Pereotubo Oweilaemi Roland is the 7th President of The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide. He is also the President General of the Ethnic Nationalities in the Niger Delta. In this interview he tells OBI OTESIRI the genesis of the leadership crisis in the IYC even as he speaks on other topical issues relating to his office.
Who is really the President of IYC–between Eric Omare and PereotuboOweilaemi?
By the Special grace of God, I am the current President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC)Worldwide. I do not say this to gain cheap recognition neither do I say it to spite anybody. My confirmation as the 7th President of the Council is a product of resolution by Ijaw leaders who had taken pains to investigate the leadership quagmire that had enveloped the Council sometime this year.
How did you emerge as president of the council?
My emergence as the President of the IYC is the handiwork of God Almighty. When the tenure of the last President, Mr.UdengsEradiriwas about to expire in March this year, we all started to campaign for the various offices. Mr.Udengs, without following the due process, fixed the council election in January this year at a convention slated to hold in BurutuTownship on the 10th of January 2017. Majority of the aspirants, some members of his Executive Council and myself inclusive, protested against the Convention.
Against all wise counselling, he allowed the convention to hold in Burutuon the stated date.However, all the presidential aspirants, excluding Eric Omare, boycotted the convention, which nevertheless produced Eric Omare as the winner of the presidential election. Udengs’ Executive Council members became divided. Nine of them protested against the election. Only Eric Omare and Udengs were in the Exco that convened the convention.
The aggrieved Exco members convened another convention at Toru-Ebeni Town in Bayelsa State in that same January, this year.
Indeed, the crisis in the Council has attracted the attention of the Ijaw Youth leadership led by HRM Ateke Tom, AlhajiAsari-Dokubo, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, Hon. Felix Tuodolo, Elder T. K. Ogoriba, Chief Dan Ekpebide and a host of others. A leadership/Stakeholders meeting was held at Patani in Delta State wherein the leaders proposed that another enlargedconvention be held at Okirika in Rivers State to conduct another fresh election. All but Udengs and Omare agreed to the resolutions. In pursuance of the foregoing, election was fixed with electoral body set up to midwife the process.
Due to Omare’s indifference to the new arrangement, the deputy governor of Delta State, His Excellency, DCN Kingsley BurutuOtuaro intervened by calling another stakeholders’ meeting in Asaba to broker peace.
The deputy governor at the meeting prevailed on Omare to participate in the new election. Omare agreed to Otuaro’s plea. He confirmed his acceptance to participate in the election vide a newspaper publication in the Vanguard Newspaper.
Two days after the publication, he reneged on his acceptance and went to court in Yenagoa to stop the election. The election, which was slated on the 9th of April this year, was successfully held at Ibaka town,
Okirika in Rivers State and I became the winner of the presidential office in a keenly contested election.
We became two Presidents in the Council, Omare and I. The Bayelsa State governor, His Excellency, Rt Hon Henry Seriake Dickson having been concerned about the division in the IYC, constituted a high-powered fact-finding Committee of eminent personalities, headed by Chief Joshua Fomudoh as Chairman and Amb. BoladeiIgali as Secretary, with a mandate to find out who, between the two of us, is the authentic President. Both factions willingly appeared to present memoranda with our sureties to testify for us. The Committee submitted its findings to the Bayelsa State governor in May this year.
On May 31 this year, Governor Dickson took the Committee’s report to Abuja to see Chief Edwin Clark who unveiled the report in the presence of prominent Ijaw leaders, including Omare andmyselfand our supporters.
The Committee looked at the two conventions and concluded that the convention at Okirika, which produced me as the President, was the authentic one since it involved all the various factions and substantially complied with the IYC Constitution. It was the verdict of Ijaw leaders following their painstaking efforts to unearth the root causes of the crisis that engulfed the IYC and how I eventually emerged as President of the Council.
Do you enjoy the support of a cross-section of Ijaw youth and leaders? Who are these persons?
The answer is Capital YES. The Ijaw nation is behind me. All the three zones together with the Lagos and Abuja Chapters have duly recognised me as the President of the Council. The Ijaw leaders are also behind me.
I am in control of the Council Secretariat in Yenagoa, which is the seat of power of the IYC or the symbol of authority. Even as I am speaking with you, I am returning from my office in Yenagoa. That shows that the Ijaw nation is behind me. I don’t need to mention names but I can assure you that the Ijaw nation is behind me.
Was there any court legal obstacle/injunction that debarred your election?
No. There were pending matters in courts during the election but the courts refused to restrain the election. The matter is still in the courts in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States. All the Courts have not given verdicts yet.
We know there are cases in court regarding the IYC president; what is the situation legally regarding your election as at today?
Like as I said before, the court actions did not restrain me from contesting the election. If there were any restraining order, the whole world would have seen it. We can’t flout court order. Since there was no legal impediment to the conduct of the election, I can safely say that I am legally holding onto the mantle of leadership in the IYC.
How would you describe your emergence as the IYC president?
My emergence as the 7th IYC President, Worldwide is just the handiwork of God. It was a pyrrhic victory though worth celebrating. I congratulate every person that contested the office with me–those who supported me and those who were in my rivals’ camps. They all contributed to making it a success. In all, I give glory to God Almighty for He alone made it possible for me.
To me, there is no winner or loser in the election that produced me as the 7th IYC President. All persons who contested the election with me won. We won the election, the Ijaw nation won victory and unity and we are moving together.
What are your agenda for the organisation and for Ijaw people?
I want to make sure that the Council continuesropropagate the dreams of the founding fathers, uphold the vision and aspirations of Ijawyouth as encapsulated in the historic Kaiama Declaration, which is the grundnorm of the IYC.
To the Ijaw nation, my office is dedicated to the service of Ijaw man’s interest in the Nigerian federation. The IYC under my tenure will work in synergy with other regional organisations across the country to champion the cause of restructuring and true fiscal federalism, which is the demand of every Ijaw man.
The issues of de-balkanisation and political autonomy for the Ijaw people will be aggressively pursued in my government because the balkanised Ijaw people in Ondo, Edo and Akwa-Ibom States always dream to join their kith and kin in the core Ijaw States. To this end, we will recharge our causes to the demands for state creation, which will serve the Ijaw interest better in this country.
How would you ensure that there is a harmonious relationship between the IYC and other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta for the growth of the region?
Well, there is already a harmonious relationship between the IYC and other sister organisations in the Niger Delta. As the President-General of ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region, the task before me is how to maintain the existing peace between the various groups in order to achieve our common goal.
As far as I am concerned, all the ethnic organisations in the region are working on a united front and the unity of purpose has being helping us in our collective struggle for the emancipation of Niger Delta people from internal colonialism.
The achievements so far on our historic demands for a better environment are as a result of our new-found unity. My government will follow the same path of honour to continue from where my predecessors stopped. We will continue to leverage on our unity to achieve our desired ends.
What are your dreams for Ijaw people and by extension the Niger Delta region?
The dream I have for the Ijaw nation and by extension the entire Niger Delta region is to cross the Rubicon. That is, to cross the forbidden limit, which is the Maj. Isaac AdakaBoro’s promised “one more river to cross”.
That is only when the spirit of Boro and all our fallen heroes in the struggle will rest in peace. To this end, I will pursue vigorously the demands for resource control, true federalism, political autonomy and self-determination in addition to other pressing issues confronting the region.
As part of my dreams, the Council under my stewardship is working as a team with other ethnic groups in the region to build a strong regional force for the pursuit of our dream. We are also working in consonance with other regional groups across the country for the achievement of the popular demands for restructuring and true federalism.
To my primary constituency, which is the Ijaw nation, my government is working out modalities on how the army of our unemployed youths can be gainfully employed. To achieve this height, we have set up an Employment and Empowerment Committee, comprising eminent Ijawyouth across the length and breadth of the Ijaw nation.
The terms of reference for the committee among other things are to work out a policy framework in partnership with corporate bodies in the region and governments’ parastatals/agencies to generate employment opportunities for our teaming youth.
The committee is also to work out a self-employed scheme for our youths. Already, we have reached out to development partners in the region for the achievement of this objective. Various skills acquisition/empowerment schemes are already in the pipeline, which will be unleashed anytime soon.
How would you end this interview?
I will end the interview by calling on my Ijaw brothers and sisters to support us. We cannot achieve all that we mapped out without their tacit support. This government is on a call to duty and we are here to serve everybody’s interest. I also call on them to be law-abiding, while the constituted authorities tackle the issues of our common concerns.
As part of our vision to engender a conducive living environment for the Niger Delta people, especially to make us exercise some level of control over our resources, we are working in partnership with the federal government to secure licenses for the artisanal local refinery operators. We are not going to rest on our oars until the local refinery operators are lawfully engaged by the federal government in its modular refinery operations.
Lastly, we have been making inroads into some international bodies to externalise the environmental struggle by partnering with those international organisations to mount pressure on the federal government to stop outrightgas flaring in the region through legislative processes. We are also tackling the government and the oil companies to accept responsibility for the reckless and negligent spilling of crude oil in our environment, which has hitherto destroyed our biodiversity.
The Ogoni clean-up exercise and all other outstanding claims of spillages across the region are our priority and we are pursuing them vigorously.