A lecturer of Political Science in Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, Eze Christian Akani is the Paramount Ruler of Rumuevuorlu Community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
While reflecting on the Golden Jubilee celebration of the creation of the State, he offers an insight into the significance of the celebration and the way forward for the State.
First, we have to thank God that we have been able to stay up till this time. You will recall that many people who started the race in 1967 are no more here. Some of them are here but they are physically incapacitated. Some of them are still here and they can’t talk. But we are happy that we are among the group that can talk and are healthy. So, we thank God for that.
Rivers State at 50 years is like raising a human being at the age of 50 years which is seen as a golden age. At the age of 50, it is expected that somebody must have accomplished many things, both visible and unseen. Yes, Rivers State has produced significant and outstanding leaders. Rivers State has also pioneered some outstanding projects. I remember we were among the first set of states that built a State Secretariat. It was the envy of Nigeria that we had our secretariat. Rivers State has also explored our cultural potentialities. We have produced many writers. We have won many laurels in many cultural and artistic disciplines. We have Elechi Amadi who just passed away, Gabriel Okara and the rest. Even in beauty and aesthetics, we have Agbani Darego who became Miss World and many others. So, Rivers State has not been found wanting in the past 50 years.
Unfortunately, I must say this, we have been disorganised, humiliated and divided by the dirty waters of politics. You recall that there was a time when there was dichotomy based on geographical position, riverine/upland dichotomy. Gradually that became history. But now, Rivers people have been divided to an extent that it seems that Rivers State is gradually becoming a no-man’s land. People no more talk about Rivers State with dignity and respect. Violence has become an order of the day in Rivers State that used to be a haven for many people. When you talk of our tourist centres, people came for relaxation. They have now become an abode of violence that have been engulfed, enveloped and caged by so-called secret cults. All these things have affected our economy, because it is a simple economic maxim that whenever you have violence and instability, industrialisation will not thrive; trade and commerce will run away; and productivity won’t take place; and such environment will become an economically barren environment. The attendant consequences will be massive unemployment, youth restiveness and all kinds of juvenile delinquencies as we are witnessing in the State today.
But we will not continue to bemoan our fate. We have to soldier on, because we are in a relay race. We must transfer the baton to the succeeding generation. And the question we must ask ourselves is: what we inherited from our fathers, is it the exact thing we are going to transfer to the succeeding generation or an improvement or even a shattered heritage? If we hand over a shattered heritage to the succeeding generation, then, it means that we are gradually predating the dead end of Rivers State. So, we have to make a contribution and prepare the ground very well in the principle of sustainable development so that we don’t mortgage the interest of the future generation because they have a stake.
I want to use this forum, therefore, to remind our political gladiators that we have a date with destiny, because a day will come when we shall give an account of all our activities. Personal aggrandisement cannot move Rivers State forward. A situation where politics is not played according to laid down rules as enshrined in the Electoral Law is to drive the State backwards. Let us use the opportunity offered to us by this Golden Jubilee era to close ranks and to charge ourselves to think of what we would do for Rivers State and not what we would benefit from Rivers State, as one of the American Presidents told all Americans. Let us not continue to make caricature of Rivers State in the eyes of the world.
Our interest is minute compared to the interest of Rivers State. Many people had died in pursuit of Rivers’ interest. You remember Dr. Obi Wali, Chief A. K. Dikibo, Marshall Harry and the rest of them. Even some of them who are alive, you also remember Dr. Akubo, King Diete-Spiff who was the pioneer Governor of Rivers State. What are we doing to preserve their legacies? If they had behaved the way we are behaving today, maybe we won’t have a Rivers State. But as I said the Golden Jubilee is an opportunity for us to close ranks and rethink. What have we done for the past 50 years? That is the only way Rivers State can move forward and ensure that there is sustainable development.
Stories by Donatus Ebi