From Amos Okioma, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri has reemphasized the need for Ijaw people to embrace unity and speak with one voice to actualize their dreams and aspirations.
Governor 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 State.
Represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the Governor noted that the current realities in the country call 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.
As riverine people whose survival largely depends on their marine environment, Governor Diri reiterated his call on the Ijaws to take 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, the Bayelsa Chief Executive described the late Chief Tonjo-Akobo as “a great star who wrote his name on the marble 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.
His words; “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 an Ibo or Yoruba man, I am sure the Federal Government would have sent a delegation. If Akobo was to be an Hausa man, I believe the President would have been here himself. But because he is an Ijaw, he is here lying alone without such honour.”
While expressing condolences on behalf of himself, the Government and the people of Bayelsa State, Governor Diri enjoined the Akobo’s family, the Tombia community and his friends to take solace in the fact that the deceased lived a life worthy of emulation.
According to his biography, Chief Dr. Mofia 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 Rivers State as a 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-).