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It’s turn of Ijaw to produce next Rivers governor — Douglas

By Maria Diamond 
19 March 2022   |   2:52 am
Rivers State gubernatorial aspirant, the Rev. Asoliye Douglas, has said that Ijaw speaking part of the state has been sidelined in governance, noting that the 2023 general election presents ....

Asoliye Douglas

Rivers State gubernatorial aspirant, the Rev. Asoliye Douglas, has said that Ijaw speaking part of the state has been sidelined in governance, noting that the 2023 general election presents an opportunity to address the situation.

The Anglican priest and oil magnet, who spoke in an interview with select journalists, harped on the need to ensure equity and fairness in the distribution of political offices in the state through the application of the zoning principle.

He said: “Immediate past governor, Chibuike Amaechi and incumbent, Nyesom Wike are both from Rivers East Senatorial District while Dr. Peter Odili is from the West. That means the South has not had a shot.

“The constitution governing our democracy does not recognise the sanctity of zoning of hierarchical political offices, but the zoning principle is an extra-constitutional mechanism which evolved as an appropriate response to deal with moral conscience in enthroning equity and fairness in the distribution of political benefits to satisfy sentiments relating to our ethnic diversity. No matter how contiguous our geographical affinity might be, we cannot live in denial or be pretentious about the existence of ethnic diversities just as resource endowments are diverse.

“Since we have found a mechanism of pooling proceeds of economic resource exploitation into a commonwealth for redistribution among the entities, therefore it is a logical corollary that high ranking political offices should yield to a negotiated zoning formula. Perhaps this was why the writers of our constitution introduced the Federal Character concept as a means of invoking balance in representation and some semblance of fairness and equity in the allocation of resources among the constituent entities.”

Douglas further explained that the state was geographically dichotomised between an upland north and a littoral south with their peculiar physical features and topographies.

He added: “Four prominent linguistic groups are recognisable within the ethnic diversities that make up Rivers State, which include the Igboid tribe (Ikwerre, Etche and Oyigbo); the Ogonis (Khana, Gokhana, Tai and Eleme); the Ijaws (Kalabari, Okirika, Bonny/Opobo and Andoni/Nkoro) and the Beninoid stock (Ndoni, Ekpeye, Abua/Odual. The Igboid, Ogonis and Beninoid stocks are located in the upland north while only the Ijaw speaking ethnicities are located in the riverine south. The threesome of Celestine Omehia, Chibuike Amaechi and Nyesom Wike, all of whom are Ikwerre speaking have ruled as governors for a consecutive totality of 16 years shared among them. Peter Odili representing the Beninoid was governor for eight years.

“A disregard for the zoning formula and the political expediency that enabled and enthroned Nyesom Wike as the third governor of Ikwerre speaking extraction is apparently emboldening them to enact an agenda and act a script intended to perpetuate hegemony which is unconscionable to good moral conscience, equity and fairness. If and when we recognise our diversity, the application of the zoning principle is a pragmatic way of guaranteeing inclusiveness and social justice.”

He stated that it was disconcerting to witness a situation where one particular ethnic group had devised a stratagem of capturing and retaining power for 16 years without consideration for the political well-being of other constituent ethnicities.

“Using the advantage of incumbency, that same ethnic group is still unjustifiably wrangling and plotting to produce a candidate for the 2023 election. I am a strong proponent of a paradigm shift where compromises and negotiations would embrace themselves in favour of a candidate from the riverine south. I stand to be corrected; the riverine Ijaws have been very patient and understanding. It is the turn of the Ijaws to produce a credible candidate to be elected and serve as the next governor of Rivers State.”

Speaking on his agenda for the people of Rivers State should he become governor in 2023, Douglas said: “Oftentimes we give priority to the wrong things. I wonder why the incumbent governor finds it fashionable to expend so many resources on constructing flyover bridges in the Port Harcourt metropolis. This appears to me as heaps of concrete clutter. Things have to be done differently to fetch different results and change the narrative about governance. There is going to be a departure from the old ways of doing things. After nearly 24 years of uninterrupted democracy we can hardly perceive or feel a meaningful impact of governance positively changing lives in Rivers State. Poverty is still very pervasive. We have to create a new message that emphasises value creation as the distinctive selling proposition with focus on investing in human capacity development, inventing new ideas to modernise the economy through knowledge and eco-tourism.

“Human beings are the most valuable resource any society can possess and developing the capacity of human resources should form the priority of any government. It is human beings that initiate and propel the knowledge-driven economy. Human beings build and work in factories. Human beings construct the roads and bridges. Human beings cultivate the farms. With a bold determination, I have unyielding conviction that the new direction to steer the state is investment in human capital that would be armed with the capability to create ideas, invent innovation and reduce poverty. Therefore, our agenda will prioritise human capacity development and to build brand new cities that would redirect the movement of population away from a congested Port Harcourt. Research and development, supply chain logistics, tourism and agriculture are other critical sectors that would receive preferences in the agenda.”