From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri has fired back at the Arewa Youth Consultative Movement (AYCM), which criticised his comments by comparing the oil spill on Oil Mining License (OML) 29 Well One at Santa Barbara, South field in Nembe, Bayelsa State to the April 2010 Deepwater horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Diri in his remarks at the All Ijaw Summit with the theme: “The Nigerian State and the Ijaw Question,” held on Saturday at the Ijaw House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, took a swipe at the Arewa youths, noting that they are ignorant of happenings in the Niger Delta region.
According to him, he must not be a petroleum engineer before he would stand up to defend the territory and the people of Bayelsa State.
“For me they (Arewa) youths are not only opposing me, but opposing Bayelsa and the Ijaw nation. I have never played politics with the health of our people. I have never played politics with the development of our people. If Arewa youths think what I said is to over politicise the situation in Nembe, then I want to believe that Nigeria and, indeed, Arewa youths are the most ignorant people of what is happening in the Niger Delta.
“Merely presupposing that the governor is not a petroleum engineer, I don’t need to be a petroleum engineer to defend my people. If they have forgotten that our own president of the country is also not a petroleum engineer and he is the president of Nigeria. That I am only a political scientist; yes, I accept that I am a political scientist, and an educationist. And I have been elected to defend the territory and the people of Bayelsa State.”
Speaking on other issues, Diri said that he was concerned about the continued exploitation of oil in Ijaw land and the dangers faced by the people.
“One of the issues I am deeply concerned about is the delinquent exploitation and mining of oil and the grave harm being done to our communities, livelihoods, and innocent lives being needlessly sacrificed on the altar of gold,” he said.
He, therefore, called on Ijaw leaders to stand in solidarity with the people, “who are in imminent danger of extinction” to impose stringent ethical responsibility on oil exploration companies.
The President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof Benjamin Okaba said that the Ijaw people are at crossroads over their maltreatment in Nigeria and need to chart a common direction.
Foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Kaigbodo Clark, chairman, Board of Trustees of INC, while noting that he would not stop talking until Ijaw people get justice challenged elected Ijaw members in the National Assembly to rise up and put issues affecting the Ijaw people on the front burner.