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It was all fun and cultural displays, when Lagos branch of Isoko Development Union (IDU) celebrated Isoko Day 2016 in a move to uplift their culture. The event held at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, and it brought royal fathers, government functionaries, clerics, Isoko sons and daughters from home and the Diaspora to celebrate the rich culture of the people.
The Isoko are a distinct ethnic group made up of 19 clans under Isoko south and North local government areas. lsoko clans include; Aviara, Ellu, Emede, Emevor , Enwhe, Okpolo-Enwhe, Erowha, Umeh, Igbide, Irri, Iyede, Ofagbe, Oleh, Olomoro , Okpe, Owhe, Oyede, Ozoro and Uzere. All the clans were represented during the celebration. Everyone was gorgeously attired, with George wrappers, lace blouses and head gears for women, while men were decked in trendy bowler hats, wrappers and flowing native shirts of different colours, materials and designs, making the venue more attractive and inviting.
Traditional Isoko dancers were not left out of the festive mood. Other activities were the recitation of the National Anthem on Isoko language, march past of the 19 different Isoko unions with their flags, fire-eating dancers, food, clothes, designs, Isoko music among others. The cultural dances were energetic, electrifying and jaw-dropping and the choreography on point.
In his welcome address, President, Isoko Development Union (Lagos Branch), Comrade Awharota Frank Alordiah, pointed out that the event was not just for the celebration to display cultural dances and music, but to address some vital developmental challenges plaguing the Isoko nation. He also said it is about strengthening existing relationships among Isoko people worldwide.
He added that the union “encourages our hard-working and industrious lsoko people to continue to promote the values of integrity, peace, and love in all leadership levels they find themselves.” Alordiah maintained that that union’s desire is to see that the Isoko nation braces up for the developmental challenges in the region and to take measures to ensure prosperity for the benefit of the people. He noted that isoko people could no longer wait endlessly for government that has been non-existent, despite the enormous crude oil production from Isoko land since the 1950s.
Keynote speaker and teacher at University of Ilorin, Prof. Sam Aghalino, spoke on the theme ‘Niger-Delta Restiveness: The Way Forward’. He pointed out that at the onset of the oil industry, people of the Niger Delta bubbled with expectations, as they were enthusiastic regarding the prospects of the transformation of their region. The hope was robustly ignited by promises of gainful employment, provision of basic amenities, better quality of life and assurances of establishment of cottage industries to employ indigenes or locals. However, the oil industry made a dozen barrel promises, raised the expectation of the people to an unprecedented height, and this optimism brought out warm and convivial disposition of the people toward the oil firms.
”From reports and happenings over the years of the oil and gas activities,” he said, “gross poverty, under-development and insincerity of government and oil firm, oil spillages, environmental deterioration among others, bred room for restive youths and militancy, he said.”
The university don related the historical activities from the discovery of crude oil, military and civilian governments’ interventions, but he observed that Federal Government’s initiatives had been mere cosmetics and mere guilt–assuaging projects, which have not satisfied the yearnings of the people.
He suggested that government should address the issues causing the disaffection, saying restiveness and protests could only be arrested if the identified irregularities and perceived injustices were confronted headlong and redressed. Besides, physical infrastructure, Aghalino said there was need to develop and tackle the enormous topographical and ecological difficulties in the Niger Delta.
Guest speaker, Dr. Edward Ohore, charged the government, the private sector and individuals to embark on massive human capital development in the region to boost the Nigerian project. He pointed out that Ivrogho and Asaba–Ase ports could be easily developed into another Tin Can and Apapa Ports, adding, “the current situation of piping the gas all the way to Bonny for processing could be developed in the Ivrogho port for that purpose.”
The high point of the event was the awards given to prominent sons and daughters for their contributions to the development and unity of the Isoko. Among them were, retired Captain Dennis Osa, Chief Paul John Odhomor, Chief J.A.D Iboma, Chief (Mrs.) Janet Ofo and Barrister Sam Awere.