Participants at a one – day retreat have urged the Etche people to define their agenda as an ethnic nation and pursue the socio-economic transformation of their environment.

To this end, the people of the Etche Ethnic Nation have vowed to work together in order to lay a solid foundation for the future.

These are some of the resolutions reached at a one-day retreat sponsored by the Ogbakor Etche which held at the Pastoral Retreat Centre, Igwuruata.

Setting the tone for the retreat, the President General of Ogbakor Etche, Mr. Charles Nwonuola declared, “Nigeria as a nation is presently at a crossroad where the clarion call for restructuring and good governance has resonated even louder.”

“As we are about to approach another political cycle and season, interests, permutations are beginning to emerge…one fundamental question we must continually ask ourselves is, where are the Etche people in the scheme of things in the State and Country”, Nwonuola asked.

Delivering the lead paper at the occasion, Professor Samuel Otamiri of the Ignatius Ajuru University traced the history of the Etche nation, saying the Ethnic Nationality has been bedevilled over the years by a number of challenges.

“Etche has grappled over the years with the issues of growth and development. We have also encountered a lot of obstacles,  especially political  and administrative obstacles hindering the overall development of Etche”, Professor Otamiri remarked.

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He acknowledged that although the Etche people are predominantly farmers, ” Oil was struck at Umuechem in 1957, making it the second place oil was found in Nigeria, after Oloibiri in 1956.”

“Our earlier leaders and forebears tried in their time to put Etche in the limelight. Some of their achievements are still with us today and from all indications, we have not moved too far from where they left us.”

According to him, “We have experienced extreme marginalisation and have even been considered a minority group even when we number as one of the major Ethnic Nationalities in Rivers State.

Tracing Etche’s voyage into contemporary Nigerian politics, the academician observed that Chief J.H.E Nwuke, a prominent politician who became the first black Provincial Commissioner of Port Harcourt Province laid a solid political  foundation for Etche’s evolution.

“Our sojourn into politics of modern times began with the entrance of Chief J.H.E Nwuke into the political party called the National Council of Nigeria  and the Cameroons  (NCNC) in 1944.

“Till today, Chief J.H.E Nwuke of Okomoko is seen as the father and leader of modern politics  in Etche and even it’s neighbours of Ikwerre, Ekpeye and Ogba.

“Suffice it to say that the formation and emergence of the NCNC was the turning point in the political history of Etche, because it was the first political party to gain reasonable foothold in Etche. All thanks to Chief Nwuke who was a close ally of Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.”

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Professor Otamiri said that although the Etche nation rose to dizzying heights during the early days of Nigeria’s independence, what is playing out suggest that a loss of focus, absence of a clear action plan and internal rivalry  among the elite have impaired the growth and progress of the ethnic nation.

He urged the Ogbakor Etche to take up the responsibility of guiding the affairs of the ethnic nation in order to ensure the rebirth of a competitive and focused Etche nation.

Earlier,  Sir Isaiah Choko,  a one – time Chairman of Etche Local Government Council who chaired the Etche Retreat said it was time to get together to relaunch the Ethnic nation.

He thanked the Ogbakor Etche for organizing the retreat, saying the idea which has resulted in the gathering of the Etche elite was timely.

Participants later broke into groups in order to discuss the way forward and procure solutions which are expected to lay the foundation for the emergence of a developmental blueprint for the advancement of the Etche nation.