By Emma Amaize
BENIN—IJAW people in Edo State, Monday, vowed not to relinquish what they described as their land and identity to the Benin ethnic group.
Admonishing the state government to halt what they called expropriation of Gelegelegbene, on the platform of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, they cautioned Governor Godwin Obaseki to avert an imminent crisis.
National President of the group, Austin Ozobo, in a statement, said the Ijaw would not mortgage their identity under any guise.
His words: “It will be better to retain the Ijaw identity in Edo State than trade it for a seaport with another man’s identity as such amounts to slavery.
“It is on record that the Benin monarch does not rule over Gelegelegbene community, its lands, rivers, forests, and other Edo-Ijaw in Edo State since time immemorial.
“Ijaw of Gelegelegbene community are from Olodiama kingdom. Others are from Egbema, Okomu, Gbaraun and Furupagha kingdoms. The Benin monarch has no sovereign rights to rename Gelegele seaport, as the location of the project did not fall within his kingdom.
‘’The powers of Oba of Benin end in Benin kingdom where he rules. He has no right to usurp the affairs of Ijaw kingdoms in the state. Therefore, allowing Governor Obaseki to rename Gelegele seaport with a Benin name amounts to slavery and it equally means conceding a part of Ijaw land to Benin.
“We want to re-emphasise that the Ijaw in Edo State are not Benin people, but bonafide Ijaw-speaking people. They have been where they are in the state for centuries. They were in the current Edo State before the arrival of the Benin migrants.
“They (Bini people) met Ijaw people at Gelegelegbene and begged for help to be ferried to the other side and out of magnanimity, we ferried them to where they are now. This is recorded in all the history books and it was affirmed by renowned Benin writers.
“However, there is a tendency that Benin migrants who escaped from Ile-Ife may have married Ijaw women from Gelegelegbene community and other Ijaw communities to have raised Benin kingdom as there is no historical record showing that the Yoruba fleeing migrants arrived in Gelegelegbene with a wife.
“What is expected, therefore, is that the Obaseki-led Edo State government should have direct dealings with Gelegelegbene, other Ijaw host communities and the various Ijaw monarchs where this seaport project is located.”