ON this, the eve of the general elections, it is again evident that the Anioma are on the road to self-immolation. Those who attack the ideology and or philosophical foundation of democracy have opined that it is only at election time that the people have any weight.
Once elected, public officers and government proceed on a different trajectory from the yearnings of the people. Public officers and government officers begin to operate almost like a living organism feeding on the people’s patrimony oblivious of the often repeated truism that power is transient.
The people who in democratic theory give birth to public officers and government become at best guinea pigs or laboratory rats on whom to test the latest economic and social theories of public administration and governance.
To crown it all, the paraphernalia of office, sirens and security personnel and other aides all go to re-enforce the impression that holders of public office must be mere mortals to be feared and respected by all, particularly yesterday’s bride, the voters.
All this is the background against which to measure the opportunity that has again been presented to the Anioma to make a concerted effort to overcome their seemingly unending travails. By travails I refer to the by now worn-out cry of marginalisation in the policy direction of the government of Delta State and the refusal of Nigeria at large to liberate the Anioma from bondage by giving us our own state.
In the case of the policy direction of Delta State, the Ibori continuum is manifested in the deliberate effort to keep the Anioma area of Delta State perpetually rural. I invite the reader to take a drive from Lagos through Benin-Asaba to Onitsha.
The reader will observe that from Lagos through Yoruba land to Ore, the evidence of economic activity and the fruits of the Yoruba elites control of the Nigerian economy is the frequency with which palatial private residences appear on the landscape. From Ore to Agbor, the tempo will dramatically reduce but nonetheless is still evident even if sluggish.
It is from Agbor to Asaba that one notices a deadly silence, a complete absence of economic activity. It is a measure of the total emasculation of the Anioma that there are only three forms of economic activity:
*The sale of loaves of bread by the roadside to travellers.
*The sale of farm produce like garri, yams and seasonal produce like corn to travellers by the roadside.
*The presence of a few petrol stations between Agbor and Asaba invariably with no petrol to sell anyway.
As for the rest of the people in Anioma hinterland, everybody is a farmer or a retired pensioner. As soon as the reader crosses the Niger Bridge at Asaba having just left the deadly silence at Anioma, all his senses are assaulted by the tremendous bedlam of economic activity. At this point, I believe it will be useful to locate the real place of the Anioma in Delta State of Nigeria in consideration of a few aspects taken at random.
Firstly, the period from 1998 till date has been characterised by reversals in the number of Anioma indigenes who have been allowed to reach the top of whatever field of public life they have chosen. In the judiciary for instance, Anioma in the past had at least two justices of the Supreme Court.
Since 1998 till date, there is no Anioma sitting at the Supreme Court. Anioma has produced a Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice and not less than six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, yet since 1998 no Anioma has ever served as Attorney General of Delta State or Chief Judge of the State. It is doubtful if any Anioma has ever served at the State Judicial Service Commission.
As for the civil service, appointment of Anioma indigenes has been a blatant case of tokenism. Even where they are appointed to seemingly key positions in the Delta State civil service, the offices are immediately stripped of key elements and power that before the appointment of an Anioma, was characteristic of such offices. The same goes for political appointees.
The most amusing was the case of the position of the Deputy Governor of the State. Whilst an Anioma was occupant of the office, he was not allowed to bear the title “His Excellency” nor were befitting cars such as jeeps allocated to his convoy. As soon as an Urhobo became Deputy Governor, the official title of the Deputy Governor immediately changed to “His Excellency” and his convoy was suddenly elevated with befitting cars.
The position of key offices in the legislature has been an instrument of the James Ibori policy of divide and rule. Any Anioma who was prepared to conform without question to the James Ibori agenda and its continuum, Dr. Uduaghan, was rewarded with high office. In the legislature of Delta State, that such offices where by law meant to be by-election of the members of the state assembly was merely to pay lip-service to the Constitution.
The truth was that no person could be elected to the legislature who was not approved by James Ibori and the continuum, Dr. Uduaghan. Consequently, all Anioma holders of public offices in today’s Delta State owe their presence in government to the approval or endorsement of James Ibori and Dr. Uduaghan.
Secondly, in the distribution of amenities and infrastructures the Anioma have been victims of an orchestrated policy of deprivation. In the face of its obvious constitutional illegality, the government of Delta State under James Ibori and his present day continuum have instituted what they call “desopadec”. The policy of Delta State government is that resources of the state must first be spent in the areas described as oil producing areas.
That the state capital Asaba is located in a purportedly non-oil producing area has been justification for not spending sufficient resources on developing Asaba and environs. Indeed, Ibori rubbed salt into the wound by creating an alternative state capital in Warri.
All these manifestations of second class citizenship ought to have been sufficient reasons for the Anioma, particularly the elites, to mobilise themselves and the ordinary citizens at election time.
Mr. Michael AGBAMUCHE, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.