By Masi Prince Ernest
I have listened to the passionate demand of our brothers “the Ogonis” to produce the governor of Rivers State in 2019, drawing from the narrow prism of senatorial zoning arrangement. In the demand, especially as articulated by Dr. Peter Maede, the president of KAGOTE. The demand also painted a moral picture while an Ogoni man should become governor of Rivers State.
In the presentation this morning, it is sad that the same old picture of victimization and marginalization was painted to give the demand an emotional coating. He even stated that the Ogoni people only produced a commissioner for special duties during the Amaechi time as Governor while appreciating that the present governor considered the Ogonis worthy of producing five (5) supper commissioners. Personally, I have lots of friends from the Ogoni extraction and its my desire that they grow and prosper in the politics of Rivers State, but that must not happen at the expense of others. The Ogonis did not only produce commissioner for special duties as stated by the president of Kagote. They produced the Secretary to State government for 8 years, commissioner for works for 4 years under Amaechi as Governor, so that claim by Dr. Peter Maede misled both the listening public as well as his Ogoni people.
While the Ogonis are right that they have not produced a governor, there are other groups also yet to produce a governor. The Kalabaris, Andonis, Opobos,and Bonny have equally not produced the governor of the state as such, painting a moral picture of their demand is indeed grossly misplaced. What even made it worse is that Ogoni is part of upland and we have had upland governors for 16 straight years before the present governor who is also from the upland. I think that the Ogoni demand takes the rest river-rine ethnic groups for granted hence the demand for Rivers South-East which mask the Ogoni demand should have been unmask to reflect the presence of the River-rine ethnic groups in that senatorial district.
My worry in the demand is that it seeks to place once again a moral obligation on the APC to produce a governorship candidate from Ogoni in the light of the Magnus’ declaration on one hand while endorsing Wike for a second term on the other hand. I think a sincere demand would would have pressed on both parties to produce a governorship candidate from Ogoni rather than just the APC. Perhaps the plan is to ensure that APC is blackmailed to produce a governorship candidate from Ogoni and then turn around to betray the Wike you have praised for given five (5) Commissioner to Ogonis or does Five (5) commissioners by mathematical approximation equate to a Governor? I think I need help in this kind of arithmetic.
While the death of Ken marked the hallmark of minority struggle in our nation and we are happy that the Ogonis pursued their own course and got response via the UNEP cleanup project, but other ethnic groups in Rivers State also suffered the adverse consequence of oil exploration. Today the Ogoni oil wells have remained shut for more than 15 years yet government projects and allocation have not been denied the Ogonis. I think the rest oil producing ethnic groups from where Rivers State boast its huge revenue base has been magnanimous to the Ogonis. Nigeria is a mono product economy nation with a huge dependence on oil, so something must be fundamentally wrong.when one ethnic group block oil exploitation but continue to benefit from oil revenue from other ethnic groups yet cries marginalization and injustice.
For these more than 15 years period Ogoni Local Governments have not been denied allocations, senators, House of Representative members, House of Assembly members, LGA Chairmen and councilors from Ogoni have not been denied salaries. In-fact they have been duly remunerated from oil proceeds derived from other ethic groups, yet those ethnic groups have not cried marginalization. I think that is not just. Where then is the marginalization and victimization that necessitated the moral demand for an Ogoni governor in Rivers State to preside over the allocation of oil revenue derived from other ethnic group while theirs remained shut.
I think we have all been accommodating and kind to our brothers from Ogoni and they need to realize this fact. To crown it all, an Ogoni man was appointed the Executive Director of Finance and Administration in the NDDC and even when his appointment was resisted on the reason outlined above, some of us came out to support the appointment of the Ogoniman on the basis of upland solidarity against the wishes of our people.This fact is verifiable and those Ogoni men involved either directly or through sponsorship of the Orashi support for an Ogoni appointment in NDDC can bear me witness.
Only Ogoni cannot make a governor, so we need each other but not against the sensibilities of the rest of us. In the face of morality, this singular demand comes short.
Masi Prince Ernest writes from Rivers State