Dialogue: Involve N/Delta elders or be ready to fail, Ijaw elders tell FG

ELDERS of Ijaw nation said on Saturday that any effort by the Federal Government to dialogue with agitating militants in the Niger Delta region without the inclusion of elders will fail in the long run.

Leader of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark, made this position known during an Ijaw leaders’ consultative council meeting in his country home, Kiagbodo, Delta State.

In attendance at the meeting to reach a common ground on the renewed militancy and its effects on the Niger Delta and the country were Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson and Delta State deputy governor, Kingsley Otuaro.

“This is not the first time this kind of crisis is happening. In 2008 and 2009, similar incidents happened and Gbaramatu was affected. We elders and leaders intervened and we got Amnesty.

“Today, we hear that Federal Government is planning, already talking or negotiating with militants and nobody has consulted us. That will not work.

These children are our children and we cannot fold our hands when they are being attacked and pretend not to notice. We must be involved in what government wants to do,” the octogenarian declared.

However, a communique at the end of the closed-door meeting called on Ijaw militants to shelve the proposed declaration of Niger Delta Republic on August 1.

The elders called on them to demand the restructuring of the country to ensure equity and equality.

“The elders and leaders of thought of the Ijaw nation call for the immediate restructuring of the Nigerian nation along the lines of peaceful federalism, and noticed that this is the panacea for the sustainable development in Nigeria.

“As a demonstration of sincerity of commitment to dialogue, Federal Government should immediately withdraw the military from all occupied Ijaw communities, particularly Gbaramatu kingdom. The meeting also called on the Federal Government to immediately release the 10  arrrested innocent students of Gbaramatu kingdom.

“The meeting passed a vote of confidence in the Chief Boma Obuoforibo-led leadership of the Ijaw National Congress. We condemn the move to scrap the Nigerian Maritime University approved by the preceding Federal Government with temporary site at Kurutie and call for the immediate takeoff of the university,” the communique read in part.

“The non-inclusive policies of the present administration which has led to the alienation of some components of the federation, particularly the Ijaw nation, from the mainstream of national development. is noted. The meeting   calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to redress this ugly state of affairs, the communique read.

Meanwhile, Governor Dickson has said there is no need for more wars in the Niger Delta, as the matter is not for war-war but jaw-jaw.

Speaking after the meeting, Dickson remarked, “I am delighted that our leaders are thinking in that same direction. This meeting is like a prelude to a larger, more comprehensive Ijaw meeting of all our leaders that the government of Bayelsa State would host in no distant time.

“Our leaders, fathers and royal majesties of the Ijaw nation are gathered to show to Nigeria and the world that we indeed have leaders, people who can reason, organise our people and lead them on burning issues of the moment.”