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Insights - Uncategorized - December 22, 2022

Nigeria and the question of indigeneship

The journey to adulthood often laden with rough paths which pose great challenges to the destiny of individuals and a people in a given environment. To a large extent, situation and events within a given clime determine the rate of growth and development in the area. This singular reason has been a determining factor in the varied rate of growth and development between one society and the other.

In Nigeria , it is common knowledge that the foundation of our unity was wrongly laid from the outset . From the time of the country’s independence till date, Nigerians have grappled with various challenges that tested their resolve to stick to the unity that was foisted on them in 1914 by British authorities.

Till date, we have all been managing situations and developments which in some other parts of the world would have torn the people apart. Developments that led to the dismemberment of the former Soviet Union and the crises that tore the  old Yugoslavia apart  are still fresh in our minds, but none of those issues were  as thorny as some challenges that Nigerians have weathered, yet, we are still marching on gallantly . Nigerians deserve every commendation for their resilience and love for their country . I have always held the view that  the Nigerian spirit is worth recommending to the rest of the world.

A distinction must however be made here between the spirit that says we can do it despite the odds and that which invokes treachery and selective judgments on issues of national interest depending on the side of the divide one is coming from. It is common with us for people to adopt positions that suit their ethnic, tribal and state interests while looking at issues of national unity, integration , religion and development . As a result , issues that should have been addressee dispassionately and nipped in the bud are often parried depending on whose interests are protected or hurt in a given circumstance .

Painfully , we do not seem to have learnt anything from our past. We fought s devastating 30 months civil war, suffered so much loss in the international community on account of wrong decisions taken by erstwhile military rulers who annulled an election that was adjudged the freest and most credible in the history of our existence as a nation .  innocent people including a one-time serving Attorney –General , are known to have been murdered in cold blood and their killers were not found , yet noting happened and Nigerians are still moving on as if nothing really maters.

Today, militant groups under various covers are killing and maiming , they dictate the terms and condition for negotiation  and settlements, and governments pander to their whims , in the face of all these, some people shout and scream at some occurrences of lesser gravity especially when it doesn’t affect them directly , the same people that may have down played major  issues that would pose catastrophic consequences to the unity of our country . Nigerians could make excellent grades in contemporary studies in selective judgments and appraisals. I love this country  and admire the doggedness of her people. There is certainly no other place on the face of the earth like my dear country.

Nigerian leaders over the years have played the ostrich with crucial issues that bother on the liberty of the citizens and harmonious co-existence of the people . Nigerians should rise and tell themselves the truth about certain errors that have been swept under the carpet since the early 1950s.

It is incontrovertible that the issue of indigeneship or ones place of origin , first came to national limelight during the infamous carpet crossing at the then Western Regional Assembly  which gave the then Action Group automatic majority that enabled the party from the government in that region to the disadvantage of the NCNC that had earlier won the election by unaltered mandate of the people . The only consideration that led to  that infamous act was that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe of the NCNC was none indigenous of the Yoruba Nation while Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group was Omo Oduduwa. The will and honest desire of the people to live together as expressed through the ballot box, was willfully subverted , yet nobody saw its far reaching consequences which contributed to where we are today.

What should have formed the basis of a true united and indivisible Nigeria where all men irrespective of ethnicity , background colour, religion and creed, would have enjoyed true liberty and had equal access to their common heritage , was subverted through coercion and indoctrination by political leaders at the time . Unfortunately, no Nigeria leader ever since , has deemed it fit to address this monster , rather, everyone embarks on buck pass whenever matters arise from that wrong foundation . Calls by well-meaning citizens for a conference to discuss and fine tune pertinent aspects of our national  life, have been stoutly resisted by those in leadership positions, who feel threatened for reasons known to them.

We have a constitutionally established Federal Character Commission, to ensure equitable distribution of public offices, including those of the Federal Civil Service among citizens from  all parts of the country. There are many young Nigerians who are well educated and qualified for jobs they applied for but, have been refused employment in several federal ministries , agencies and departments of government after they had passed interviews, for the singular reason of being indigenous of states whose quota in those places have been filled up, while some of their counterparts from educationally disadvantaged states may have vacant positions reserved for them even while still in school. As a result , disparities in employments, elevations and promotions of workers in various Federal Government agencies have become acceptable .

Time and space will fail me if I attempt naming federal institutions, agencies , parastatals  and departments of government where this fate had befallen bonafide citizens of this  country . Every day . People  shout unity and oneness using this United States of America and other developed countries of the world as parameters, but they seem to forget that there are nothing like constitutionally established federal character commissions or agencies in those countries.

One is not in any justifying or promoting wrong policies that have been entrenched in our system , rather my position here is that people should stop engaging in double standards while handling sensitive issues that affect Nigerians, until we all resolve in practice , to own and run a country where state of origin , ethnicity and other mundane issues will no longer count or be considered for employment and appointments. Is it secret that people from certain ethnic groups of this country have been surreptitiously denied appointments based no where they come from in a country that preaches unity and equally of its citizen?

Ndigbo celebrated the appointment of Lt. General Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff, because he is the first Nigerian Army officer of Igbo extraction to be so elevated since after the Nigerian civil war in January 1970. When Rear Admiral Allison had a similar appointment in the Nigerian Navy , as Chief of Naval Staff, during the era of military administration , Ndigbo also rejoiced and they felt that the wounds of the old were being healed finally . But before one could spell Madueke, the man was dropped and replaced with another from a different part of the country . I am not sure if anyone took note of the tortuous journey Mr. Ogbonna Onovo went through before he was appointed the Inspector –General of Police, not for his incompetence , but for the suspected hidden reason of the ethnic group he hails from , and when he eventually got the job , how long did he serve in that office? 14 months? In recent history , he had the shortest tenure when compared with other past IGPs. Let me not bother  you with the retirement of DIGs and senior AIGs, in order to pave way for the incumbent Inspector –General of Police , who was an AIG.

With the foregoing , I find it difficult to understand why people who have lived in Nigeria there past decades would roll out “tank” trying to vilify the Executive Governor of Abia State , Chief T. A. Orji , over the policy of his Government to transfer civil servants in Abia State civil service from other states, back to their states of origin, when indigenes of Abia State who were in similar positions in other states within the South East , South-South and even other territories of the federation were sent away in most humiliating manner years ago without any letters or papers.

In 2006, 29 Abia State indigenes were sent away from Cross River State , 30 were back loaded from Benue State. In 2005, Imo State disengaged 98 primary school teachers of Abia State origin , earlier , in 2002, so many civil servants of Abia origin were back loaded from the same Imo. The horrendous stories of Enugu and Anambra States against non-indigenes are well known to most Nigerians. Enugu in very despicable manner sent away 438 Abians that had spent their productive years in the State. Even property owners in Enugu who hailed from   other states had their unjustifiable share of the humiliation , yet , Enugu was the headquarters of the Eastern region and should stand today as the symbol of unity of Ndigbo.

It is therefore ridiculous and very contradictory in terms, the outcry by Enugu State lawmakers against the present more humane approach of the Abia State Government . even pensioners who had served and retired in those states were unceremoniously back loaded to Abia, and everybody in Nigeria , looked in a different direction.

When I read in some national dailies , the open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan by Association of Anambra State Development Unions, Aba, on “Indigeneship/Citizenship which way Nigerian unity “, I wondered if members of the association were in outer space when their home State and other states in Igboland so humiliated Abia indigenes that were born in those states and had lived all their lives there. What goes round, comes round, they say, and let no one forget that what is sauce for the goose cannot be poison for the gander .

I recall the ill-treatment meted out to workers o Abia origin in Imo Broadcasting Corporation , IBC, Owerri , in 1991, as soon as the State was created out of old Imo State. It was a sad event that revealed the depth of hatred and animosity  with which some people received the creation of new states contrary to good intentions of the then Federal Government.

A few days after the announcement of the creations of Abia State , workers from the new State, journalists and even the Station’s Director –General who happened to belong to the new Abia inclusive , were locked out of the office some had occupied from 1976 when Imo was created out of the East Central State. They were asked to go to their State. It took the intervention and maturity of some eminent citizens to manage that situation . for the avoidance of doubt , let it be reiterated that Enugu, Anambra, Imo , Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Benue and some other states, had Abians who resided in those states and worked in their civil and public services this bitter pill.

It is therefore hypocritical for those who introduced the discriminatory policy of indigenes and non-indigenes in their states public services to suddenly awaken from slumber and begin to cast missile at the Abia State Governor Chief T. A. Orji and his Government for merely echoing that which had existed in the country for decades.

It should be clearly stated that but for the astronomical rise in the wage bill of the state as a result of the N18,000 approved minimum wage which Governor T. A. Orji , accepted to pay as soon as it was assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan , the Government of Abia State never contemplated embarking on the policy .

As it is, it would be unrealistic for any governments to shoulder the burden of those states that had out of ignominy sent away her indigenes that had spent their productive years serving such states.

The Governor of Abia State, Chief T. A. Orji , is a consummate patriot who is committed to the unity , peace and progress of the Nigerian Nation and in particular the Igbo nation, but his primary responsibility today, is the safety , wellbeing and progress of Abians. He cannot afford to toy with them and no responsible leader would, hence the decision after due diligence with cross section of Abians, to toe the only available path out of a difficult situation.

Culled from Daily Independent Newspaper October 14, 2011

 

 

 

 

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