Books by David E, Oguzierem
Absolutely Unstoppable (2009)
Winning Political Struggles (2009)
Struggle Towards Empowerment (2010)
Outstanding Teachers Strategies (2012)
The Symbol of Change and Leadership(2013)
Politics, Development & Minorities in Nigeria (2016)
a closer look at the developmental
challenges and prospects in Etcheland
Copyright c 2016 by David E. Oguzierem
All rights reserved
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
[+ Chapter One- Where Are We Coming From? +]
[+ Chapter Two- The New Vision +]
[+ Chapter Four- The Road To Future +]
[+ Chapter Five- Leadership Question +]
[+ Chapter Six- The New Direction +]
[+ Chapter Nine- Our Political Landmines +]
[+ Chapter Ten- It Takes Education +]
[+ Chapter Eighteen -No Easy Victories +]
[+ Chapter Twenty -Special Recognition +]
This book is dedicated to the following persons who made sacrifices for the liberation and development of the present day Etche society.
1.Chief J.H.E Nwuke
2. HRM Ochie ENB Opurum JP MFR (Onye-Ishi-Etche) Ochie of Etcheland
3. Chief Jonah Akor
4. Chief Samuel Achonwa
5.His Excellency, Chief Dr Dominic U. Anucha, fmr Deputy Governor of Old Rivers State
6. Prof. Reginald Nwankwoala
Igladly appreciate the encouragement and support of the following persons – His Eminence, Ochie E.N.B Opurum MFR (JP), Onye-Ishi-Etche; His Excellency, Eze Dr D.U Anucha, former Deputy Governor of Rivers
State; Captain Sunday Nwankwo, Engr. Sam Nwankwo FNSE, President-General of Ogbako Etche Socio-Cultural Organization; Rt. Rev. Okechukwu P. Nwala, Bishop of Etche Anglican Communion; Prof Steve Amadi, Dean faculty of Engineering RSUST and Mr. Hillary Orjimor.
I am also indebted to the following personalities for their commitment to Next Etche Development Project, namely; Chief Allwell Onyesoh, Prof. Samuel N. Maduagwu, Prince Emma Anyanwu, Dr. Naboth Nwafor, HRH Eze Sir Ken Nwala JP, HRM Eze Samuel Amaechi, Chief Hon. Ephraim Nwuzi, Barr Monday Onyezonwu, , Air Vice Marshal Abel C. Peters, Prince Ogbonna Nwuke, Navy Cmdr Benson Onukwuru, High Chief Jerome Eke, Prof.
Steve Amadi, Dr. George Nwaeke, Chief Okey Amadi, Barr. Ikem Adiele, Mr. Silas Anyanwu, Hon. Chidi Oluo, Sir Isaiah Choko, Sir Adolphus .A. Amadi JP, Dr. Ikechi Nwogu, Chief Sir Dr H.U Anuonye, Mr. Charles Nwaonuala, Hon. Golden Ben Chioma, Hon. Nnamdi Okere, Chief Ambrose Nwuzi, Prof. Samuel Maduagwu, Dr. Naboth Nwafor, Barr. Monday Onyezonwu, Chief Dr. John C. Ihejrika, Chief Oliver Okeregwu, Mr. Sam A. Odum, Dr. Nnamdi Amadi, Chief Nwuke Anucha, Dr. Acho Nwokogba, Dr. Adol Nwaeke, Dr Paulinus Nwankwoala, Dr. Onyemachi Nwankwo, Chief Joseph Amaechi, Chief (Dr) Emmanuel Anele, Mr. Chidi Nwankwo, Chinyere Nwabeke, Barr. Gloria Akor, Dame Eunice Odum, Deacon Chibuzor Ogbonna, Chief Ambrose Nwuzi, Engr (Sir) Micah Nwogu, Chief Grant Ubani, Hon. Kelechi Nwogu, Hon. Nnanna Opurum, Hon. Tony Ejiogu, Hon. Gift Anyalabechi.
Finally, I express my sincere thanks to my family for their support and encouragement. To each and every-one, I am grateful, as your different contributions have made the writing of this book a rewarding experience.
The present Nigerian political practice is founded on injustice and oppression. The majority ethnic groups absolutely dominate the minorities. The majority groups have deliberately continued marginalizing the minorities in the affairs of governance and developmental projects. In this timely book, David Oguzierem used the Etches as one case study among many of such ugly experiences.
It is the unfair and unjust treatment of minorities that is behind the crisis that has bedeviled our country today. Until we practice a system based on equity and justice, which will be favorable both to the majorities and minorities, we shall continue to grapple with crisis and tension.
What is the way forward? The way out is to design a developmental vision for the development of both the majority groups and minorities. Having a vision and setting its targets and the elements for its success are essential for a people to improve their performance, services and the efficiency of its response to future developments. This should be done with one goal in mind: that of serving the people and enhancing the status of the people, majorities and minorities inclusive. This is what we expect our political system to deliver.
Developmental progress is not a wish or a favour, or even a gesture of generosity on the part of the leaders, but it is a permanent, unconditional commitment by the leaders, the government and all the people, towards the minorities. This requires government controlled by the majority to strive to develop the society, within the framework of a clearly defined development strategy that must be carried out to the letter. If development is the government’s top priority, it is the duty of the government to contribute to the success of the minorities. But this can be achieved only if every group and section of the country feels he or she is part of the on-going development process and has a stake in its success.
I believe promoting this kind of environment should top the priorities of any developmental vision and that providing the conditions leading to such an environment should be the ultimate priority of all the governments. It is not enough that a government provides these facilities for the present; it must ensure it provides them tomorrow, next year, in the next decade and in the future.
As already mentioned in this book, the younger generation is the future. They are the ones who will find the formula that will guarantee sustainable development process and stability both for themselves and for future generations.
The success of our younger generation is not a success for majorities alone, but a success for Nigerians everywhere, including the minorities. They are the prime target of any economic vision and every development effort. Any development vision must therefore aim at preparing the younger generation not only to keep pace with the new economy, but to also take the initiative and lead.
This book, Politics, Development and Minorities In Nigeria is timely. I recommend the book as a useful read on issues of politics, development, economy and the future of minority communities, especially the Etche Nation.
Prof. Steve Amadi
Dean, Faculty of Engineering, RSUST
If Etche people refuse to fight, they cannot rise. Until we rise, we cannot see greatness. Until we see greatness, we cannot be empowered. Let us fight to rise. Let us rise to win, and let us win to be great.
- David Oguzierem
THE MINORITIES PROJECT
Change does not roll in the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.
- Martin Luther King, Jnr
Political and economic marginalization, total neglect, deprivation and underdevelopment have been the common story of minority tribes since creation of Nigeria. The Nigerian state has, for over the years, established the ‘us’ vesus ‘them’ style of operation. Like the lion, the majority tribes would love to have their ‘full’ before allowing other lesser ‘animals’ to have a taste of the meal, that is, if it remains; otherwise they stay hungry. This has been the precedence over the years.
The majority tribes such as the Hausas, Yorubas, Ibos, Fulanis and the mini-majority such as the Igalas, Isokos, Benis, Urobos, Ibibios, Ijaws, Gbokos etc, have, for over the years, determined the management of affairs in Nigeria. On the other hand, minority ethnic nationalities such as Etches have been deprived of participation in national and state administration. This is very unfair and unjust to man and God.
This book will give us the opportunity to take a closer look at the world of minority tribes in Nigeria, especially, Etche people in Rivers State as a case study. We shall see their challenges and potential opportunities. This book will also be a guide to all neglected minority communities in Nigeria in finding solution to their communal problems and developmental challenges.
IS THERE HOPE?
I feel increasingly sad about the sorry state of affairs of the minorities in Nigeria, especially the Etches. Only a persistent sense of optimism about a brighter future lifts my sadness. I keep telling others and myself that all this despair, pessimism and fear are transient, and like a lonely cloud crossing a clear sky, it will soon disappear. What unites Etches largely surpasses their difference, but although the opposite is true for many other tribes, we still see those tribes heading toward unity and development.
This draws my attention about Etche discord which is not a good omen because under normal circumstances, we should form a single bloc in pursuit of The Etche Project. We will never be able to achieve this if trivia dominates our major concerns and negative attitude keep overwhelming the positive. Today’s Etche crisis is not one of money, men, professionals, intellectuals, morale, land or resources. Thank God, we have these in average and are backed by beautiful opportunities.
The real crisis is rather one of leadership, management and perennial egotism. This is the kind of crisis that is bound to happen when lust for power prevails over granting people the love and care they deserve, and when the interests and destiny of one individual become more important than those of a whole people. This is also what happens when the interests of some groups and cliques benefiting from certain leaders are served instead of those of all the people.
When we look at the present Etche society, what we see cannot do us proud. The history of Etche people has been characterized by continuous struggle; struggle for survival, social justice, and political empowerment. For us as a people, the struggle has been very challenging. Someone has said, and I totally agree with him, that, “you are not a failure until you look for who to blame for it.” I believe that our people have no one to blame for their state of affairs. In my opinion, we are not backward because we are from minority; I believe we are backward because we are not open to change. For instance, there are banks of scientific facts that point to the fact that Etche is a land of unlimited opportunities, endowed with vast natural resources (oil and gas) and varieties of food. I consider it, therefore, a paradox that thousands in this same blessed land still live far below the poverty line. We have refused to embrace change in a modern world. In a state of unlimited opportunities, yet we are too blind to see them. A blind man has no sense of value for the treasures around him.
It has been said, and I sense it is true, that development disrupts traditional, political, social and economical systems. In my motherland Etche nation, we have tried to prove the opposite. We, as a people, are adept at making only minor alterations and slight modifications. We steadfastly refuse to fundamental changes. We strive obsessively to fit modern ideas into traditional system. Where no traditional system exists, we refuse to be daunted and simply manufacture tradition. Our distinctive underdevelopment experience is a good example of primitive traditional practice and lack of credible leadership. I am referring here to the kind of action that suffocates credibility and leadership. There is a world of difference between a leadership that is based on love and respect, and one that is based on fear.
Credibility of leadership, can only be established through action and not words. I am referring here to the kind of action that distinguishes a leader who considers his people as his foremost asset, and not one who looks at them as a burden. Our vision as a people should be sharp, our goals should be clear, our resources are huge and should be harnessed, our will is strong so we should stand tall, ready to face the challenges ahead. Our mission is clear to become a national, pioneering hub of excellence and creativity in Rivers State nay Nigeria, and we are already striving to make it the Rivers premier food production area and oil and gas zone. We are confident we can reach this ambitious goals, thanks to our dedicated and enterprising spirit. This can be improved upon if government can provide the necessary infrastructure and environment. Etche will never settle for anything less than first place.
All that is needed in order to reach these goals is to show our people the right direction and nurture their potential for innovation, creativity, self-confidence, determination and leadership. Those who lead from the top of the pyramid end up leading only those on top, which is not how an exclusive development exercise should be carried out. Development is a common and concerted effort and requires common leadership, a true leader should select leaders from the ranks of his own people. Once he selects the right leaders, they will join him in forging ahead to develop sound acceptable master plan of progress.
Although failure is a great teacher, we cannot afford the time to learn from our failures. Human societies cannot be subjected to such a process. Because we are dealing with human beings, we must opt for a successful development experience and a scientific approach that can be applied in all Etche communities. We are growing in a sustainable way, entertaining ambitious development plans, moving quickly over several areas of development and learning all the time. I am as confident that all the elements needed in a distinguished Etche development process are available, as the ability of Etches to achieve their plans. Underdevelopment may have been our experience in the past, but there is solution. This book will explain how to move from this height to the way faward .
David .E. Oguzierem
Egwi Town, Etche, Rivers State
HISTORY & POLITICS
The only people who deserve freedom are those who are ready to fight for it every day.
WHERE ARE WE COMING FROM?
I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Where did the Etches migrate from? What is the history of our lineage? Who are we as a people? Objective answers to these simple questions will provide a clue to our desired direction. On the other hand, wrong answers will lead us to the wrong direction.
In the book, HISTORY OF ETCHE, the authors wrote that there are several stories of Etche origin. These stories have been distilled into two main traditions.
Excerpt from the book reads; the first tradition traces Etche origin to Igboland. It has Igbodo as the first permanent settlement of all Etche people. The second tradition traces Etche descent to the ancient Bini (now Benin) Kingdom and suggests that Igbo Anwhurinwhu is the cradle of all Etche people.
THE BENIN VERSION
The various stories which link Etche with Benin maintain that the people of Etche are of the Igala/Urbo stock. The stories suggest that the aborigines of Etche descended from Ekpeledo of Iduu and Oba in the ancient Benin Kingdom.
The high light of this version is that the people of Etche left the Benin Kingdom around the 7th century, and moved eastwards up to Aboh and veered off into the Orashi River and migrated through the Ndoni creek, settling for a brief while with Akalaka (the father of Ekpeye and Ogba) at the place now called Omoku. Then the Etche horde moved southwards along the Orashi River till they got to the Engenni River, which they crossed and moved eastwards to Abua. They moved from Abua to Ndele by land and then to Aluu through a track road known as Ozo Ahia Ekhe, to Eneka and eventually stopped at Igbo, the first Etche settlement.
Another variant of the Benin tradition tries to corroborate the first version by filling the gaps found in the first version. This variant suggests that the Etche horde moved out of the ancient Benin Kingdom during the reign of Oba Ewuare (c. 1140 – c. 1473) because of the Oba’s tyrannies. The Ochichi (Ikwerre), Ogba and Ekpeye were said to be in the horde that left Benin during the said Oba’s reign of terror.
This variant contends that the Ogba and Ekpeye flanked off at Ali Awoh (now Omoku), but the Ochichi (Ikwerre) group continued with a part of Etche to settle at Ozuzu, while the remaining column of Etche went on and settled down at Igbo at about the end of the 15th century thereby making Igbo the first permanent settlement of Etche.
When all is said and done, these stories of Etche’s Benin pedigree cannot be waved aside. They have some merits as shall be shown presently. All over the lower Niger, particularly among the Ijaws, the Okirikas, Elem Kalabari, Ibani, Ikwerre, Ekpeye and Ogba the story of descent from Benin is a widespread motif. The Ijaws and by extension the Okirikas, Kalabari, Ibani explain it with the Mein tradition.
The Ikwerre and Ogbaa/Ekpeye groups plead the Akalaka legend to prove their common descent from Benin. Apart from the Mein tradition and Akalaka legends, there are also a number of artifacts of bronze objects discovered at widely spaced spots in the lower Delta. All these tend to suggest some early contact with Benin.
THE IGBO VERSION
The Igbo version is the second tradition of Etche origin. This version suggests that the people of Etche are of the Igbo stock. The main contention of this tradition is that Etche descended from Igbodo in the central Delta.
Igbodo is an Igbo community on the western side of the Niger. It came under the influence and political control of the Benin monarchy during the reign of Oba Ewuare (c. 1440 – c. 1473). Igbodo situates between Asaba and Agbor in the present Delta State of Nigeria. In point of distance, Igbodo and Agbor are less than 150 km from Benin city. They were like outposts to the Benin monarchy from the Northwest.
According to this tradition, the founder of Etche is Echie. His name, Echie was corrupted by the British colonizers and anglicized as Etche. Echie was the eldest member of the family that emigrated from Igbodo. He was thus the natural leader of the family and was called “Ochie”. “Genie” simply means the guardian and leader of the group. This is the root of the title of the Etche traditional stool, Ochie of Echie. It is a title which dates back to the pre-historic time known as Mgbe Ndieche. The mother of Etche people is Nne Kolochie, the wife of Etche.
From the point of migration, members of the family that left together with Etche were Ohaji, Ohuhu, Ngwa, Ngor and Echie's younger sibling, Ochichi (the father of Ikwerre). It is believed that the emigration took place during the reign of Oba Esigie (c. 1517 - c. 1530) not Oba Ewuare. The movement was actuated by the immediate panic created by the advancing warriors from Idah, which headed to destroy the Benin monarchy in the 16th century AD. In that panic -stricken situation, the inhabitants of the various Igbo settlements on the fringe of Benin made haste to flee the area. They descended towards the Niger, crossed the river and moved eastward in different directions after leaving the Orlu area.
There is no denying the fact that there was a mass movement of people from the western Igbo settlements across the Niger in the 16th century A.D. This occurred in the wake of the extensive political disturbances, which resulted from the invasion of the Benin monarchy by an army from Idah. The crises occurred during the reign of Oba Esigie. Although the Benin kingdom did not collapse under the said attack, the war sparked off a chain of political upheavals in the 16th century Nigeria. It is not unlikely that the crises nay have created deep panic in western Igboland so much so that a horde of inhabitants of the settlements along this axis chose to flee.
According to this tradition, it was about that period of the mass movement of people from the western Igboland that the horde led by Ochie crossed the Niger and moved south easternward. As at the time the horde led by Ochie passed the Niger, the people of Onitsha had not arrived. The area of land presently inhibited by Onitsha was occupied by Oze people.
The story continues that the Ochie group maintained a south eastern movement through Awka, Orlu, Okigwe down to Owerri axis. It was not a straight and smooth journey. There was no destination in mind. It was an odyssey of a people in search of a safe and secure abode away from the endless turmoils of the central Delta and of the Benin Kingdom.
A variant of the Igbo tradition suggest that Ochie (Echie) came into Igbodo from Arochukwu, another version suggests that the place of entry was Umunoha. And yet another story suggests that he (Echie) came in through Oratta, crossed the Oguochie River and settled permanently at Igbodo.
This history shows that Etche people have a history of great lineage. We migrated from great kingdoms either ways. We are a people with rich traditional background considering our root.
OUR POLITICAL JOURNEY
Study on the political history of Etche people indicates that Etche Nation has once in the 60s produced a regional minister in the person of Chief J.H.E Nwuke from Okomoko in Etche Local Government Area. We have also been priviledged to produce a Deputy Governor of old Rivers State during the Second Republic in 1983 in the person of His Excellency, Chief Dr. Dominic Anucha from Omuma Local Government Area. To the best of facts and information available to me, these are the highest positions we have occupied as a people in River state and Nigeria till date.
Thirty-two years have come and gone since the Second Republic when Chief Dominic Anucha was elected the Deputy Governor of old Rivers State; we have not moved beyond this level. Worst still, we have not attained such position again, rather, we have been retrogressing.
For the purpose of emphasis, it is worthy to mention at this point that we share Rivers East Senatorial District together with two of our sister ethnic groups, namely: Okrikas and Ikwerres. Two Okirika sons have represented us at the Senate, twice. The incumbent senator, who is an Okrika son – Sen. Gorge Sekibo is taking his third shot in office. He re-contested for a third term with Hon. Andrew Uchendu-an Ikwerre son. Also, two Ikwerre sons have occupied the position at the Senate, twice, namely; Senators Obi Wali and John Mbata. It is sad to say that no Etche son has enjoyed the opportunity to represent Rivers East Senatorial District at the National Assembly. It is equally worthy to note that no Etche son has been appointed as Secretary to Rivers State Government. Our law-makers have never been elected to serve as the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly.
We have never been considered for the position of the Governor of Rivers State. None of our sons or daughters has been considered for appointment as a Minister of the Federal Republic or Ambassador of Nigeria, nor has ever risen to the position of Federal Permanent Secretary. We have never held the position of the Board chairman of a Federal Parastatal or the likes.
More importantly none have served as the chairman of the ruling political party, either in the state or federal. Now the bigger one: no Etche man has ever been a party presidential flagbearer of any political party in Nigeria. The common question is: why have we not risen to these positions? The answer is very simple. Disunity! It is disunity that has led to loss of political identity, but then there is also the issue of minority.
This fact may be very bitter. But the truth is, we are a people that have not adequately formulated a political identity in Nigeria. Consequently we are not considered as a force to be reckoned with and so can easily be taken for a ride. Since no one cares to ask questions, it therefore seem that we lack the will to challenge the status quo, and muscle a change. We have not formidable and resolute in our political approach.
In this chapter, we will be exploring the past and present attempt to fashion political identity for Etche people. I will also attempt to act as a gadfly, a catalyst, to provoke discussion and dialogue on how best to reclaim our lost political identity.
E T C H E N A T I O N M O D E R N P O L I T I C A L
The father and leader of modern Etche political evolution is late Chief J.H.E Nwuke. He joined partisan politics in 1944. The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) was formed on August 26, 1944, immediately after the Second World War. The formation and emergence of the NCNC was significant for Etche political history. It was the first political party to gain a foothold in Etche land. Late Chief J.H.E. Nwuke was a close ally of late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe one of the founders of NCNC.
From the time Chief Nwuke joined the NCNC, the political wave changed in Etche. Chief Robert Nwuche of Eberi in Omuma also joined the NCNC at about this time and tagged along Chief Nwuke and Chief Aguma. Chief Robert Nwuche eventually became the first Vice Chairman of Etche County when it was created in 1952. Late Chief S.O Achonwa was the first Chairman. When the County Council was divided into three regions, namely; East, West and North, Etche belonged to the Eastern Region. The Eastern Region was administered from Enugu between 1946 and 1967. Etche formed an integral part of Ikwerre/Etche and Ahoada Federal Council. The Federal council was composed by the federating clan councils. The headquarters of Ahoada, Ikwerre / Etche federal council was Ahoada.
The Ikwerre/Etche/Ahoada Federal Council was chaired by an Etche son, Chief J.H.E. Nwuke. Under the Federal Council, Etche was shared into three parts. Omuma belonged to Aba Division, Ozuzu to Owerri Division and the other parts of Etche fell to Degema Division
Conscious of the advantage inherent in keeping all the parts of Etche together, Etche political elite of the time had series of talks and lobbies at Asa, Degema and Port Harcourt for all of Etche to be reassembled into a single administrative unit. Chief M.E. Nwankwo from Omuma tenaciously fought for the integration of Omuma with Etche.
Based on the recommendation of the Ackwright Commission, Omuma area of Etche was brought back to Etche mainland and the Ikwerre/Etche Amalgamated County Council broke up in 1952. Etche County Council was thus established with its headquarters at Eberi. The headquarters was finally moved to Umuola (Obibi) in 1964, and was finally moved to Okehi for reason of centrality.
The creation of Etche County Council marked the first major revolution of political autonomy by the people since 1906, the year that Etche was placed under the Eastern province. Immediately after the federal election of 1964, Chief J.HE. Nwuke was elected to the Eastern Regional Assembly from where he got appointed as a Regional Minister into the Eastern Regional Executive Council. Chief Jonah Akor was elected into the Federal House of Representative to represent the defunct Ahoada North/East Federal Constituency. Both Chief Nwuke and Chief Akor were of the NCNC.
The Nigeria/Biafra Civil War broke out in 1967. The war left Etche blighted. First, Etche was occupied by Biafran insurgents until they were dislodged and driven away by the federal troops. During the war, countless number of Etche people perished. The Chokocho-Umuanyagu-Okomoko Bridge, the Umuechem-Egwi and Umaturu – Akpoku Bridges were blown up by the Biafran soldiers to hinder the federal troops from gaining access to the lgbo heartland. The people of Etche were displaced, dislocated and dragged back in terms of progress. The cost of the war in Etche was enormous.
The lot of Etche in the years after the civil war became bitter. There were no accessible roads and bridges to enhance movement of people and goods in and out of Etche. Life in the area became localized as people engaged in farming to meet subsistence needs. Economic activities nose-dived; poverty proliferated and the people’s living standard diminished. Since the military were still in power, no partisan activit1es went on. Worst still, Chief J H E Nwuke, the pathfinder of Etche politics, perished with the civil war. He was said to have been killed by a stray bullet. The effort of people of Etche to reintegrate into Rivers State was checkmated by the Riverine people. Riverine people of Rivers State were slow to accept and accommodate the people of Etche (and other upland Rivers) as part and parcel of Rivers State. They disregarded the fact that Etche County Council was one of the 17 county councils that constituted Rivers State since 1967. Indeed, it took the great efforts of Eze E.N.B. Opurum to get Etche fully integrated into Rivers State after the war. Eze E.N.B. Opurum was then the Commissioner of Rural Development and Co-operative. He was the first Etche person to be made commissioner in Rivers State.
However, the post-war military administration in Rivers State under Commander Alfred Diete Spiff recognized and respected Etche political autonomy., When Alfred Diete-Spiff created Divisional Councils, Etche was constituted into a separate Divisional Council (1973-1975). That was a fresh stamp of recognition on the autonomy of Etche which was won in 1952. Regrettably, the Divisional Council arrangement did not last long before it fizzled out.
In 1976, the Federal Military Government of Nigeria carried out a nation-wide local government reform. Consequently, the Divisional councils in Rivers State were reconstituted into Local Government Areas. At this time, Colonel Zamani Lekwot had become the Military Administrator of Rivers State. He looked back into the arrangement in 1950 and once again put Ikwerre and Etche together to form Ikwerre/Etche local Government Area (KELGA), with Isiokpo as the headquarters.
The creation of KELGA in 1976 was a major turning point in the political history of Etche. From that development, Etche people lost the political autonomy they attained in 1952.
From 1976, May 3 to 1989, darkness fell in Etche. Etche people suffered acute political marginalization. They were oppressed, traumatized, and deprived. Virtually all benefits meant for KELGA eluded Etche.
However Etche opinion leaders did clamour relentlessly for better treatment from successive Rivers State governments. Sadly though, all their complaints fell on deaf ears. The suffering and deprivations refused to ease. Etche had no one in the government, state or federal level. There was no one to advocate for her cause in the corridors of power. The sad lot of Etche persisted until the Transition to Civil Rule in 1979.
The Transition to Civil Rule started in earnest in 1978. The Federal Military Government convened the Constituent Assembly where the 1979 Constitution was debated and packaged. Etche was not represented at the Constituent Assembly because the single chance for KELGA was, as usual, filled by Ikwerre.
Subsequently, the Federal Military Government registered five political parties: the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Great Nigerian People Party (GNPP) and the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). The people of Etche embraced the NPP more than the other parties.
From the general elections of 1979, Etche elected her compatriots to represent her at the state and federal levels of government. Thus, late Dr. E. O. Nwala of NPP defeated Chief Nwanoruo M. Okere of NPN to represent Etche Federal constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, Lagos. At the state legislature, Dr. D.U
Anucha of NPN was elected to represent Etche Constituency I and Barrister S. O. Nwogu of NPP was elected to represent Etche constituency ll.
The NPN won the presidential election, though under a very controversial circumstance and formed the federal government, led by Aihaji Shehu Shagari. In Rivers State, Late Chief Melford Okilo of NPN won the gubernational election impressively. He became the first executive governor of Rivers State, with late Dr. Frank Eke as his Deputy.
The victory of the NPN was a great blessing to Etche. Late Chief Nwanorue M. Okere was appointed Commissioner for Commerce and Industry and later redeployed to the Ministry of Agriculture and National Resources. He thus became the second Etche son to be appointed Commissioner in Rivers State. Dr. D. U. Anucha was also elected the Deputy Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly while Barrister S.O. Nwogu of NPP became the Deputy Minority leader in the same Assembly. Also Mr. Reginald Nwabeke was appointed Commissioner for Electricity and Water Supply (1979- 83).
Chief James Nweke functioned as the Chairman of Omuma Urban Council between 1979 and 1983 and Chief T. O. S. Anaele served as the Chairman Etche District Council 1981/82.
Earlier, Chief L. A. N. D. Nwankwo had served as the Chairman of KELGA from 1980-81, being the first Etche to hold the position of a Chairman of the Council since 1976 when it was created. Later in 1983, Chief Ben Chioma also had a stint as caretaker Chairman of KELGA.
From October 1979 – December 31, 1983, Etche basked in the sunshine of political fortune and glory. For instance, Chief D. U. Anucha became the Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. The people’s burden lessened for a while. The Second Republic was terminated on December 31, 1983. NPN swept the polls at all levels of government and got re-elected almost everywhere in the federation. In Rivers State, Chief Melford Okilo was returned as the Governor. This time, he picked an Etche son, Hon. D. U. Anucha as the running mate.
His Excellency, Hon. D. U. Anucha thus became the Deputy Governor of Rivers State. Barrister S.O. Nwogu had earlier defected to NPN at the Rivers State House of Assembly. Regrettably, these Etche sons were in power for only a short period before the military ousted the civilians from power on December 31st, 1983.
The duo of Major General Muhammadu Buhari and Brigadier Tunde ldiagbon ousted the civilians from power for alleged wide spread electoral malpractice, corruption, maladministration and economic chaos in the country. The 1979 Constitution was suspended and all the democratic structures were disposed off. The “shakers and movers” of the Second Republic were clamped into detention.
From January 1, 1984, darkness fell again in Etche. The events that followed left no one in doubt that the people of Etche had gone back to the pre-1979 era. According to the foremost scholar, late Professor R. N.P. Nwankwoala in his memoir, My Stewardship: “the period was to Etche a perfect definition of hell on earth”.
The people of Etche passed through another period of excruciating experience. They were deprived, oppressed and traumatized. There was anguish. Etche was on the margin. Actuated by anguish, the people of Etche began to explore every avenue to lift themselves out of their predicament. They became restless in their demand for the creation of Etche Local Government Council.
Hence in April 23, 1988, when late Dr. R. N P. Nwankwoala (as he then was) was elected to represent Etche Federal Constituency in the 1988/89 Constituent Assembly, his only obsession was how to get a local government council for the people of Etche.
Several petitions and memoranda were sent to the military authorities by the Ogbako Etche leadership under Chief (Barrister) S.O. Nwogu. Several useful contacts were also made; all in a bid to get a local government council for Etche. But the L.G.A. would not come. On December 12, 1988, late Dr. (later Professor) R.N.P. Nwankwoala moved an epic motion at the Constituent Assembly, advocating the creation of new
The effect of the motion was enormous and provided the basis for the creation of additional 145 Local Government Councils in Nigeria by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1989. Thus, on May 3, 1989 when Gen. Ibrahim Banbangida, in a nation-wide broadcast, announced 145 new Local Government Councils based on Federal constituencies, Etche Local Government council was named. There was wide jubilation and celebration all over Etche. It was like a day of independence. A new page was opened in the political history of Etche.
In 1995, Gen. Abacha convoked a Constitutional Conference in Abuja headed by Hon. Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte. Representation to the conference was based on senatorial zones. Accordingly, Chief (Dr.) D.U. Anucha, an illustrous son of Etche, was elected to represent the Rivers East Senatorial Zone. Another Etche son, late Mr. Alloys Nweke, who later represented Etche Constituency ll at the Rivers State House of Assembly, (1999 -2003), served as the Press Secretary to Hon. Justice Karibi-Whyte at Abuja throughout the period of the Constitutional Conference.
During the Constitutional Conference, the issue of creating more local government councils became a subject of serious discussion. Etche made representation to the Committee on local govornment creation, which was headed by Sir Dr. Peter Odili (Who later became the Executive Governor of Rivers State). Etche demanded additional Local Government Areas to wit: Omuma and Otamiri LGAs. The Constitutional conference concluded its assignment and submitted its recommendation to the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC)
On December 5, 1996, the military administration of late Gen Sani Abach promulgated decree for the creation of more Local Government Councils in Nigeria and Omuma LGA was named. The creation of Omuma LGA was another watershed in the epic struggle of Etche people for political autonomy and recognition of the plight of Etche people, especially in the area of movement that is made difficult by its geographical terrain.
Etche thereby became composed of two LGAs: Etche and Omuma. The headquarters of Omuma is Eberi. Both LGA’s make up the Etche Federal Constituency, with three state constituencies. Etche LGA has two state constituencies while Omuma LGA has one state constituency. Etche and Omuma still have one Federal Constituency.
THE NEW VISION
If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
I have always had this special feeling and concern about minority societies in majority dominated groups in our Nigerian nation especially as it affects Etche people. As early as I can remember, I have been fascinated by its peculiarity, inspired and spurred by its almost boundless human and material resources. In the years, as I grew up, this special feeling has crystallized into indissoluble commitment to my people; a people sometimes good and rarely excellent; sometimes bad and often downright failures.
This self-confidence, to the untutored, takes on the aspect of vaulting insensitivity. I have, in particular, been moved always by the poverty, squalor, ignorance, sickness and weakness of its common folk. I have, with the common folk, wept in anguish when successive governments and leaders exploit them mercilessly, dash their hopes on the rock for personal interest and self-aggrandizement, and fed them the diet of unfulfilled promises.
I have had a love/hate relationship with Etche. When I love, it is with all the consuming passion of mother’s love for her retarded offspring and when I have appeared to hate, it has been with the hatred of a rejected suitor. From time to time, I frown at what I see happen in Etche. This has been, without exception, a lover’s quarrel: volatile and very transient. My father is from Egwi in Etche Local Government Area; my beloved mother hails from Eberi, in Omuma Local Government Area. My paternal grandparents are both from Etche local government area. My maternal grandparents come from Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas respectively. I was also reliably told that my great grand parents are indigenes of Etche. Therefore, I regard myself as a full-blooded son of Etche of Niger Delta.
Moreover, I grew up in my beloved rural village-Egwi Etche. I had my primary school education at Egwi Primary School. My secondary education was at County Grammar School, Ikwerre/Etche; the only outside educational influence that I had was my university education at Rivers State University of Science and Technology and later University of Port Harcourt. I was raised on Etche soil. I know the pain and gain of the people. In my lonely moments, I reflect on the pendulum swing of Etche political emotions: day before yesterday - a fair government, yesterday - a bad political leadership; today -dialogue and tomorrow, very uncertain. From this, I learnt that Etche people were beset with 'political blindness' and 'political identity' crises. Who are we? Where are we? Where are we going to? What shall we find there? And what shall we do with what we find there? These are very simple questions. Yet they are crucial to our existence, vital to our well being as a people and p e r t i n e n t t o T h e N e x t E t c h e D e v e l o p m e n t Project(NEDEP).
I have reflected on all these. I have emerged from this background strengthened in my faith in Etche, sustained by an obsessive jealously for her image, and driven by unalloyed concern for the well being of her people. I feel proud that I am from Etche, for no ethnic nationality can match the hope which this beloved land of ours gives to the suffering and brutalized, wherever, and in whatever circumstance he finds himself in this country questionable country called Nigeria. But I think something very vital is lacking. What is lacking is the positive vision which can inspire and guide an eager people into the future.
From the lowest depths to the highest mountain tops, let me proclaim this vision of a new Etche and Niger Delta minorities.
I see an Etche and in which we all believe in the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person, an Etche where the willful and wanton destruction of human life is
not only an abominable sin, but also a grave crime, an Etche where every individual counts, and no one is taken for granted; an Etche that upholds the dignity of man.
I see an Etche which places a high premium on patriotism and Etche people who have faith and devotion to the fatherland; an Etche where every indigene is prepared to work for the land and to stand up for her. I see an Etche where every indigene knows and demands his civil and political rights in Nigeria, recognizes the rights of his fellow Etcheman and is prepared to defend them when necessary and an Etche where we all stand up for our rights and assist others to secure their rights.
I see an Etche where sovereignty and power belong to the people; an Etche where the leader is servant and the ruled, master; an Etche where leaders strive to satisfy the people at all times.
I see an Etche where those who exercise power are accountable to the people; an Etche where leaders accept responsibility for inefficiency and bad advice.
I see an Etche that is very developed and peaceful, where the poor are taken care of, children are given education, and its youths empowered.
I see an Etche whose sons vie for and are appointed to the positions of minister, senator, ambassador, governor, vice president, chairman of boards, federal parmanent secretaries and someday, President of the Federal Republic Nigeria.
I see an Etche that has reclaimed its dreams and an Etche that has rediscovered her destiny.
OUR DESTINY IS IN OUR HANDS
The general population of Etche people is crippled by lack of hope; our people cannot imagine change and have therefore remained passive. Let passive nature not be mistaken for docility, for this land belongs not only to our often misguided political elite, but rather to all its indigenes. We must always remember that whenever a people grow weary of any system, they can always exercise their constitutional rights of orientating it, or should the situation demand, exercise their revolutionary right, to vote it out.
As we look with anguish at our beloved Etche, we find that she suffers gravely of two main diseases: lack of political empoerment and economic decline.
What I propose, and have been proposing in the search for a new understanding is a form of symbiosis during which we diffuse and contain our sicknesses until a new Etche emerges with virile anti-bodies to destroy the afore-mentoned diseases. In the search for political empowerment, let us be pragmatic and participatory. To halt our economic decline, let us install with urgency an era of manpower building and planned production with ever-increasing targets for each commodity and services.
If the anticipated new dispensation is to have any change of success, we must jointly march forward into the future determined to lower the level of political distrust; ensure that power is something to be shared rather than hoarded; increase with urgency the level of tolerable poverty in our society, and understand that too much change in too little time is as bad as too little change in too much time.
When we are committed to these, let us then proceed with courage to redesign a new majority which will not divide our beloved Etche land into right and wrong. What the new situation calls for, under the new understanding, is a division into right and left. This will usher in balance and stability and will be a second foundation for empowerment.
The prize is one of epic proportions and failure is not an option. To ensure success, we have to join the race and win. After all, no one ever remembers who came second – not even the second man to climb Everest Mountain or walk on the moon!
A people’s development, however, does not happen overnight or by accident. Nor does the development of a nation ever stop once the process has begun.
Nation building is the result of intense efforts at building a community and homeland; a phenomenal task not undertaken lightly, but shouldered by a people’s government, its public and private sectors, and its
They must all be willing to respond to the rapidly changing conditions that ricochet around the world at breakneck speed.
In order to lay solid foundations for the Etche future, we must build upon the achievements forged by our founding fathers – achievements that must not stop with our generation, but must continue and be perpetuated by future generations. History shows no mercy for weaklings. Late Chief J.H.E Nwuke; His Eminence, Eze E.N.B Opurum; His Excellency, Eze Dr. Dominic Anucha, Chief Jona Nwankwo and our beloved late and living leaders, never waited for history to record their feats; they were proactive in making history themselves and in doing so, set the benchmark for us to follow.
‘Progression’ and regression
In today’s fast-paced world, if you are not leading, you will be left behind. If you fall behind, it is likely that someone less capable, less creative and less prepared than you will take your place. Although this can happen very quickly, the race is also one of endurance. Should you stumble once or twice, do not worry, you can learn valuable lessons from falling occasionally and will be unlikely to repeat the same mistakes. Failure is not falling to the ground; it is remaining there once you have fallen and the greatest failure is when you decide not to stand up again.
Etche leaders should fully understand that if our ethnic nationality lags behind others p0litically and economically, it will be left behind. They should also know that large-scale development will not only improve Etche’s physical infrastructure, but eliminate unemployment, ignorance, poverty and illness.
When nations fail to develop, they become vulnerable to a collapse in security and stability, and lose the foundations on which their prosperity was built. They also risk being subjugated to tyranny and prejudice, and after a few years of recession, lose most of the benefits, status and respect they had acquired over several decades of development.
When you face a challenge that demands a solution or a decision, you have two choices – you can either emulate the example set by others or use your own creativity and intelligence to formulate a new idea. This applies equally to the development of our ethnic nationality. Many brilliant ideas have circulated the state and various groups have copied the concepts, so much that these once inspired creations often become hackneyed. However, ‘second-hand’ ideas are not for us here in Etche. We should rather lead than follow.
At the root of any new project is an idea and if we cannot find a fresh concept for a project, we will not implement it because it will fall short of what we have come to expect. We believe that the shortest way to the bright future we seek lies in a creative and pioneering approach.
I believe the task of our leaders needs to include the selection of an appropriate number of suitably qualified Etche manpower, with an eye to succession. This does not apply only to traditional institutions, but in other areas as well, especially politics, because it is a leader’s duty to develop the leadership skills of those he believes are suitable. And when the time comes, these people can transfer their knowledge to the next generation.
While this happens most of the time, there are unfortunate exceptions. Some leaders are not interested in – or will not tolerate – the existence of another person as qualified and skilled as they are, out of fear of competition or of losing their position. Although this is understandable to a degree, I disagree with such leaders, because a true leader should realize he cannot be everywhere all the time and implement all his tasks at once. He must learn to delegate. When a leader fails to delegate, he will find himself embroiled in so much detail that it will eventually overwhelm and distract him from his primary task (developing the business of the office and finding innovative solutions to its problems) to such an extent that he will eventually lose sight of the bigger picture. It should also be known that success without a successor is failure. So good leaders should not only learn to carry others along but should also inspire and reproduce themselves in others.
But what exactly is the bigger picture?
The bigger picture is one of survival – life’s driving force and the reason why all creatures spend each day trying to catch their prey or escape their hunters. Survival cannot be achieved by wishful thinking. Continued growth requires huge effort, complete attention and being consistently alert to potential dangers.
If our sole goal is to attain the level others have reached, then we are setting our target too low. We must take matters into our own hands. Do not fool yourselves into believing that we are moving forward when we are only keeping up with general trends, while the real opportunities are slipping away.
We must take the lead and be proactive in forging our own destiny. The future will bring daunting, unforseen challenges and we must be ready to face anything.
God gave his believers sight, vision and perception, to understand their environment and the consequences of their actions, both today and tomorrow. God’s glory is evident in everything. You see it in the contrast between people; you find it in the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the leader and the follower.
I end this chapter with the famous Igbo proverb: ‘Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always gorify the hunter”.
OIL & GAS
POLITICS IN ETCHE
Oil and gas virtually monopolize our attention but these are resources that will be taken out and finished in a few years. What will remain to feed us, our children, and their grand children are the other resources of the land, rivers, seas and forests which have endured from the over ten thousand years life of the present Niger Delta. Our attention, therefore, must extend beyond the control of revenue from oil and gas, to the preservation of the other resources (of the environment) which are the key to sustainable development.
-Professor E.J. Alagoa
Shell (MNOC) operating in Nigeria, had at 31 December 2006, 391 flow stations, and 6,200 pipelines and flow lines in 3,000 square kilometers in a variety of extreme habitats, including humid swamp Crests, mangrove swamps, seasonally flooded forests and the sea, SPDC is said to have formulated policies whereby all its activities are planned and executed to minimize environmental degradation, and the company recognizes 3 gap between its intentions and its current performance. The company is further said to be working hard to renew aging facilities, reduce the number of oil spills and the amount of gas that is flared.
Investigation reveals that these statements are merely on paper. In reality, SPDC and other MNOCs continue to devastate the environment and plunder the resources of Niger Delta people. Even where they enter into a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the host communities, SPDC, and indeed, the other MNOCs never keep to the terms. Investigations show that 86.5 percent of the conflicts between MNOCs and their host communities result from the non-adherence of MNOCs to the terms and conditions of the MOUs.
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There is an orchestrated conspiracy by the majority blocs to perpetually relegate and oppress the minority tribes in the political and economic sharing table of Nigeria. This conspiracy is worst for Etche people. Just as Niger Delta Region has been neglected and marginalized over the years, likewise Etche people have been tactically prevented from making recognizable progress in political, educational, business and public service leadership of Nigeria. For Example, Etche people has never produced a Senator, Minister, Speaker of RSHA, Speaker Federal House of Representative, Governor of Rivers State, Federal Permanent Secretary, Chairman of Federal Board or Director-General of a Federal Government Agency. In this volume, David Oguzierem writes more endearingly about the minority stigma and his dream - Etche, as he states, with stronger conviction the solutions to her problems. Emphasizing that nobody will build minorities, particularly Etcheland, but her people. Indeed places don't make people; it is a people that make places. With each new day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion or perish. At the same time, a lion stirs and stretches, knowing he must outrun the fastest gazelle or starve. It is no different for minorities. Whether we consider ourselves a gazelle or a lion, we simply have to run faster than others to survive, else we perish.