Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has urged the new leadership of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) to build linkages at home and abroad in order to successfully address the Ijaw nation’s challenges.
Governor Diri, who expressed confidence in the capacity of the new leadership to effectively champion the cause of the Ijaw people, applauded their change of strategy in seeking a better deal in the Nigerian state.
He spoke on Friday during a courtesy visit by the executive council members of the INC to Government House, Yenagoa.
The governor in a press release issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah, challenged the ethnic nationality apex socio-cultural body to foster unity among all Ijaws and speak with one voice, particularly at a time that other ethnic nationalities were taking positions on matters affecting them.
He also charged the INC to build consensus with National Assembly members of Ijaw extraction and other stakeholders to ensure that they adopt a common position on all critical issues.
He said: “We would not expect our members of parliament to be speaking in varying tongues with the INC and even with the government of Bayelsa State. You need to synergise for all to be on one page.
“What we should cherish most now is our unity and that is the only way we can speak with one voice. Let it not be a one-off event but a continuous engagement with members of the National Assembly.”
Senator Diri, who also urged the INC to always adopt diplomatic approach in fighting for the yearnings and aspirations of the people, said the Ijaw nation would not play second fiddle to any ethnic nationality and equally not be shortchanged by the international oil companies.
“If the Nigerian state continues to explore and exploit unjustifiably and visit the injustice that we are seeing today and continue to terrorise and intimidate us, then violence can only be a last resort.
“The Ijaw nation will not play second fiddle to any other ethnic nationality. Our territories are very clear. Let no map of any other ethnic nationality include one fishing port of the Ijaw nation. I am sure that you will stand to defend Ijaw nation across the states where the Ijaws are natural owners of the land.”
According to the governor, the Ijaw nation should not be seen stooping down to beg for crumbs from the international oil companies but rather be seen as partners in the exploration and exploitation of its God-given resources.
He also expressed gratitude to Ijaw traditional rulers, community leaders, youths and other stakeholders for ensuring a peaceful, transparent process in electing the current INC executive council while restating his position for a non-aligned and non-partisan congress.
In his remarks, the INC President, Prof, Benjamin Okaba, said the visit was to inform the governor of the body’s plan to chart a new course for the Ijaw nation.
Prof. Okaba noted that the congress would interface with stakeholders across the six states where the Ijaws are indigenes and build consensus on critical issues as well as create legitimate structures from the community to zonal level.
He said the congress would convoke an all-Ijaw summit and had set up an 11-man committee with Rear Admiral Geoffrey Yanga (retd) as chairman saddled with the mandate of providing direction for the INC.