The Need For Ndigbo To Review Their Political Thinking
By Mecha Udo
Since the return of democratic system of governance in 1999, Ndigbo have dedicatedly cast their lot with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 1999 and 2003 Ndigbo overwhelmingly voted for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who went ahead to win the presidential election. Ndigbo also offered full support to Alhaji Umar Yardua in 2007. Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan became the substantive president after the death of Alhaji Yardua riding on the courage displayed by our illustrious daughter, Prof Dora Akunyili at the Federal Executive Council meeting which culminated in the adoption of the “Doctrine of Necessity” by the National Assembly. Our people again threw their massive weight behind Dr. Jonathan in 2007. The climax was the support for Dr. Goodluck/PDP in 2011 when the South East awarded a total of 4,985, 246 votes to Dr. Jonathan out of the 5,072, 321 which represents the largest percentage of block votes ever cast/awarded to any candidate in election history in Nigeria, a whopping 98.28%.
In spite of this unflinching support over the years, it is difficult to point to any meaningful benefit that the region has enjoyed or consideration that has been extended to the region. Instances of such injustice, neglect, and outright unfairness abound. Most of these instances are already in the public domain, but it will suffice to discuss a few areas just to bring home the point that the South Eastern region has been held in disdain by the Jonathan administration and by his party PDP.
Economically, our region has been emasculated. Those who have visited the economic nerve centers of the region in Aba and Onitsha would acknowledge that in the past couple of months unemployment rate rose from 19% in 2010 to 32% in 2014. Reality is a bit scarier than the statistics. To avoid the hardships, many of our people have moved to the South-South, South-West and Northern Nigeria. Some 70% of those working outside Ibo land are compelled by circumstances to do menial jobs mostly unrelated to their training. Ndigbo account for 30% of all children living in poverty and 22% of the elderly poor. The neglect, emasculation and non development of these industrial hubs boosting by their seams with industrial initiatives and verve is a monumental loss to the nation and is a clear manifestation of lack of foresight; we watch as our own version of Taiwan pines away. After several years of crying out for help, the President only thought it wise to visit Aba, four days to the elections obviously for the soul reason of seeking electoral votes, any other activity associated with that visit must be seen for what it is; a mere window dressing..
Energy remains the key ingredient required to drive the development and industrialization of cities and countries. The dynamic spirit of the Igbo drives him to industry and commerce. It is unfortunate that the PDP/Jonathan administration seems to have sounded the death Kneel for industrialization in the East. The news from the South Eastern region is very troubling. The imminent de-industrialization of the region seems to have commenced with more than 600 companies in the region employing more than one million persons about to shut down due to epileptic power supply and exorbitant charges occasioned by the over 94% increase in tariffs in the region for electricity, far above the national average approved by National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). Both corporate and individual consumers are now left to go without power for days. The seemingly forced departure of Prof. Bath Nnaji from the energy desk marked the beginning of another round of crisis in the privatization of the assets of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) especially in the South East.
The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) was acquired/ awarded to a company lacking requisite technical and financial capability despite the presence of far more qualified companies. The essence in awarding the EEDC to an unqualified bidder, even in the presence of more qualified companies beats the imagination of all; it can only be described as bizarre. With the near total absence of power in the South East, companies are now compelled to seek favorable locations for their businesses thereby worsening the already bad unemployment situation in the Region. In spite of this acute shortage of power, the government of the day is still finding it difficult to allow the Geometric plant at Aba to operate, we would have thought that we follow the dictates of common and economic sense and encourage that noble initiative.
A lot of Igbo businesses thrive on manufacturing which requires importation of raw materials and machinery. With the devaluation of the Naira, high interest rates, the hike in import duties, the often confusing import prohibition lists and the eroding purchasing power of our people, Igbo traders and businesses are bound to suffer greatly for the profligate tendencies of this and past governments. The traders who import finished goods are not faring any better, and are in for a tough time as the present government clamps down on the business of importation. There are no clear plans by the present administration as to how to rescue the collapsing economy.
Igbo land has the potentials for seaports, dry docks, cargo airports, free trade zones, industrial parks and other institutional infrastructure that would develop, harness and profit from the energy and industry of the people of the region. But none of these facilities exist in the region.
President Jonathan himself admitted that the Northern parts of the country received 70% of the investments in agriculture. The nation has continued to talk about its intention to increase quantity of rice to be produced yet have neglected to recognize and encourage farmers from Abakaliki, Adazi, Afikpo, Bende and Abam. The purported agro revolution being embarked upon by the Goodluck administration has continued to exclude the South Eastern region. The region is a traditional producer of rice, cassava, palm oil and other economic crops. The distribution of fertilizers and other incentives to farmers are yet to make any meaningful impact in Igbo land due to federal government's insincerity towards Ndigbo.
It is important to state here that there a lot of distinguished Ndigbo who have rejected the status quo of misguided and mercantile political leadership. For decades, other tribes have made the vulgar mistake of thinking that most people in Eastern Nigeria are miserable commodities that can be bought. The question is whether the economic gains achieved by few individuals under the imposed leadership justify the suffering of the larger population. Today, any dissenting Igbo voice is silenced with maximum force while terrorists, kidnappers and militants in other parts of the country are rewarded with amnesties, scholarships, overseas trainings and billions of dollars contract. Wittingly or unwittingly, some of these sectional sentimental activities ultimately encourage lawlessness and impunity that would without doubt bring a reign of anarchy upon the nation if care is not taken.
In his campaign at a town hall meeting in the East during the 2011 campaign, Dr. Jonathan pledged to proceed on exile if the 2 nd Niger Bridge was not completed before the end of his tenor in 2015. Suffice to state here that the 2 nd Niger Bridge has become like a campaign mantra that is always used to hoodwink and appeal to Igbo emotions to attract Igbo votes; the trend has been on since 1999, and may continue till 2019. This project is now being presented as if it is the only challenge that the South Easterners have. For 4 (four) years, this administration did nothing about the bridge only for it to rush to Onitsha in the heat of the current campaign to attempt once again to pull wool over our eyes. It is important to mention that the Oweto Bridge across river Benue in Kogi state will be completed by October 2015, as its construction, has reached advanced stages without any hue and cries.
While the Nigerian government of Dr. Good luck is exploring the use of a Public Private Partnership (PPP), with the concomitant cost to prospective users; in the form of tooling, the Oweto bridge, which is a 30 billion Naira project, is being funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the SUREP funds. Other roads either rehabilitated or constructed in the sixteen years of PDP, include the Ibadan Ilorin road which has been fully rehabilitated, the Lagos Ibadan road is undergoing expansion, and Ore to Benin road has been completed and is now extending towards Ijebu Ode. Other roads in the North have also received refurbishment and new ones have been built. The Onitsha- Enugu road remains abandoned so is the Enugu- Port Harcourt road. Again in his bid to again fool the people, the current Minister of works rushed to the Enugu- Port Harcourt road in the week of 2 nd March 2015, to conduct another ceremony said to be the commencement of work over 41 kilometers (part) of the said road. Roads in the East remain death traps. The National Housing scheme remains only on paper in the East, while taps have become ornaments.
It is a gratuitous insult to the South East, that despite awarding 98.3% of our votes to Jonathan and PDP, the party rewarded the region with a paltry 5.2% of total projects awarded under this government. Even if projects were to be distributed evenly amongst the six geo political zones, the South East would be entitled to at least 17% of total projects, who then did they divert our own fair share of projects to and why were they diverted?
Having spent all of six years as President and Commander In Chief and failed to reciprocate the goodwill the Igbo extended to him and his party, we believe that Dr. Jonathan does not have the intention of considering Igbo interests in the scheme of his programs, even in the unlikely event of his return for another term in office.
It is believed that this President did grossly under perform on all fronts all over the nation and in just about every sphere of our national life given the humungous resources and goodwill that was available to him.
It is further believed that in a bid to secure another term in office, Dr. Jonathan has extensively compromised the integrity of his office and position as President to the extent that he will no longer be able to effectively discharge his statutory duties or deliver quality leadership to the nation for that matter on account of the too many tendencies that he now has to contend with. Our nation has never been so divided along religious and tribal/sectional lines than now; this portends very grave dangers to the peaceful co-existence of all.
The nation has more or less been without any firm or serious leadership. It is obvious that the ship of the Nigerian state is on auto-pilot even as all manner of impunity are being exhibited nationwide all in the name of politicking thereby endangering our nascent democratic culture.
Given that the blind following of the PDP and its candidates by the Igbo has not yielded nor benefited the Igbo people nor the nation at large and in recognition of the need for the protection and or projection of the Igbo interests in all Igbo political activities and engagements, I believe that it is time to explore other political alliances that will benefit the Igbo in truth and indeed. We, as Igbos cannot also afford to stand aloof as efforts are being made by well meaning Nigerians and organizations to rescue our country, its economy and secure its people and its territorial integrity.
It is on the strength of the above that I make this clarion call to all Igbo, that it is time for us to rise and make our impact and presence felt in Nigeria again, It is time for us to rediscover our glory lost to greed, intimidation and avarice, we can no longer continue to put all our eggs in one leaky and torn basket.
Our nation is not lacking in institutional or legal framework, nor do we really lack resources to foster economic, social and infrastructural development. The challenge has remained the abuse of such institutions and the profligate disposition of successive governments, of which this one rates as the most profligate. The nation has continued to fail in efforts at economic diversification and development on account of a lack of will to do things correctly and differently. The level of progress made in the transformation of Lagos has not come only from new laws and new institutions, but has mostly come from the determination, focus and commitment to the task at hand by those who have had the privilege to lead the state. That feat can be achieved at the national level if we were to have a leader with character and integrity. One that is not given to unnecessary political compromises, but one that will put the nation first in all considerations. The quality of the national leadership holds the key to the salvation of our nation.
Even with the drastic drop in the price of crude oil, the blockage of most of the gaping holes in our economic system will save up a lot of resources that can be applied in meeting the needs of the country. The cancer of corruption in Nigeria has eaten so deep that if it is not uprooted from the system it will most definitely grind the nation to a total halt. It is corruption that has made our institutions comatose and non functional, it is corruption that has allowed insurgents and terrorists to run amok in large acreages of our nation, it is corruption in the privatization of the power sector that is stunting the growth of industries in Nigeria and that has thrown the nation into total darkness. It is corruption that has almost wiped out the local government system of governance in Nigeria, thereby denying the grassroots much needed developments at their level. The rebirth of Nigeria must start from tackling corruption. When we kill corruption, our country will move forward economically, structurally, socially and otherwise.
It will be fool hardy to continue to trust a man that has shown that he cannot keep a promise and has also publicly and openly admitted his failure in providing quality leadership. The sitting President has done his level best, there is nothing left in his armory and there is nothing we can do to fire him up, besides our nation should be in a hurry to catch up with the rest of the world.
Having reviewed the programs and the personality of the APC Presidential candidate, there is no doubt that he possesses the requisite qualities, experience and knowledge needed to set the country on the path of redemption. It is only wise to identify with this aspiration knowing full well that a well structured and functional Nigeria will benefit the Igbo most, given our dynamism, our drive and our determination in our respective endeavors. We do not need to bootlick, nor do we need to be sycophants to survive, we are created and endowed with the spirit of achievement which will flourish the most in a functional Nigerian set up. It therefore behooves all Igbos to ignore all the negative propaganda targeted at maintaining the status quos and do a thorough appraisal of the state of affairs of the Igbo under Jonathan to understand that the change Nigerians are clamoring for will favor them more than any other; it is therefore in our collective interest to embrace it.
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