INDIGENISATION IN ABIA AND IMO JOB SCHEME
In a recent broadcast to mark the 20th Anniversary of the creation of Abia State, the Abia Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, among other things, announced the backloading of non-indigenous civil and public servants working in Abia State to their states of origin.
His purported reasons were that the move would help him absorb disengaged Abia workers working in other states and others who were displaced as a result of the activities of Boko Haram and similar nihilists. The other reason was that the move would make it possible for the state to pay the N18,000.00 Minimum Wage to its workers. Accordingly, the Abia House of Assembly through a resolution also concurred to this policy. Ironically, even Abia women married to non-Abians are to be affected by this policy.
Incidentally, Governor Orji's political opponents in Abia State and Abia indigenes working in other states who might be affected by a reprisal reaction from other states have been very silent on this policy. This suggests, to a large extent, that the policy might be the conspiracy of majority of Abia indigenes.
As a follow up, in his publication on page 63 of October 25 2011 Nation Newspaper, the Special Adviser on Information, Strategy and Orientation to Abia State one Eze Chikamnayo while justifying the policy among other things, said that the action was in response to the lay off of Abia indigenes by Imo State Government in 1991 when Abia State was created and similar subsequent actions by other states in the South East. In the publication, he also accused the Imo State Government of an alleged recent backloading of pensioners of Abia extraction who retired from the Imo State Public Service to Abia for their pensions and gratuity.
Interestingly, many people have condemned this policy and have called on the Abia government to rescind it. Meanwhile, it is being speculated that Imo State will have the highest number of persons to be affected by this policy with up to 3,000 would-be victims.
Accordingly, Governor Okorocha has been quoted to have berated his Abia counterpart over this policy, describing it as unconstitutional, illegal, anti-social and anti-Igbo in nature. Subsequently, his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, while also condemning the act, has been alleged to have strongly maligned the Abia Governor and his administration for the policy in a sponsored publication on page 14 of October 4 Vanguard Newspaper. In its reply to the above lashing by the Imo State Government, Abia Government, in its further justification of this indigenisation policy, has been making reference to the purported recent sack of 10,000 Imo indigenes working in the Imo State public/civil service by the Okorocha Administration.
However, Abia State Government has continuously claimed that for a long time now, its indigenes have been subjected to similar indigenization policies from other states. Therefore, it is very clear that Abia Government is embarking on this policy for selfish reasons and as a reprisal to its acclaimed similar treatment alleged to have been meted to its citizens working in other states. But my confusion still remains that none of the affected states have been able to strongly debunk this claim.
The question then is, have there been times in the past Abia indigenes were disengaged through a similar indigenization policy by other states? If the answer is in the positive, then there will be no justification for totally condemning this recent action by Abia Government because 'illegality begets illegality' and 'he who comes to equity must come with clean hands'. Action and reaction are equal and opposite.
Nevertheless, not minding the reasons for or against this policy, just like Governor Okorocha's sack of the ten thousand workers in Imo, I also join in condemning Governor T. A. Orji for the policy. I still see this action as another exhibition of the usual chief executives' rampant disregard for the rule of law and justice administration in Nigeria.
Accordingly, section 42 (a) of the country's Constitution provides that no citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any law or administrative action of disabilities or restrictions because of his community or place of origin. Secondly, I have also looked at the Public/Civil Service Rules of Abia State, just like that of Imo State , there is no provision that justifies the Abia Governor to disengage the said workers from the services of Abia Government the way he did. Therefore, Abia Government should not implement this policy because the disadvantages outweigh its perceived merits.
However, on Governor's Okorocha's declaration that the disengagement of non-indigenes from the Abia public service, I have my reservations. When I heard the Governor describe the Abia indigenization policy as unconstitutional, illegal, anti-social and anti-Igbo in nature, I was 'shocked'.
If anybody should complain about this Governor Orji's action, it should not be Okorocha's government. This is because this is a government that recently sacked its own indigenes working in its state. I know that Okorocha did not sack these 10,000 workers in good faith but as a vendetta against Ohakim. For five months now, we have been begging him to reinstate them but he has refused.
Therefore, I also see the sack of Imo indigenes in Abia as nemesis at work and I know that more 'disasters' are likely on the way if the Governor does not listen to the voice of God and conscience. I know that the God of the 10,000 workers is alive and will soon embark on His own 'Rescue Mission'. When the Israelites were in Egypt , they were persecuted and they cried unto the Lord and the Lord heard their cry and understood their conditions. Rochas claims that Ohakim and his men were the Egyptians that existed before the April/May election. Today, he and his men are now seen as the Egyptians of today. It shows that anybody in power oppressing the afflicted at any point in time is an Egyptian. Today it is T. A. Orji and Rochas Okorocha.
However, I know that Governor Okorocha does not understand the plight of these Imo sons and daughters he sacked because none of his children is among them. But he should try and understand. That is why he is a leader. That was why people massively voted for him. As I have always advocated, he should ameliorate the plights of these honest Imo sons and daughters because presently, they are undergoing excruciating and untold agonies.
He should stop playing 'hide and seek' game with their destiny and re-instate them with sincere apologies. It is my belief that he heeds to this call. But, I know that he will not because he claims not to read our papers may be for him not to hear what Imo people are saying. He now claims to be 'eze onyeagwalam', the Nebuchadnezzar of the Eastern Heartland. This is what power can do to the black man.
However, it is normal with such leaders like Okorocha and Orji not to hear such calls. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh for Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage, God also told Moses that He (God) would also make Pharaoh stubborn. According to Chinua Achebe in his book entitled 'Things Fall Apart', 'when the gods want to destroy somebody, they make him deaf and mad'. And for Governor Orji, I know the God of the sacked Imo indigenes in Abia State will also visit him with his own 'plague' just like He did to the biblical Pharaoh. I know God Almighty is hearing the cry of his children and will intervene in due course.
Iwuala writes from Owerri