Recently, one of the national debates has been concerning the state of origin and state of residence especially with regards to which should take the precedence. This has been foisted by a historic mistrust that has simmered beneath the surface between the over 250 ethnic groups of the Nigerian state, culminating in indigene-settler conflicts which are an outcome of this widespread animosity between ‘locals’ and the so-called ‘outsiders’ who live in their midst.
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It’s the experience of the Yoruba taxi driver who has lived for 30 years in Kambari in Kebbi state but still feels like an alien there. It’s the reality of the Hausa woman, whose two-decade sojourn in Ugwuoji, Enugu state hasn’t changed her neighbour’s mistrust of her. It’s the truth for the Igbo trader, who isn’t accepted as fit to partake in community decisions in Pategi, Kwara state despite two generations of his family running the only pharmacy (or chemist shop) in the community.
There are situations and cases where success has been recorded in the indigene and non-indigenes sociopolitical and economic relationship. Certain State Governments have appointed Commissioners and Special Assistants whose origins lay outside of the state they now serve. Some districts even have these so-called non-indigenes representing them at the National Assembly. These are wins for true federalism and are worth celebrating.
In this piece, we will be profiling seven of such people, who have taken up various positions of responsibility in the states they now call home. The point of this piece is to show that it is possible to diffuse the tribal tensions, which have gotten more than its share of fair coverage in the media and recognize the contributions that some people are making (and can make), regardless of what their state of origins is.
1. Olumuyiwa Adekeye
Muyiwa Adekeye is the Special Adviser on Media and Communications to the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai.
Mr. Adekeye, who hails from Kwara State, is an experienced media and Public Relations professional. He previously worked as a journalist with The NEWS. He was also CEO of a PR agency, Barnes and Molby from 2008-2015 when he was appointed by Governor El-Rufai.
Mr. Adekeye holds an MA in Journalism from Cardiff University in Wales, which he received in 1988.
2. Joe Igbokwe
A native of Uruagwu Nnewi in Anambra State, Engr. Joe Igbokwe has worked in and around the Lagos State Government for more than a decade. He is currently the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Drainage and Water Resources.
Before he took up his current position, he served as General Manager of the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA), and later as Chairman of the Wharf Landing Fees Collection Authority (WLFCA). He was also Secretary of the now-defunct Action Congress (AC), Lagos State chapter.
Engr. Igbokwe has a Bachelors’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).
3. Hon. Oghene Emma Egoh
Mr. Oghene Emma Egoh is a Member representing Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the Federal House of Representatives.
Born in Ughelli, Delta State (his state of origin), he has been active in both the business and political scenes for over three decades. He was a supervisory councillor in Ojo Local Government Area in 1990 and became Publicity Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) party, Lagos State, in 1992. He was later elected councillor of the Badagry Local Government Area.
Prior to his involvement in politics, Mr. Oghene Egoh has also worked with the Ibru Group of Companies, the Royal Exchange Assurance Company, African Prudential Insurance Company, and the Nigerian Institute of Management. He was the National Publicity Secretary of the Senior Staff Association of Banks from 1985-1987.
4. Tijani Nwadei
Tijani Nwadei is an Executive Assistant to the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki. He played a very influential role in Governor Obaseki’s campaign to power. His role involves planning, managing, and reviewing initiatives from within the Governor’s office, overseeing economic projects and political campaigns.
Nwadei hails from Delta State. Before his appointment in 2016, he was Executive Director of VIISAUS, a Lagos-based firm that offers data analytics services to government agencies. He has also worked at Alstom Power, TechnoServe, NextEra (Florida, USA), the World Wildlife Federation (Washington DC), and the Grameen Bank (India).
He holds a Bachelors’ Degree in Economics and Mathematics from the Texas Christian University and a Masters concentrating on Energy and Public Policy from Boston State University (both in the United States).
5. Emeka Onowu
Chukwuemeka Onowu is the Rivers State Commissioner of Special Duties. Although he was born in Port Harcourt, Onowu’s roots are actually in Imo State.
His engagement in politics goes back to his time as an undergraduate at the University of Uyo, where he became a National Representative at the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
After graduating with a degree in Psychology, he joined the Akwa Ibom State News Corporation as an Information and Research staff. He has worked as senior staff at INEC and Senior Advert Executive at the Guardian Newspapers.
Besides being a commissioner, Onowu is also the leader of the Non-Indigenes Without Borders Organization in Rivers State.
6. Kabiru Ahmed Abdullahi
Arch. Kabiru Ahmed Abdullahi is the Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development in Lagos State. He hails from Katsina State but has lived in Lagos for most of his life.
He was born in Agege and began his service to the state there as a member of the local government area’s Local Education Authority. Between 2001 and 2007 he was Chairman of the Lagos State Planning and Environmental Monitoring Authority (LASPEMA). He stayed on at the agency as its General Manager in 2015, when he was named Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission.
Mr. Abdullahi has both a B.Sc and an M.Sc in Architecture from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
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7. Moses Okezie-Okafor
Moses Okezie-Okafor is Director General, Research and Development, for the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello. Trained as a lawyer, Okezie-Okafor is originally from Anambra State but now works with the Kogi State Government on duties ranging from critical research to public communications.
His legal career has seen him become an External Solicitor for ActionAid Nigeria and Senior Partner at Legal Options and Company, a law firm based in Abuja. He has also been involved in real estate and capacity building projects.
Okezie-Okafor has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a Barrister at Law (B.L) from the Nigerian Law School.
Final Words: Skill Over Ethnic Bias
If anything, I hope this reading will help more governments lead by a nationalist approach to supplement watershed federal initiatives like NYSC and remind denizens of the state. Geopolitical lines are not meant for ethnic division. The figures we have profiled here all show that people can take up positions of responsibility within government, even in states outside of their place of origin.
In the end, one’s capacity to succeed in a public role isn’t dependent on where their parents are from. It simply comes down to their knowledge, skill, and determination to improve the lives of the people they serve.
Odianosen Ogidika Masade is a proud son of Uromi royal lineage whose mother hails from Ogidi in Anambra. He has schooled in the North and lives in Lagos. A patriot of Nigeria, he writes on a range of topics from Oil & Gas to general matters.
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