko Bello, even Asari himself at a time during the struggle. My elder brother in the struggle, Rex Anighoro can testify. I know of at least two conferences organised in London by Dr. Akpo Mudiaga Odje to draw international attention to the plight of the Niger Delta, not mentioning the countless ones held here in Nigeria. About five of Dr. Odje’s books are on the Niger Delta, not Urhobo.
“Then, Barrister Frank Oseya was the Secretary of the Niger Delta Democratic Union, facilitated by Dr. Akpo Mudiaga Odje. I learnt of how they went to court to challenge Obasanjo to appoint a Minister of Petroleum Resources from the Niger Delta. We know our contributions to the establishment of the Ministry of the Niger Delta and NDDC.”
He continued: “Now, the Urhobos and others are even working on a bill to alter section 162(2) of the 1999 Constitution to increase the derivation to 25%. So, if this one sails through for instance, tomorrow Sir Asari will come and tell us because I am not Ijaw or because I didn’t bear arms we have done nothing.
“We are taken our time because I fear, they may just be expressing what is a popular sentiment among majority of my Ijaw brothers. Is this why Urhobos and other Niger Deltans were totally excluded throughout the amnesty program? Is this why Urhobos and others are marginalised at the NDDC and Niger Delta Ministry? Are we no longer one Niger Delta people? This is really a sad moment for me.
“Whilst I express my disappointment on how the matter is going in sidelining other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta, I honestly salute the courage of everyone that has come out clean and spike their mind. It is high time we sincerely have this conversation and set the records straight.”
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