Citizenship And Democratisation In Nigeria: The Amaechi’s Example

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This is the concluding part of this article last published Friday.

The statement issued by the Press Secretary, Mr Ogochukwu Omezue that a committee will be set up to review some exceptional cases also indicated that he is unrepentant to embrace the concept full citizenship. Earlier, Jean Augustine, the Canadian Secretary of state in June 5, 2003, had hinted that the greatest challenges to the world community in this century is how to promote harmonious relations between people of        disparate          histories,  languages, and eligions,  who find themselves intertwined in a single state. It is annoying in Orji’s case that the most affected people were the Igbo people who shared almost everything.

Again, this singular act is beaming a wrong signal to Jonathan’s administration which places more premiums on the implementation of full citizenship and citizen Diplomacy. Citizen Diplomacy which is the main thrust of Nigeria foreign policy coincided with the appointment of Chief Ojo Madueke as the Foreign Affairs Minister in 2007 and supported by the new Minister, Odein Ajumogobia. It is a concept which aims at a high level of Nationalism and Patriotism leading to the development of the culture of national pride in the citizen that will make him the conveyor of national messages across the nation’s” borders. It has also been seen as the frame work for the defence of the rights of the citizens where-ever they may be. On the other hand, Jonathan’s concept of full citizenship emphasises democratic governance, the provision of social opportunities or entitlements likely to empower people and enhance their capacity to take part in their own development.

Additionally, Orji’s action is diametrically opposed to the world’s march to Global Citizenship. Global citizenship implies that all should have the full rights of citizenship in country of the world where they live and work, the general right to control its own movement without been tossed around. This informed the 1996 demonstrations in France by the undocumented aliens.

They among other things demanded for” papier pour tours” which literary means Residency papers for everyone. The Residency papers will confer full citizenship rights on them. In the same spirit of Global citizenship about five Nigerians who share the same ethnic enclave or nativity with Orji were granted express rights in the United kingdom to contest the parliamentary elections. Three of them emerged victorious as they won seats in the most coveted House of Commons.

It is against the backdrop of Orji’s action that the example of citizenship as demonstrated by Rt Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the Executive Governor of Rivers State and chairman Governors Forum is very illustrative and compelling. This is the statesman who had learnt from the   teachings of history. Actually, he has imbibed the virtues of mutual respect, empathy, tolerance, political dialogue, justice, fairness, equality, inclusiveness and so many others for maintaining unity in diversity in Rivers State. For this reason, Rivers State has become a cynosure of all the states east of the Niger and a major attraction for both internal and external migrations. It should be recalled that upon assumption of office in 2007, Amaechi de-legitimised “Marching ground”. His administration swung into action and quickly enacted a legislation to check this practice and its excesses. By this gesture, both ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ are entitled to the same rights and privileges in Rivers State so as to acquire land in any part of the state. The patriotic Governor went further to promote about three ‘non-indigenes’ of the state civil service to the exalted rank of Permanent Secretary. As if the above is not enough, he appointed Barr. Chuma Chienye who hails from Delta state as a Civil Commissioner in Rivers State. This appointment was to fulfill his promise made during his second term bid. During his campaign, the amiable Governor reiterated that any Nigerian, irrespective of where he comes from, having lived in Rives State” and having contributed to the development of the area can partake in the rights and privileges enjoyed by indigenes of the state. Also, it will not be too much to add that at the exit of Mr. Blessing Nwikina, an indigene who was the acting  Chief Press Secretary, the de-tribalised Governor appointed another ‘non- indigene’ in his place in pursuit of his full citizenship ideology. Do we need to take the roll call of non-indigenes in the Rivers State Civil Service as well as the new parastalals like TIMA RIV? The list will indeed detain us.

Suffice with the above, we wish to impress on those in authorities to emulate the shining example of Amaechi by enlarging the coasts of citizenship from ‘indigeneity’, ‘sons of the soil’, first class citizen’, ‘native’ and so forth to encompass ‘non- indigenes’ ‘stranger’ ‘second class citizens’ if we are to achieve sustainable development, nation building, national integration as well as democracy which need collective effort. On the other hand, the concept of citizenship should be redefined to incorporate inclusive and representative, with workable emphasis on equality, fairness, and justice. It should be viewed as a national phenomenon that should be able to accommodate and protect its carriers at any part of the country. Full citizenship if applied will check poverty, endemic corruption, discrimination and above all reduce the senseless ethno-religious and ethno-ethnic clashes prevalent in the societv.

There is need at this juncture to borrow the words of the report of the political Bureau which urged that laws should be promulgated which tie citizenship rights to either place of birth or residences. The Bureau was assertive in recommending the adoption of full residency right for Nigerians wherever they may reside, provided such Nigerians are made to fulfill minimum residency requirement of ten years. Such residency right according to the report should incorporate all rights, which are enjoyed by those previously regarded as indigenes of the state.

We also make haste to encourage our policy makers, planners and executors as well as those in authorities to learn from the teachings of history both as an experience and as a discipline. Just as we have pointed out else where (N-ue, 2011: 9- 16), History makes room for national identity, inculcates national consciousness, settles differences and promotes harmonious co- existence. Emeritus professor Alagoa, E.J. in one of his numerous contributions to humanity has informed that history provides an anchorage for the individual/community (1979: 7).

The upshot here is that history provides wisdom necessary to tackle the every day challenges of life. No wonder, he likened a man without historical knowledge as a stranger in town who walks over hallowed graves. The consequence of such ignorance is the desecration of taboos, ethos, customs and tradition of the land that held the society together. Still stressing the utility of History in governance, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 Bc), the famous Roman orator announced that “not to know what took place before you were born is to remain forever a child. If there is to be any possibility of changing the way things have been done, there must be reasoned appraisal of how and why they come to be done this way …”

By and large, the Amaechi’s example is captivating and presents itself in developing functional frame work for ethnic conflict prevention and ensure cordial inter-group relations in a  multi-ethnic and pluralistic society like Nigeria. Amaechi’s example should be seen as the panacea to Nigeria’s citizenship question.

N-ue, Uebari Samuel