Wabiye Idoniboyeobu is an activist and one of those aspiring to be president of a frontline pressure group in the Niger Delta, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC). In this interview with journalists, he speaks about critical issues affecting the Ijaw nation over the years. HENRY TYOHEMBA was there for LEADERSHIP.
As a somewhat influential group, politicians now court the IYC which makes the platform seem like one that isn’t interested in service but eager to court favour of government. How do you react to this?
It is true the IYC has occasionally been political maneuvered; but so have all other groups in the country at some point in their existence. Politicians even take their gimmicks into religious bodies. That is a problem Nigeria is still trying to solve. A leadership that is focused on the welfare and upliftment of its people, will never derail.
Though I am perceived to be an underdog, with no political feathers, my nest is full of feathers gotten from my cordial relationships, self-development and personal achievements, no matter how little. I don’t see winning the presidency of the IYC as a personal achievement; I see it as a task to help write history. The IYC shouldn’t be a platform to build for future political ambitions. If it is, then every decision of the president would be political and self-serving. This will take the president higher but leave the Ijaw nation stagnant. That is not me. I am here to serve my people and that I will do without fear or favor
The Ijaw nation spreads beyond the Niger Delta to even riverine areas in South-west states. How do you intend to forge common unity?
The easiest way to promote unity is to develop a common goal. A goal that will benefit everyone. Unity is two ways: something has to attract the unity and someone has to be attracted to the unity. The only way to do this is to focus more on what unites us.
The Ijaw people are unique people and wherever we are found, from the creeks of Arogbo in Ondo State to the Olodiama Kingdom in Edo State, we are one and the same. Our rich cultural heritage is one of our major similarities. Focus on this center attractive ideas around it and Ijaws from all corners will key in without sentiments.
There was this accusation that former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan turned a national mandate to serve the narrow interest of the Ijaw nation. Do you agree?
President Johnathan was a nationalist. As good as this may sound, it haunts him till date. We must understand that the Nigerian-state has so many interests and as a Nigerian president you immediately cease to be an Ijaw man. This, President Jonathan did. I remember when the former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi was squaring up to the then president, many used it for their political gains but at the end both men agreed to disagree.
As brothers we must learn to work together, accept criticism and be committed to join hands with like minds to move the Ijaw nation forward. As a Kalabari man, I am in this race because I want to push the Ijaw nation forward, not the Kalabari clan. The successful growth of the Ijaws will in turn reflect on my Kalabari people. This applies to the country at large.
Jonathan focused on the mandate given to him, but the previous years of neglect and oppression meted at the Ijaw people made us blind to the reality and we overwhelmed the former president with our expectations. If he did what you are claiming, we would have completed East West Road and a fully functional Kalabari link road by now. None of these are here.
Do you share the view of those who say agencies like NDDC have lost focus in addressing needs of oil producing states? For me, I don’t think the problem is the focus of these agencies. I believe it’s our focus as a people that needs questioning. Within the last two decades, the NDDC has been run by various leaderships. These individuals and their advisers are picked from within us. If after years of reshuffling and trying various opinions, the NDDC is still proud of 1Km roads, Water Hyacinth Jobs and stranded students in overseas institutions; that is the misplaced focus of we as a people. The choices and ideas came from within us. A leadership is a reflection of the people. We as a people have to start this purge from within. There lies the problem and the solution.
Why are you in the race for the leadership of the IYC? The real question should be why shouldn’t I be in the race?
For clarity, I will start by reminding you that the Ijaw Youth Council, as the name implies is a pressure group of Ijaw youths from around the world. The group was set up to coordinate the struggle of the Ijaw people for self- determination and justice. This has been the driving force of the group for years. Though we have achieved a lot since the group’s inception in 1998, a lot more can be achieved if we put a little more focus on our intellectual strength. If properly nurtured and managed, the IYC could rise to be a global voice. The Ijaw nation has been blessed beyond comprehension. Not just with oil, but with fertile land, rich aquatic life and most important of all, a strong and resourceful people. Most of our resources have been bastardized due to the nation’s over dependence on our oil. This has broken us into pieces, economically, politically and even socially. It is time to remind the world that the Ijaw nation has much more than oil. This is what motivated me to join the race. I believe we Ijaw youths have not started harnessing our potentials. We have so much intellectual resources at our disposal, but we choose to be used as political pawns. It is time to change that. I want to join the thousands of Ijaw youths, who want a refined, organised representation to fight for it. I do not only want to fight for it, I want to be part of it.