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For the record: INAUGURAL SPEECH PRESENTED BY COMRADE OZOBO AUSTIN, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, IJAW PUBLISHERS FORUM (IPF)

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IPF National President Comrade Austin Ozobo

INAUGURAL SPEECH PRESENTED BY COMRADE OZOBO AUSTIN, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, IJAW PUBLISHERS FORUM (IPF) ON FEBRUARY 29, 2024

Your Excellencies, Senator Douye Diri, executive governor of Bayelsa State and Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, immediate past deputy governor of Delta State,

The chairman of today’s event, High Chief (Engr.) Kestin Ebimorbowei Pondi, Managing Director, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited;

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Special Guest of Honours, Rt. Hon. Emomotimi Dennis Guwor, Honourable Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly; Chief Favour Izoukumor, Executive Director of Social Services, DESOPADEC.

Father of the Day, High Chief (Dr.) Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, the Ebidouwei of Izon Nation

Royal Fathers of the Day, HRM Pere Stanley Luke-Kalanama VIII (JP), Pere of Akugbene-Mein Kingdom, and 1st Vice Chairman of Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers and HRM Couple Oromoni, Monbene III, Pere Ama-Okosu of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom, Delta State.

Guest of Honours: Chief Sylvester Oromoni, Special Adviser to the governor of Delta, Hon. Spencer Okpoye, Commissioner representing Ijaw Ethnic Nationality, DESOPADEC; Chief Boro Opudu, chairman Delta waterways and land Committee, Chief (Comr.) Sheriff Mulade, CEO, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ); Chief Michael Johnny, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Hon. Keyness Oromoni, Special Assistant to the governor of Delta State on oil and gas; Amb. Bolowei Ogoba, the CEO, Bolowei World’s Resort.

Ijaw Great Artists, the Grand Master, King Pereama Freetown, the Izon Numupere II and Chief Barrister Smooth, the Paddle of Niger Delta.

Other great personalities here present including men of the Fourth Estate, dogged rights activists, ladies and gentlemen.

I begin this brief inaugural speech by first, on behalf of my fellow executives and the registered members of this great Forum, offer our appreciation to you all as we are elated and honoured by your presence. I want to specially thank the chairman of this event, High Chief (Engr.) Kestin Ebimorbowei Pondi, the Managing Director of Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, Chief Sylvester Oromoni, Chief Sheriff Mulade, Hon. Keyness Oromoni, and other personalities for the massive support for making this inauguration ceremony a success. I appreciate everyone that is seated here for deeming it fit to honour our humble invitation despite their busy schedules.

Going forward, you will agree with me that the Ijaw Nation is in a dire need of a strong indigenous media presence to articulate its common challenges revolving around balkanization, deprivation, marginalization and internal slavery suffered by her people in the Niger Delta region. Not only that, the media, being the fourth estate of the realm, there is need for a strong and balanced Ijaw-based media that will aid the development of Ijaw Nation, reshaping Niger Delta’s intellectual struggle for the survival of our people and will stand as a check and balance for the activities of the government and other stakeholders in the region and the country at large.

The struggle for the freedom of our people are of phases. You will concord with me that in every phase of it, the media plays a lead role. Now, we have snowballed to ‘Intellectual Struggle’. In this era, the Ijaw Nation can only survive with a strong indigenous based media presence because most times the foreign media throws objectivity to the wind and are quick to defend their origins and the government of the day against the Ijaw Nation.

We believe that the story of the Ijaw man will be better narrated by Ijaw sons and daughters, considering how our common enemies manipulated the foreign media against the Ijaw people, leading to the continuous bombardment of Ijaw communities, killing of innocent people and our bravest comrades in the struggle.

The foreign media, without fear or favour, conspired and branded our freedom fighters as militants, kidnappers, sea-pirates, hostage takers and oil thieves. All these were to criminalise the struggle and weaken its prospects. We are agitators contrary to the ugly names the Ijaws are being branded by the foreign media. The criminalization of our struggle by foreign media reduced support from the international community for our freedom. These unethical and inimical colorations further created room for the genocidal attacks and massacre in Ijaw land. This is the reason we have not made great positive impacts in our struggle for justice and total freedom as Ijaws and the Niger Delta people.

There was a time, Ijaw lack completely personnel in the media space; our common enemies and neighbours seize the opportunity to write so many false histories about the Ijaw people and there was nobody to counter such negative narratives. You will also agree with me that some of such negative narratives against the Ijaw people are still affecting the Ijaw Nation to this day.

The emphasises is that, Yoruba has its media, Hausa has its media, Igbo has its media. Where is the place of Ijaw in the media as the fourth largest ethnic group in the country. The time has therefore come for the Ijaws to build its own media. This should be a collective interest of all Ijaw leaders and stakeholders. The foreign media that some of us are still celebrating today were not built overnight; they had their challenges but overcame them. I know there are challenges the Ijaw owned media houses are facing but we will surmount it with time. If we must keep the intellectual and other aspects of the struggle on, we must focus on support for our own media.

The Ijaw Publishers Forum, IPF, like other conventional media bodies has its objectives which include: promoting ethical standards and professionalism among Ijaw publishers, writers, among others; facilitating collaboration and information sharing among members; advocating for press freedom, transparency, and accountability; providing a platform for intellectual discourse, research, and development; encouraging literacy, creativity, and the preservation of Ijaw cultural heritage through publications; and organizing seminars, workshops, conferences, and other activities to enhance members’ skills and knowledge.

The Ijaw nation is now in a great need of volunteers in the media arena, and comrades in the intellectual struggle to build on the efforts of the founding fathers of our collective struggle. This brings in mind the contributions of our fallen heroes Major Adaka Boro and his Lieutenants. I remember Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni nine who were summarily executed for the struggle for the emancipation of their people. I remember Adagbabiriye of blessed memory, for his contributions and selfless sacrifices for the struggle. I commend Pa E. K. Clark for standing out at all times for the defence of the Niger Delta people. I remembered late DSP Diepreye Alamieyesigha for his uncommon efforts, I also commend our living legend, High Chief (Dr) Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo for his resilient and self-sacrifices alongside other comrades who lost their lives for the total emancipation of the Niger Delta.

I further commend Mujahid Asari Dokubo for his contributions and his men who lost their lives in the struggle. I remember John Togo, Akurusa, Aaron Bebenimibo, all of blessed memory. I commend Kingsley Kuku, Boyloaf, Africa, Maciver, Comrade Joseph Evah, Akio Briggs, Kemse Okoko, Spiff, Douglass, IYC , INC, and many others for their contributions. I also remember the Odi fallen heroes and others that were massacred in defence of their common heritage. I appeal that we observe a minute silence for our fallen heroes who have made us proud by paying the supreme price.

This speech can’t be completed without mentioning Late Ernest Okoli, the first Ijaw man to have established broadcast media and late Chris Gomorrai, the first Ijaw man who started print media, the Ijaw voice, I greet Preye Foh, Ekanpou Enewaridideke, Owei Lakemefa, Samuel Oyadongha and others.

You will agree with me that the struggle is better driven and well coordinated with the coming of Ijaw writers and Ijaw media presence in the recent times. There is already a check and balance for the foreign media. This has raised the bars of the intellectual struggle of the Ijaw people in recent times. Furthermore, Ijaw Nation should invest on the media, especially in this digital world in the 21st century. The media has many prospects for the teeming youths of Ijaw Nation; it educates and creates job opportunities for youths among others.

Frankly, Ijaw Publishers Forum has some challenges, we need office for the interim, thereafter permanent site Secretariat, official car for the office of the president, Coastal bus for the group, and other challenges of Ijaw media executives are lack of cameras, computer sets, office space and staffing due to the lack of support and funding. We equally need mainstream TV stations and media houses with sustained hardcopy daily prints. Our media practitioners still need advance training and retraining, all of these need funding and encouragement.

I therefore appeal to Ijaw leaders, private businessmen and political office holders to support and assist these Ijaw media volunteers and comrades to build a strong mainstream media and to stay in business. I also urge every well-meaning Ijaw leader to patronise and encourage the Ijaw publishers to provide the needed alliance for the Ijaw cause.

In conclusion, as the National President of the IPF, I promise to run an open policy. I will embrace team work, we will work on building a strong Ijaw owned mainstream media. We will undertake school outreach programmes, seminars, workshop, conferences and many more to create more awareness. We will maintain accountability, integrity and trust among members of the IPF and the general public.

I thank you for coming to this historic event. I know this marks the conceptualization and conscientization of the Ijaw intellectual struggle and the campaign for Ijaw based media. I prayed the good God who brought us here safely, should also take us back to our destinations safety.

Thanks and God bless us all, Amen.

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