Amaechi: What of the Magnitude contributions non-indigenes make to Rivers economy?

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Odimegwu Onwumere's article, “Amaechi In The Eyes Of Non-Indigenes” refers. As such, the answer to the kind of problems he described meted out to non-indigenes in Rivers State, the solution is to organize those oppressed into a cohesive group with a block vote that can be used to deny any oppressive governor the post. I have lived in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, and understand the magnitude of the contributions the non-indigenes( Igbo from hinterland) make to that economy. As always, most individual businesses are owned by these mainland Igbo people from Abia, Imo Anambra etc. This has been a bone of contention even before the war in then PH.

Under military, these residents discriminated against because of were they came from had no means to resolve their grievances. Even under PDP in the past 12 years, due to rigging, their case was hopeless. But what you all must hand on to today is that this next election may usher in democracy in the true sense of it because votes may count. Every action of PDP indicates that votes may count. In this kind of situation, Onwumere has the answer to the problems he listed in that article. The truth is that nepotism and sentimental support for the weak in any society is self evident in Nigeria. Problems like that will be with us for longer than we expect. All democracy does is give you the power to organize and with hold vote as your bargaining chip. One who controls votes controls government behavior.

Onwumere's job as a concerned resident of PH is to get his non-indegene group together where ever they are residing and begin an actual protest by writing the government directly expressing his concerns as a group. Get a legislator that has friendly ears. Again he can nurture one by how you vote and who you vote. In those places mainland Igbo are plenty, make sure they do not split their votes but vote massively for one legislator representing their areas. Once you get this person to office, make him sponsor a bill in the house that makes laws supporting the concept of One Nigeria with specifics that say anyone who was born in Rivers State or whose drivers license from Rivers State or who live and work in Rivers State for more than 6 months should be considered official resident of the state. The operating work is RESIDENT, not non-indigene, because everybody in PH for example is non-Indidene given that the port city was founded by the Oyibo for commercial shipping before people moved in from neighboring farm lands in search of jobs. The idea of One Nigeria gives every Nigerian the implicit right of residence and equal rights to government services and resources.

The problem again goes back to what I wrote here in the past about Igbo federal legislators that failed to represent their people in Abuja. Our legislatures think they are just in Abuja to make friends and extort money for their votes and did not study the implications of bills being passed by the houses and senate on their people - those they represent. They go there to fight for offices to occupy rather than actually look clearly into laws and their impact on Igbo people. Thus there was a law that was passed on how census must be counted without ethnicity. The Igbo knowing that law was aimed to deny Igbo existence and rights gave it support and collected bribe and bought their new jeeps and mansions.

What should have happened then that did not happen is why Onwumere make this complaint. The Igbo members would have said, if that is the case, we agree only if you also state in this law that any person who lives in the city and gets counted in that state for purposes of resource distribution becomes automatic resident ( indigene) of such state for purpose of government services sources with money coming to the State as a result of it population number. When people are counted, the law says we do not want to know where they came from just that they live there. Now they can not then collect money based on their numbers and then say they can not be served because they are non-indigenes. In fact any government in which residents make such complaint, should be denied federal government allocation until such government subscribes affirmatively to the concept and paraphernalia of One Nigeria. One Nigeria is not just about sharing Oil money, but also, about caring for the people in Nigeria. This is what the PDP governments forget.

Typically one function of government is to collect from the rich and redistribute to the poor. Most people you now label non-indigenes when compared to long term indigene tend to be more active commercially and as such make more money - making them pay more taxes when levied. Taxes by government are important way government raises money to pay for services. In most cases some taxes are progressive, meaning those who make more money tend to pay more taxes. Some are also user-centered, meaning those who use more government services irrespective of their income level may be made to pay more taxes. You have to carefully study how Rivers State constructs its tax structure to make determination of whether it is targeting with intent to discriminate or it is just an issue of progressive taxing or use taxes.

But in any case, Onwumere, writing to the outside public can shame the state but it may not solve this problem. Nigerian has no army ready to come to straighten the state out and make her listen to the plight of the people you are concerned about. However, taking time to organize the people for political action is how you get results. Organize them, launch direct letter protest to the governor and the legislature that makes laws and allocate resources for state use. If that did not help, begin a series of civil disobedience which are rights you have under democracy. Those seeking remedy can do many things to get attention of government if they are organzied and in unity. They can stop work, close their shops, stop cab /taxi services for a couple of days, etc. It is going to take some sacrifices to make things work as you want them as nobody will willingly give you what they can keep if you do nothing.

HEN, writes from USA

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Articles by Odimegwu Onwumere