The Socioeconomic and Political Realities in Anioma – Time to Change the Narrative
Mr. Godfrey Chukwudifu Osakwe At the 2017 Anioma National Summit and Fundraiser at the La Quinta Inn & Suites, Nashville Tennessee, United States of America, Saturday, June 24, 2017.
I like to thank Anioma Association USA Incorporated for this unique opportunity provided for interplay of ideas and information sharing, so we can better understand ourselves to confront the many challenges affecting the development of Anioma.
As you are well aware, the current socioeconomic and political developments in Nigeria today, call for sober reflections and collative actions from all stakeholders to develop a unique mix to address the many issues of our time.
The sober truth is that despite Nigeria’s huge potentials, it has remained like a baby that refuses to grow in the positives. As a nation we have not been able to define new goals nor establish new directions to make it possible for people to live in harmony with other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Rather we have been oscillating setting up policies and programmes without meaningful progress. Today, Nigeria is dangerously walking on a cliffhanger, with ethnic hates and calls for relocation of other ethnic groups and declarations of intents for self-determination within a sovereign state gaining prominence by the day.
I will not bore you with the historical background of our journey to nationhood. But in the real context, are we really a nation? Yes we may be cohabiting in a geographical location called Nigeria, are we truly united as a people with common descent, history, culture or language? Suffice it to say that 56 years and going 57 by October 1st, 2017, Nigeria as an independent nation is sitting on a big pandora’s box. Both the past and current rulers in Nigeria have not been able to unite the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society in Nigeria through intercultural cooperation and dialogue for mutual understanding and for an active sense of Nigerian citizenship.
The discovery of crude oil in Nigeria for the first time in 1956 at Oloibiri, the present day Bayelsa State pushed other resources aside because of its high yield economic benefits. With this black gold came the Udoji Salary Award which regrettably, created a bogus bureaucracy; and a regime of overt materialism and corruption which in turn infected almost all facets of our polity.
Knowing that independence is not the same as liberty, it has been a moment of mixed feelings for us as a people, particularly the Aniomas.
Lying at the crossroads between the politics of oil, ethnic hegemony and infrastructural development in Nigeria, the future of the development of Anioma community is still very bleak. Even with the abundant human capital, rich mineral resources, good climate, unique cultural heritage and above all nice and hospitable people, Anioma region have remain underdeveloped. The reason for this misnomer may not be unconnected with the submission of Dr Joseph Egwu, a renowned historian who posited that, “since the unfair balkanization of Anioma people into the old Warri and Benin Provinces, the people had had to battle the stigma of being branded minorities, a burden that followed them even into the present Delta State where they are found”.
This submission may not be far from the truth; as the people of Anioma had to battle the politics of hate and exclusion occasioned by the erroneous stigma of being a minority and in some cases seen as a mere appendage with other ethnic. The emergence of an Anioma son as the ninth governor of Delta State in 2015; twenty- four years after the creation of Delta State represents a symbolic acceptance of Anioma as integral part of Delta State.
But taking a critical analysis of the concurrent issues in Anioma and Delta State in relations to governance and the improvement of the general outlook of the State, one is constrained to ask; what went wrong, why are we still following the old order?. Today Delta State seems to be way behind its neighbours despite its huge revenue as frontline oil producing State and a creative hub in Nigeria. It is saddening that the initial high hopes of a new dawn across the length and breadth of Delta State at the beginning of this present government in Delta State with a resounding promise to turn around the misfortunes of the State for the good of all is fast giving way to cynicism. Worst still is that those superintending our affairs in government under the present dispensation have not helped matters. One would have expected more conscientious efforts to enable the environment for sustainable development.
My message here is clear and simple, and that is that we must change the narrative of who we are, to reflect our true nature as people of great value and ultimately the general outlook of what Anioma communities should be. We must get involved in the development of Anioma; we must hold to account those at the corridors of power, and who by chance are managing our commonwealth. We must not allow our voice to be overwhelmed by political influence of a few or get stuck in a social coma occasioned by a faulty system fueled by corruption.
To achieve these, there must be unity of purpose among all Aniomas. Aniocha, Oshimili, Ika, Ndokwa and Ukwuani, we must cultivate the same spirit of love and brotherhood. We must deemphasize those things that tend to divide us as one entity. Just like your code of salutations (Anioma Assoc. USA Inc.) “Anioma Nu, Ofu Obi Bu Ike Anyi”. Indeed, Oneness of the mind should be our strength as a people. And when there is unity and collaboration, great things can be achieved.
Sometimes we do not realize how much influence we have over what happens to us in life. Let it be known that we all possess the innate ability to consciously create our own reality. Whether as individuals or groups, we must strive to be the example rather than tell the example. It is often said that the best way to teach is to lead and to set precedence and watch others follows. Therefore, we need to begin to maximize every opportunity to mobilize our people at the grassroots for capacity building and practical development of our people and community.
With the abundant human and natural resources in Anioma, one would have expected a better outlook and more coordinated development of the entire Anioma region. Therefore, the underdevelopment of Anioma region is paradox and a source of embarrassment to people with good conscience. Though no single raindrop admits responsibility for the flood, we must all admit and acknowledge our various positive, negative, passive and active contributions to the present regional and national destination.
To change the narrative, we must come together for collaborative partnership with relevant stakeholders to develop a unique mix of solutions for the development of Anioma. It is gratifying to note that Anioma Association USA Incorporated have in the past contributed immensely and still contributing to the development of Anioma communities.
Though, more still need to be done for meaningful impacts on the lives of Anioma people. In today’s era of globalization and technological advancement; creative economy, entrepreneurial activities, agriculture, education, sports among others forms the core of a growing section of the world economy which Anioma must key into, to deepen its economic growth and development.
We can engage with governments, nongovernmental organizations, community development organizations, national/international development agencies and professional associations through collaborative partnership to deliver services and projects in any of the sectors mentioned for the good of all.
In Anioma communities the familiar problems of lack or inadequate industrial and social infrastructure such as cottage industry, electricity, portable water, good health care, good road network, educational facilities, good community policing, sports and recreational facilities among others still persists.
Security is one issue that has been in the front burner, and there’s need for urgent action from all to stem the current tide of insecurity in Anioma and Delta State in general. The resurgence of new security threats in Anioma region, occasioned by the activities of Fulani Herdsmen, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, Cultism and Land disputes among others leading to wanton loss of lives and properties, calls for more serious actions to curb this threat. Security of lives and properties is an enabler for development; an important metric for investment and tourism. Accordingly, we can set agenda to address the issue.
Creative economy is a major sector can be explored for the development and economic stabilization of Anioma region. Today, Anioma is a safe haven for Nollywood film production, with hundreds of films shot in different locations in Anioma region. Same goes with music, creative dance, comedy, fashion, sports, arts and crafts, and festivals; yet not a single theatre/film village or platform is in place for the teaming youths to express their creative abilities. More worrisome is also the great threat to Anioma language, which is the principle purveyor of our culture. We can set up an endowment fund for the preservation of both material and non material culture of Anioma. This is another area we can contribute and make a difference.
Just as Late Chief M.K.O Abiola posited “No matter how intelligent or how rich you are; you can never clap with one hand”. Even as we continued to yearn for development of Anioma region and Delta State in general, the truth is that the State government led by His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State may be making conscious efforts to address the myriads of challenges of development of Anioma and the entire State; but we need to render support as development partners in any areas of strength and interest. By so doing we unconsciously put the people at the corridors of power on their toes so they can remain focused to delivery good for all.
My good brothers and sisters today we are united together not only by the bonds of history but also by the ties of solidarity and the timeless values of peace and interdependence. So we have to collectively unite to tackle the multi-dimensional phenomenon of poverty and underdevelopment of Anioma region.
“Anioma Nu, Ofu Obi Bu Ike Anyi”.
Thank You and God Bless You All.