URHOBO HISTORICAL SOCIETY

OPENING REMARKS

by

Capt. Philip A. Ikomi, Ph.D.

Chairman and Convener



Honorable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me seize this opportunity to welcome you to the Warri Crisis Peace Congress at Howard University. When I made the call for a peace gathering my hope was that by bringing together the people involved we would be able to stop the blood letting. That you are here this morning is a clear testimony to the beginning of the fruition of that hope.

One of the reasons I made the call was that about a week before the call, I heard news of people outside Nigeria arming the combatants so that more slaughtering of innocent lives could take place. I was appalled by this development. Rather than do nothing about it, I chose to do something I made the call on the internet that we should hold this meeting. I thought that our people need not fight with one another. I thought there was no need to fight because we would be killing ourselves and we would be losers while our detractors have everything to gain while we fought. I remembered that this type of thing had happened before while I was in school. I could imagine the recurrence of pictures of people fleeing for dear life and being chased by soldiers and civilians that occurred during the riots of 1966 that led to the civil war of 1967-1970. Then I was in school in Okposi where the Federal Government had just opened a school to promote unity. In spite of the fact that the motto of the school was: "Pro Unitate", meaning "for unity", the Governor of the Eastern Provinces still insisted that we were not exempt from the order that non-Easterners should leave the East. That was how we left the East after watching the dramatic events in which Easterners were slaughtered in the North and the massive waves of refugees returning to the East. At our parting in those days, students from the East were crying for their colleagues from the West the North, Lagos, and the Mid-West, and vice-versa. The promotion of  unity was already taking effect. Thus my call was in reaction to memories such as these. I did not want people to be bereft of homes or to be killed just because they spoke languages in different accents. Accent was one of the distinguishing characteristics with which the Hausa-Fulani identified their Igbo victims and killed them. I had a feeling that our people who had been living for ages without crises as serious as this might have been induced to fight so that others who do not belong to the area can take advantage of the fight to rob them of their resources. I had the hope that since those of us here are not directly involved we would have the objectivity to see the real issues involved.

Hence we have chosen the goals of this congress to be to:

i. Achieve harmony among our people at home to ensure an immediate end to the present hostilities.

ii. To ensure a lasting peace in the long term.

iii. To help further the interests of all our people in the area by getting involved in processes that will lead to the betterment of our area.

a. In revenue allocation

b. In reduction of the impact of oil exploration and exploitation on our ecosystem

c. In the management of our towns, villages, and rivers.

It is our fervent hope that these goals will be achieved at this meeting.

I wish you all good, effective and cordial deliberations.


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