By Cletus Opukeme, Warri
The National Coordinator of Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, Chief Sheriff Mulade has unveiled the jerseys, trophies and medals for the Ijaw/Itsekiri Peace and Unity football tournament. The ceremony took place at the Africa 4 Peace Centre, headquarters of CEPEJ, Ugolo-Osubi near Warri, Delta State, on Wednesday, 26 October 2022, to mark the first anniversary of his late mother, Madam Ebikeseiye Timiyan Mulade. The Ijaw/Itsekiri Peace and Unity football tournament is a biannual competition sponsored by Comrade Mulade Sheriff to promote peaceful coexistence between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri ethnic groups in Warri LGAs and their environs in Delta State, as well as to attract development to the area. The unveiling ceremony was attended by the local organising committee members led by the Chairman of Delta State Football Association, DFA, Hon. Kenneth Nwaomucha, SSA to the Governor on Sports Development; ex-international footballers, Samuel Sodje and Christian Obodo, as well as community representatives from the 16 participating communities (eight each from Ijaw and Itsekiri) who all received free jerseys and footballs to prepare for the tournament which kicks off November 16, and climaxes December 3, 2022. Speaking after the unveiling, Chief Mulade Sheriff who is also the Ibe-Sorimowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom noted that the event was unique as it took place on the last Wednesday of October, exactly one year when he lost his beloved mother. He said that he decided to do it to mark her anniversary in order to promote peace as she encouraged him and his siblings to leave in and promote peace. He said there was no other better day to mark her one year anniversary than 26th October, 2022, as the programme was to promote peaceful coexistence and build on the existing peace being enjoyed by the two ethnic nationalities in Delta State. Chief Mulade added that the football event was also aimed at discovering talents among the youths for national and international sports competitions. He said first edition of the event was successful, the second was great, and, therefore, strongly believed that the third edition would be much better. He further noted that the Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities are critical stakeholders in Warri and Delta State at large, as the economic livewire of the state. He asserted that for the city of Warri to regain its lost glory and spring up with the needed development, all stakeholders must invest in promoting peace by participating in the football competition. He urged stakeholders who wish to assist in any way, not to hesitate to do so. He told stakeholders who want to support and promote peace and peaceful coexistence to participate in the event by helping to convey participants to the venues and encourage others to do same. The third edition of the Ijaw/Itsekiri Peace and Unity football tournament will kick-off on the 16th of November, 2022 at Benikrukru Town in Gbaramatu Kingdom (Ijaw) and end on the 3rd of December, 2022 at Ugborodo Town near Chevron Terminal Escravos (Itsekiri). The first prize is N1 million, second prize, N700,000k, and third place prize is N500,000k, plus many consolatory prizes. The highlight of the unveiling ceremony was the draws coordinated by the Secretary of Delta State Football Association (DFA) Mr. Ogbosi Azuka, to place the participating Ijaw and Itsekiri communities into groups for the tournament. The Itsekiri football teams are from Ogidigben, Ugborodo, Ebrohimi, Ubeji, Ode-Itsekiri, Oboghoro, Kolokolo, and Tebujakpa (Uwangue), while the Ijaw football teams are from Debiri, Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Ogbe-Ijoh, Benikrukru, Opuama/Polobubor, Kurutie and Ijaw community in NPA, Warri.