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Thursday, 25 October 2012

PRESIDENT JONATHAN AND THE URHOBO NATION

                                       President Goodluck E. Jonathan
The exclusion of the Urhobo people from the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan is a clear sign that he has an axe to grind against the Urhobo people. This is so because immediately he assumed office on May 6, 2010, he removed from office the few Urhobo people that were in the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. For instance, Mr. David Edevwie who was the Principal Secretary to late President Yar’Adua and Mrs. Grace Ekpewrhe who was Minister of Science and Technology were sacked.  
However, the Urhobo people thought that President Jonathan would correct the anomaly after the general election in April, 2011 but that was not to be. The Urhobo people are the fifth largest tribe in the country with a population of about 10 million across the country and the largest tribe in Delta State with a population of about 2.5 million.
Urhobo leaders worked assiduously to mobilise the entire Urhobo nation to garner support for President Jonathan as the first Niger Delta person to contest the presidency of this country. The mobilisation of the Urhobo leaders was positive as the Urhobo people voted massively for President Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election which led to his victory at the pool. The PDP won in Delta State with a landslide because of the votes of Urhobo people as the largest tribe in the state.

Nevertheless, the Urhobo people were shocked when President Jonathan constituted his new cabinet after the 2011 general elections as no Urhobo person was appointed into the cabinet! The Urhobo people are bothered by their marginalization in the current administration led by an Ijaw man because the  Ijaws are the closest ally to the Urhobos as many Urhobos are related to them  through patrilineage or matrilineage and vice versa. This is why the Urhobos and the Ijaws do not go to war. The marginalization of the Urhobos in this administration is painful because they worked tirelessly for the success of President Jonathan in the last election. What is the sin of the Urhobos that made President Jonathan to subject them to this unfair treatment?
The Urhobo people are the most peaceful people in the country. This is why they are hosts to people from all parts of the world. It is only the Urhobos as one of the major tribes that has not engaged in insurrection in this country. That the Urhobo nation has not risen against any governments, does not mean she has not been pushed to the wall by the various governments that have led this country so far. This is so because Urhobo land as the major oil producing area of Delta State has been experiencing pollutions from oil spills and gas flaring since the discovery of crude oil in 1956. Their rubber trees, palm trees, farms and fish pods have all been destroyed by spilled oil which has made life very difficult for them. Urhobo land as a major oil producing area has never produced the group managing director of the NNPC while Northerners who don’t have a drop of crude oil in their land have occupied that position many times. The Urhobo nation is the only major tribe without a state of her own. Despite all the oppressions the Urhobo people have suffered over the years, they have refused to take to militancy as some other tribes have done. That the Urhobo people refused to take to militancy is not a sign of weakness but because they love this country. We all know that militancy is not an exclusive preserve of one particular tribe or group of tribes as any tribe can take to militancy just as other tribes have done and are still doing. But militancy is not the solution to any problem because every insurrection usually ends with dialogues and negotiations. This is the main reason why the Urhobo people have always taken the part of peace.

However, the way Nigeria has been governed over the years seems it is only the tribes that have engaged in militancy that are recognized and compensated with political appointments. If it is not so why are the Urhobo people being marginalised by every successive government? After the counter coup on July 29, 1966 that took the life of General Aguiyi Ironsi, the then head of state and the massacre the Igbo people suffered from the northerner extremists, the Igbos declared the republic of Biafra as a warning that they could not be treated as second class citizens. This led to the Nigerian civil war but after the civil war, the Igbos are respected and represented in every government!
The Ijaws started militancy in the First Republic with Isaac Adaka Boro, who foreseen the devastation oil exploitation and exploration would cause the Ijaw nation, on February 14, 1966, declared the Niger Delta Peoples’ Republic. The republic lasted for 12 days before Adaka Boro was arrested by General Aguiyi Ironsi. The Ijaw militancy lingered for many years but came to its height during the administrations of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua before amnesty was granted to the militants. Presently, the Ijaw nation is enjoying the benefits of their struggle as they now have their son as the president of this country and many Ijaw ex-militants receive salaries under the amnesty programme while others were awarded mouth-watering contracts by the Federal Government.
After the annulment of the 1993 presidential election which was won by late Chief M.K.O. Abiola,  the Yorubas founded the Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) with which they fought for the actualisation of the 1993 mandate which Nigerians gave to their son. The country almost broke up due to the annulment. The outcome of that struggle was the second coming of General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) as the president in 1999.
The northern part of the country has also engaged in militant activities. Immediately President Goodluck Jonathan signified his intention to contest the 2011 presidential election, some northerners vowed to make the country ungovernable for him. For instance, Alhaji Lawal Kaita said, “The North is determined, if it happens, to make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other Southerner who finds his way to the seat of power on the platform of the PDP against the principle of the party’s zoning policy. Anything short of a Northern president is tantamount to stealing our presidency. Jonathan has to go and he will go. Even if he uses incumbency power to get his nomination on the platform of the PDP, he would be frustrated out”. The north has fulfilled this threat by making the country ungovernable for President Jonathan through the Boko Haram insurgency.
Thus, the north is already benefitting from the Boko Haram struggles because a Northerner has been appointed National Security Adviser (NSA). Not only that, the Federal Government is also negotiating with the members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace peace. But the Boko Haram members will not disarm with mere talks and promises. As the Ijaw militants embraced the Amnesty Programme with juicy contracts and salaries, the Boko Haram members will also demand for juicy contrasts and monetary rewards.
Moreover, one is troubled by this trend because it sends a dangerous signal to the entire country that it is only those who take up arms against the Federal Government get attention and appointments. The question Nigerians are asking is, should the Federal Government wait until people take up arms against it before it does the right thing?   

Before the advent of colonialism, the Urhobo nation was an independent country with her robust traditional system of government. The Urhobo people had an early contact with the Europeans through the Royal Niger Company that had treaties with her and recognized the Urhobo nation as a country. One of such treaties; Article V of the Agbarha Treaty states as follows: “The chiefs of Agbassa hereby engage to assist the British consular or other officers in the execution of such duties as may be assigned to them; and further to act upon their advice in matters relating to the administration of justice, the development of the resources of the country, the interest of commerce, or in any other matter in relation to peace, order, and good government, and the general progress of civilisation”. Thus, the British Government recognized the Urhobo nation as a country before colonialism began but the Urhobo nation was forced into Nigeria through the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 by Lord Lugard.
Meanwhile, the Urhobo nation with a population of about 10 million in the country, qualified human resources, many natural resources and agricultural resources etc, is qualified to be an independent country. What are the populations of Bahamas and Sao Tome & Principe as independent nations? They are 307, 451 and 205,901 respectively. So, if every government will marginalize the Urhobos because they are peaceful, they should be allowed to become an independent nation!

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