By Simon Ebegbulem & Perez Brisibe
WAR is brewing between the Benin people and Ijaw over alleged plans by Ijaw traditional rulers in Bayelsa and Delta states to install Mr Edwin Ogunyenbo as the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom in Gelegele, Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State.
The Benin National Congress, BNC, and the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, yesterday, expressed readiness to go to war over the land.
While the BNC, in a statement by Osaretin Igbinogun, its director of mobilization, stressed that Gelegele land belongs to the Oba of Benin, insisting that the Ijaw are visitors who have overstayed their welcome, the IYC, through a statement by its President, Eric Omare, described the statement credited to Edo State Government and the Benin Traditional Council over the ownership of the land as unacceptable. It asserted that Gelegele land is an Ijaw enclave and they had the right to install a traditional ruler of their choice.
Security agents had on Tuesday aborted the installation of Edwin Ogunyenbo as the Pere of Olodiama community after the state government declared the installation as unconstitutional and an attempt to create another monarchy in Benin Kingdom.
The BNC stated: ¨The entire land mass referred to as Gelegele in the Supreme Court judgment bordering Ughoton and the Bight of Benin belong to the Bini, and customarily under the authority of the Oba of Benin, is not in contest. We wish to alert the security apparatuses to swing into action by stopping this warring act by one ‘Pere’ who seeks to establish a fiefdom and declare himself as a fief in our land. This is because, if the Bini should resolve to militantly engage these war mongers, we will not take kindly to any clampdown on Benin youths for acting in self defence of our territory.¨
But the IYC asserted that ¨the statement by the Edo State Government and the Benin palace is a declaration of war against the Ijaw nation. The government of Edo State under Governor Godwin Obaseki, by the content of the press statement issued and signed by the Secretary to Edo State Government, Osarodin Ogie, has lost the moral and constitutional right to govern the Ijaw people and land of Edo State, namely, the Ijaw of Olodiama, Okomu, Gbarain, Egbema and Furupa Kingdoms.
¨The IYC, in the strongest term, condemns the statement by the Edo State Government and the Benin Palace which purport to create the impression that Ijaw land and people of Edo State do not exist. This statement is not only provocative but an invitation to war by a state government and this is totally unacceptable. It is a deliberate and wicked attempt by Bini officials of the Edo State Government to rewrite history. The Ijaw nation would vehemently resist this attempt.
“For the records the Ijaw people of Olodiama, Gbarain, Okomu, Egbema and Furupa Kingdoms in Edo State are aborigines in the lands where they are living and were there for so many years even before the Binis came to their present land under the leadership of their own traditional institutions.
´The Ijaw of Edo State have never been under the traditional institution of any other ethnic nationality in Edo State or elsewhere in Nigeria. We call on Edo State Government to immediately withdraw its statement and render an unreserved apology to the Pere of Olodiama Kingdom, Ijaw people of Edo State and the Ijaw nation.¨
Factional President of IYC, Pereotubo Owielaemi, also spoke in like manner. In a statement, yesterday, he said the state government’s statement “is clearly an invitation to anarchy, and it is not supposed to be coming from a state government whose duty is to secure lives and property. The Edo State Government should not play partisan politics in the land disputes brewing between the Ijaws in the State and the Bini Kingdom.
“The Ijaw nation will not fold its arm and allow the Edo State Government, led by Godwin Obaseki and the land-grabbing Bini Kingdom to wipe out the Ijaw in the state from planet earth,” he added.