Why Non-indigenes in Rivers State may not vote (1)

As 2011 remains significant to Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora because of the elections that characterize it, Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State is taking the lead among other states governors in the awareness that all in the state participated in the elections. He has been showcasing this in many fora, but most especially, in the voter registration exercise. He has urged all in the state to participate actively in the elections, by registering and by voting. He has even warned that any resident in the state must show his or her voter card before the person could have his or her ward be admitted into any public schools or the person be attended to in any of the government hospitals in the state.

While this sounded autocratic of a democratic governor, the irregularities of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) Machines seem to make these clarion calls of voter registration a tall dream, not only in Rivers State, but in Nigeria, at large. Good or bad as it may, Rivers State will not stop being a habour for both the rich and the poor from different parts of Nigeria and all walks of life no matter all that infusion of fear by the governor. What was remaining of Amaechi is to tell the world that if one does not have the voter card, one will not domicile in Rivers State. This article is, however, not suggesting that people should not participate in the voter registration exercise. Very essential therefore, it is to look into the reasons why this article preferred the above title.

Politics in Rivers State do not recognize the collectiveness of the so-called non-indigenes residing in the state. Even that the non-indigenes participate actively and heavily in the politics of the state during elections, they have been benchmarked by the almighty indigenes and are given minuses as they relate to participating in active government-policies and governmental appointments that meet the eyes. And where the government in power wants to recognize any non-indigene by act of nepotism, in the area of awarding mere contracts, the almighty indigenes shout hoax. In a case such happened, one is bound to read such article with headlines as “Politics of indigeneship in Rivers State Contracts Award, Indigenes Angry” by the indigenous writers and publishers.

For instance, when Sir Celestine Omehia was holding the helm-of-affairs of Rivers State, many of the indigenes were on his neck that he was awarding contracts to non-indigenes and was leaving the indigenes in destitution. In June 01, 2007, a member of Amaechi's government today, wrote an article that was published in a local paper heralding Omehia's 'sin' to the whole world, for simply awarding alleged contracts to a non-indigene. Even, the indigenous writer-publisher (cum politician) of the article said that it was an abomination that the awarded contract, was Omehia's first contract that he awarded.

The writer showcased his bias against the non-indigenes by selling his disgruntled information to his fellow indigenes, perhaps for them to churlish the then Omehia's government, and perhaps, express xenophobic acts against the non-indigenes, that the contract he awarded had the tone of a tremendous amount. He said that the contract was for the construction of a new shopping mall.

“...Omehia government awarded the job for a whooping N7 billion,” the writer informed. He went further to sell his unprintable information thus: “Mixed feelings have greeted the award of the contract among insiders and supporters of government.” (Because the alleged contract was given to a non-indigene that was why Omehia's head was called?).

In his preference imagination, the indigenous writer explicated and exhibited without restraint how Rivers people hated the non-indigenes thus: “Surprisingly, the contract which probably signifies the giant steps that Omehia intends to take while in office, would not be executed by any of the multi-national firms or business outfits owned by Rivers people. Rather, it has been awarded to a non-indigenous business outfit owned by an Igbo from Anambra who in the last eight years has cornered most of the plum jobs at the expense of Rivers businessmen who continue to complain that their own government is not patronizing them.”

This was not the first of its kind! The indigenous-writer expressed and exposed his crass market that he wanted to sell to his multi-ethnic plural people brought together under the umbrella called Rivers State by his infusion that “the award of contracts to non-indigenes was one of the complaints that Rivers people had against the out-gone Governor Peter Odili.”

While the writer was misleading his people against Odili in that article, because of the perceived in-built hatred he had against the Odili's government, because he was in Amaechi's camp, during the time the episode was playing between Amaechi and Omehia in the court, the story was that Odili was it who indigenized Rivers State and a lot of indigenes benefited from his government to the lamentable outcry of the non-indigenes who were ripped-off of every position in Rivers State. Except going to defecate, the non-indigenes were subjected to pass through the indigenes before they could get a job, any job. Even in the wheelbarrow pushers club, in Rivers State, they must pass through the indigenes.

In his short-sightedness article, the writer bemoaned that nowhere was the feeling of resentment more than in pro-government circles. He gave the non-indigenous contractor's name as Pat Sule. His full name, he gave as, Patrick Sule Ugboma. He went further to say that “Our sources (against the non-indigenes?) say (Ugboma) who owns big investments very close to Tantalizers. We have heard that the same man built the Rivers State House of Assembly valued at close to N4.5 billion. We have been told that he was the one who handled the new Judiciary complex at a cost some say is about N3 billion. He is the same one handling the renovation of the State Secretariat complex.” Just hatred! Hatred!! Hatred!!!

While that sounded very shameful and appalling in the 21st Century when a Kenyan is ruling the United States of America, the abominable reign of militancy in Rivers State in the past was said by many indigenes that it was the non-indigenes that were unleashing the mayhem. But surprisingly, during the surrendering of arms by the repentant militants due to the now late President Yar'Adua's amnesty initiative, it is yet to be ascertained that any non-indigene was among the show of shame of large cache of arms that were surrendered.

The indigenes have used every propaganda un-necessary to rope the non-indigenes in many extremely tragic, terrible, abominable and protracted acts of theirs, thereby exonerating their selves from loopholes that have occurred in the state.

Port Harcourt, in August 2007, the unwarranted mayhem unleashed by the militants which claimed numerous precious and innocent lives, if statistics were taken, non-indigenes were mostly the victims. Instead of the state government would be very concerned about the up-to-date continuing state of hyper-insecurity with wanton bloodshed in Rivers State, the indigenes are making a pound of flesh of the non-indigenes.

During the mayhem which saw to the deploring of military flotilla to various Rivers towns and villages to haunt down suspected militants, sent many non-indigenes packing out of the state, for the act they did not start. Numerous innocent indigenes, but most especially, non-indigenes were killed in the process. No proper identification was made. Was it not a well known fact that the Rivers State crisis was caused by the Odili-led administration? Is he a non-indigene? Was it not chronicled that he created, sponsored and operated killer squads and cult groups to terrorize, maim and kill perceived political enemies to secure his malevolent, evil, tyrannical, selfish, kleptomaniac and destructive rule over the erstwhile tranquil Rivers State?

The organised militants caused terror in Port Harcourt! They also saw to the deaths of over two hundred thousand hapless citizens in the state. Dr. Marshall Harry, Chief Alfred K. Dikibo, just to name but a few, were killed. The respectable Chief Rufus Ada George, the former governor of Rivers State and Odili's political benefactor was forced to go to exile. With these killings of prominent indigenes, imagine what the fate of the non-indigenes in Rivers State is.

Even that analysis had it that Odili received more than N300 billion from the Federal Government for the One-City-State of Rivers State from 1999 to 2007, yet the only city in Rivers State known as Port Harcourt, had no running water, no functional drainage system. Functional hospitals and functional schools are the ones Amaechi is gasping for the breath to build. In Rivers State, there are no industries to employ the citizens of Nigeria in the State. If the indigenes would agree!

It is sad that arming the youths to destabilise the peace of the state was the job that the powerful in the state provided for the youths. The spate of armed hoodlums and cultists in the state was the resultant of this act. Imagine were an allegation had it that the armed youths went home with monthly payments of hundreds of millions of naira from the Rivers State government treasury under Odili. They protected him while the state burnt?

While the indigenes antagonised Omehia as, in their words, shamelessly robbed the Rivers people by expropriating the financial resources of the state through the award of highly questionable contracts to non-indigenes thereby depriving the Rivers people of economic empowerment and livelihood, was the mayhem then in Port Harcourt not ventilation of the grievances and anger of the indigenes against the non-indigenes because of the contracts allegedly awarded them, as against what was in the news that it was over the non-payment of their monthly subventions by the Peter Odili/Omehia government that had sponsored and hired them?

The repetition that Odili gave the contracts for building the Rivers State House of Assembly (about N4.5 billion), the Rivers State Judiciary Complex (about N3 billion), and the renovation of the Rivers State secretariat to Patrick Sule Ugboma, a non-indegene of Rivers State, have not ceased to anger the indigenes.

In a press release of September 10, 2007, by a group that paraded as itself as IJAW FOUNDATION, A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION ESTABLISHED IN 2003, titled “A CALL FOR URGENT ACTION TO END THE REIGN OF EVIL AND MAYHEM IN RIVERS STATE” didn't suffer the non-indigenes with the kid's glove.

“Now, Peter Odili's stooge, Celestine Omehia has awarded a N7 billion contract to the same Patrick Sule Ugboma to build a new shopping Mall in Port Harcourt. These actions of the previous and present Rivers State Governors show their disdain for Rivers State indigenous contractors and youths who they feel are good candidates for armed cultism and hooliganism but not for construction contracts and jobs,” said the report.

The above statement shows how the non-indigenes in Rivers State have been meted out with dishonest, unwise, insensitive, callous and mischievous behaviours by those called the indigenes who were supposed to show them unflinching hospitality; but rather, what they have gotten were backbiting and skirmishes. The indigenes misguide their utterances against the non-indigenes to cause unwarranted attention leading to divisiveness against the non-indigenes in Rivers State.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]

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Articles by Odimegwu Onwumere