Tony John, Port Harcourt
Peace, people believe, brings development and progress to an individual and society. But, where peace is not, the opposite is the possible result. That is why people of goodwill would always preach progress anywhere they go.
Egbema, which is partly Imo or Rivers States, is a blessed land. Apart from agriculture, Egbema Ethnic Nationality is an oil producing area. For several decades, the area has fed the nation from large quantum of oil produce.
But, as is akin to oil-bearing towns and villages, where divide-and-rule antics of multinational oil companies are common, Egbemaland is not an exception. It has not received attention either from government, or international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the place.
Disturbed by the state of things in the land, people, mostly the elderly, from the ethnic nationality, recently gathered in one of the communities for a way forward.
Speaking at the meeting, former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Sir Mike Okiro, who hails from the area, noted the marginalization of Egbema ethnic nationality by both Government of Rivers and Imo States.
Okiro stated that the marginalization was as a result of what he described as “evil divide” planted among the citizens. According to the notable security expert, the “evil divide” has reduced the strength of unity of purpose in Egbemaland.
The former Police boss, who spoke through a representative, Professor Jason Ossai, at the first home general meeting organized by socio-cultural ethnic group, Ogbako Egbema, said the essence of the gathering was to build a bridge to cement the divide created by political partitioning of Egbemaland being partly in Imo State and partly Rivers State.
Mr. Okiro bemoaned the effective use of the evil divide to create instability in Egbema. He added that the present generation of Egbema youths were not happen with where they have found themselves.
He noted from security point of view that, if there is no change from the negative mindset, there would be a slop down on the economic scale.
He, therefore, enjoined the youths to shun social vices that would stall every process to unity and development of their towns and villages.
Okiro expressed: “The generation we have now, is very worrisome. And, if we are not able to change the current negative mindset of Egbema, we are going to pull down a slippery economic slope.
“And I know oil has finished; the demand for oil will soon crash. If we do not adjust ourselves now and exploit the opportunity we have now, by way of the presence of the multinationals, and prepare for the next level of the economy, then, it is going to be a problem for all of us”, he advised.
Speaking further, Okiro said: “And it is worsened by the fact that the volitivity of the area has brought in arms and ammunition. So, you might find a community in a state of anomie.
“I urge every Egbema man to depart from ‘pull-him or her-down’ syndrome; and in any competition, where it is just one person to go, let us support the person,” he urged.
Speaking too, Sir Francis Ifi, the President of Ogbako Egbema, Port Harcourt chapter, described the first home gathering of Egbema people as a feat that was laudable.
He noted that such gathering has given an Egbema man an identity and pride and forms a common front to pursue progress and development.
Ifi stated: “We deemed it very necessary to converge to champion the course of our forebears and imprint Egbema in the map of history, as one of the ethnic groups richly endowed with natural resources.
“So, the impact of the general assembly meeting of Ogbako Egbema was to create awareness that Egbema people have a common front and to sustain the cultural heritage of Egbemaland”, he explained.
Some other persons, who spoke during the meeting commended the conveners. They noted with displeasure that Egbemaland, both in Imo and Rivers States, has not received government attention commensurable to its contribution to the nation growth.
They decried the level of marginalization of their land, which have not gone down well in the natives, particularly the youths. They lamented lack of social amenities, good road network, employment among others.