In this interview with Stanley Ugagbe of The News Chronicle, the Coordinator of Abuja Chapter of Isoko Reform Forum, Chief Ifoghale Ekinodo-Amaiyo shed insight on the goals of the organization and how it hopes to deliver transformational policies to the Isoko nation.
TNC: Thank you for accepting our interview invitation and well done for your efforts so far in making sure that the Abuja chapter of Isoko Reform Forum set the pace for other chapters. By way of introduction, can you briefly share with us what birthed the IRF?
CIE: Thank you for having me. I am a very proud Isoko boy from Bethel-Oyede in Isoko north Local Govt area of Delta state. IRF is Facebook based platform that brings together, ALL indigenes of the Isoko tribe. The major aim is to help address out not too acceptable ways of getting things done amongst us. My interactions with the Initiator of the group show clearly the reformation of some of our culture and possibly customs.
TNC: Before the emergence of IRF, there have been several Isoko Forums and very little have been achieved in terms of providing solutions to the issues of Isoko people. How is IRF different from other Isoko forums and how does it hope to set the pace for other forums?
CIE: Yes, there are various Isoko groups with the Social Media being the major driving force. My personal experience is that a lot of those groups have been politicized. This is my personal opinion though. In IRF, what we have tried to do differently is to create chapters/zones in different geopolitical areas of the federation and even abroad, such that the members of IRF in those locations can get to meet physically from time to time to resolve their issues. We believe that the physical meetings bring about proper interactions and face to face resolutions of the ways forward toward the reformation of our community.
TNC: Many a time, Isoko forums that spring up are compromised and so, they don’t see the light of the day. What is being done to ensure that IRF is not hijacked by the political class and compromised? Is IRF the messiah that Isoko people are looking for or they should wait for another?
CIE: Messiah is a strong word to describe what IRF is set to achieve. We are taking matters one at a time. We are aware of the possible hijack; we have thus resolved to register the body with the CAC- corporate affairs commission. The body will have a board of trustees that will be independent of the executive so as to properly guide them and not lose focus. The board is made up of people with diverse experience in different fields.
TNC: Among other goals, the IRF hopes to set the pace for the all round transformation of the Isoko nation. It’s almost a year since the platform was birthed, can you tell us some of the ways it has delivered on this mission and what is the platform currently doing to bring about this transformation to the Isoko people?
CIE: Changing people’s beliefs and ways to doing things is not easy. Like I said earlier, our interactions with one another has led to a great change in our personal lives as members of IRF. We intend to pass this to other Isoko indigenes that are non members. The perception of the old that we are all fetish is changing…A lot of the IRF members are people who were not born nor grew up in Isoko. Today they appreciate the dialect and the people.
TNC: Some authors are of the view that Isoko nation is about 58 years yet electricity, bad roads, etc are still major challenges in the environment. What is IRF doing to ensure that these issues are tackled in the nearest future?
CIE: Who are these Arthors exactly? How often do they come home? Electricity is a general problem in our clime. The Isoko situation is not different. Yes, there is electricity in isoko, though not as much as we desire it. We will lead the way for the request to the authorities to deploy pre-paid meters so as to get us pay for what we use. Also, for internals roads, Isoko roads are being fixed by either the oil agencies or the delta state govt.
TNC: It is a common belief that some Isoko youths have lost their political rights or senses to some Isoko self-centered and voracious politicians who have turned the youths to errand boys for selfish interests in the land. Like what we see at the national, this has led to the recycling of the same set of politicians in leadership positions. What is IRF doing to ensure that Isoko Youth redeem their voices and begin to demand their right and contest leadership positions?
CIE: We will hold seminars that will focus on sensitizing the youths and public on the need to vote wisely. The seminars will also focus on youth empowerment by way of skill acquisition. We believe if the youths are skilled, they will be able to fend for themselves and not be easily bought by corrupt politicians.
TNC: Even though there is a consensus to rotate the state’s governorship position among the various major ethnic groups in Delta (Isoko being regarded as the third major group), an Isoko person has never emerged as the governor of the state. Do you think this is a deliberate act to undermine the Isoko people and what is IRF doing to ensure that the nation is properly represented at all frontiers of the state?
CIE: The politicians amongst us will have reasons for these actions. IRF is not politically inclined right now.
TNC: Despite being a people of one ethnic group, in recent years, some Isoko communities have been at loggerhead; Igbide vs Emede, Igbide vs Ehwe, Oleh vs Ozoro, etc and so many bloods have been shared. Though there tend to be a truce at the moment, many people are afraid of uncertainties. What do you think can be done to ensure that communal wars become completely a thing of the past in Isoko?
CIE: These communities have members in IRF. The whole idea is to continue to foster unity amongst all Isoko. IRF is doing a good job at that through its zones/branches. In a very short time, it will have positive impact on the entire Isoko nation and there shall be no more community clashes.