ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
The Ijaw and Niger Delta scholars and researchers have been urged to make deliberate and conscious efforts to document the issues that constitute the Niger Delta question in the Nigerian state.
Foremost Ijaw nation leader and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, made the call at the official public presentation of a book entitled, ‘Culture, Environment and The Niger Delta Question: A Festschrift in Honour of Prof. Benjamin Okaba’, the President of Ijaw National Congress, at the Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
He also challenged Ijaw and Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders to support projects and initiatives aimed at documenting the culture and the struggles of the people of the region for the benefit of younger generations.
The 486-page book with 35 chapters edited by Prof. Edet Abasiekong and Dr Raimi Lasisi, was written by 47 contributors, including academics, many of whom were mentored by Okaba, who is currently the Dean, School of Post-Graduate Studies at FUO.
Clark, represented by a former Nigeria Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, Boladei Igali, said: “Sometimes, people associate the Niger Delta with only oil but there is a lot to talk about the Niger Delta. I think there is a lot of study to be done on the region.
“Ijaw and Niger Delta leaders have to be more interested in funding a lot of research on the Niger Delta. We must be able to document and gather data and publish so that the younger ones can have what to fall back on. This is a wake up call for all of us.”
The elder statesman described Okaba as a great Ijaw man, noting that the book is “a wide kaleidoscope of knowledge” as it touches on all areas of the Niger Delta.
Also, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by a former Bayelsa State Commissioner for Education, Tobias James, while unveiling the book said that the INC president had made giant strides in his academic career and deserved the honour bestowed on him.
Also speaking, Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri who was represented by his Technical Adviser on Higher Education, Isaiah Stephen, praised Okaba for his scholarly attainment and recommended the book for all higher institutions.
In their separate remarks, the chairman on the occasion and monarch of Kala Ogoloma in Rivers State, Goddy Idikisime-Olunwa, and the Vice-Chancellor of FUO, Prof. Teddy Adias, represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Chris Onyema, said they were impressed by the activities of Okaba as a cerebral academic and activist.
“As a social ecologist, Prof. Okaba’s scholarship interrogates the undue suffering in the Niger Delta because of the extreme violation of the people’s environmental rights and environmental goods,” Adias stated.
On his own part, Okaba thanked the editors and contributors of the book for honouring him with a Festschrift, noting that “it is a demonstration of people’s acknowledgment of my little contribution by way of mentorship and tutorship.”
The INC boss said he was humbled by the recognition and celebration of his modest contribution in the areas of culture, environment and the Niger Delta question in theory and practice, adding that the honour would spur him to render more service to Ijaw land.