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JONATHAN’S VAN DAMME KICK ON THE EYE OF THE IGBO

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In a placid attempt to instigate readers with a rhythm of trepidation and to pull them through the brink of cosmic mysticism, Rabindranath Tagore in the poem 'Brahmā, Vişņu, Śiva', began:

In a worldless timeless lightless great emptiness
Four-faced Brahma broods.
Brahma, the creative deity, is the progenitor or great grandsire of all human beings as expressed in the jagged dogmatism of Hinduism. He creates and sees all. Another relevant matter is that Brahma is the lord of speech and sound. Any sound emanates from the centre, the source, which is Brahma: a Hindu equivalent of the Hebraic I AM that I AM, whose sound and mysterious advent on Mount Sinai depicts him as Omni-potent, Omni-creative, Omni-present, and omniscient. Thus, anyone who claims to know that the I AM, Brahma, or God, exists, like the Hindu and the Jew, or other people who claim such, as Nigerians and their leaders do, must be made to be abundantly aware of the implications of that knowing: one of which is the consciousness that that God who they fanatically claim exists, broods constantly albeit uninterruptingly in their life, and of course presents himself everywhere including in their most piquant privacies. Like Brahma, God broods in the four quarters of the world, even in the mind of the president of Nigeria. God understands the reason behind the celebration of a bridge about to be commenced in 2014, promised to be built in 2011, and now the bridge would be finished in 10 years or more, at the expense of massive toll fees by the bridge users.

As the major users of the second Niger Bridge would be Igbos, the people living in the Eastern part of Nigeria across the River Niger, God knows perfectly why. And HE, God, can reveal his knowledge to his creatures, also known as his children. He also knows that the president of Nigeria, in this shambolic case, is pushing Igbos, who are God's children, to the brink of economic devastation - as Nigeria did to them during and after the Biafra war, denying them of their geographical, political and economic independence, killing over 3 million of them, starving many of food, causing many children to develop Kwashiorkor by blocking any international relief access such as the Seaports and Airports in other regions, which would have aided the Igbo battle against them during the civil war- now, by kicking the Igbo out-of-the-way with a stunted gift that blushingly shuns the region's major priority in an unfairly public manner.

Is the Celebration of the Second Niger Bridge a Van Damme kick or a movie stunt? Is PDP kicking harder than APC in media stunting? In Bloodsport (1988), and Kickboxer (1989), Van Damme kick remains popular as Karate style that knocks down villains with indescribable brutality. When we were young, after watching Van Damme movies on Saturday Afternoons, especially whenever it pleased Imo Broadcasting Corporations (IBC) to show us a movie on our big brown black and white Television, the one in-built in wood, with four legs, we used to try Van Damme kicks as wild leisure. Some boys in our street, then I used to be amongst them during the street leisure fights, injured their legs sometimes in trying to master the nonsense shown to us as practicable by American movie producers, Universal Pictures amongst them. We never knew it was a picture stunt carefully designed as a spectacular act by Van Damme. The kick spins the opponent's neck at a miraculous speed as the victim collapses like an empty Ghana-must-go sack thrown from a cliff. Van Damme, the hero of the movies, reserves the kicks always for last- as soon as the opponent is almost tired. And we used to try it on dunes and hips of sands. Sometimes we will tell each other to collapse as we do the kick just for the fun of it. There is nothing children cannot do. Some local boys then will fly like birds on the sand whilst laughing and bragging of their expertise on the kick. And sometimes the jokes ended in real wild street fights- this time we forget the kicks and wrestle it out with each other and sometimes pebbles are introduced until adults intervene to terminate the childish and wild leisure impressed on us by Van Damme movies.

Indeed our president has fumbled on the kick by this narrow-minded celebration. He knows the Igbo is tired. He knows the Igbo has lost hope on his PDP-led administration; he is aware he has been kicking the tribe about, and as the tribe is tired, then he flies up on their eyes with a Van Damme kick. Only that in this case as the President has forgotten that God is watching his kick-full betrayal, the Igbo people have fervently refused to slump or collapse at his frail kick, due to the support of their CHI, a version of Brahma. What other typology of indignity can the Igbo expect further from the government of Nigeria, former and now?

On the brink of capturing the reasons why Igbo land is being discarded in its continuous economic under-development, one will wonder why River Niger is being offered a second bridge whereas the billions appropriated for that contract could serve as finance for the long expected Igbo Sea Port. An investment in Abia State, precisely in Obuaku, Ukwa West LGA, by the Azumini River that flows into the Atlantic Ocean, would suffice. This location, going by the UN laws guiding Seaport location is very perfect, given that it is five nautical miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and thus qualifies for a natural Deepwater Seaport. Currently, there is no Deepwater Seaport in the East of Nigeria. The East is the only region in the country at unquestionable propinquity with the Atlantic Ocean without a Seaport, Deepwater, or of any kind. Indeed this is not a coincidence.

The recent ground-breaking or rather media stunt of a ceremony for the 2nd Niger Bridge is an astonishing betrayal hued in a messy Van Damme kick, a kick that ridicules the government's intention to lure the Igbo to trust and vote for the PDP-led government again come 2015. The 2nd Niger Bridge and the needless celebrations are a hurting hoax. The 2014 PDP offer; a Greek gift. One of the weakest, sheepish political Van Damme kicks which seems to have tarnished further the memory most Igbos have of the government's intended deprecation of the economic power and essence of the tribe against other regions in the federation.

The Second Niger Bridge or Sea Port in the South East, which should take the priority; which abounds in the aleph of the Igbo's accurate expectations? Should the Igbo allow this hymn of political subversion or this attempt to bewilder them with a bridge echo on like this? Igbos are not bitter about the second Niger Bridge, they are not bitter people, at all. They are indeed not sardonic by requesting more from the government, as well. A conversation between General Ojukwu, who led Biafra to the civil war against Nigeria in 1966, with the internationally acclaimed Science Fiction novelist Kurt Vonnegut during the war in Owerri is worthy of note. When Ojukwu told him about the seizure of the oil company in the Niger Delta and the attendant barbarism of starvation against women and Children in Biafra, his response published his essay 'Biafra : A People Betrayed' (1979) can never be clearer on the state of heart of the Igbo :

"We never nationalized it," he (Ojukwu) said. "It still belongs to British Petroleum and Shell." He wasn't bitter. I never met a bitter Biafran. General Ojukwu gave us a clue, I think, as to why the Biafrans were able to endure so much so long without bitterness: They all had the emotional and spiritual strength that an enormous family can give. We asked the general to tell us about his family, and he answered that it was three thousand members strong. He knew every member of it by face, by name, and by reputation. A more typical Biafran family might consist of a few hundred souls. And there were no orphanages, no old people's homes, no public charities and, early in the war, there weren't even schemes for taking care of refugees. The families took care of their own, perfectly naturally. The families were rooted in land. There was no Biafran so poor that he did not own a garden.

Although most of Igbo folk spirit of community and love is dissipating due to extensive travel, imbibing of other cultures of individuality, and the effects of the three-year civil war, yet they still accept the 2nd Niger Bridge, but in this instance, with an Oliver Twist heart. They need something more. The bridge is clearly not their priority as they can never forget one of the reasons Nigeria was able to starve Biafran children, mothers and soldiers to death- the lack of Seaports and international airports links with the outside world. To Igbos, the 2nd Niger Bridge is clearly a mis-timed choice as most of the Igbo people travel to Lagos, Calabar and Portharcourt daily to visit Seaports there for business purposes-and most have been attacked by armed robbers even on the current Niger Bridge. Nigeria is a country governed by geopolitical mapping. Currently, the South-South and South-West regions of the country have their Seaports and international airports but the East of the country that actually imports more than others should be able to have their Seaport. Seaport is a need for the region, whereas the 2nd Niger Bridge is a 'want'.

Globally, Seaports are of more economic value than bridges. Tom Nolan, Policy Adviser to the UK chamber of Commerce, on reiterating the significance of Seaports reiterated that 'Seaports are vital for the health and wellbeing of the UK economy and are the main transport method for international trade. Yet the importance of the port industry is often overlooked as other areas of transport policy attract greater media attention'. Overlooking the need of Seaport in the East of Nigeria is an error on the side of Eastern political leaders negotiating with the current government.

Seaport in the Eastern region will increase import/export revenue, improve the economic independence of the East, reduce mortality rate caused by accident across dangerous South-East/ South West bridge and roads, reduce unemployment enormously in the East of Nigeria, increase the region's productivity and entrepreneurship, reduce expenditure of Easterners on hospitality and tourism in other regions, and advance the East's innovativeness and wealth creation capacity. The people will be more directly involved with shipping lines and will further involve in exportation more directly rather than through agents in other regions.

Currently there is neither an acclaimed International Airport nor an existing Deepwater Seaport in the East of Nigeria. And this situation is never a mere coincidence. Like the Lagos and Abuja, MMA and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports respectively, there is no port of such standards in the East. The people of the East are proven to be business inclined and they travel much more than the people from the North and West of the country. They always fly through cities in other regions and also import through Seaports situated in other regions, whereas they have links to the oceans that can be turned into viable Seaports to make business easier for them.

Some may argue that the East is close to the proposed Ibaka Seaport in Akwa Ibom state, south of the country, which is 45 minutes drive to the East, and others may argue that Portharcourt Seaport is also 45 minutes close to the East. Yet, they will not ask; why must the East depend on other regions for international trade? And why should the East not have a Seaport that will provide employment for their people? They will not consider other nations where Seaports and airports are within 30-50 minutes drive when making their arguments. Is this not a further attempt to kick the East out of the flow of wealth into Nigeria? In the East of Nigeria there are projects such as Onitsha Inland Port, Oguta Inland Port and Resort Centre, Azumini Seaport (Obuaku City) that have never been considered by the current federal government since its inception in the past five years. That the federal government is capable of investing in the aforementioned projects, but failed to do so, but decided to kick the East in the eye with a 2nd Niger Bridge, towards the forthcoming elections, is indeed stunning. Building the bridge alone can never guarantee the Igbo support for the PDP-led administration come 2015!

I want to beseech God, who sees and knows all, to open the eyes of Eastern leaders-Igbo leaders who do not see-so that they can make demands of what Igbos truly yearns for: economic dependence from other regions. The bridge which links the East to other regions is not as important as an infrastructure like a Seaport that surely will sustain and attract more economic development in the region and infuse economic dependence in the east of the Niger.

If the president of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, argues that governors in the states of the country who oppose him are denying their states of infrastructure, he cannot say that the Abia State governor, T. Orji is opposing his administration given that both are in PDP, the ruling party. Locating a Seaport in Abia state this year will make both political and economic sense. Because the second Niger Bridge is not going to attract more business in the region or more vote from the region as a Seaport would do.

The Eastern leaders should be aware that God is watching their hearts, and it is clear they represent themselves and not the people. It is not the priority of Easterners, the second Niger Bridge, when compared to the benefits of a Seaport to the Eastern Region, as the region needs their business brothers and sisters to look homeward. The region needs a clear connection point to the international community for international trade influx at least. The region needs a Seaport as urgent as possible. That is the major and only infrastructure that will generate huge revenue for the East and surely bring Easterners in Lagos, Portharcourt, and Calabar, back home, while attracting other tribes to come and invest in the Eastern communities. Railway to connect to other regions can serve the same purpose the expensive bridge will serve instead.

Kurt Vonnegut decries the problem of lack of Airport in the East during the Biafran war here:

'When we got close to the one remaining Biafran airport, which was a stretch of highway, its lights came on. It was a secret. Its lights resembled two rows of glowworms. The moment our wheels touched the runway, the runway lights went out and our plane's headlights came on. Our plane slowed down, pulled off the runway, killed its lights, and then everything was pitch black again. There were only two white faces in the crowd around our plane. One was a Holy Ghost Father. The other was a doctor from the French Red Cross. The doctor ran a hospital for the children who were suffering from kwashiorkor, the pitiful children who had no protein.' -Kurt Vonnegut in Biafra: A People Betrayed (1979)

Indeed every senatorial zone and state in the East need to start planning to build their Seaports and Airports as the case may be. He who is surrounded by enemies should be able to guide himself. Brahma, I AM, or God is never against people who think of the future, because God, Himself, is indeed in the present and in the future. And if the government fails to listen to the heartfelt pleas of the East as it is prone to be, individual Igbos and co-operative organisations should begin to look into building Seaports in the East, for a rejected person should not reject himself, adighi ama ama Onitsha gwara Obosi.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Stanley Ndukwe and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Stanley Ndukwe