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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has decried the absence of a distinct voice for the Ijaw ethnic nationality on issues currently affecting the country.

Governor Diri said reviving the ethnic group’s foremost socio-cultural organisation, the Ijaw National Congress (INC), was long overdue and therefore called on his kinsmen to close ranks.

Senator Diri, who was one-time National Organising Secretary of the group, averred that as the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria, a comatose INC meant a loud and unacceptable silence at critical moments of the nation’s history.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Daniel Alabrah, said the governor gave the charge on Thursday to delegates and members at the opening of two-day INC 2021 Convention at the Ijaw House in Yenagoa.

Governor Diri expressed the optimism that with the convergence of critical stakeholders from across the country, the INC would rise again for the Ijaw nation to have a strong and indivisible voice.

He charged the delegates to choose the best candidate for the respective offices that are competent, courageous, incorruptible and ready to defend the Ijaw based on the principles of fairness, justice and equity.

He said: “We actually have no option but to come together to continue to forge a common front for advancement of the aims and objectives of the INC in order that the Ijaw nation may not be caught napping or find itself wrong-footed in these very turbulent times in the history of our country.

“Perhaps at no other time in the history of our dear ethnic nationality has our unity been more required than now. We have a lot to do pursuant to the aims and objectives of the INC as set out in Article 7 of its Amended Constitution 2019.

“It is my expectation that our continued loyalty and love for the Ijaw nation would moderate the actions of everyone at this convention.

“It is of utmost importance that we choose the best for the respective offices, so we can rest assured that we have competent, courageous and incorruptible leaders, who would stand to the defence of the Ijaw nation and the principles of fairness, justice and equity any day.”

While applauding the electronic voting initiative adopted by the INC Election Planning Committee, Senator Diri asserted that he had been an advocate of e-voting while in the National Assembly and stressed that its use during the convention would ensure the integrity and acceptability of the electoral process.

“I like to acknowledge the innovation of e-voting. This no doubt would ensure the integrity and acceptability of the electoral process. By the way, I had advocated for e-voting from my days in the National Assembly and I believe that the Ijaws will teach Nigeria on how to go about e-voting.”

Diri expressed appreciation to the Conference of Traditional Rulers and Elders (CITRE) for painstakingly planning and coordinating the processes that made the convention possible.

He also thanked the eminent citizens that served in the electoral committee for their thoroughness.

Also speaking, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro, thanked Governor Diri for midwifing the process of reviving the INC.

Deacon Otuaro noted that the ideals that underline the creation of the INC were laudable hence the need for a robust and formidable leadership.

In his remarks, chairman of the CITRE, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, thanked the governor for taking the initiative of reconvening CITRE and expressed the hope that the convention would succeed in the overall interest of the Ijaw nation.

Highpoint of the convention was presenting the 2019 INC Constitution before delegates for ratification by retired Supreme Court jurist, Justice Francis Tabai, and a display of the e-voting procedure by Vice Chancellor of the Niger Delta University, Prof. Samuel Gowon Edoumiekumo.

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