The Isoko people of Delta state, south south Nigeria have a chequered history of unfulfilled political aspiration caused by a litany of orchestrated betrayals by her neighbours and political allies.
In the colonial and post-colonial times, and up to the late 1950s, the Isokos were an integral part of the defunct Eastern Urhobo division / political bloc, the legacies and the accomplishments of the Isoko/ Urhobos as part of the defunct Western Region were sterling and showcased the bonds of true brotherhood that existed between them.
The creation of Midwest region, which wouldn’t have been possible but for the trail blazing leadership roles of the then Urhobo/ Isoko political leaders can be deemed to be the genesis of the bad belle that has eviscerated the once cordial and brotherly bond between both tribes.
One notable testament to the sterling accomplishments of that inspiring leadership was the establishment of a strong bond of camaraderie between both tribes, a bond that transcended ethnic differences to the extent that both tribes were considered as one indivisible people by other tribes.
But in the wake of the first premiership election after the creation of Midwestern region, Nnamdi Azikiwe leveraged on his leadership of the NCNC to gaslight the Urhobos to endorse his invidous plot of wanting Dennis Osadebe, his Igbo kinsman to be the first civilian premier of the newly created region as against the unanimous decision of majority of the Urhobo/ Isoko political leaders to project Chief James Ekpre Otobo for the premiership in exchange for the ceremonial office of governor which hitherto, existed side by side with that of the premiership.
That ignoble act of treachery from the Urhobo political class precipitated the division of Urhobo/ Isoko people into two distinct political blocs that do not side with each other in social political aspirations.
Thenceforth, these two tribes formerly united by fillial, cultural and linguistic bonds have been finding it difficult to rise above the petty rancour and political divisions orchestrated by carpetbaggers, fifth columnist and malicious outsiders to cause discord and thereafter, castrate the filial bonds between the urhobos and isokos.
There is the need for us to momentarily pause and embark on a holistic introspection and retrospection in order to scale the legacies of the unity era and post unity era and make comparisons on the debilitating effects of the extant irreconcilably acrimony/ political disengagement between the isoko and urhobo political blocs occasioned by the singular act of advertent or inadvertent betrayal of the isoko by a few prominent Urhobo politicians.
Nonetheless, a cursory perusal of how far the isokos have fared politically since the unfortunate split from the urhobos in the aftermath of the shenanigans of the first republic politics, in which the isoko were unjustly treated by their urhobo neighbors cum brothers will reveal the embarrassing shortchanging in fortunes which is still the lot of Isoko people since 1999 that birthed the current political dispensation.
Expectedly, the bitter feelings provoked by the betrayal of a quintessential isoko son –Chief James Ekpre Otobo, was principally responsible for Isoko political leaders joining and being core members of the three I’s a political alliance formed to project the political fortunes of the three dominant tribes — itsekiri, Ijaw, and Isoko, that make up Delta south senatorial zone, consciously or unconsciously undermining the fragments Urhobo Nationality in Warri South and Patani Local Government Councils.
A holistic examination of the lot of Isoko people in the new alliance with Itsekiri and Ijaw ethnic nationalities appear to negate the reasons that warranted isokos joining such alliance in the first place.
Same treachery the urhobos were deemed to have visited on the Isokos in the first republic, is still the same medicinal dose shoved down the throat of the Isoko nation by their new alliance partners in the three I’s.
Nothing has changed, the Isokos are still considered pawns by all and sundry in Delta state, irrespective of their commitments to enthroning and fostering unity amongst all ethnic groups in Delta state.
The treachery of the Urhobo political class which led to severance and parting of ways with their Isoko kith and kin in the defunct Eastern Urhobo division of Midwestern region is still rife in the type of political relationship that exist between the isokos and other contiguous tribes.
The highest office occupied by an Isoko man since 1999, is the one term speakership of the Delta State House of. Assembly, whereas the Ijaws have held sway as speaker for two terms, ditto for the Itsekiri nation in JFK Omatsone and elder Francis Megbele.
Furthermore, there is no office in Delta state in which an Isoko man has occupied which the Itsekiri and Ijaw man have not occupied on a comparative scale.
Meanwhile, the Itsekiri nation has produced a governor ditto for the Ijaw who have the present deputy governor. It is instructive to note, that these two exalted offices have not been occupied by an Isoko man.
In spite of these highlighted disproportionality in the political fortunes of the the three ethnic nationalities that make up the three I’s alliance under reference, Ijaw political leaders are greedily and hubristically still clamouring and posturing for the governorship of Delta State come 2023 in negation of the spirit of the three I’s alliance and common struggle for the betterment of the constituent tribes that make up the alliance.
Moreover, In the clamour by the Ijaws to produce the next governor of Delta state, they readily resort to a tenuous and fallacious argument of ethnic rotation which they gleefully bandy to their Isoko allies.
Yet, painfully, no single Isoko person has spoken on the affront of our Ijaws brothers to bamboozle other tribes in the alliance, especially the hapless isokos who are once again being subjected to supercilious arguments designed to hoodwink them into giving up their birthright for exalted offices.
Candidly speaking, this affront on the sensibilities of the Isoko people is premeditated and in bad faith. Hence, the isokos must rise up and rightfully claim their inheritance irrespective of whose ox is gored. As a true blooded isoko, i am perplexed to observe that my people seem unperturbed by our gradual descent into second fiddle.
Not one single isoko man or woman has raised objections to the Ijaws arrogating to themselves the imprimatur to gun for the governorship of Delta state without recourse and a discourse at the tables of the three I’s alliance. Such unilateral decisions from the Ijaws is akin to treachery and the usual backstabbing that has become the lot of the isokos in Delta state politics.
Paradoxically, I have noticed that it is even our former allies the urhobos who are pointing out the crass betrayals by our new allies the Ijaws, through various media write ups. Maybe, the urhobos want to make restitution for their betrayal and treachery to the isoko nation in the first republic.
Of particular interest to me was a write up titled ” Ijaw Governorship gambit in 2023.”
That altruistic action by an Urhobo political analyst speaks volume of the once salutary filial , cultural and linguistic bonds between Isoko and Urhobo people, which unfortunately, our knee jerk reaction to the treachery of the urhobos in the early 60s greatly denuded, leading to our breaking ranks with our Urhobo kith and kin.
Today, the isoko nation has been reduced to a state where we are content with crumbs from the masters table and occasional whimpering over glaring injustice meted on us on a daily basis. Ironically, we have continued to wail unabated over the alleged treachery of a few urhobo politicians in the politics of midwestern region, but, have adopted taciturnity to our abysmal plight in Delta state politics, where we have failed to whimper or even raise an eyelid to our continuous undermining by tribes who ordinarily should kowtow to us by dint of our numbers and sophistication .
With the kind of insults that the Isokos are daily subjected to in the political equation of Delta state, most rational beings will not hesitate to apply the brakes to review their political alliances and choose wisely the pathways to attain greatness.
I believe, the Urhobos our erstwhile kith and kin are poised to produce the next governor of Delta state, as such, necessity demands that the isokos must forge a mutually beneficial alliance with them and thenceforth, propel themselves to the apex of power in Delta state, instead of being constantly used as pawns to fight and oppose the urhobos.
Pitiably, we the vast majority of isokos, save for the political class don’t have anything tangible to show for years of siding other ethnic groups against the political aspirations of our former kinsmen, the urhobos. It is high time we do an introspection of our alliances, if need be, we must jettison our old ways that have stagnated our progress as a people.
The interest of the majority must override the selfish self centered interest of a few isoko sons and daughters who appropriate the little crumbs that accrue to the isoko nation into their private pockets.
In view of the aforesaid , it is the resolve of majority of apolitical isoko patriots that our political equation must change, progressive minded isokos , including yours truly and the legion of unemployed youths and young professionals are tired of fighting a covert war with our urhobo brothers, of which we know nothing about.
Therefore, we have decided to make peace with every tribe in Delta state and thereafter, engage other tribes in constructive networking to restore our pride of place in Delta State in particular and Nigerian in general
Prince Cogent Owhe,
Political Analyst/ Social Commentator