ABIA State Governor, Theodore Orji, explained recently, that his desire for a united Nigeria informed his decision to recall the non-indigenes disengaged from the state’s civil service. He made the explanation at the Enugu Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, press week held at Top Rank Hotel, Enugu, emphasizing the unity of the Igbos of the South East whose indigenes were mostly affected by the disengagement.
“It is only in Abia State among others in the South East today that non-indigenes contest elections and win. Non- indigenes are being appointed into political positions in Abia. And so non-indigenes should also take their rightful place in the civil service.”
The Governor, who was represented by his Special Assistant, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, assured that such obnoxious policy would never occur again in Abia State. He enjoined other states in the South East to emulate Abia State in recalling those they disengaged.
Orji urged all Nigerians, particularly Ndigbo residing in AbiaState, to see themselves as indigenes with full rights and privileges.
Many have viewed this statement with suspicion, especially as it is coming towards the eve of another election in 2015, when the eight-year tenure of the Governor will end. They see it as a ploy to win the hearts of Ndigbo pragmatists in order to secure support for perhaps his ambition to move up to the Senate come 2015.
It is all empty politics they argue, because Orji neither gave details of the number of non-indigenes sacked, re-instated, etc. He should have thought of peace in the first place before sacking the people; he must either be talking from both sides of his mouth or he is a man who acts before he thinks. He is, therefore, either a liar or a confused man.
These people may well be justified in their suspicion because since after the return to full democracy in 1999, the South East has been blessed with leaders who plainly deceived their people, built housing estates on bill boards, left the civil service without salaries at one stage or the other, found it very difficult to implement most, if not all, of their electoral promises.
So, AbiaState is not alone in this. My beloved ImoState once had a Governor who refused to pay the salary of civil servants, especially the teachers for several months, saying that there was no money. Until just recently, under Okorocha, Imo teachers had almost forgotten that salaries could be paid correctly and promptly. Our township roads in Owerri were simply demarcated with cement forms, and that was titled road dualization.
If you visited CrossRiverState in those days, under then Governor Donald Duke, with clean and wide streets in Calabar you will be left to wonder if Owerri was under a curse with heaps of refuse along major streets. Today, Ndigbo still find ourselves praying that good roads that link every local government council areas like they have in AkwaIbomState may be our portion in the South East.
When you look at the strength of the South West in the area of peace and brotherly atmosphere among the Yorubas, you ask what has hit the Igbo man, why could he not sustain just one political party to unify Ndigbo front in national issues?
It is therefore for the very important singular reason of peace among Ndigbo in particular and Nigerians in general that Governor Orji’s decision to recall sacked non-indigene civil servants should deserve a deeper consideration. AbiaState is not alone in the sack of non-indigene workers in the South East. After the creation of ImoState out of the then East Central State, some non-indigene civil servants opted to go to Owerri from Enugu, but they were later asked to go to their states.
Anambra, Enugu and even Ebonyi found cause to do the same thing at one stage or the other in the past. It was one the errors of the euphoria of a getting a new state in those days. Top positions in the civil service was the reward to indigenes for a successful demand for their own state, but unknown to us, that was the beginning of the destruction of the spirit of unity and harmony which the Igbos developed during the harrowing years of the civil war.
Rather than galvanize our resolve for survival as one group with a common destiny in Nigeria, we created division among ourselves, fighting for top posts in the civil service, pulling each other down, and thereby estranging ourselves to the extent that today, the biggest enemy of the Ndigbo in national matters is the Igbo man! We may call it the survival spirit of the Igbo man, but that is our undoing in almost all facets of life in Nigeria today.
When we realise that what hurts Abia hurts Imo, and by extension Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, and vice versa, because we all have a common destiny in this great country, we will stop to aggravate each other. Such an understanding will bring us to the place where we think first of our state, the South East, and Nigeria in all we do and say.
If I may liken Nigeria to a very big tree, we all are birds living in nests called states on this big tree, and we must protect the stability of the big tree, so as to draw our common livelihood and safety therefrom.
Governor Orji has come to the realisation of the awesome impact of this recall on the peace and joy of the Ndigbo as a people and the Nigerians affected in general.
It may well be one of the results of his spiritual rebirth recently in Isreal. For whatever reasons, he should be encouraged and supported. Other governors of the South East should emulate his action; let total restitution begin on all fronts to engender the brotherly love that is much needed among Ndigbo at this point in our national development.
CLEMENT UDEGBE, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos