Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Rapporteur and Co-Convener
On Occasion of the Warri Crisis Peace Conference
July 24, 1999
Howard University, Washington, DC
About a month or so ago now, after a particularly gruesome report of killings in Warri and its environs, Dr. Philip Ikomi, who I did not meet face-to-face until yesterday, sent out a plea on the Internet for dialogue among the Urhobo, Itsekiri and Ijaw abroad. He asked for a host site for such a conference in the Washington, DC area, whereupon I jumped at the opportunity and offered my services.
It was not completely for altruistic reasons. My mother is Itsekiri from Ikoro, Edo State, a vilage I hear that is also populated by Ijaws, Urhobos and Edo. Furthermore, all through my five years of university education at Ife, I had three room mates who were Urhobos, from the Sowho and Akpofure families. Last year, I was also privileged to speak at an Ijaw Congress meeting to which I was invited to Connecticut, where I met quite a number of individuals from that community.
Finally, in the past six years of pro-democracy activities, I have had occasion to interact with many of the leaders of the different communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is serious trouble in Warri, serious trouble in the Niger-Delta, and serious problems in Nigeria. However, none of these troubles and problems are insurmountable if we don't lose sight of the big picture always: the serious structural political problems within Nigeria, which permeate and percolate into the smaller communities within.
I hope that in these deliberations, we will always bear this in mind. The other fact which I wish to make before I end these welcoming remarks is that NONE of the problems in Warri is worth the ethnic nationalities killing each other for. As I always say, a dead Itsekiri, a dead Urhobo or a dead Ijaw is no longer Itsekiri, Urhobo or Ijaw: he or she is just a dead person.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the Chairman of this occasion, Captain