President Tinubu Urged to Address Historic Injustice Against Itsekiri
President Bola Tinubu has been urged to tackle the historic injustice suffered for centuries by Itsekiri indigenous ethnic group in the interest of fairness and equity.
The Itsekiri, whose roots are Yorùbá have a population of about 1.5m people domiciled in Delta and Edo States.
They have lived in the Niger Delta, often classified as minorities, a factor that has undermining their access to political, economic and social oppurtunities.
In a letter addressed to President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday after an extensive meeting of the Alliance of Yorùbá Democratic Movements (AYDM), a coalition of pan-Yorùbá groups, AYDM noted that for more than 1000 years, the Itsekiri had asserted themselves as a unique people with a rich civilization who had made tremendous contributions to African cultural and economic growth.
AYDM, observed that in spite of this, the ethnic group had received little or nothing in return for the enormous resources successive governments had exploited on their ancestral territories.
AYDM is a coalition of 121 Pan-Yorùbá groups spread across Lagos, Òyó, Ogun, Ondo, Èkìtì, Ọṣun, Edo, Kwara, Kogi and the West African Coast.
In the letter signed by the AYDM General Secretary Popoola Ajayi and Secretary for Mobilization, Chief Kunle Oshodi, AYDM claimed that the Itsekiri produced 35% of Nigerian oil and gas, but got little or nothing in return.
“There are no economic landmarks, no industries, no commensurate employment opportunities in the oil companies on their land while they are given crumbs when it comes to political appointments at the Federal level
“No Itsekiri man has ever led the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC). No Itsekiri man has ever emerged as the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). No Itsekiri man has ever been made a Federal Minister since 1999. This is ridiculous” the AYDM noted.
The group observed that even in the face of repression, oil pollution and exclusion, the Itsekiri remained one of the few ethnic groups in the Niger Delta that had never resorted to violence, vandalisation of oil pipelines , bunkering or oil theft, adding that the Presidency should demonstrate that there is reward for peaceful conduct and not just reward for groups that threaten violence and armed insurrection at all times.
AYDM recalled that in the dark days of monstrous dictatorship in Nigeria, The Late Pa Alfred Rewane, an Itsekiri, staunch ally of The Late Sage Obafemi Awolowo, was the financial backbone of the resistance against military rule, a dangerous assignment that eventually led to his assassination in Lagos.
It was on Friday, 6 October, 1995, between 8.15 and 8.30 am, that the unexpected happened. A Peugeot 504 car screeched to a halt in front of 100 Oduduwa Crescent, G.R.A, Ikeja, Lagos, home of Pa Alfred Rewane.
“We commend President Tinubu for recognizing the role of Pa Rewane. As the then governor of Lagos State, he named one of the longest, important and popular streets in Lagos after Pa Rewane for his contributions to democracy and justice without which the military would have continued to hold Nigeria and Nigerians to ransom.
“We call on President Tinubu to correct this historic injustice to a great people whose land provides immense resources to Nigeria.” AYDM said.
The coalition suggested that President Tinubu could do this by recognizing the Itsekiri ethnic group through significant industrial investments in their homeland and Federal appointments that would give the people a deep sense of belonging.
This, the coalition said, was a step that would justify the Itsekiri’s non-violence to the long chain of repression they had suffered in a country in which they had naturally found themselves.