KIDNAPPING: TASKS BEFORE SOUTH-EAST GOVERNORS
The governors of the five South-Eastern states, with prominent leaders of thought from the region in tow, cut a pitiable look when they went cap-in-hand to meet with "Big Brother Abuja", President Goodluck Jonathan recently. Though the meeting was prompted by the embarrassing high incidence of kidnapping and other violent crimes in the region, especially the kidnap of the four Lagos-based journalists in Aba earlier, it turned out to be an opportunity for them to present a long request list of the region’s needs to the president.
This, they did, I suppose, cognisant of the Igbo adage that "He who climbs an Iroko tree, must take whatever he wants because climbing an Iroko tree is not an everyday adventure."
It must be pointed out that this was not the first time the "men from the East" would hurry to Abuja horrified. On March 22, the South-East governors held a closed-door meeting with then Acting President Jonathan where they confronted him with the growing concerns over insecurity, erosion, and abandoned federal projects in the region.
The leader of the delegation and Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Mr. Peter Obi, while speaking with journalists after the meeting, noted that they were spending huge funds to support the police and other security agencies. But, he lamented that "we found out that the hoodlums’ firepower is more than the police. The security agencies are trying but they need more from the Federal Government."
The consequence of that over-powering of the security agencies by hoodlums in the region was that Igboland was slowly and surely turned into a kidnappers paradise. It was thus not unexpected when the country was recently classified as 6th among the 10 countries in the world where people are more likely to be kidnapped.
Now, back to the most recent meeting of the governors with President Jonathan last week. They demanded so many things that would make Oliver Twist look like an apprentice in begging, and making one wonder what type of federalism the country is practicing that supposed federating units would be so structurally helpless and fiscally incapacitated as to rely and depend on an overbearing and powerful centre for virtually everything!
While they cried blue murder that Ndigbo are "not proportionately represented at the Supreme Court" as well as "being progressively replaced by our brothers and sisters from other zones whenever changes are made in the headship of (federal) commissions", they also, for good measure, drew attention to ecological problems and the need for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge.
This is not forgetting their demand for a new state to be created from the region and for the exploration of crude oil and gas deposits in Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu and also "reactivate Enugu coal mines."
But, by far, what caught the attention of many was their Macedonian cry that they were incapable of confronting criminals unless Abuja came to their help! As Ikedi Ohakim, governor of Imo State, put it, "There is no particular state government that has the capacity to match these criminals (kidnappers) except with the federal might. The types of arms and ammunition at the disposal of the criminals and (their) professionalism are beyond the capacities of individual (South East) states."
To corroborate him, Obi disclosed that "although the state governments of our zone have adopted a number of stringent measures to combat the menace, we request (the Federal Government) to accord a special security attention to the zone through logistical interventions and provision of enhanced security infrastructure to sustainably address the situation."
As commendable as the efforts of the distressed governors seemed, it is important to state that while Igboland deserves a "special security attention" from Abuja, the governors themselves must be told that they have not provided the essential human security attention Ndigbo sorely needs, by their poor governance! With the probable exception of Sullivan Chime and Peter Obi, others are plain journeymen who are on Agbata eke (hire purchase) governance (Apologies to Douglas Anene).
For, however one looks at it, the "war in Igboland’ today, as prolific writer, Okey Ndibe, recently alluded to it, is occasioned by bad, nay, non-existent governance of the region by its political elite since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. And, if the governors cannot confront criminals, can they just tell us what they can confront, like hunger, unemployment in the region with all their security votes and quarterly allocations?
It is very disheartening that Igbo governors seem oblivious of the ominous causative factors of crime evident all over the South-East, which essentially is a product of their great undoing to their people. As the Igbo proverb reckons, the time is now to begin to examine "ebe mmiri siri banye n’opi ugboguru", (meaning, knowing where the rain started beating us as a people)
For one, the structures of selecting leaders in Igboland have been hijacked, read kidnapped, by a vicious band of money-miss-road folks who abhor logic, reasoning and sound argument. With their ill-gotten wealth, they saw in politics a veritable platform of deepening and sustaining their economic power. This explains why politics in Igboland is seen as an extension of business investment, just like importing goods, where huge returns are inevitably expected after every (s) elections.
It is not for nothing that a certain governor preferred closing schools in his state for as long as his godfather got his huge returns uninterrupted. The interests, and welfare of the people, obviously are not matters for consideration. This, unfortunately, has been exacerbated in recent years by the capture of traditional institutions for their selfish political interests.
The misery in Igboland, as a result of poor and deteriorating governance, is palpable; what with collapsed industries, decayed infrastructure and unspeakable looting and worsening income inequality. Because governance cannot deliver the "dividends of democracy", given that wrong and ill-prepared people are in positions of authority, frustration becomes second nature to many Igbo youths. With greed and corruption tugging at one end, what is left is a region lying like a carcass on the roadside. The result is crime everywhere. In fact, the face of the failure of the Nigerian state is Ndigbo, though this is debatable. But, the failure of the governors to create opportunities for the bulging youth population is at the heart of the rampant criminality in the beleaguered region.
Ndigbo survived the civil war because they are an industrious, determined, enterprising and self-conscious people. More so, because their "enemy" was identifiable. This time around, it is difficult to see how they can survive the raging "war" in the land, with the "enemies" roving in their midst, and without the people rising up to clean the Augean stable and reclaim their land!
Does it not bother anyone that there are more Igbos in search of survival outside Igboland than inside, not those outside Nigeria; more Igbo youths hawking on the streets of major city centres in Nigeria than any other tribe; that Igboland is increasingly becoming uninhabitable and hostile to enterprise; and that two out of every three drug peddlers arrested in Nigeria are Igbo?
So, beyond begging or blaming Abuja, Igbo governors should help themselves first. They should realise that if Akanu Ibiam, Michael Okpara, Mbonu Ojike, Nnamdi Azikiwe and other departed Igbo leaders were to rise from their graves to visit to Igboland today, they would be ashamed of what remained of their beloved homeland. Let them, like the Biblical sluggard, come to the ant (Raji Fashola) and learn his ways. Why can’t they articulate and implement a regional economic revival programme to secure their people first! We have not been our best friends, even without an unhelpful Federal Government
Nwokeoma, a journalist and good governance activist can be reached on email via [email protected]