From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
People of Ogoni and Kalabari ethnic nationalities in Rivers State, have alleged political marginalisation by the Ikwerre ethnic nationality and demanded equality governance of the state.
Also, the Kalabari people have urged Ogoni to support them in their clamour to produce the next governor of the state in 2023.
They lamented that 24 years after the new political arrangement in 1999, the riverine has not produced governor.
The two ethnic nationalities expressed this at a unity meeting between chiefs and opinions leaders of Ogoni Liberation Initiative (OLI) and Kengema Unity Forum (KUF) held in Usokun, Degema Local Government Area of Rivers at the weekend.
Daily Sun gathered that OLI and KUF arranged the unity meeting to define their environmental, economic and political future in the state.
Speaking, the leader of KUF, Sobomabo Jackrich, said it was important that the two ethnic groups in the state had the meeting for the sake of unity and economic purposes, considering developments in the state.
Jackrich, in his speech titled: Movement for the Actualization of Upland/Riverine Dichotomy for Peace, Equality and Justice, noted that the two major ethnic nationalities in Rivers share similarities in terms of terrain, socio-economic and political marginalization.
He said: “However, the stories of environmental devastation, economic and political marginalization suffered by these major tribes inflicted on us by the state and federal government despite providing over 80 percent of the economic stay of the state, can only be better imagined.
“To further worsen the situation, by our political sequence, we have seen a deliberate effort by some of our upland brothers who seem to have taken advantage of our seemingly discordant posture with a calculated move to hold on to power for 24 years, and deliberately politicizing the development of the state.
“It has, therefore, become necessary for us to work together, stand by each other to fight and gain back our socio-economic and political freedom, destiny as a people”.
Jackrich said that the idea of upland/riverine dichotomy in the political events of the state was not new, but dates back to the era after the creation of the state.
He explained that upland political leaders led by late Dr. Obi Wali and Ken Saro-Wiwa, used the upland/riverine divide as a defining terminology to describe the Ijaws and their mainland neighbours in the old Rivers State.
The KUF leader regretted that since the emergence of Dr. Peter Odili in 1999 to 2007, power has not been given to the riverine as earlier agreed, adding that there would be need for the riverine to be considered in 2023.
He noted: “Since power rotated to the upland about 20 years ago, the beneficiaries of the upland/riverine dichotomy, who mostly are our Ikwerre brothers, 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.
“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 24 years at the end of Wike’s tenure in office by 2023.
“However, according to the political history of the state in the past 22 years, it will only be fair to consider the riverine and most specifically, the Kalabaris, to have a shot to occupy the Brick House in the next political dispensation of the state.
“The Kengema Unity Forum which is the mouth piece of the Kalabari people, therefore, seizes this medium to appeal to you, our Ogoni brothers and sisters, to lend us your support to enable us achieve this lofty height”.
Similarly, Leader of OLI, Douglas Fabeke, stated that Ogoni has been marginalised, adding that their people were determined for liberation.
Fabeke said: “Ogoni are peculiar and we are facing economic slavery. We are here to make moves on how to liberate ourselves.
“Ogoni has over 300 oil wells. Yet, we are the poorest in the state. We will liberate ourselves. We contribute 98 percent in the economic development of Nigeria.
“We have decided that Ogoniland will never remain what it is. We are not taking permission from any politician”.