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SOUTH EAST/SOUTH SOUTH APRIL ECONOMIC SUMMIT: A PRELUDE

By Nwokedi Nworisara
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ABSTRACT: "ECONOMIC RECOVERY EFFORTS IN THE SOUTH EAST/SOUTH SOUTH REGION IS HINGED ON HISTORICAL ACCESSMENT OF PAST ECONOMIC BOOM PERIODS AND ITS CAUSES."

The South South is like a webpage where the South East is the content. This is the best way to mirror the necessity for a working together of the two to boost not just her economy but that of Nigeria. Historically we have had two boom periods. First is the Slave trade era of the 19 century as well as the Oil River Protectorate boom of the 20 th Century. The oil doom of later 20/21 st century cannot be said to be counted because unlike the others it did not witness cooperation between the South South and the South East but rather antagonism.

Let's consider Slavery though unfortunate witnessed the trade in human beings to feed growing demand for plantation workers in the new land as well as domestic helps in America. Well what to note is that the trade boomed with complete cooperation of the two subregions driven by division of labour and mutual respect. The hinterland brought the slaves while the Riverine areas via its ruling houses negotiated with foreign buyers . The exchange was done with cowries,gold,gin,cloth and other valuables. The Igbo's began to dress like the Riverine where these cloths were coming from while some aspects of the riverine language began to change to elicit better understanding of what the hinterland needed or wanted in exchange. The following then formed the basis for a bigger boom when the Slave Trade was abolished later into the 20th century and the palm oil boom began. Again it was the hinterland that supplied much of it with the Riverine handling the export trade through the ports. Before and after Nigerian Independence this commodity trade literally turned Nigeria into an economic miracle. I must point out that the apex of each graph of economic growth happened with height of the said mutual symbiosis of these peoples while the trough came when middlemen began to thrive until some traders in the hinterland tried to highjack the function of the riverine and vice versa some of the foreign traders were permitted by the riverine to move into the hinterland to trade directly. So we had the Jaja of Opobo, an Igbo thriving in the riverine function and breeding some distrust at the same time despite his success while the European traders became established in the hinterland thereby bypassing some of the deepest local access ports on the coast leading to their ruin.

The Economic model for recovery will recognise these antecedents and consciously work out a modern day cooperation that let's these people play their traditional roles of trade in the developmental process. Such old but abandoned sea entry ports like Bonny, Opobo,Agge, Akassa, Okrika, Brass,Nembe,Abonema, etc should be reactivated for direct cost effective evacuation of petroleum or related products. Experts of the hinterland should be involved in petroleum exploration and marketing as well as other Agricultural exploitation in the regions.

The Riverine should be opened up to serve as a gateway into the hinterland economy serving the middlemen or caretaker role as the South East unleash their famed economic prowess. What it means is that economic efforts here should consider collaborating with their neighbours first before others as guarantee of economic sustainability.