A Vanguard Report By Sam Onwuemeodo,
December 7, 1999
BAYELSA State leaders of thought have called for the setting up of a judicial commission of enquiry to ascertain the truth over the invasion of Odi by soldiers.
At a press conference in Port Harcourt, yesterday leaders of the group, Dr Kimse Okoko noted that the invasion of Odi had failed if it was meant to intimidate the Ijaws, stating that should Nigeria split today, the Ijaws have the needed resources to build a nation of their own.
Dr. Okoko alleged that "we have met to deliberate on the presidentís illegal, unconstitutional and undeclared genocidal war in Odi in which Odi was completely razed to the ground and the inhabitants indiscriminately massacred by the rampaging federal occupation forces on the orders of Mr. President.
"We wish to painfully recall that the latest offensive by Mr. President against the Ijaw is coming as it is, just a few days after the wanton and alleged premeditated massacre of the Ijaws at Ajegunle by the combined forces of the OPC/Ilaje alliance.
"These two acts of aggression and barbarism against the Ijaw allegedly by the OPC/Ilaje/ Mr. President alliance dearly testify to the well scripted war plans of their sponsors to silence the Ijaws.
"The presidentís illegal and unconstitutional offensive
in Odi which must have been taken weeks to plan allegedly involving over
1,500 troops heavily armed with machine guns, armoured personnel
carriers, bullet proofs, Navy gun-posts, bazookas at the cost of $1.8 million
and N300 million began with the massive shelling of the tiny community
of Odi from Saturday, November 20 with
devastating genocidal consequences.
The town of Odi has allegedly been deliberately, systematically and completely razed down.
"Significantly and as if to underscore his active participation in the Odi crisis, Mr. President has refused to pay a visit to Odi to see the complete destruction of the town and the crime committed against the defenceless people of Odi allegedly by the troops he ordered to Odi. Even if he does not want to console the victims of the mayhem we wish to remind Mr. President that the Ijaws fought gallantly during the Nigerian civil war to keep Nigeria united.
"It is now clear that the invasion of Odi serves the twin functions of an effective weapon of intimidation of the Ijaws and the groundwork for the proposed declaration of state of emergency in Bayelsa State. In this, Mr. President was conscious of the fact that any state of emergency declared in Bayelsa State and the Odi invasion would be hard to justify since other worst flash points such as the near endemic lawlessness in Lagos State, the extensive and intensive destruction of lives and property following the ethnic war in Lagos, Shagamu and Kano, did not attract any threat to declare a state of emergency. The OPC was not even condemned by Mr. President.
"Given all of the above dangerous signals generated largely by Mr. President, we call on all well-meaning Nigerians to advise Mr. President to stop further provocative acts against the Ijaws for we cannot be cowed by any person or group in the country. We wish to remind Nigerians that we were never colonised but signed treaties, which are still with the colonial government which, recognised our territorial integrity. We will not succumb to any threat or pressure.
"We therefore call on Mr. President, in the interest of our nascent and fledging democratic experiment to stop his war of aggression against the Ijaws of the Niger Delta. If the invasion of Odi was intended to intimidate and force the Ijaws to submission, the policy has certainly failed, for we are untied more than ever before to pursue our just case.
"Meanwhile, we request that Mr. President should as a matter of utmost urgency, (1) immediately withdraw his occupation troops from Odi (2) provide badly needed relief materials to the innocent victims (3) to begin the process of rebuilding Odi to start the process of paying adequate compensation to the victims of his unholy and unconstitutional genocidal war; set up a judicial commission of inquiry to ascertain the true facts of Odi invasion, that Sovereign National Conference of all the ethnic nationalities in the country be called to restructure the Nigerian nation along the lines of true federation. For us Ijaw, the message from Mr. Presidentís war of aggression against us is clear. We are therefore, more determined than ever to press on for our self-determination. We must own and control our resources and pay appropriate taxes to the federal government for our survival as a people."