By Peter Obi
Prez Jonathan Azikiwe introducing Gov Obi to Jacob Zuma prez of South Africa.
Prez Jonathan Azikiwe introducing Gov Obi to Jacob Zuma prez of South Africa.

The leaders and people of the South-East Geopolitical Zone are immensely gratified and delighted to welcome Mr. President each time he comes to the zone. We cherish every opportunity and privilege of interacting with him. We feel especially honoured that he usually finds time, despite your very busy schedule, to be with us. We therefore thank him most sincerely for your present visit.

As unequivocal stakeholders in Nigeria, we are mindful of the great demands – both political and physical – which constituent parts of this country make on Mr. President. He has continued to handle such challenges with great equanimity and statesmanship. He has carried us all along and shown abiding interest in, and support for, our zone. For that, we will continue to be immensely grateful.

We have previously expressed our appreciation for the eminently qualified sons and daughters of this zone who he has honoured with various national assignments and federal appointments. Rest assured that we will always avail you of our very best and quality candidates, who are not only proud and honoured to serve, but are also committed to bringing added value to every task you may assign them.

The visit of Mr. President to us last week was not fortuitous. It was a culmination of our long-standing yearning, and a fulfilment of his personal commitment to the development of our zone, the broadening of our developmental infrastructure and our quest for expansive and sustainable development. The people of this geopolitical zone remain the most widely travelled in this nation. It is only fitting, therefore, that they should merit their own International Airport as they traverse the world to market the entrepreneurial attributes of Nigeria and seek to attract investors that empower our people, create wealth and generate income. We are therefore grateful for the commissioning of the new domestic terminal of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and the ground-breaking ceremony of the International Terminal of the same airport.

Collectively and as individual states, our zone continues to boast of our ennobling efforts, oftentimes against many odds, to pursue policies germane to your transformational and restorative agenda. Doing so, sometimes within the limits of our resources, requires dexterity, leadership and resourcefulness. It is heart-warming that we are making progress and accomplishing our mandates in this regard. However, our challenges are far from over.

While we are not and do not wish to be like Oliver Twist who keeps asking for more, we are mindful of our responsibilities in terms of governance, delivery of democracy dividends and empowering our people. We do also acknowledge the multifarious challenges our institutions face. Even with our best efforts, we know that we do not always meet the aspirations of our people. It is exactly for these reasons that we often seek partnership with the Federal Government, and sometimes ask for direct intervention from the Government at the Centre.

It is trite to note that our needs are numerous and our challenges multifaceted. However, several critical projects in this zone cry for dire attention. And it is to those we must now turn.

Second Niger Bridge: First, we must acknowledge the efforts of Mr. President so far to ensure that the aspiration of Nigerians to bring the execution of this critical project to fruition is realized. This long-delayed project is not just a necessity for our nation and people; it is indeed a political imperative and a strategic development requirement. The bridge will serve as an important economic corridor that is at the heart of a globally recognized emerging industrial hub, not just for this nation, but for the entire Africa. The salient national benefits of a second bridge across River Niger cannot be overemphasized.

Federal Roads : There is an inextricable nexus between sustainable development and the presence of a good road network. The present state of most federal roads in our zone remains deplorable and our people very often use these roads as a comparative measure of the federal government's commitment to our zone. In this context, we wish to once more as a people continue to appeal for due attention to the Enugu-Port-Harcourt, Enugu-Onitsha, and the Owerri-Elele federal roads. These roads form a critical tripod in our national transportation mosaic. Similarly, a critical bridge on the hump of the federal road linking Abakaliki to Ogoja is in dire need of replacement.

Ecological problems: This zone suffers the most horrific and attending destructive consequences of soil erosion in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the global climate evolves, our ecological challenges multiply and worsen. Though Mr. President has come to our rescue in recent times, but we are yet to be free from this hump. The erosional incursions in our five states seem to have no boundaries. Some work has been done, but much more remains to be done. Frankly the remedial measures are so capital-intensive that erosion problems are now well beyond the scope which states can grapple with individually. As a zone, we are all at risk. There is clear and imminent danger that towns and villages, farmlands, roads and homes will disappear into great voids created by yawning gullies if urgent steps are not taken. With over 2000 active erosion sites in our zone, we ask for sustained federal remedial measures to stem their destructive consequences.

We are one with Mr. President in his personal desire to find peaceful and abiding solutions to the many political and socio-economic challenges confronting our nation. For our part, we wish to re-affirm our commitment to ensuring that the bond of performance between the federal and state governments are sustained, and remain proactive and constructive.

As we march forward, we earnestly pray that Mr. President will continue to exhibit the strength, wisdom, and dignifying but quiet equanimity which have become the trademark of his purposeful leadership. We hope, and sincerely so, that we can once again, count on and benefit from his approach to issues as a compassionate problem solver, in urgently attending to our pressing needs and those of other parts of our dear country.

Excerpts from the speech delivered by Gov. Peter Obi on behalf of the political leaders of the South-East during the visit of Mr. President to the Zone on the 18thy of May 2013

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