‘Whites & Blacks’ To Be Appointe d In Amaechi’s New Executive Council

By Odimegwu Onwumere

A dog does not eat a bone that is hung on it neck. Our enemies will never sing a song of victory, no matter how hard they try. Our action and resilience will always prevail against evil, against ineptitude, against opportunists, against heresy, against blasphemy, against hypocrisy, against nepotism, against political demagogues and the not-do wells.

Since Friday 5th of June 2009 the indomitable Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chubuike Amaechi dissolved the state executive council, tongues have been wagging. People's unconfirmed story is of the myopic view that for the one month or so the governor would rule the state 'alone', all the money, salaries, meant for the aides, he would pocket them.

Amaechi who shocked even his close aides, I think is too big for shit; I think he is a man who would prefer to go on exile than engage in corrupt practices. His administration has shown that Rivers State has money. Amaechi has achieved what the past adm inistration could not achieve in eight years just in two years. That is bravo.

And if Amaechi was kleptomaniac, he would have towed the line of those before him. Maybe, he would have engaged in frivolous travels abroad to the detriment of the people, just as the Benue's Suswan was indicted recently of spending billions of our naira on abroad trips and gifts. But I think this Governor Amaechi is of different opinion: he is bent to govern.

However, while the Rivers people wait for the new executive council, let me re-iterate here that Amaechi has one thing he could do that would shock all and sundry as the announcement of the dissolution of the executive council shocked even his close aides, and that is appointing a non-indigene a commissioner in his anticipated new executive council.

I believe that the Igbo (non-indigenes) in Rivers State deserved commendation in this regard. Some local government councils in Rivers State have even started it. They appoint non-indigenes into their councils so that this person would help breach any narrow perception of the non-indigenes in the area against the local government. And this is winning some myopic battles. And a lot of non-indigenes are saying it is a movement on the right direction.

When the non-indi gene who is with the government says anything, his people would not see it as a vendetta from the indigenes since it is coming from one of them. But it becomes a war when the 'talk' comes from the almighty indigenes. The strangers would shout hoax and bemoan that there could be something fishy in the cupboard of the indigenes. This, we have heard much in Rivers State

So, I urge both the Secretary to Rivers State Government, Mr. Magnus Abe, who announced the dissolution of the state executive council to see this proposal of appointing a non-indigene commissioner as an action that needs immediate effect.

People would thank the Governor Amaechi-led Rivers administration for its services and contributions to Rivers State while he is in office. Reasons for appointing a non-indigene might not be known now, but in the future. The act would help get rid of underperforming commissioners. The non-indigene should be at least up to two. The non-indigene would work to prove a point and all other underperforming colleagues would follow. When this is proved, commissioners would earlier be sacked by the governor, because of the decentralization.

Even the Rivers Action Congress chairman, Mr. Suage Badey was of the opinion, when yours truly also commen ted on this issue in March this year, that the idea of appointing a non indigene into government in any state of the federation, be he/she an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Ikwerre or Ogoni as it applies to the state in question is a bright idea, no doubt about it. The contending issue lies in the varied political cultures of the states that constitute the land scape, Nigeria.

Badey said, “I for one, would advocate that qualitative content rather than tribe or religion should be the yardstick for nominating persons to add colour and produce the desired goal of a responsive government, e.g. Amaechi's administration, which has set a new precedent in a long while since King Diete Spiff administration of the 70's ; but more importantly is the method through which the idea can be made lofty in its application which brings me back to the political culture of a people which clearly varies from one locality to another. It may have been that the democratic culture of the people of Adamawa was the reason for killing such a noble viewpoint of Gov. Boni Haruna when he made a choice of nominating Chief Eze Chukwukwuemeka Eze to serve in his administration as a commissioner”.

Going further, the university don said that it is noteworthy to recall instances where non indigenes have been appointed into high offices and performed creditably. In Lagos state for instance which by all standards have developed an advanced democratic culture being the most densely populated in multi-ethnic nationalities of all the states in the country (in fact it is on record that the non-indigenes who can now be described as indigenes going by the constitution, far out number the aborigines) has so evolved allowing for healthy integration and human development. This scenario provided the springboard for the advanced approach to governance of integration irrespective of tribe or religion.

Lagos State has at various times appointed non indigenes to positions of responsibility e.g. The appointment of Prof Yemi Osubanjo, an indigene of Ogun State as Attorney general & commissioner for Justice under Tinubu's administration same period his brother was holding same office in Ogun State. Also the appointment of Nwabueze, an Igbo by origin as Commissioner for Economic planning in the Tinubu administration and is still holding to that portfolio in the present administration of Fashola and also an indigene of Kano as head of the popular agency KAI ( Kick Against Indiscipline ).

These are among many instances of non indigenes performing excellently in the delivery of the dividends of governance to the people. In the USA for instance, their democratic culture is so advanced that you had two brothers becoming Governors of different states at the same time. President George Bush Jr. was once Governor of Texas at the same period his younger brother was Governor of Florida. These are our expectations in Nigeria. We have a ready example but must approach it subtly for better appreciation that would not whip sentiments capable of heating the polity. Appointing a non-ingene is a beautiful idea but must be beautifully driven.

In states like Rivers, Imo, Abia and even Ebonyi State, you would agree with me that the population of non indigenes is very low as against Lagos and as such the democratic culture in the respective states mentioned are relatively resistant to issues bordering on non indigenes participating in elective positions as well political appointments. However that should not be the case. I remember a case of a Rivers man, who had resided in Enugu for close to 30 years, speaks the language fluently and shares a conviviality that is socially and politically acceptable but yet can not be allowed to participate in any elective office due to his assumed aboriginal status.

I, Mr. Badey thinks appointing a non-indigene is a thought process not the wander of wandering. Suffice to say that this is intellectually based and not like the "wandering disease'' that was captured in Cyprian Ekwensi's Burning grass (and also not intended to turn you into a fugitive in a state that appreciates your inputs) rather it was a genuine concern to alert discerning minds on the obvious which should open the door for ways of getting around this "vexed issue" as described by Odimegwu Onwumere (in his article entitled, Before Amaechi Sacks His Cabinet).

This in my thinking would provide a better appreciation of the idea by the political community rather than force this wrongly assumed bitter pill through the throat of a people who are fairly emulating the political culture of Enugu state. Agreed, we definitely have a liberal and mature leader in Rivers state as exemplified by the present Governor who understands the benefits of working with persons of proven integrity and knowledge but would have to exhibit his democratic expectations through discussions with other stake holders and arms of government to achieve this or may be left with other options of looking inwards for equally sound and productive indigenous persons that would not lead to a rancorous situation bearing in mind the fact that he has succeeded a great deal in curbing the insecurity that plagued the state during the Omehia days.

Determining a way around this will go a long way in preventing a replication of the Enugu example which by extension is applicable in Imo, Ebonyi etc. One approach I deem very appropriate for the people of Rivers state is to appreciate first, the presence of our brothers ( Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas etc ) and allow them to participate in elections so that the talents amongst them would be exposed through our act of comradeship. This would provide the spring board and opportunities of having non indigenes in various positions from the local government to state and also at the legislative level. This would of course put aside those huddles encountered at the State House of A ssemblies when non indigenes are nominated for political appointments assuming a member representing this constituency is a bonafide member of the legislative body constitutionally empowered through the ballot box to substantiate their case when ever such an ugly matter is raised. What do you think?

I will posit that we generally follow the trend in the United States of America where our zeal for democracy is anchored. The USA suffered such for so many years and the most hit were our African brothers who were badly treated and made to be regarded as an inferior race. Racial discrimination was as intense even as trivial as boarding a commuter bus. This cowardly act of discrimination was always brought to the fore until Rosa Parks struck and Martin Luther King Jr. lifted the torch.

Today under a sound democratic setting in the USA, something that was never heard off has become a reality; we now have blacks (men and women) who have been mayors, members of congress, Governors, secretaries of state and now a black president. How else would one value the tenets of a democratic system that seeks to bring out the very best of the most difficult situation? This is possible in Nigeria and we must enact the enabling laws using the American example so as to reduce violence, unnecessary deaths while achieving the ideal.

Finally, I look forward to Igbos, Yorub as, Itshekiris, Hausas etc of Rivers origin to be in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the Rivers government just as I would want same to be applied for the Rivers man and woman who has made Imo, Anambra, Delta and Ebonyi their homes. I disagree with Chief Percy that 75% 0f Rivers state are Igbos and to refer to my Governor as an Igbo man. I would rather modify it to imply that Gov Rotimi Amaechi is a true Nigerian who has made Rivers state hospitable to all tribes resident here and indeed demonstrated this by getting them involved in governance e.g. the appointment of Mr Ogunseyi Bolaji, a Yoruba by origin, as Director Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency ( with a budget of over 15billion naira annually to address the needs of scholarships, micro credit schemes and sustainable development programmes) and as such can be described as a Deltan, Ibibio, Igbo, Yoruba and ultimately a reflection of the ideal Nigerian. Let us wonder, ponder and proffer solution to this noble idea and not allow ourselves to be infected with the "wandering disease" of Mai Sunsayai in Cyprain Ekwensi's BURNING GRASS. Thanks for provoking this thought process.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA) Rivers State. +2348032552855. [email protected]