The Arogbo Ijaw Patriots have condemned in strong terms the imposition of the Oodua anthem on the Ijaw minority in Ondo State.
The group also criticised the state government for the use of the ethnic anthem in Yoruba for the conduct of a promotion examination for senior civil servants.
The group said in a statement on Tuesday that the State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu’s (SAN) attempt to foist an ethnic anthem on the Ijaws of Ondo State amounted to a flagrant violation of the rights of the Ijaw ethnic minority in Ondo State.
The statement was signed by the Coordinator and Secretary, Mr Fidelis Soriwei and Bibisa Kekemeke (Esq) respectively.
They recalled that Akeredolu via a memo titled ‘Adoption of Oduduwa Anthem in the Public Secondary Schools across Ondo State’, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ondo State Teaching Service Commission, Mr Tolu Adeyemi, on May 6, 2021, made it compulsory for the said anthem to be sung in all secondary schools in Ondo State.
The group said that it was absurd and rather disturbing that the Governor would make it compulsory for Oodua or ‘Ondo anthem’ (in Yoruba) to be sung in all secondary schools in the Ondo State where there are indigenous Ijaws.
The Coordinator and Secretary said that the Ijaws of Ondo State speak their own language in consonance with their distinct ethnicity as an Ijaw minority and would like to keep that identity.
They called on well meaning Nigerians to prevail on Akeredolu to respect the rights of the marginalized Arogbo Ijaws to a respectful and dignified existence in Ondo State as provided for by the constitution.
The group noted that Ondo State comprises of two ethnicities: The dominant Yoruba who occupy 17 local government areas and the minority Ijaws who occupy a local Government area of their own.
They lamented that the leadership of the Ondo State Civil Service took further steps in the abuse of the law to ask people including Arogbo Ijaws to sing the anthem in a promotion interview at the Governor’s Office Civil Service Matters.
They noted that Akeredolu, a senior lawyer of the ranking of SAN should display the expected consciousness on the need for fairness to note the fact that Ondo State is not like the homogenous South West State where every citizen is Yoruba.
They added that while the Ijaws are not opposed agitations of whatever form, they are alarmed by the brazen unfair, irresponsible expansionist attempt to make them assimilated Yoruba people.
According to them, their territory which became part of Ondo State in 1976 is not a vassal territory and shouldn’t be treated as such.
They called on the leadership of the Ijaw National Congress to intervene through its organs in the South West to avert further humiliation and oppression of the Arogbo Ijaws.
They also called on the Attorney General of the Federation and indeed all Nigerians of good conscience to prevail on Akeredolu to stop his disdainful treatment of the Ijaw minority in the state.