Former President Goodluck Jonathan, Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri and a former Military Administrator of old Rivers State and King of Brass Kingdom, Diette Spiff and other leaders have celebrated one of the founding fathers of the state, late King Geoffery Filinti Aganaba.
Diri used the opportunity to call for the creation of two additional homogeneous Ijaw states insisting that Ijaw ethnic nationality deserved more than one state.
They spoke at the 25th remembrance anniversary of the late king Aganaba in Yenagoa at the weekend
While Jonathan was represented by a former Deputy Governor of Bayelsa, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), Spiff was represented by King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom.
Jonathan appealed to Ijaw people to rally round one another describing the late Aganaba as a man with an exemplary lifestyle.
He said: “Succeeding generations will come and judge us with standards far higher than what we have now”.
“What Aganaba has done, you learn these things so that the children will know that these things are possible. Most of our children didn’t grow from home. They stayed in Lagos, they stayed in Abuja; so they don’t actually know.
“But it is by studying what people of this calibre of his time have done; the self sacrifices they have made to get us to this point that we can actually know that yes, we have a duty to this state.
“All of us have a duty to this state to ensure that this state get to a point that succeeding generations will come and judge us with standards far higher than what we have now. Things are changing, it is a computer age; they will scrutinize us. But if they do that, can you stand out? He, Aganaba, has actually passed that test”.
Diri, on his part, recalled that the founding fathers had requested for three states before the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, created Bayelsa.
Describing the Ijaw as the fourth largest ethnic nationality in the country, Diri lauded the late Aganaba for his contributions in the creation of Bayelsa but said it was not the end of the agitation for more Ijaw states.
He said: “The creation of Bayelsa State is not the end of it; it is indeed the beginning of it. We still have other two states that we proposed that have not been created and we must make that clear to the Nigerian government that the Ijaws are still craving for the creation of two additional homogenous Ijaw states.
“We are indisputably the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria but yet we have been balkanised into four, five states and in each of these states, the Ijaws have become minorities and I am sure that the new executive of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) will continue to take that as one of their battles that they will continue to fight and as your government, we will stand behind you to give you that support”.
Paying tributes to late King Aganaba, the governor described him as a man of peace, freedom fighter saying the late king sacrificed everything for Ijaw people.
He said: “For some of us in the history of our existence, we have never seen where a man dead for 25 years and the family gathered together and say we have to honour our father, our uncle; our brother.
“This man has touched lives, his legacy is speaking for him today. Not only was he the king of Kolokuma clan but this man was in the forefront of the liberation of the Ijaw people.
“He was that patriotic that his house in the old GRA became the centre of the meetings for the creation of states for the Ijaw people; not only Bayelsa as at that time. We proposed about three Ijaw homogenous states. We as the younger ones would also go there to become messengers; his own house and that of late Amaitari Zuofa.
“One of his greatest desire as I said was to see the birth of prosperous Ijaw states that will be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of states in Nigeria and as that time, he fought relentlessly, he left every other thing and became one of those who spoke and who stood for the creation of Bayelsa State.
“Today, most of us; governors, past and including myself serving, permanent secretaries, heads of service, speakers of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, members of the state House of Assembly, commissioners are all enjoying the sweats of people like Geoffery Filinti Aganaba. We cannot but honour and recognise our heroes past”.
Diri said his government established the policy of recognising and honouring Ijaw heroes saying it was the reason he named the Bayelsa media house after the great Ernest Ikoli.
He said: “And this policy will continue. We are consulting, we are compiling names of our heroes including Filinti Aganaba and we will continue to name and recognise our heroes past. Not only in the past, we will also recognise our heroes living.
“We cannot continue in disunity and acrimony, we cannot prosper when brothers are rising against brothers, we cannot prosper where petty jealousy are heightened to the point of wars. Our fathers fought wars to defend us and their territories.
“Today by God’s grace we have a territory of ours called Bayelsa State and we must all come together, put our hands together and work together to develop this state.”
In his opening remarks, the Chairman Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, HRM King (Dr) Dandeson Douglas Jaja JP, Amayanabo of Opobo observed that Bayelsa had been in the forefront of celebrating and recognising those, who contributed and fought for its creation.
He said: “Bayelsa State is taking a lead in this because from time to time, they remember that this state did not come by accident that people worked for it and they do the right thing by remembering them. I still know that there are those who fought for this state who are still alive, let us celebrate our heroes when they are alive and not when they die.
“King Geoffery Filinti Aganaba, the name alone tells a story, the name alone signifies a man who was born to liberate his people and he never looked back. In 1895, King Fredrick Koko fought a war with Britain. Apart from yearly celebration in Nembe, I wonder if there is any national or state celebration because that man fought a war and not a riot like the British historians will call it”.
Also, Diete-Spiff said that late King Aganaba was pivotal in the creation of Bayrlsa.
He said: “The late Aganaba was born at a time when it was difficult to go to school, when he took 28 days to get to Lagos by canoe and then later when he took three days to get to Lagos by engine boat. In spite of all these odds, he was able to make to primary school, secondary school and the university.
“He also has children numbered as many as 24 and all of them got to the level of getting university education and they are contributing to the development of this world in diverse fields.
“I am underscoring these facts because today there are people with two children, three children and non of them could go to school. If he never had the quality of children, I doubt if there would have been any event like this that is so pioneering”.