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By Sam Akadoro/Sapele
All is not well in Warri, Delta State. In fact, it seems the region is going back to its unsavoury and throwback days when the immediate past governor of the state, Chief James Ibori had to intervene to avoid serious breakdown of law and order, and check multiplicity of deaths in the area.
The trouble is the Urhobo people in Warri have claimed all forms of marginalization against them by the Itsekiri of Warri South Local Government Area. The Warri Urhobo, comprising Agbarha-Warri and Okere-Urhobo of Warri, have therefore vowed to use all legal and constitutional means to resist and redress marginalization against them by the Itsekiri of Warri South without recourse to violence or arms struggle. They vowed to fight their continued marginalization by the Itsekiri of Warri as spearheaded by their political leaders.
At a recent world press conference well attended by Warri Urhobo, Olorogun Victor Okumagba who briefed the press on behalf of the Urhobo in Warri South said that God who created the state and made it for the Itsekiri of Warri South and their Urhobo counterpart was not wrong, adding that though they found themselves in the same local government, they were different people with different culture, and politically orientation.
According to him, “We are Urhobo, we are not under the Itsekiri; they have their own lineage just as we do; we are autonomous. It is due to the prudence of God that we have found ourselves in our local government, that does not give them the right to oppress us. Any attempt by the Itsekiri to tamper with the structure laid down by the former administration, we would fight to the end. We will leave no stone unturned while fighting this injustice, even if they have the governor today, we have God.”
He said the Itsekiri came to join them (Urhobo) in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who then accommodated them for peace to reign, noting that the Itsekiri were in Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ) where they rigged out Urhobo as council chairman, and that when they discovered it was proper to be in the ruling party, they protested to Asaba where Chief James Manager, the then State Chairman, advised that they should harmonise. This, he said, led to the emergence of Dr. Meyiwa Erewa as pioneer PDP Warri South Chairman. He lamented that since then it has become the birthright to produce the local government chairman.
Olorogun Okumagba stated that the Itsekiri having had access to state wealth at the local government level do not want others to do so: “when they protested to Asaba recently, they used council money while we used our personal money. We are going to use all legitimate and constitutional means to achieve our aims without carrying guns,” Okumagba said.
According to him, all elected and appointed positions even councillors, transition committee chairmen positions were all occupied by the Itsekiri. He said even their list for the nine Urhobo wards and state officer position was changed from Mr. Stanley Agbasa, an Urhobo to Tunde Fregene, an Itsekiri while Bowen, McDermott, Igbudu wards executives which traditionally were for the Urhobo, was given to the Itsekiri.
Okumagba said that while they were waiting for Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to carry out his corrective measure as promised, the next attack was the changing of Urhobo list of the caretaker committee of Warri South Local Government Area which was compiled by Urhobo political leaders.
He countered the allegation that they did not vote for Dr. Uduaghan.
“We voted for our party, PDP, and concluded that the Itsekiri cannot determine their fate and can never do. We are Urhobo of Warri, we are saying they cannot take us from Warri South; they can even destroy the structures put in place by Chief James Ibori in Warri South,” he pointed out, but noted that the Urhobo would use all legitimate means to fight their marginalization to a logical conclusion.
Okumagba argued that for peace to reign, all party local government council chairmen, secretary to local education must be rotated between the Urhobo and Itsekiri while Urhobo political leaders must be consulted on issues affecting them before decisions are taken in the spirit of equity and justice.