“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
-Emperor Haile Selassie.
Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State is in the twilight of his second term in office and the jostling for who succeeds him has begun in earnest. The jostling may not necessary be about whom the successor would be, even though some aspirations, despite not openly declared are more than obvious, but more-so, the battle at this time is about the where in the geo-polity the successor would come from. Several permutations ranging from the absurd to the macabre are being postulated by different interests in justification of primacy of succession, but herein only two are worthy of discourse, being, the issues of Upland/Riverine Dichotomy and the Senatorial rotation of the office of the Governor of the State.
Old Rivers State was created on the 27th of May 1967 from the then Eastern Region and further balkanized into Bayelsa and the present day Rivers State in 1996. Made up predominantly of Riverine Ijaws (Kalabari’s, Okrikans, Ibani’s, Andoni’s, etc) and the Upland (Ikwerre’s, Ogoni’s, Ekpeye, Etche, Oyigbo, Ogba’s etc). From inception, harmony, brotherhood and cooperation has been sustained through the efficacy and conscientious application and observation of the Upland/Riverine dichotomy principle in the allocation of socio-political and economic gains accruing to the State, as a balancing ideology to promote unity and discourage discord.
In our earlier treatise, we had incontrovertibly catalogued this trend of political engineering as handed down to us by the founding fathers of the State and which has been sustained as a vehicle for equitable distribution over time by all well meaning leaders. We had averred that since every senatorial zone in the State is fortuitously made up of both components, the sanctity of the principle cannot be violated by the dictates of senatorial rotation, which at best is an adjunct to the ingenuity of the Upland/Riverine dichotomy principle. Some erstwhile leaders who had tried to repudiate the principle had failed spectacularly and the budding revisionism borne of the myopia of inordinate ambition of an unconscionable few today, would fare no better.
For the avoidance of doubt let us intellectually examine how the principle has fared in the 4th Republic juxtaposed with the exigencies of the nascent senatorial rotation. And without being parochial and/or economic with the truth, determine whether justice, equity and fairness could or would be served; our amity preserved and promoted; and our heritage and posterity, united and progressive, if in 2015, due negligence and inattention to detail we consign the glue of our peaceful co-existence to extinction by promoting the election of another Upland Governor.
In 1999, when the West Senatorial zone was to produce the Governor, the Kalabari, though the largest homogenous ethnic group in the zone conceded the position to the Upland (Dr. Peter Odili) for the sake of equity and fairness, considering that the last occupant of Brick House, Chief Ada George is Riverine, and this was inspite of the fact that his tenure lasted less than 2 years. The Rivers East Senatorial zone in 2007 also produced Upland Governors (Sir Celestine Omehia and the incumbent Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi) both Ikwerre’s, presumably premised on the fact that hitherto the Riverine had produced back-to-back Governors and maybe because the only Riverine enclave in the senatorial zone, Okrika, produced the last but one Chief Executive, so no one begrudged them and the Riverine accepted this in good faith, even though this unprecedented act of chivalry will culminate in an unbroken 16 years in power to the Upland. Now, if we accede that in 2015, it is the turn of the South-East Senatorial zone, to complete the tripodial rotation, common sense and astute judgment, devoid of sentiments, demand that the Ogoni’s (the majority ethnic group in the zone) also, should in good faith and for justice, toe the sterling example of the Kalabari’s by conceding the exalted position to their Riverine neighbours. Anything short of this conscientious interplay of mutual accommodation may consign our togetherness to jeopardy, because it would amount to reckless insensitivity to consciously attempt to exclude the Riverine component of the State from the power matrix for 24 years. Res ipso loquitor!
Furthermore, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended) unequivocally in Chapter II, Section 14(4) states inter alia ….. “The composition of the Government of a State, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognize the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the federation” If we may ask, would Rivers State not be in violation and indeed in contravention of the spirit and letter of the constitution should the Ogoni’s insist on excluding and marginalizing the Riverine component of the State for 24 years? Even the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took a cue from the Federal Constitution when in Section 7(2) of the Party’s constitution it affirmed that “the Party shall adhere to the principles of zoning and rotation” and so it is applicable to most of the registered political Parties. Most States today and their out-going Governors tend to subscribe implicitly to this dictum, as can be gleaned from the public declarations of Governor’s Sullivan Chime of Enugu State; Peter Obi of Anambra State; and even our very own indomitable Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, amongst many others, whose unwavering commitment to ensuring that the egalitarian principles of justice and common-humanity are upheld to the greater glory of unity, amity and equity. Therefore, we dare say without apology, that only an uninformed and unreasonable person, impervious to the peaceful co-existence and co-habitation of the peoples of the State, who is pandering to selfishness and inordinate ambition can dispute the overarching imperative of a Riverine Governor for Rivers State come 2015?
It would not be inappropriate to mention here, that though some people, given to lascivious wantonry, may have chosen to stoke the fires of discord and whip up sentiments by equating the honourable and time tested Ogoni cause and struggle, with their primordial interests, many notable Ogonis of moral rectitude and inscrutable reputation, strongly assert that access to “Brick House” by one individual is not and cannot be the panacea to the degradation and dehumanization of Ogoniland and its people. We believe that it amounts to myopic self-aggrandization and indeed “Identity theft” to reduce such a globally acknowledged and applauded cause to personal ambition. It is also worthy to caution, that the present sabre rattling and threats of dire consequences, demeans rather than enhances, the quest for Governorship, since it will only inadvertently alienate many of us who consider ourselves lovers of the Ogoni. Let no one be deluded that any single ethnic nation can install itself Governor of Rivers State without the cooperation and collaboration of the other ethnic groupings.
It is pertinent to clarify, that MOSOP should not be overly agitated by comments and or proclamations from the Obuah led PDP faction, because no one, no matter how highly placed, or organization, be it GDI or by whatever name called, can impose or dictate who the next Governor of Rivers State would be, that prerogative is the will of God as would be expressed through the people of Rivers State. We are also seriously concerned that the present leadership of MOSOP is allowing its hallowed name to be drawn into partisan politics. This we believe is unfortunate and could not have happened under the erstwhile leadership. MOSOP should also appreciate and not arrogate to themselves, that the Ogoni’s alone inhabit the Rivers South East Senatorial zone, or are they automatic inheritors or overlords of the zone.
For these reasons, and to preserve, promote and protect our collective destiny, and the future of our posterity and heritage, we implore and encourage our compatriots of Upland extraction, especially our sun-crowned Ogoni brothers and sisters, who though eminently qualified and believe they are poised to actualize a long anticipated aspiration, to acknowledge that the vicissitudes of current political fortunes weighs precariously against their aspiration, if amity is to be preserved. The Ogoni like the Kalabari before them, need come to terms with the fact that though, along with the Ikwerre they represent the “Big Three” and have not been privileged to occupy the exalted position of Governor (with the exception of the Ikwerre), this is an esteemed sacrifice that must be made to the greater glory of our tomorrow as Rivers people with one destiny under God.
We are not unmindful and neither are we naïve to the great sacrifices the Ogoni like some other ethnic nations in Rivers State have made and continue to make, nor are we impervious to the perceptions the “our turn” mentality provokes, but we pride in the conviction that the Ogoni always does what is right, no matter the cost. Considering their emancipated enlightenment as espoused by Ogoni heroes past, from the eclectic Reverend Timothy Naakue Paul Birabi through the effervescent Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa, we are of the conviction that truth, astute judgment and good conscience will surely prevail. God bless Great Ogoni! God bless Rivers State.