Angry reactions are trailing the nomination of delegates to the National Conference due to be inaugurated on March 17.
Yesterday, the Itsekiri in Delta State protested their exclusion from the conference, threatening secession if the situation was not redressed.
Meanwhile, Delta State government called for calm, describing the exclusion as an anomaly and being addressed.
â€œOur exclusion from the confab is the last straw and we are prepared to go out of Nigeriaâ€, an Itsekiri leader, Chief (Mrs) Rita Lori-Ogbebor, said.
Another Itsekiri leader, Mr Alex Eyengbo, decried the exclusion of his people from the conference as further marginalisation of his ethnic group by the federal, state and local governments.
Iwere Development Association (IDA), umbrella body for the Itsekiri, gave the federal, Delta and Edo State governments as well as South-south leaders 48 hours, from yesterday, to reverse â€œthe monumental injusticeâ€ done to the Itsekiri. President, Itsekiri National Youth Council (INYC), Mr David Tonwe, echoed his peopleâ€™s sentiment.
â€œWe woke up yesterday, the 7th of March, 2014 to find that no Itsekiri name was among the delegates attending the confab. This means the interest of the Itsekiri man or woman is not important in the scheme of this country, â€œ Lori-Ogbebor told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday.
She went on: â€œWe are not surprised because this shameless subjugation and marginalisation of the Itsekiri people have been with us for many years due to extreme jealousy.
â€œThe Itsekiri nation has been in existence for over 700 years. Our Chief Dore Numa representing the Olu of Warri was one of those who signed the amalgamation treaty in 1914.
â€œIf the Itsekiri nation was recognized as a nation in 1914, how come that the Itsekiri canot have a say today in the structural review of this country that will bring us peace. Let nobody be deceived. Whether you like it or not, Itsekiri, as a nation, contributes more than any nation to our revenue-in oil and gas.
â€œThe Itsekiri are pained. We have endured this marginalisation and subjugation for too long. We also want to note that it is only the Itsekiris that can choose their representatives. It is our right and no one can take it from us. The people around us have sworn to make our life miserable. They have taken our lands. Our exclusion from the confab is the last straw and we are prepared to go out of Nigeriaâ€.
Eyengho, spokesman of the Itsekiri Consultative Forum, ICF, said the non inclusion of Itsekiri in the list of delegates for the National Conference was a further marginalization of the ethnic group by the federal, state and local governments.
Eyengho told Sunday Vanguard, â€œI have looked at all the categories for the appointing of delegates, whether traditional rulers, professionals, ex military officers, etc, and I do not see the yardstick why no Itsekiri person was picked.
â€The question many are asking is if no competent Itsekiri man and woman was found in all the categories to be at the conference. We are shocked that the Olu of Warri, who is a first class monarch in this country was not found to be qualifiedâ€.
A communiquÃ© released after an emergency meeting of IDU, yesterday, and signed by its President, Comrade Omolubi Newuwumi and Comrade Agbateyiniro Wehinmi, Secretary respectively, said they rejected the list of delegates released for the proposed conference.
It condemned the situation where other ethnic nationalities were qualified to have 20 slots in the conference but the Itsekiri with its avalanche of natural, human and capital endowments was not qualified to have a single delegate from the Federal Government, Delta State or Edo.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard in a phone chat, yesterday, David Tonwe said the exclusion of the Itsekiri from the National Conference was the manifestation of index of hatred and oppression against the Itsekiri as now exhibited by the Federal and Delta State Governments even as the National President, Itsekiri Development Congress (IDC), Mr. Emma Okotie-Eboh, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to revisit the list of the delegates for the National Conference with a view to including the Itsekiri, saying it was regrettable that none of their kinsmen made the list.
Tonwe wondered why the Itsekiri, from whose lands about 35 per cent of Nigeriaâ€™s oil production is extracted from, â€œcould be excluded from such an all important conference billed to discuss such contentious issues like â€˜resources controlâ€™, â€˜revenue allocationâ€™, fiscal federalism, etc.â€ He added, â€œThis totally unacceptable and the Itsekiri will not relent until this deliberate evil is corrected.â€
Okotie-Eboh, the IDC National President, said the Itsekiri have credible men and women that can represent Nigeria at any level globally, saying it was so painful that the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse 11, a first class traditional ruler recognised by government, was not even included in the list of the traditional rulers to attend the National Conference.
Mr. Tunde Okorodudu, an Itsekiri leader, also said, yesterday, that the Itsekiri was very sad that no delegate was selected from the ethnic group to the National Conference. Delta State Government, in a reaction, yesterday, said the non-inclusion of Itsekiri among delegates to the National Conference was an anomaly being addressed and therefore called for calm. The state government, in a statement, said the name of a prominent Itsekiri, Chief Isaac Jemide, was submitted to the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government and was receipted and also acknowledged just as a follow up contact confirmed the inclusion of the name.