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Diri harps on Ijaw unity as catalyst to development of N/Delta region

Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa has reemphasised the need for Ijaw people to embrace unity and speak with one voice to actualise their dreams and developmental aspirations.

Diri made the call at the weekend during a funeral service in honour of Nigeria’s pioneer Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Late Dr Mofia Tonjo-Akobo at Tombia Town in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers.

The position was contained in a statement issued on Sunday in Yenagoa, by Mr Doubara Atasi, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Bayelsa Deputy Governor.

Diri was represented at the event by his Deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.

The governor noted that the current realities in the country called for a more cohesive Ijaw nation where its people must work together to build on the achievements of their forebears.

He said although the Ijaw tribe is the fourth largest ethnic nationality in the country, not much has been achieved because of lack of unity and oneness of purpose in their pursuit for development and progress.

He explained that as riverine people whose survival largely depended on their marine environment, the Ijaws should adopt all necessary measures to oppose the National Water Resources Bill and other forms of oppression.

Acknowledging the contributions of the deceased towards the development of old Rivers State in particular and Nigeria in general, Diri described the late Tonjo-Akobo as “a great star who wrote his name on the sands of time.”

He decried the glaring absence of any federal government delegation at the former minister’s funeral service, describing the development as lack of appreciation and respect for not only the deceased; but for the entire Ijaw people.

“For us the Ijaw people, this is the time to live in unity and peace. More often than not, we talk about unity without preaching peace. There is no way we can have peace without unity.

“Unity is the foundation on which peace thrives. So, we use this opportunity to call on our brothers in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Lagos, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Lagos, Bayelsa and beyond to come together.

“Ijaw is the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria. But because of disunity among ourselves we have not been able to achieve much as a Nation.

“If today M. T. Akobo was to be from one of the major ethnic group, I am sure the federal government would have sent a delegation.

“But because he is an Ijaw, he is here lying alone without such honour.” He said.

While expressing condolences on behalf of himself, the government and the people of Bayelsa, Diri enjoined the Akobo family, the Tombia community and his friends to take solace in the fact that the deceased lived a life worthy of emulation.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Akobo was a founding member of Izon National Congress (INC) in 1991, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Movement for National Reformation (MNR) and the Union of Niger Delta (UND) among others.

He also served as Rivers Commissioner for Works (1972-1973); Commissioner for Economic Planning and Reconstruction (1973-1974); Commissioner for Finance (1975); Pioneer Minister of Petroleum and Energy (1975 – 1976); and Minister of Economic Planning and Development (1976-). (NAN)

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