From Tony John, Port Harcourt
People of Ogoni and Kalabari ethnic nationalities in Rivers have alleged political marginalisation by the Ikwerre ethnic nationality and demanded equality governance of the state.
Kalabari people also urged Ogoni to support them in their clamour to produce the next governor in 2023.
They lamented that 24 years after the new political arrangement in 1999, the riverine has not produced a 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) in Usokun, Degema Local Government Area, at the weekend.
Daily Sun gathered that OLI and KUF arranged the meeting to define their environmental, economic and political future in the state.
Leader of KUF, Sobomabo Jackrich, said it was important the two ethnic groups had the meeting for the sake of unity and economic purposes, considering developments in the state.
Jackrich, in his speech entitled: “Movement for the Actualisation of Upland/Riverine Dichotomy for Peace, Equality and Justice,” said the two major ethnic nationalities in Rivers share similarities in terms of terrain, socio-economic and political marginalisation.
“However, the stories of environmental devastation, economic and political marginalisation suffered by these major tribes inflicted on us by the state and the 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 politicising 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 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 said upland political leaders, led by late 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 former governor Peter Odili from 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.
“Since power rotated to the upland about 20 years ago, the beneficiaries of the upland/riverine dichotomy that are our Ikwerre brothers, are now saying 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 Ikwerre would have held sway in the helm of affairs of the state for 24 years at the end of Governor Nyesom Wike’s tenure in 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 Kalabari, to have a shot to occupy the Brick House in the next political dispensation.