Former President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday counselled aggrieved Niger Delta youths to embrace peace, saying it was the only means to usher in the needed development in the region.
Jonathan spoke when he visited the troubled Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, the hotbed of renewed militants’ activities in the Niger Delta.
The ex-President, whose visit was greeted with jubilation and excitement, also assured Nigerians that the problems facing the country, especially the dwindling economy, would soon be a thing of the past.
Jonathan was in Oporoza the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom for the official presentation of the staff of office to the Pere of Gbaramatu, His Royal Majesty, Oboro Gbaraun II.
The immediate past President appealed to all stakeholders in the region to embrace peace, noting that there could never be development in an atmosphere of crisis. Jonathan said, “At this period, there are challenges in the country; there are challenges in the Niger Delta; there are challenges in the kingdom, but all these are temporary.
Surely, the society will get over it. I believe Nigeria is still a great country and will continue to move on. The kingdom will succeed, the Niger Delta will succeed and Nigeria will succeed.
“The governor has given his charge, I don’t want to add more, but I always say there cannot be development without peace and the duty of every traditional ruler is to ensure that there is peace in his kingdom and you should be able to mobilise your sons and daughters for the social and economic development of the people and especially for Gbaramatu kingdom, where a lot of oil industry activities are going on, where you have people from all over the world coming to do one thing or the other.”
Also, the state Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, appealed for peace, lamenting that the continued destruction of pipelines had affected revenue generation in the country.
The governor, while presenting the staff of office to the 26th Gbaramatu monarch, said “I’m happy the Ijaw could put themselves together for an occasion like this. I look forward to a greater community of love, peace and development.
“It’s time to heal the wounds for the state to move forward. You have reasons to feel bad, but it’s also possible to carry out agitations through dialogue and non-violent manner. It’s time to embrace peace; forgive those who need to be forgiven. We need to partner others to move forward. I’ve come to plead with you to embrace peace. It’s time to think back and reconcile.”
However, in his welcome address, the spokesman for Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, lamented the unnecessary and incessant invasion of Gbaramtu communities by military operatives urging the Federal Government to accord the monarch the needed respect.
Gbenekama said, “Countless men, women, and children have lost their lives to these invasions. As chief security officer of the state, we plead with you to help reduce the presence of the military and stop the raids forthwith. We don’t deserve to die because oil was found in our land.”