WHAT could have made the youths of Ndokwa to protest marginalisation? Why did it take them more than a century to cry out?
For more than a century, the people have been suffering in silence and out of the blues, some youths under the aegis of Youth Wing of Ndokwa Neku Union (NNU), issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government to start the process of addressing the years of marginalisation of the area.
Ndokwa plays host to the biggest gas plant in Sub-Saharan Africa located at Okpai. It also plays host to the Independent Power Plant (IPP) that supplies electricity to different parts of the country through the national grid.
Most Ndokwa sons and daughters grew up to meet Agip as its gas flaring activities has not been switched off for decades.
There are several oil and gas companies operating in the area, yet, the people have no basic amenities, no federal government’s presence except from Prison, renamed Correctional Centre and Police Station established in 1905. The fact that such facilities were provided before the amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Frederick Lugard in 1914 makes one to wonder if the people were violent before the creation of Nigeria.
Again, was the establishment of the Prisons (known by the people as Ogige Obetim) meant to cow the people to submission? This is, because till date, the military prowess of Aboh Kingdom in the 19th century and beyond, is still being discussed in hushed tones in some quarters.
Activities of the Kingdom extended to present day Bayelsa, Rivers, Anambra, Kogi and Edo States. While Nana of Itsekiri was holding sway in Koko Port, the Aboh was revered as a commercial centre during the slave trade. Ndokwa people are also very intelligent and blessed in different areas.
That the world is free of slave trade today was as a result of an Ashaka, Ndokwa-born slave, Olaudah Equiano, who was educated, made money and secured his freedom as a slave and went to the British parliament to fight for the abolishment of slave trade.
Geographically, Ndokwas which are occupying three local government areas – Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and Ukwuani are strategically located that they share boundaries with Anambra, Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo States that is why a sneeze by the people can wreak a lot of havoc.
This was obvious on the day of their peaceful protest by blocking the whole of Ndokwa land against vehicular movement, no one from Delta Central or Delta South Senatorial Districts could access Asaba, the Sate capital. Also, no one could access any other part of the State from Delta North. That is how strategically located the area is.
During the agitation for state creation, the people, led by Dr. Edmundson Opia called for the creation of Ndokwa State. They believe that they have all that it takes to have a country too as most countries of the world are not up to Ndokwa in terms of land mass, population and natural resources.
The question one may ask is, what is withholding the growth of Ndokwa? The whole of Ndokwa was part of Aboh Division. Areas that shared the same status with the Aboh Division have more than five local government areas carved out from them. This implies that the marginalisation did not start now.
Despite the natural endowment of the people, they have never held key position in Delta State government or in the country. From the time Delta was part of defunct Bendel, Chief Godwin Iwegbue, Agume Eric Opia, Chief Godwill Obielum, Chief Ifeanyichukwu Onwukamike, Dr. Joshua Enueme among others, have at one time or the other, contested for the governorship position, but they have neither succeeded nor emerged as Deputy Governor of the State.
Rt. Hon. Olisa Imegwu succeeded to be the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly but, in an act that could only be envisaged in Holywood movies, was booted out of office.
So, do the people have the right to protest? Naturally, the answer is YES. They have patiently waited for the “coconut to fall,” but when it failed, they decided to climb the coconut tree and get their fair share.
There is a common adage among Ndokwa people, that, “it is when a man wakes up, that his morning begins (oge madu teshi ni ula bu otutua).” Have the Ndokwas woken from their sleep? Will they re-enact what they were known for, before the birth of Nigeria? Are they back to assert themselves or just to make noise and go back to their cocoon to be proud of being the goose that lays the golden eggs, yet, eat crumbs? The future shall tell.
The apex socio-cultural organisation of Ndokwa people, Ndokwa Neku Union (NNU) has been lying comatose due to political hiccups until the mantle of leadership fell on Dr. Tabs Ogaranya-Tabowei.
Tabs, as he is fondly called by his peers, is a renowned technocrat, a retired Permanent Secretary, who was among the very few individuals to have moved from the civil service platform to become a Commissioner in the country. He has been working behind the scene as Chairman, Caretaker Committee of NNU to ensure a united Ndokwa people.
The Ndokwa people see credibility in Tabs and they have a lot of hope that he will midwife a credible elections of NNU where acceptable individuals will take up the mantle of leadership.
In the last general elections, the people were hoodwinked into believing the promises of hosting a federal polytechnic or university, and during the protest, Comrade Anslem Nzete, on behalf of the protesting youths, gave the Federal Government another seven days ultimatum to act or face the wrath of the people.
It is on record that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, against all odds has dared to construct a bridge across the Ase Creek, which was across a river that Agip has been crossing with a pontoon since the commencement of their operations in the area in the early ’60s.
Comrade Nzete during the protest, reeled out the marginalisation of Ndokwa people by the Federal Government and oil companies, noting that though, oil prospecting activities started in the area by Agip before the civil war, there is no infrastructure in the area apart from a Correctional Centre built in 1905.
Comrade Nzete, thanked the state government for intervening, which made the demonstration to end on that day.
The youths in a statement signed by Comrades Afam Ogbolu, Bright Enueshike and Azuka Justice Odanike, said, “We call on the Federal Government to quickly attend to our demands in two weeks, or all oil facilities including those of Nigeria Agip Oil Company, Sterling Global Oil, Pillar Oil, Platform Petroleum company, Chorus Energy, Midwestern Oil and Gas, and others in Ndokwa nation, will be brought to their knees.
“We wish to state categorically that all marginal oil fields in Ndokwa nation belong to Ndokwa people, and none should be sold to anybody under any guise, but to Ndokwa people; attempt by the FG to try to sell any oil field in Ndokwa land will be met with full scale resistance.
“NDDC and other Niger Delta agencies managerial appointments: It is crystal clear that the FG is trying to cut out Ndokwa nation from Niger Delta; if not, how do you explain the non inclusion of Ndokwa people in the NDDC board, or any Niger Delta agencies since their inception. We call on the Federal Government to appoint an Ndokwa person as the Managing Director of NDDC now.
“There is no Federal Government’s presence in Ndokwa nation, except for a Correctional Center. We call on the FG to immediately cite a Federal Polytechnic or a University of Technology in any part of Ndokwa nation.
“We call on the Executive Director, Social Services in DESOPADEC, to also lead the two other commissioners to start the processes of oil quantum review in Ndokwa nation. We cannot continue to accept the 9 per cent derivation formular done in 2007, even after more oil companies have being extablished in Ndokwa nation and Ndokwa nation has the highest gas deposit in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“We urge all multinational oil companies in Ndokwa nation, to immediately relocate their headquarters to Ndokwa land, or we stop them from operating in Ndokwa nation.
“The step-down of electricity project in Ndokwa nation should be immediately completed.
“We urge the Federal Government to immediately, rehabilitate, the Agbor–Sapele Road and other Federal roads in Ndokwa nation, as they have turned to nightmare to road users.
“We call on INEC to immediately reactivate the existence of Constituencies 2 in both Ndokwa East and West, as it were before now.
“The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, dualize the Okpai/Ashaka/Kwale/Ogume/Amai/Obiaruku road.
“The FG should immediately compel all multinational oil companies in Ndokwa Nation to sign a favourable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with host communities in Ndokwa nation and abide by it.
“We call on the Federal Government to immediately repatriate over 2000 illegal immigrants from India, China, Lebanon and others illegally working in oil companies in Ndokwa nation, as they have also illegally taken the jobs belonging to our youths.
“We urge the Federal Government, to immediately, complete the shore protection project initiated by the NDDC in the riverine communities in Ndokwa nation.”
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at the rally, thanked the people for their peaceful disposition, urging them to be patient as their demand would be addressed.
Okowa sent a delegation comprising the Deputy Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ochor Christopher, Commissioner for Finance, Chief Fidelis Tilije and his Trade and Investment counterpart, Chief Chika Ossai to address the protesting youths who blocked the road as early as 4 am.
Also speaking, the Executive Assistant to Governor Okowa on Youths Development, Hon. Nnamdi Ezechi, commended the peaceful disposition of Ndokwa people, assuring that their long years of waiting patiently for infrastructure development from the Federal Government will be addressed.
Ezechi who arrived the venue accompanied by Hon. Innocent Esewezie, appealed to the people to allow free flow of traffic to avoid crippling economic activities.
The Executive Assistant who spoke in Ukwuani language said, “my people, our wonderful youths, both the government at the State and the Federal level have heard your cry.
“Your activities of today have affected a lot of persons, those who rushed out to enable them get to their destinations early enough are stranded; please give room for dialogue as your demands are being addressed.”
Certainly, their grievances have to be addressed with utmost urgency, because when Ndokwa people sneeze, the ripple effects will be much. More importantly, the people must remain alert, because that way, the situation can never return to the old order.
By FIDELIS EGUGBO