By OLA JAMES
Comrade Austin Ozobo is the National President of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative (IPDI). In this interview with OLA JAMES, he spoke on sundry issues. Excerpts:
Your fight for the emancipation of Ijaw ethinic nationality seems not to be yielding results. Do you hope to drop the struggle soon?
I will continue to fight for the liberation of Ijaw, the fourth largest ethnic group in the country and the Niger Delta region. It is a known fact that Niger Delta is the sustenance of the entire country, but there is nothing on ground to show for it.
Are you doing this for political office?
I am from Ayakoromo community in Burutu Local Government area of Delta State. I am angling to contest for the Delta State House of Assembly to represent Burutu North constituency.
Why do you want to contest?
I am really coming on board because there had not been an effective representation in my area. Unfortunately, the person presently representing the area is not doing anything to improve the lots of people, hence I am anxious to go there and wipe away tears from the face of my people; infact the people have been relegated to the background; so, I am appealing to my people to consider my candidacy.
What do you know about Ijaw nation?
Ijaw is the fourth largest ethnic group in the country and she produces the buck of the economic wealth of this nation, sadly, the hen that lays the golden egg is being treated like second class citizen. Apart from being a peaceful ethnic nationality, we have produced the president of this country in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Above all, we are always at peace with our neighbours because we are accommodating too.
What is your view on the Maritime University at Okerenkoko?
We are glad that after a long battle the university has come to be a reality. It is our joy that the Federal Government had since approved it and workers had been recruited for the take-off of the school tentatively April this year.Infact, we are extremely grateful to God and Federal Government for accepting our prayers. However, we are hoping that in April everything will be in place.
How do you see the call by the Itsekiri that where the university is located is called Okerenghigho not Okerenkoko and that they own the land?
t is funny that some people are coming to foment trouble at this point in time, instead of coming together to develop the area. It should be known to everybody that the school is not owned by Ijaw rather, it belongs to all Nigerians. However,that argument is not an issue and should be discarded; infact that land called Okerenkoko is owned by Ijaw and not itsekiri.
At the time the land was acquired, the Itsekiris never raised any motion against it but how come it is now they are trying to disorganise the laudable objective. I regard all these issues as diversionary attitude. My gospel is that the Itsekiri should embrace peace and regard the Ijaw as their brothers and neighbours. We should not be jealous over the development coming to our area, because we are very close, we inter-marry, infact we have everything in common. No need to antagonise each other, rather we should discard sentiment and see ourselves as one entity.
What advice do you have for the militants who are warming up for another round of crisis?
Of a truth, Federal Government is not doing well. For instance, the 16-point agenda given by PANDEF to Federal Government had been abandoned; government is not doing anything about it; the university is one of the 16-point agenda. Sadly, nothing has been done about it. Actually, militants have come to understand that the only language the Federal Government understands is militancy and destruction of oil pipelines and facilities hence they are now coming out.
My candid advice is that government should do well to develop the Niger Delta region and the sufferings of oil-bearing communities be reduced drastically. Above all, the continuous relegation of the people is the cause of the un-ending crisis.
Unfortunately, our environment is badly polluted even more than the problem in Ogoni land. I want to at this point advice the Federal Government not to abandon the region again and the mili-tants should thread with caution. Even, the vice president’s statement directing oil companies to relocate their headquarters to the Niger Delta had not been carried out, infact everything is at a standstill.
What is your reaction to the plans to create cattle colonies across the country?
We were once colonised by the British and our forefathers fought very hard to liberate the country but imagine somebody or persons are now saying that we should be re-colonised by cattle; infact, it sounds very funny and unfortunate. I wouldn’t even allow another person to colonise me talk-less of cattle to colonise human beings. Let me tell the proponent of this uncivilised issue that creating cattle colony in the Niger Delta will not work.
The people of the area can never be colonised by anybody, cow or cattle. Infact, any herdsmen who prove to be stubborn should be dealt with because our people cannot be colonised by cow or cattle. If I may ask, is cattle business more lucrative than any other business in the country? I find it as an attempt to cow the people of the area by selfish politicians who want to achieve their purpose in 2019 general elections.
I advise governors from the region not to allow cattle colonies in their respective states; it is a taboo which should not be tolerated. Imagine the mass killings of innocent persons by herders and I believe that we have no choice than to defend ourselves.
Do you support the idea of State Police?
Yes, I support it because the situation at this point shows that Federal Police can no longer guarantee the safety of the lives of our people. So, it has come to a point for everybody, communities and various bodies to provide security for themselves. For instance, the Federal Government and politicians will always use the Federal Police to intimidate and torture any opposition, so, I support State Police.