Francis Ebikefe Porbeni

   Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 18:31:36 -0400
   From: Francis Ebikefe Porbeni <feporben@unity.ncsu.edu>
   To: maluko@scs.howard.edu, Bawo_Ayomike@freddiemac.com,
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Since reading the piece by Professor Omo Omoruyi on Edowa State, I have been at a loss as to what could have motivated an experienced man of his grade to write such a shallow and highly inflammatory article. It is obvious that he has not taken the benefit of his sojourn in self-exile to critically assess some of his actions while he was in the corridors of power. In this particular matter, it seems to me his fantasy and subjectivity still dominates over the need for pragmatism and objectivity. Definitely, he is still basking in the aura of his close affiliation to the erstwhile dictator and despot,  Ibrahim B. Babagida..

Coming to the issues raised in Professor Omoruyi's article, he informs us that the need for Edowa State was "to save the Itsekiri from the 'ethnic cleansing' that was going on then [1991] in Warri area." In an earlier portion of his piece, he had written that it was "to save them from the "ethnic cleansing" that was in the offing then." This is quite interesting! Was there ethnic cleansing in Warri area then or now? Or was there an impending ethnic cleansing of any group in Warri area as at 1991?

First, it is important to understand and define the term ethnic cleansing. This term did not enter into the world vocabulary until the eruption of the Balkans in mid - 90's. So how come did "ethnic cleansing" become the favorite term to rationalize the creation of Edowa State by Omoruyi in 1991? Furthermore, ethnic cleansing is often used to describe crisis situations, when a larger and more dominant group militarily, politically, and economically executes a deliberate, systematic scheme to exterminate a less dominant group. Warri and its environs were not in any crisis then in 1991. Nor does the current crisis, vicious as it is, meet the criteria or proportion of ethnic cleansing. Professor Omo Omoruyi owes the Nigerian public an explanation concerning his allegation that there was "ethnic cleansing" in 1991 and proof that it is currently going on in the Niger Delta.

Dr. Omoruyi stated that "ethnic cleansing was in the offing then [1991]." The question from us to our dear professor becomes: with the knowledge of an impending ethnic cleansing why did he and the Itsekiri royal institution not alert the world? With such information today, I am benumbed that the Itsekiri establishment did not use its powerful media machinery to warn the nation of this impending bloodbath. Or can we assume that they began to plan for what has become the Warri crisis way back in 1991? This scenario supports media report (TELL # 19, May 1997, Page 12), of a well coordinated, premeditated attack by Itsekiris on prominent Ezon leaders in Warri metropolis starting from March 24, 1997. It is this action that is generally acknowledged as the flash point that triggered the orgy of mayhem and destruction that has bedeviled that region for the past two years. Perhaps, Professor Omoruyi would have more to tell us about this aspect of the crisis.

Another interesting aspect of Professor Omoruyi's piece is the way and manner he cherishes the need for consultation in the affairs that affects him, but he will not extend such simple courtesy to other folks who will be affected by his machinations. He seems to have taken strong exception to the fact that the Benin traditional council did not consult him or the entire Edo people on their objections to his pet project. Let us hear him on what he says of the Bini Chiefs. "They were said to be speaking on behalf of the Bini, and certainly not of the Edo people even though no one in Benin during that period was consulted about their opposition to the inclusion of the Itsekiri people in the projected Edo State to constitute the Edowa State". The curious thing to me is that Dr. Omoruyi did not think it necessary to bring this very important subject to the entire Itsekiri people, rather than only the aristocratic class. Or more importantly, did he and his cohorts seek the views and opinions of the leadership and populace of Ezons and Urhobos, the other main ethnic groups his disastrous plot would have affected? Not at all, to him and the Itsekiri leaders, these other groups do not matter. Herein lies one of the fundamental problems in that region. The Itsekiri elites will carouse with any power bloc that will help them achieve their narrow selfish interest, without regard on how their actions will affect other ethnic groups in the area. Can anyone imagine what would have become of Warri and its environs, if Delta State was created, and Warri Township is excised into Edo State? At least the "Evil Genius"  Ibrahim Babagida, in this case, knew a very bad plot when he saw one. Nobody begrudges the Itsekiri leadership in searching for the destiny of her people. But why create, unnecessarily, problems for other groups in that search for identity?

This leads one to another aspect in Professor Omoruyi's write-up. This is on the entire process of state creation. Being one of the architects of the never-ending transition program of Ibrahim Baagida, his article does not suggest that he tried to curb the excessive centripetal tendencies in our national politics - a situation which is at the core of the problem of our so-called federation. One would have expected our learned political science theorist to have advised his political benefactor, that rather than using federal dictatorial fiat, state creation should have been decided through a referendum by the people. That  process could have been a better foundation for building a more democratic society. But no, for him and his kind, state creation exercise must remain a juicy patronage-dishing scheme, satisfying inflated egos and sucking the very resources of the people that he is advocating to be protecting.

I will like to call on our learned professor to shed the devious past that he inherited from IBB regime and to challenge his intellect and come up with a more pragmatic and fair political structure for the Warri area, and indeed Nigeria. We need a structure whereby each group will fairly and equitably be treated, thereby existing in harmony without fear of domination by another group. This I can assure him will be a more enduring legacy of his contribution to the political development of Nigeria