Stakeholders led by prominent elders and chiefs have resumed fresh agitation for power shift from the upland to the riverine area of Rivers State.
The concerned citizens of the state decried a move to keep the governorship position perpetually at the upland despite the concept of power rotation, which they said existed shortly after the creation of the state.
Tracing the origin of the concept, the Leader, Network for Defence of Democracy and Good Governance (NDDGG) and the Kengema Unity Forum (KUF) Worldwide, High Chief Sobomabo Jackrich, said it was designed to ensure peace, equality and justice.
Jackrich recalled that following democratic rule in 1999 and in order to foster unity amongst citizens and ensure peaceful coexistence, prominent riverine leaders led by Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, the late Dr. Marshall Harry and others spearheaded the election of Governor Peter Odili, an upland person, with a deal to allow it rotate similarly to the riverine at the completion of his two terms.
He said though not officially gazetted, every political actor in Rivers was aware of the political arrangement, which he said was similar to the point corroborated by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai while commenting recently on Nigeria’s political arrangements.
He said since the emergence of Odili, subsequent governors such as Omehia, Rotimi Amaechi and now Nyesom Wike came from the upland particularly Ikwere area despite the gentleman’s agreement on rotation.
Jackrich said the elders and other stakeholders were worried that since power rotated to the upland about 20 years ago, the beneficiaries of the upland/riverine dichotomy mostly from Ikwerre “are now saying that what is important is not where the governor comes from, but how projects are distributed equitably to all the communities in the state”.
He said it had become apparent that some upland political decision makers were out to perfect a script designed to keep the upland in perpetual leadership of the state.
He, however, said after 24 years of upland rule in the state culminating the end of Governor Wike’s tenure, any move to retain power in the upland would amount to selfishness and deceitful politicking aimed at distorting history and beclouding the minds of young and uninformed members of the public.
He said: “It will be totally unfair to be talking about abrogation of upland/riverine dichotomy now that the upland, especially the Ikwerres would have held sway in the helm of affairs of the state for 24years at the end of Wike’s tenure in office by2023. If that is done, it portents great danger to the overall peace and stability of the state.
“It therefore behooves on all political actors in the state not to fane ignorance or play to the gallery on this matter, as if not properly handled, is capable of destroying the very fabrics of our existence as one United Rivers State.
“In fairness to the people of the upland part of the state, not all the uplands have benefited from the power ceded to the upland, only the Orashis (Dr Peter Odili) and the Ikwerres (Celestine Omehia, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Nyesom Wike) in this past twenty years have benefited greatly from this arrangement.
“As I asserted earlier, the issue of upland/riverine power rotation has become very necessary following growing concerns of concentration of development in mostly a section of the state.
“For instance, of what use is citing the Real Madrid Football Academy side by side with the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in the already saturated and overpopulated Port Harcourt, the State Capital? Why not cite such project in an LGA like Etche so that it can attract development to open up that area.
“Why award massive projects in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor to only reputable firms like Julius Berger, Lubricks Construction Company and others, but award projects in other LGAs to local artisans and manual labourers who do not have any track record of expertise?
“Recent plans to commence renovation of the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, renovation of the state assembly quarters for lawmakers especially at this period of global economic downturn due to COVID-19, leaves so much in the minds of Rivers people to ponder about.
“Are there no other pressing infrastructural needs of our people in other parts of the state other than paying attention to these non-essential or urgent projects?
“How about completing the 1,400 housing units at Rainbow Estate nearly at 70% completion stage embarked upon by the Governor Rotimi Amaechi administration, but has been left abandoned to wroth away.
“With the foregoing, I, on behalf of the NDDGG and KUF, call on political parties, actors, opinion leaders, traditional rulers and all people of Rivers State with interest to ensuring an even distribution of wealth for the development of every section without bias, to join us to speak to our consciences to respect the existing upland/riverine political arrangement ahead of the 2023 governorship election, for purpose of fairness, equity and the overall interest of the state.”