IYC National President Barr, Roland Pereotubo Oweilaemi
Pereotubo Oweilaemi Roland is the 7th President of The Ijaw Youth Council, IYC Worldwide. He is also the President General of the ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta. In this interview With DAILY WATCH crew on the leadership crisis in the IYC and other topical issues relating to his office.
Who is really the President of IYC, the duo of Eric Omare and Pereotubo Oweilaemi are laying claim to it?
By the Special grace of God, I am the current President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Worldwide. I did not say this to gain cheap recognition neither do I say it to spite anybody. My confirmation as the 7th President of the Council is a product of resolution by Ijaw leaders who have taken pain to investigate the leadership quagmire that has enveloped the Council sometimes this year.
How did you emerge as president of the council?
My emergence as the President of the IYC is the handiwork of God Almighty. When the tenure of the last President, Mr. Udengs Eradiri getting to expire in March this year, we all started to Campaign for the various offices. Mr. Udengs without following the due process, fixed the Council election in January this year at a Convention slated to hold in Burutu township on the 10th of January 2017. Majority of the aspirants including myself and some members of his Exco protested against the Convention.
Against all wise counselling, he allowed the Convention to hold in Burutu at the stated date wherein all the Presidential aspirants excluding Eric Omare boycotted the Convention. The Convention produced Eric Omare as the winner of the Presidential election. Udengs’ Exco members became divided. Nine of them protested against the election. Only Eric Omare and Udengs were in the Exco that convened the Convention.
The aggrieved Exco members convened another Convention at Toru-Ebeni Town in Bayelsa State on that same January, this year. The crisis in the Council has attracted the attention of the Ijaw Youth leadership led by HRM Ateke Tom, Alhaji Asari-Dokubo, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, Hon. Felix Tuodolo, Elder T. K. Ogoriba, Chief Dan Ekpebide and a host of others. A leadership/Stakeholders meeting was held at Patani in Delta State wherein the leaders proposed that another enlarge Convention should be held at Okirika in Rivers State to conduct another fresh election. All but Udengs and Omare agreed to the resolutions. In pursuance of the foregoing, Election was fixed with electoral body set up to midwife the process.
Duo to Omare’s indifference to the new arrangement, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, DCN Kingsley Burutu Otuaro intervened by calling another stakeholders meeting in Asaba to broker peace. The Deputy Governor at the meeting prevailed on Omare to participate in the new election. Omare agreed to Otuaro’s plea. He confirmed his acceptance to participate in the election vide a newspaper publication in the Vanguard Newspaper. Two days after the publication, he reneged on his acceptance and went to court in Yenagoa to stop the election. The election which was slated on the 9th of April this year was successfully held at Ibaka town, Okirika in Rivers State and I became the winner of the Presidential office in a keenly contested election.
We became two Presidents in the Council, Omare and I. The Bayelsa State Governor, His Excellency, Rt Hon Henry Seriake Dickson having been concerned about the division in the IYC, constituted a high powered fact finding Committee of eminent personalities, headed by Chief Joshua Fomudoh as Chairman and Amb. Boladei Igali as Secretary whose mandate was to find out who between the two of us is the Authentic President. Both factions willingly appeared to present memoranda with our sureties to testify for us. The Committee submitted its findings to the
Bayelsa State Governor in May this year.
On the 31st of May, 2017, Governor Dickson took the Committee’s report to Chief Edwin Clark in Abuja who unveiled the report in the presence of prominent Ijaw leaders including myself and Eric Omare as well as our supporters.
The Committee looked at the two Conventions and concluded that the Convention at Okirika which produced me as the President was the authentic one since it involved all the various factions and substantially complied with the IYC Constitution. It was the verdict of Ijaw leaders on their painstaking efforts in findings the rudiment of the crisis that produced me as the President of the Council.
Do you enjoy the support of a cross-section of Ijaw youths and leaders, who are these persons?
The answer is Capital YES. The Ijaw nation is behind me. All the three zones together with the Lagos and Abuja Chapters have duly recognised me as the President of the Council. The Ijaw leaders are also behind me. I am in control of the Council Secretariat in Yenagoa which is the seat of power of the IYC or the symbol of authority. Even as I am speaking with you, I am returning from my office in Yenagoa. That shows that the Ijaw nation is behind me. I don’t need to mention names but I can assure you that the Ijaw nation is behind me.
Was there any court legal obstacle/injunction that debarred your election?
No. There were pending matters in Courts during the election but the Courts have refused to restrain the election. The matter is still in the Courts in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States. All the Courts have not given verdicts yet.
We know there are cases in court regarding the IYC president, what is the situation legally regarding your election as at today?
Like as I said before, the Courts actions did not restrain me from contesting the election. If there was any restraining order, the whole world would have seen it. We can’t flout Court order. Since there was no legal impediment to the conduct of the election, I can safely say that I am legally holding forte to the mantle of leadership in the IYC.
How do you see your emergence as the IYC president?
My emergence as the 7th IYC President, Worldwide is just the handiwork of God. It was a pyrhic victory though worth celebrating. I congratulate every person that contested the office with me. Those who supported me and those who were in my rival camps. They all contributed to make it a success. In all, I give glory to God Almighty for He alone has made it possible for me.
To me, there is no winner or loser in the election that produced me as the 7th IYC President. All persons contested the election with me won. We won the election, the Ijaw nation won victory and unity and we are moving together.
What are your agenda for the organisation and for Ijaw people?
My agenda for the Council is to continue propagate the dreams of the founding fathers, uphold the vision and aspirations of Ijaw Youth as encapsulated in the historic Kaiama Declaration which is the grund norm of the IYC.
To the Ijaw nation, my office is dedicated to the service of Ijaw man’s interest in the Nigerian federation. The IYC under my tenure will work in synergy with other regional Organisations across the country to champion the cause of restructuring and true fiscal federalism which is the demand for every Ijaw man.
The issues of debalkanisation and political autonomy for the Ijaw people will be aggressively pursued in my Government because the balkanised Ijaw people in Ondo, Edo and Akwa-Ibom States always dream to join their kiths and kins in the core Ijaw States. To this end, we will recharge our causes to the demands for state creation which will serve the Ijaw interest better in this country.
How would you ensure that there is a harmonious relationship between the IYC and other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta for the growth of the region?
Well, there is already a harmonious relationship between the IYC and other sister Organisations in the Niger Delta. As the President-General of ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta region, the task before me is how to maintain the existing peace between the various groups in order to achieve our common goal. As far as I am concerned, all the ethnic organisations in the region are working on a united front and the unity of purpose has being helping us in our collective struggle for the emancipation of Niger Delta people from the internal colonialism.
The achievements so far on our historic demands for a better environment are as a result of our new found unity. My Government will follow the same path of honour to continue from where my predecessors have stopped. We will continue to leverage on our unity to achieve our desired ends.
What is your dreams for Ijaw people and by extension the Niger Delta region?
The dream I have for the Ijaw nation and by extension the entire Niger Delta region is to cross the Rubicon. That is, to cross the forbidden limit which is the Maj. Isaac Adaka Boro’s promised “one more river to cross”. That is only when the spirit of Boro and all our falling heroes in the struggle will rest in peace. To this end, I will pursue vigorously the demands for resource control, true federalism, political autonomy and self-determination in addition to other pressing issues confronting the region.
As part of my dreams, the Council under my stewardship is working as a team with other ethnic groups in the region to build a strong regional force for the pursuit of our dream. We are also working in consonance with other regional groups across the Country for the achievement of the popular demands for restructuring and true federalism.
To my primary Constituency which is the Ijaw nation, my Government is working out modalities on how the army of our unemployed youths are gainfully employed. To achieve this height, we have set up an Employment and Empowerment Committee comprises of eminent Ijaw Youth across the length and breadth of the Ijaw nation. The terms of reference for the Committee among other things are to work out a policy framework in partnership with corporate bodies in the region and Governments’ parastatals/agencies to generate employment opportunities for our teaming youths.
The Committee is also to work out a self-employed scheme for our youths. Already, we have reached out to development partners in the region for the achievement of this objective. Various skills acquisition/empowerment schemes are already in the pipeline which will be unleashed anytime soon.
How would you end this interview?
I will end the interview by calling on my Ijaw brothers and sisters to support us. We cannot achieve all that we mapped out without their tacit supports. This Government is on a call to duty and we here to serve everybody’s interest. I also call on them to be law abiding, while the constituted authorities tackle the issues of our common concerns.
As part of our vision to engender a conducive living environment for the Niger Delta people, especially to make us exercise some level of control of our resources, we are working in partnership with the Federal Government to secure licenses for the artisanal Local refinery operators. We are not going to rest on our oars until the Local refinery operators are lawfully engaged by the Federal Government in its modular refinery operations.
Lastly, we have been making inroads into some international bodies to externalise the environmental struggle by partnering with those international organisations to mount pressure on the Federal Government to stop gas flaring outrightly in the region through legislative processes. We are also tackling the Government and the oil companies to accept responsibility of the reckless and negligent spilling of crude oil in our environment which has hitherto destroyed our biodiverscity.
The Ogoni clean-up exercise and all other outstanding claims of spillages across the region are our priority and we are pursuing them vigorously.