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Unbought & Unbossed: Revisiting The King’s Seat Of Rivers State; The Ogoni Man, The Option

MAP OF RIVERS STATERivers State which was created by the military fiat general Jackson Yakubu Gowon on 27th May, 1967 along side other eleven states, like I continue to argue was not created out of love for its people but as a war strategy to destabilize or put it in a rather milder form, to counter the successionist propensities of the man who would later be enthroned as the Ikemba, Nnewi or the Eze Gburugburu of Ndigbo, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ogukwu.

However, head or tail, Rivers State was thus created. Indeed, this aspiration and agitation was long over due as its creation as a region out of the former Eastern region at the same time with the creation of mid-western region was derived as a result of ethnic politics.

Be that as it may, the creation of Rivers State (with the present day Bayelsa state) came as a symbol of hope for all its component tribe or people.

Rivers State is not a monotribal nor monolingual state. But one can conveniently say, like I have always said, that Rivers State is divided first into riverine and upland. However, such sharp division does not entirely solve the problem of locating the different components of the state in their perspectives. It is only a geographical categorization.

Ethnically speaking, Rivers State is divided into four major ethnic sentiments or extractions. My study puts it this way. The Ogonis comprising the Gokanas, the Khanas, the Elemes and the Tais; The Ijaws comprising the Kalabaris, Okrikas, Abua/Oduals, Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro and Bonny: The orashis comprising the Ekpeye, Engene, Ogba/Egbema/Ndonis and the Ikwerres and Etches. Linguistically the above groupings may have slight areas of difference but however suits the similarities in their socio-cultural backgrounds and affirmity.

When this state was created in 1967, an Ijawman in the person of Alfred Diette Spiff was appointed as the military Governor (that was the nomenclature given to the unelected governors under the military in Nigeria).

He ruled Rivers State till there was a change of baton in 1973 when Zamani Lekwot took over. Between 1979 and 1984 another Ijawman in the person of Chief Melford Okilo from Ogbea of present day Bayelsa State was on the saddle as the first civilian governor of Rivers State. By this time, an Ikwerre man, Dr. Frank Eke (now Chief (Prof.) Frank Eke, the Eze Gbaka-gbaka of Woji) was the Deputy Governor while another Ijawman, Rt. Hon. R.R. Briggs (of Kalabari extraction) was the speaker of the first state Assembly.

Later, Chief Dominic Amucha, an Etche man (Ikwerre/Etche) divide) became the deputy governor; later again in the life of Rivers State Chief Dagogo Jack from Kalabari (Ijaw) equally became the deputy governor of Rivers State.

In 1992, Chief Rufus Ada George from Okrika (Ijaw) was elected as the 2nd civilian governor of the state. The deputy governor to Ada George was Dr. Peter Odili from Ndoni (Orashi region). This period witnessed the harvest of speakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly. The first was an Ijaw man in the person of Rt. Hon. Tuesday Kemagbei. When he was removed, Hon. Steve Ezekwem, an Ikwerreman replaced him while one Hon. Orji from Orashi was also later elected as speaker in that second Assembly.

With the return to civil rule in 1999, Dr. Peter Otunaya Odili (Ndoni man of the Orashi region) was elected as the governor (the 3rd civilian governor) of the state.

He chose his deputy from Opobo town which is in the Ijaw extraction. His name is Dr. Gabriel Toby. The speaker of the House of assembly was Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (the present governor of the state).

For a period of eight consecutive years (2 tenures) these three ethnic groups of Orashi/Ijaw and Ikwerre/Etche ruled Rivers State in the capacities of Governor, deputy governors and speaker. In 2007 when the politics of Odili’s successor was being played the same conspiracy against the Ogoni region was exhibited with impunity. Nobody mentioned any Ogoni man for the plum jobs of the governor deputy governor or speaker. All the juicy positions were zoned away from Ogoni.

The Ikwerre man of Amaechi or Omehia was Odili’s most preferred. And it came to pass that another Ijaw man of Andoni a whispering distance from Gabriel Tony’s town of Opobo was chosen as deputy governor.

He is engr. Tele Ikuru from Ikuru town. Again, to further call an Ogoni man this time a big fool, the position of speaker was given to a Kalabari man (Rt. Hon. Tonye Ezekiel Harry). This Ijaw man was the deputy speaker to Rotimi Amaechi for eight (8) years. This time the spare tyre and highly second fiddle position, a mere surrogate position was given to the Ogoni (perhaps, telling the Ogoni “please manage this one since you already have too much oil and degradation”.

When Governor Amaechi got re-elected in 2011, the same marginalization and insult was shared to Ogoni; deputy speaker. This is the peak of tribal politics being played against the Ogoni since the creation of Rivers State. In terms of ministerial positions, apart from a brief stincts of Dr. Garrick Leton (of blessed memory) as minister of Health, Dr. Benneth Birabi as minister of sports and lately Chief Precious Osaro Ngelale Ogoni has also suffered marginalization at the federal level.

With the help of hindsight, one will agree with me that commercial oil deposit was discovered in Ogoni in the year, 1958, two years after same was discovered in Oloibiri in Bayelsa State. Admittedly, what really added to the call for the creation of an oil Rivers State was located in the rich mineral resources oil, crude oil or palm oil or Risonpalm oil. The whole economic life of Nigerian is oil crude oil. What accounts for the drift to urbanization in Port Harcourt is the presence of oil in the state majority of which is found in Ogoni. No doubt, crude oil is the fulcrum and life wire of Nigeria’s economic policy.



Barr. Gideon Kpoobari Girigiri


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