THEODORE ORJI AND THE POLITICS OF NON-INDIGENES
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State appears as one with patriotic zeal and love for the fatherland. It is also expected that these ascribed qualities would rub-off on his ethnic group-the Igbo. But political developments in Abia, God's Own State, in recent times, especially on the vexed issue of non-indigenes in 21st Century Nigeria and Igbo land can hardly justify the above painting of the Ochendo of Abia State.
These unsavoury developments are, indeed, disturbing. More so, the Abia non-indigenes are mainly Igbos from other South-east states. The policy does not in any way give cause to cheer. Rather, it casts an ominous gloom on happenings-on in Abia, a place known for industry and great enterprise. Rather, it is utter manifestation of lack of ideas and confusion.
Orji had in the wake of ferocious bombings by the fundamentalist Islamic group, Boko Haram, in Abuja and some northern states; and the state workers' demand for the new national minimum wage of N18, 000, sacked all non-indigene workers in the state civil service.
Initially, the state government explained that it embarked on the action due to the displacement of Abia indigenes from the North as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency and the need to absorb the returnees in Abia civil service.
To Abia State government, sacking non-indigenes, which include Igbos from other states in the South-east, will enable it pay Abia workers the new wage and absorb the returnees. Such argument sounds illogical and out of tune with current realities in Igbo land.
Since the xenophobic policy became public knowledge, the state government has been derided and overtly carpeted for being insensitive and unimaginative in its bid to solve the problem of the new wage and absorbing of its returnees. In trying to solve one problem, T.A. Orji is inadvertently creating another, too mighty to grapple with.
Critics of this state-imposed apartheid policy have severally called on the governor to rescind the decision that will take the state nowhere. The policy if allowed will have unpalatable consequences for peaceful co-existence among the people of the South-east and other zones in Nigeria. The Abia move is retrogressive, clannish and capable of pitching one state against the other if other states decide to pay Orji in his own coins. Orji's new policy has great implication for a united Nigeria and that of Igbo land if not nipped in the bud now. It has implication for Igbo presidency in 2015 or thereabout.
Instead of Abia to rescind the controversial policy, it has engaged in fruitless media attacks on its critics. To worsen the situation, Orji has gone a step further to advance the logic that Abia is doing to Igbos of non-Abia origin what Imo State did to them when Abia was carved out of Imo State. That alone has generated exchange of hot words between Owerri and Umuahia, something unheard of before in Igbo history. What Orji has done is against the Igbo spirit of oneness and 'onye aghala nwanne ya,' being your brother's keeper.
Those, who advised Orji to embark on this witch-hunting exercise, if at all Abia indigenes were actually sacked when Abia State was created from Imo as the governor has alleged, did not advise him well. The idea was not well thought-out before being implemented. At best, they have succeeded in putting the governor in a very tight corner that if care is not taken, it will be extremely difficult for him to extricate himself and his government. History will be harsh on them if this policy is not stopped forthwith.
It is true that the governor will not vie for the governorship post again, is that the end of his political career? Is that why he wants to pitch his state against the remaining 35 states of the federation? Can Abia State sustain this shameful exercise if all the states in Nigeria react to it and sack all Abia indigenes working in their states? In fact, this is a war Orji and Abia will neither sustain nor win.
These are some of the issues that Orji and his advisers should have pondered before embarking on the ill-conceived idea. It is not yet late for them to drop this idea that alienates brothers and sisters. There are other ways the state government should have solved the issue of the new wage and returnee workers rather than sacking workers that have worked for the state for many years simply because they are non-indigenes.
Cutting the cost of governance can be of immense assistance in this regard. Let Orji reduce his security vote as Okorocha has reportedly done in Imo. He can reduce the number of aides, and other unnecessary political appointees that drain the state economy. He can also plug areas of wastages common in governance in Nigeria. He can equally think of ways that the state can generate enough revenue instead of depending on handouts from Abuja for its sustenance.
Abia State can resuscitate the moribund Golden Guinea Breweries at Umuahia, the Aba Glass Industry, the Ceramic Industry and many others located in Aba. The state has great agricultural potentials that if tapped, it can serve as the food basket of the nation. Apart from being on the palm oil belt of Nigeria, Abia has arable land for cultivation of yam, cocoyam, cassava and rice in commercial quantity. It can produce cashew nuts, cocoa and timber. All these can boost the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state.
If Abia can do all these, there would be no need to sack any worker, whether indigene or non-indigene. By the way, who is a non-indigene? Is somebody born and bred in Abia State a non-indigene? This ill-thought out policy if not jettisoned now can lead to ugly consequences that Umuahia cannot contend their repercussions.
Is Orji telling us that all past members of the National Youth Corps Scheme (NYSC) that were given state appointments for serving the state well are now relieved of their posts simply because they are not from Abia State? What of Abia daughters married to people from other states but who are employees of Abia State?
Is Orji telling us that in future no NYSC member will be engaged by the state even if he is the best corps member in that service year? There is no way this policy can be implemented without having a backlash.
The worst aspect of the policy is making Igbos non-indigenes in Igbo land. This type of thing has never happened before. Is Orji not aware that some Abia indigenes are scattered in other parts of Igbo land today and working in those states? What Orji is doing is against the spirit of Igbo unity and togetherness. It is counter productive and will not in any way advance the Igbo aspiration. Causing divisions in Igbo land is never one of the reasons, the people of Abia voted for him. He should be called to order before this policy tears Igbo land apart.
I think that all Igbos should speak against what Orji is doing now to non-indigenes before the matter gets worse. The South-east Governors Forum led by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State should intervene in this matter and impress it on Orji to drop the idea forthwith. They should sit him down and make him see reason with them to reverse this policy.
Orji and his aides should stop wasting the tax-payers' money in unnecessary media campaigns aimed at pushing this wicked idea that will not fly. Instead, let them concentrate on how to better the lot of Abia people by delivering on their electoral campaign promises.
The non-indigene palaver is, indeed, not one of his campaign promises to the good people of Abia. Let Orji, therefore, perish the idea and recall all those sacked in the wake of this unpopular policy.