Those marginalising the south-east revisited
Doctor Onyekakeyah’s script titled, “Those marginalising the South-East” dated November 22, 2016 adverted my mind to the army slogan used by the Nigerian Army during the war against Biafra. The refrain of the slogan is “muje, muje! mukwashe kayansu, kayan kito.” This singsong translates to “let’s go! let’s go! let’s go and plunder the land and property that belongs to nobody.” This attitude of the military has remained the bureaucratic attitude of Nigeria’s military leaders to the South-East. The military leaders that fought Biafra are as visible today as they were during the war in the Council of States. This attitude of the mind that sees the South-East as a plunder land has persisted in both military and civil rule. If Nigeria is still disunited and unstable it is because of this negative disposition of the dominant members of the council of states against Ndigbo.
So it is curious that my good friend unwittingly roped the very victims of domination, discrimination and marginalisation in his blame game. Is it the responsibility of ordinary citizens of the South-East to construct and maintain federal and state roads traversing their homelands? Where do ordinary Ibo, Ibibio Efik, Ijaw, Ogoni, Kalabari, Abriba and Okrika men come in under urban planning and development?
Under dual federalism, issues verging on urban planning and development are in the domain of federal and state governments. These levels of government are the ones that plan and lay down the network of roads, urban and industrial infrastructure. So the indigenous people of the South-East cannot be blamed when these levels of government fail to develop their homelands.
A former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once remarked that men are governed with words. But the diplomacy of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation General Yakubu Gowon flaunted before Nigerians after the war was to hoodwink the world. No reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation took place. Not even abandoned properties were returned to their owners. No compensation was paid to those who lost lives and property in the North during the pogrom against the indigenes of the South-East. The Aburi accord was observed in the breach.
The military government of General Gowon did not for once intend to implement his much vaunted Marshall plan to re-integrate the South-East with the rest of the federation 46 years after the Nigeria-Biafra war (Civil war). The South-East is only haphazardly and half-heartedly reconciled, reconstructed and rehabilitated (3rs) by the indigenous people of the South-East themselves. General Gowon could not reconstruct, rehabilitate and reconcile the South-East with the rest of Nigeria before he was ousted and sidelined in a military coup when he gaffed that the hitherto promised 1976 handover date was no longer realistic.
It took almost 23 years (1976-1999) before General Olusegun Obasanjo came up with another political legerdemain called Oputu panel of inquiry. The aim of the enquiry, as it later became clear, was merely to provide a talking cure. In this public enquiry, people were allowed to ventilate their worries, fears, feelings of insecurity, deprivation, persecution and injustices meted out to them. At the end of the enquiry, the polity was overheated and nerves were not soothed. Like General Gowon’s noble chicanery, General Olusegun Obasanjo’s variant was full of overpromises and under delivery.
It does appear that the then supreme military council had a tacit agreement among their members to fleece the South-East using the harvest strategy. It was under this harvest strategy General Yakubu Gowon sold off the oil rich territory of the South-East called Bakassi to Cameroon without the consent of the indigenous people of Biafra.
Another war strategy Gowon found potent and efficacious was to divide and sell (balkanization). He also used the strategy of divide and rule (state creation for differentiation and disaffection). In order to divide and disunite the South-East and thus make it easier to subject the composite tribal nationalities to a set of dominance rules, the South-East was partitioned. These were the machinations and mechanisms used to marginalise the South-East. Those marginalising the South-East used mixed strategies to fleece the South-East before letting it go if need be, as Prof. Ango Abdullahi seems to be suggesting when he said “the north is ready for Nigeria’s break up!!”
Those marginalising the South-East have decided to give the South-East as little as possible. Budgets for the South-East are hardly implemented and nobody cares. But they are to take as much as possible (harvest) from the South-East in terms of economic resources. Nigeria lives like a jigger in the toe of the South-East drilling its oil wells and using the royalties of the South-East and South-South to develop the South-West North-West and North central as favoured states.
Funds earmarked through the budget for developing and building roads, bridges, railways, or airports in the South-East are hardly applied to the purpose before the funds are transferred by virement to areas of more pressing needs. Both Babatunde Raji Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi have not started talking about the South-East. It is like a law, that budget implementation must begin from the South-West, North-West, North-Central Axis. The North-East, South-East, South-South axis must come later, and must go for the crumbs if something is left to pursue the development plans and programmes of the axis.
The unwritten policy of maximum exploitation and minimum or marginal development of the South-East/South-South axis has continued to be in vogue 46 years after the war. The leopard has refused to change its skin. Even the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to be different. But the MASSOB, the IPOB, and Niger Delta militants cannot passively watch the Federal Government use the harvest strategy to loot and suck the lifeblood out of its veins, muscles and sinews. The oil harvest is not even used to develop the South-South, South-East and Niger Delta area (Biafra territory).
Shortly after the inauguration of General Muhammadu Buhari as the executive president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, this policy analyst counseled his government to forthwith embark on mega-industrial city development to be located at the saddle point between Rivers or Bayelsa, Imo, Anambra and Delta states. In that write-up, it was observed that the Federal Government planned and developed Lagos as a large metropolitan city and industrial conurbation.
During the Obasanjo-Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida interregnum, the Federal Government built a new seat of governance in Abuja. It was planned and developed with all the trappings of a cosmopolitan city. Thus, there is a city in the South-West where all Nigerians live together and interact with one another. In the North Central, there is the Abuja metropolis where all Nigerians live and interact with one another. But there is no such place in the South-East, South-South axis. The Federal Government has refused to build the third (Nigeria stands on three legs) metropolitan city where all Nigerians will lie together. The cities in Abuja and Lagos were built from oil royalties expropriated from the South-East, South-South. People of the South-East/South-South must travel and sojourn in other lands to enjoy what comes from their places.
As I said in my first script on the mega-industrial and commercial city in the South-East, this project is a seamless method of reflating an economy in recession. This city must be built on “no-man’s-land” just like Lagos and Abuja. Though the Yoruba have tacitly claimed Lagos and northerners have claimed Abuja since only their indigenes have continued to rule and govern these cities built with funds expropriated from the resources of the South-East. The cosmopolitan industrial city should straddle the estuary of the River Niger across contiguous states (Rivers, Bayelsa, Imo and Delta states). Under cooperative federalism, these states should partner with the private sector and the Federal Government to contribute factors of production viz men, machines, materials and money to obviate and operationalise this laudable project.
Uwalaka writes from Lagos.
It will also miraculously solve the problem of underdevelopment, disunity, instability and marginalisation of the South-East, South-South. Under cooperative federalism the project should be a package deal involving organised labour, organised private sector (OPS) bilateral and multilateral agencies. These institutions of development could be co-opted into the job team for the implementation of the mega-industrial city development as partners. There is no better time than this period of economic recession to use strategies of cooperative federalism to reflate and reactivate economic activities. The strategy favours labour intensive projects.
Since the mega industrial conurbation is to provide a home and business centre for all Nigerians the proposed (circa $30 billion) offshore loan can be applied to this project and we won’t regret it. Leaders like Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and late Sani Abacha used their policies and programmes to marginalise and cause lots of restiveness, insecurity and injustices against the South-East and South-South. They failed over a period of 46 years to take expedient action to reconstruct, rehabilitate and reconcile the South-East with the rest of the federation. After 46 years, moral, religious and socio-economic gaps have threatened to become chasms. Policies and programmes of the Buhari administration threaten to widen the socio-economic and political gap in the Niger Delta and South-South. As the Niger Delta militants bare their dangerous fangs General Muhammadu says “I will crush them”. But peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved with mutual understanding and toleration. Governance of a people is by “jaw-jaw, not war-war”. This will spare this nation the scourge of poverty and refugee problem.
Uwalaka writes from Lagos.