In a dramatic policy shift, the governor of Abia State, Dr Theodore Orji, recently ordered the re-engagement of 2,700 non-indigenes out of the 4,000 the state had disengaged from its public service in 2011. The lucky ones are expected to resume work tomorrow, June 2. The decision to disengage the 4,000 workers in the first place was a reaction to a similar policy by some states in the south-east zone. In carrying out the policy of back-loading the workers to their states of origin, most of the governors had claimed a prevailing unfavourable financial climate.
Announcing the policy reversal in Umuahia, the state head of service, Mr Godson Adiele, said that the governor ordered their immediate re-engagement after considering their plight and the sufferings they had passed through. He also added that the governor had, after looking into their problems and coupled with the increase in the revenue generation of the state, decided to reinstate them in the state civil service.
The Abia State government is right on track. This gesture will surely alleviate the hardship these workers have gone through since they lost their jobs. Other states in the south-east that had back-loaded these workers caught up in the quagmire of state creation should do a re-think and re-absorb them without any loss of seniority or other benefits. Most of these workers who became pawns in the dirty politics of state of origin had worked all their lives in those states and pursued their career with utmost dedication and loyalty in the hope that, on retirement, they would be treated fairly and duly. They had also believed that, being Igbo, they would be welcome anywhere in Igbo-land as is the case in other parts of the country, especially in the north and south-west.
How wrong they were. At the peak of it, even daughters married outside their states of origin but within the zone were also thrown out. It is sad that the average Igbo man would find comfort and solace in other parts of the country only to be hounded in his own home zone. But it is not too late for the political leaders to retrace their steps and build the Igbo nation the people in the zone had always dreamed of. Let us, for all that it is worth, accept that the governors did what they did out of desperation caused more by paucity of funds than by ill-will.
Now that Governor Orji has demonstrated that the circumstances that informed the decision to kick out those workers have, to a relative extent, improved and has re-engaged some of them, it is our hope that other states in the zone that implemented that unfortunate policy will follow his good example and all or, at least, a sizeable number. Only a mad person doesn’t change his mind.