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REAWAKENING IN DELTA NORTH.

Azuka Osakwe
20/08/2008

The people of Delta North district in Delta State also known as the Anioma people have been battling with their identity for a very long time. While they all speak varying dialects of the Igbo language, indicating affinity with the Igbos across the Niger, a large portion traces their ancestry to the old Bini kingdom. For these and other reasons they have clamoured for a state of their own, Anioma, and indeed have the oldest subsisting application for state creation in the entire country. The Anioma people recount their abundant human and material resources which they contributed and still do to the national pool, politicians like Chief Denis Osadebe, president of the senate in the first republic and first premier of Midwest region, Senator Mrs. Kerry, first female senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief JIG Onyia, Ogoegbunam Dafe, first secretary of the NCNC, Chief OUC Mokwenye, Michael Agbamuche, late attorney general of the Federation, Obi Senator Nosike. Ikpo, two-time senator, and Hon. HC Iwerebor; technocrats like Chief Phillip Asiodu, Dr. Patrick Amanechi, Ambassador Raph Uwechue, Chief Fortune Ebie, Justice Ekeruche, Justice Idigbe, Justice Obi, Chief Sunny Odogwu, Sylvester Moemeke, Felix Iwerebon, and Dr. Newton Jibunoh; fine military officers like Colonels Nwawo, Okwechime, Trimnell and Nzeflli, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu; other top officers like Admirals Uguna, Onah and Eluma, Generals Usiade and Iweze; outstanding academics, now traditional rulers, like Obi Professor Chike Edozien, the fourth indigenous and oldest living professor in Nigeria and Asagba of Asaba, Obi Professor Okonjo of Ogwashi Uku, and Obi Professor Nwaoboshi, the Obuzor of Ibusa; renowned academics like Linus Ajabor, LIL Ndika, Frank Ndili, BIC Ijomah, Anwuli Maduemezia, Christopher Oputa, Demas Nwoko, John Ebie, Eric Opia, IC Onwueme, and Emmanuel Edozien; entertainers like King Kennystone, Charles Iwegbue, Zeal Onyia, and Eddy Okonta; and sportsmen of repute like Sam Opone and Power Uti. These oldies have given way to another large pool of professionals who now control a large section of national public service, industry and commerce, and the professions. Names like Air Marshall Paul Dike, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Professor Joy Ogwu, Professor EC Nwanze, George Uwechue, Ngozi Allanah, Eddy Egwuenu, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, !be Kachikwu, Emmanuel Oje Peter Okocha, Steve Omojafor, Chuks Ochonogor, Godswill Obielum, Pat Utomi, Fidelis Odita, Anthony Idigbe, Nduka Obaegbena, Stephen Keshi, Nduka Odizor, Jay Jay Okocha, Nduka Ugbade, and Sunday Olise, are household names. The list is endless. But that is the dilemma of the Anioma people. Names, big names, oil, and plenty of gas, so plentiful it is believed to be the second largest gas reserve in the sub region and now feeds the 450MWe Agip power plant at Okpai, the first independent power plant in Nigeria. Wherever two or three Delta Northerners are gathered, they complain of marginalization, poor quality representation in government, representatives answerable to support bases outside the district, lack of amenities. This list too is endless. The few business people and the political class who feed on the crumbs that fall off the table of the ruling elite have in the past nine years been riding the crest, oblivious of the declining influence of the Anioma people in the affairs of Delta state. So much damage has been inflicted on the psyche of the Delta Northerner that men and women with vision have ceased to blame the decline on ethnocentric bigots and self aggrandizing office holders, but have identified a crisis of credible leadership in the district as the main obstacle to the progress denied the people of the district. And they may just be right. Compare the enthusiasm of the leaders and the led in the South and Central districts, and you will think the gods of the Anioma peoples have gone to sleep. With innumerable associations and countless social groups, only a common philosophy or predicament on issues such as the current constituency delineation and disgracefu1lack of political clout in the state can bring all the people to take effective charge of their destiny. That happened on July 8. At an extraordinary meeting of the Delta North Leaders Forum to find answers to some of these problems, the distinguished members identified a crisis of leadership in the district. This lack of political leadership has led to all the problems that can be associated with the failure of governance and the eventual disenfranchisement of the people. It saw no use in a fire-fighting approach to the problems without resolving the crisis of leadership. A people must speak with one clear and credible voice to be heard and respected. This is evident in the socio-politics of the O'odua people in the South West under the Afenifere, the Igbos of the South East and Ohaneze, the ethnic groups of the former Northern region under the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Izons and the Ijaw National Congress, and in the Delta, the ever active Urhobo Progress Union. These organizations they imagined have become custodians of the collective interests of their peoples in a multi-ethnic nation where every constituent queues, or rather, scrambles for its fair share of the nation's resources and opportunities. If Anioma people envy the Yoruba, Igbos and even the Urhobos, they must emulate their structures. In that vein, the august body took concrete steps by putting together a most outstanding team to constitute its executive council. Elected chairman was Dr. Newton Jibunoh OON, the Isagba Odua of Akwukwu Igbo, who is better known for his industry as a prime builder and desert warrior; also elected deputy chairmen were Ambassador Raph Uwechue OFR, the Oguluzame of Ogwashi Uku, Dr. Otunuya Iwegbue, the Okpondiogu of Emu, and Mr. Daniel SO Usifoh, representing AniochaJOshimili, Ndokwa/Ukwuani, and Ika Federal Constituencies respectively. On Sunday, July 13 this election was ratified at an impressive gathering of the General Assembly held at the magnificent Unity Hall at Issele-Uku. Accepting to serve his people, Dr. Jibunoh traced his involvement with the Anioma leadership issue to a lecture he delivered to the Anioma indigenes resident in USA. To do this he said he met with several Anioma leaders in Nigeria, including Chief Phillip Asiodu, Chief Patrick Ozieh, Obi Senator Nosike Ikpo, Chief HC Iwerebor, Fortune Ebie and several others. His findings astonished him. There was a looming crisis; a crisis of leadership. After the Nashville, Tennessee lecture, Dr. Jibunoh said he has been looking for the answers. In 2002, he invited leading indigenes in society and in government to form the Bridge Building Committee [BBC] to pursue amongst other issues, the negotiations for power shift to Delta North in 2007. The BBC did not achieve its set goal but the experience was worth the time and resources expended. He describes it as an eye-opener. He experienced first-hand how Delta North representatives in the political systems were subordinated or subordinated themselves to interest groups outside the district, in the manner of master-slave relationship. It was obvious that these political merchants either had no sense of history or believed that the past was irrelevant. While they got what they would consider as largesse, the people, the Anioma people, experienced the worst humiliation in its political history. A people who gave the nation its most outstanding minister of finance cannot aspire to any such strategic position in its state government. In his words: enough is enough. The new executive council is committed to redeem the battered psyche of the Delta Northerner and restore his place in the project Delta. It vowed to seek adequate and equitable representation of the people of Delta North in all spheres of public service and to drive the development and aspirations of the people of Delta North district, irrespective of their social, political, and economic standpoint. For persons seeking political office, it says it will encourage all such persons on any platform to actualize their aspirations and will in addition strive to ensure fair play in accordance with good conduct and ethics and the rule of law. Worried about the pervading poverty in the district, the executive council said its primary challenge will be to foster the sustainable development of education, human health, agriculture, and environment as a way to increase the knowledge base, productivity and well-being of the people. Speaking to newsmen after the general meeting at Issele-Uku, Dr. Jibunoh said he cherishes collective leadership and hopes to build a sustainable management organization for the Forum that will continually articulate answers, responses and solutions to the challenges that confront the Anioma people within the context of a multi-ethnic state. This he said will enhance the confidence of the Delta North people as they pursue their individual and collective interests and co-exist harmoniously with other nationalities in the state. To achieve the vision the Forum set for the executive council, key members of the Forum will commence immediately a tour to various leaders in the district and elect interested members of the Forum to nine committees on politics, economy, information, culture, women affairs, youth affairs, finance, research, and external relations. These committees he said will seek opportunities and implement programmes that will create an affluent society by reducing poverty and encouraging self-reliance, industry and the good work ethic. Asked what the Forum thinks of the election petitions filed by various indigenes of Delta North, the chairman said he had confidence in the judiciary even though good conduct and adherence to the rules of the game by politicians would have reduced the current resort to the election petitions tribunals by virtually every loser. He prayed the Speaker of the House of Representatives to swear-in without further delay, Honourable Charles Onyekweli representing Ndokwa/Ukwuani federal Constituency who has won victory at the Court of Appeal in Benin over a fellow PDP member saying he expects the contesting politicians to resolve their grievances amicably as relations do in the family. The General Assembly had at the meeting rejected the constituency delineation proposal of INEC, saying it disagreed first with the limitation of ten Federal Constituencies as Deltans believed they deserved many more members in the House of Representatives than they are currently allotted. Secondly, the Forum doubted the validity of the population figures used in the proposed delineation. On the vexed Niger Delta issue, Dr. Jibunoh, an acclaimed environmentalist, said the Niger Delta required massive investment in environmental remediation and job creation as the oil industry was capital intensive and would not create the quantum of opportunities that is required to engage the active youths in the area. He therefore advised the Federal Government to propose to the National Assembly, a bill to increase the Federal allocation for oil derivation to 25% without further delay. State governments, and oil companies in the region, he said, should, as a matter of urgency, appropriate funds and other facilities to economically productive ventures for the people, as the problems now confronting the region were caused by poor vision, and inadequate planning and execution of oil and gas exploration and exploitation, and utter neglect of the well-being of the people of the Niger Delta by successive governments. Dr. Jibunoh enjoined all Delta Northerners to identify with the Delta North Leaders Forum if the Anioma people must shed the slave mentality that is gradually shaping their psyche.

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