The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has described the Igbo marginalization within the Nigerian federation was a reality that could only be effectively addressed through restructuring to enthrone true federalism.
Ekweremadu spoke in Abuja at the public presentation of the book “The Audacity of Power and the Nigeria Project: Exclusion of the South East in Nigeria’s Power Politics and the Spectre of Biafra” authored by Godwin Udibe and Law Mefor.
The lawmaker, who was represented by Hon. Dennis Amadi, representing Ezeagu/Udi at the House of Representatives, said: “The cross of Ndigbo in the Nigerian state is heavy; Igbo marginalisation is real; and, as the authors argue, now borders on deliberate exclusion.
“But the worst disadvantages suffered by Ndigbo are not just those imposed by structural imbalances such as fewer number of States and local governments or the lesser revenue accruals, political representation, federal employments and political appointments arising from the imbalances and willful injustice.
“The greatest marginalization and disadvantage suffered by Ndigbo is the willful dissembling and discarding of true federalism, which the founding fathers of Nigeria adopted in order to live together as one nation in which no one is oppressed and every component part is able to thrive.
“This awkward form of federalism has boxed Ndigbo to a tight corner and caged their potentials and ingenuity”.
He said that in a normal federal arrangement, the hue and cry over marginalisation by Ndigbo and other parts of Nigeria would not have arisen.
“It would be recalled that in the First Republic, the defunct Eastern Region was rated the fastest growing economy in Africa. At that time, oil had not started flowing in commercial quantity in the Region. Nevertheless, the Eastern Region as well as the other regions recorded unprecedented and yet to be unequaled development.
“The State of California alone, in the USA, is one of the largest economies in the world. It reminds us that in a true federal state, Ndigbo would have been the most unlikely people to cry about marginalization because they have what it takes to compete with the developed economies.
“Sadly, in the context of Nigeria’s federalism, Ndigbo are like a shackled lion. They have abundant mineral resources, but cannot exploit them because minerals are vested in the Federal Government in an arrangement that robs Peter to pay Paul. Ndigbo cannot independently secure their territories to make them safer for citizens and more attractive to investors because policing was centralised since 1966.
“Whereas Igbo communities and public spirited individuals build schools, roads, hospitals, and other socio-economic infrastructure, the South East states cannot build certain infrastructure because only the Federal Government has the constitutional powers to build them.
“In other words, Ndigbo are a people who have what it takes to fly, but are condemned to crawl because others are crawling. This is the tragedy of the Nigerian project”, he added.
Ekweremadu, who said, “restructuring is not an emotional issue, but a political imperative for Nigeria to make the desired progress”, disagreed with those who see the calls for restructuring as tantamount to call for disintegration.
According to him, “It is actually the perpetuation of marginalization, exclusion, imbalances, injustice and induced poverty that comes with a dysfunctional federal arrangement like ours that is capable of bending a nation towards restiveness and implosion”.
“On the other hand, inclusion, justice, liberty, and allowing every component state considerable autonomy to utilise its resources and potentials to develop at its own pace promotes unity as well as speedy and competitive development” he stressed.
Ekweremadu warned that until Nigeria gets a president “who sees every part of the country as his or her constituency, and is committed to reuniting a highly polarised nation and reawakening the giant in all part thereof; and so long as people are mistreated on grounds of their electoral choices or where they come from, the quest for president of the various ethnic extractions will continue”.