Igbo seek inclusiveness, equity and justice
• Decry absence of Igbo man in the commanding heights Nigeria’s security sector
• They should complain less, Obasanjo
One thing that South East geo-political zone has complained about since the end of the civil war is the economic backwardness, which it believes is foisted on it by policies and governance posture of successive administrations in the country.
Ndigbo have continued to lament that despite their contributions to the growth and unity of the country, the administrations have been unfair to them; in the allocation of offices, citing of projects, among others, thus creating economic stagnation and development of the area.
Indeed, they have continuously cried out that the reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction promised after the war, died with the applause that greeted its pronouncement going by the plethora of abandoned projects, infrastructure deficits, unusable conditions of federal roads, ecological challenges, insecurity and other problems confronting the zone.
Last week, however, the people of the zone decided to take their collective destiny in their hands when its governors, politicians, academics, traditional and religious leaders, businessmen and women as well as youths gathered in Enugu to chart a path for the economic development of the zone and security for her investments and people.
At the initiative tagged,” South East Economic and Security Summit” which was perhaps the largest gathering of Ndigbo in recent times, lamentations of years of marginalisation, its effects on the economy of the zone and the way forward took the centre stage.
Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku fired the first salvo, when he harped on the need for restructuring for economic stability and unity of the country, explaining that Nigeria would always witness under development and economic crisis with the present political structure in place.
Anyaoku, who went memory lane to recall how regions were developed in the 60’s using agricultural produce, stated that time has come for the various units that make up the country to be allowed to evolve and develop, having control of the resources they could generate, explaining that states would continue to ask for bailouts and other forms of assistance unless the country was restructured.
Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi stated that given the socio-economic interconnectivity and interdependence of all parts of the country; the successful and timely resolution of security and economic challenges of the South East would impact tremendously and positively on the rest the country.
He, however, insisted that the economic development of the zone would remain a dream if the plethora of ugly state of federal roads, the huge debts owed by federal government establishments to the state governments, soil erosion, and threat to security by the frequent clashes of herdsmen and farmers that had resulted in abandoned farmlands, were not solved.
Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, said that his personal study on how to move the zone forward revealed that it has several things in common despite the geographical boundaries that separated them, adding that whatever exists in the zone had a way of going round the country.
Harping on the inherent abilities of Ndigbo, which apparently have been relegated by the rest of the country, he said: “If you want the wealth of the nation to go round, knowledge to be spread, virtues and good will among others to be known, then let an Igboman be given opportunity to distribute it either as President or whatever and you will realize it will go round.
He stated that how the various ethnic groups and other zones in the country are treated in the scheme of things would determine the survival of the country, pointing out that components units of the country should be given equal and fair treatment to enable them give their best to the unity and progress of the country.
Ikpeazu, who said he had been worried about the frequent collapse of roads in the zone, attributing it to the heavy bombardment the roads suffered during the war, asking that thorough examination should be conducted with a view to ascertaining how the roads could survive after their rehabilitation.
Besides, he argued that the system of politics being played in the zone had taken a toll on its development and called on the political leaders to imbibe tolerance in the collective interest of the people.
On his part, governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State expressed concern over growing boundary disputes arising from communities, which have continued to deny the zone her pride of place.
He lamented the dilapidated nature of federal roads in Ebonyi that could not be rebuilt due to lean resources adding that there was need for cooperation among the five states of the zone warning that development would continue to elude the zone if the states work individually.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, advocated the decentralisation of policing as the panacea to get the country out of its numerous security and economic challenges, stressing that the challenges posed by kidnapping, insurgency, menace of herdsmen and militancy have not been resolved by about 340,000 police officers policing about 170 million people.
He maintained that every part of Nigeria should be allowed to have its different policing system that suits their needs with the central government securing the borders. He expressed concern also about the country’s economic structure, saying it was not possible to run the type of economy the country operates in a federal system and expect to make progress.
“The answer to it is restructuring so that every part of Nigeria will develop in accordance with its potentials, be it economic, intellectual, agricultural, or others to be able to contribute to the commonwealth. As long as we have a unified system of economy, it is not going to work. We must find a way of ensuring that we use our natural endowments for development,” he stated.
Ekweremadu stressed the need for inclusive governance and respect for rule of law, insisting: “Today, as I speak, there is no Igbo man in the commanding heights of our security sector and so they do not attend Security Council meetings. In the top echelon of governance of this country, the Igbos are absent. I am not going to make any request because the President is not here and he is not represented, but I will just speak my mind on matters like these.
“These are things we need to think about because any part of Nigeria or the world that feels unjustly treated will never be interested in peace. Liberty is something that God gave to us because it is an inalienable right and for you to take away somebody’s liberty, it must be in a very extreme circumstance, and in accordance with the law.
“So, if the court says someone should be released from detention, government must do everything possible to respect that and everybody who is accused of an offence must as a matter of necessity, and in good time, have his day in court.
“This reminds me of the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu. Whatever his offence, he must have his day in court and if the court says he be released, he should accordingly be released.’’
To underscore the seriousness of the exercise, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo who was the guest of honour at the event, disagreed with the Ndigbo contending that the people and their leaders cannot continue to lament given their industrious, entrepreneurial and adventurer spirit.
To him, it would be wrong blaming every facet of under development of the zone on successive governments.
According to him, there is no part of the country without the presence of Ndigbo, adding that part of what was needed for economic development of the South East was already in the hands of their leaders if the people were ready to reinvent the true Igbo spirit.
His words: “When I was growing up, we know the South East with enterprise, entrepreneurship, communal effort and communal spirit, spirit of adventure, there is no place you go and there is no Igbo man there. Nobody has taken this away from the people of South East. The problem is how we can utilize these skills in the area of economy and security. There is symbiotic relationship between economy and security and you cannot have security if the economic wellbeing of your people is not taken care of and if the security of your people is not taken care of, the economic progress of your people may be seriously diminished. So there is this relationship and what I believe we need to do here is what we have, how can we use it?
“The people of the South East are extremely unique and that uniqueness must be used to advantage. We need cooperation and working together. We should not work alone, if we have been working alone and not gone far, we should stop. That is the purpose of this summit. Whatever you have as state must be used to develop the South East. Each of the states has land. Your land is limited but it is very fertile, very rich; but what are we making of it? Some of what you have; have become so legendary that people are looking for it”.
Citing the potentials that abound in Aba, Abia State with the locally made shoes and Ebonyi state with the present breakthrough in rice production, the former President maintained that the South East could be the food basket of Nigeria and beyond.
“In a meeting recently we were talking about Aba shoes. The governor of Abia state gave me six pairs of Aba-made shoes. The shoes are beautiful shoes that can compete with any other anywhere in the world. Some people visited me recently from China and said they want to establish an industrial centre at Aba because of those Aba-made shoes. So you can imagine the fame Aba has attracted because of locally made shoes and others.
“Ebonyi is producing rice, well enough to feed the entire country and for export. Why can’t these initiatives be supported and so many others going on in the states? South East must use their uniqueness to walk the zone into the line of development. What South East has is tremendous. You have fertile land, you have skill, all we need to do is to move away from the spirit of individualism and embrace communal effort. Let us have solidarity inside and let our charity begin at home not end at home. If we know and understand what we have, then we will complain less,” he said.
Obasanjo who went biblical to recal the trial of Moses in Egypt, stated that he overcame with the staff in his hand and therefore urged the people of the zone to exercise the power in their hands to overcome challenges of economic development and security.
The event put up by the South East Economic and Security Summit group, as disclosed by its chairman, Prof Barth Nnaji, was to examine some critical issues that if addressed properly would help to lift and engage the region in economic performance that will in turn boost the realization of the region’s potentials for the benefits of all Nigerians.
“’We believe that addressing the issues will also help to sensitise the minds of the people of the South East, especially the teeming unemployed youths; that the central government recognises them as part of the key value-chain required in Nigeria’s development journey,” he stated.