Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide recently instituted a fund for the development of Alaigbo to the elation of every right-thinking Igbo man or woman as there is no meaningful federal government presence in the South East. When the Biafra war ended in January 1970, the Gowon regime instituted the so-called 3 Rs, namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation but ostensibly left out Reintegration, the most crucial.
Even the 3 Rs, which they set out for themselves were halfheartedly pursued. The result is the South East being the zone with the biggest infrastructure deficits in Nigeria. Whatever people see in the South East in terms of development is essentially by self-help. Very little has come from the Federal Government, past and present.
Apart from the ubiquitous Police stations and army formations and checkpoints, and perhaps one or two federal establishments, the zone has very little to show for being part of the Nigerian federation. No meaningful industries of any kind, especially in oil and gas. So, since the Government has not been able to develop the zone to the extent expected by the people, it is only necessary that the people develop their place to the extent allowed by the nation’s unitary constitution.
Apart from huge funds required to go into real capital and economic development, the laws will not allow any zone to give their people things like railways, ports, power, police and so forth even if they have the money. These factors are key in really developing any zone in the country into an economic base. For these factors too, up to 70% of the economy and investments of the South East is outside their shores.
So, while commending the great initiative of Ohanaeze for the development of the South East zone, attention should equally be drawn to the ceilings imposed on such initiatives by the nation’s extant laws, especially the 1999 Constitution, which is the grund norm. One should also advise Ohanaeze to maintain a two-pronged approach – pursuing the development initiative while pushing for Restructuring in order to release those critical areas from the crutches of the Exclusive List, and have them moved to the Concurrent List so that zones or regions can take care of their individual development, not just the South East alone.
One also has some reservations regarding organisational structures that will enable Ohanaeze pull this initiative off. The men and women inaugurated into the implementation committee are very eminently qualified. However, one also believes that it is the town union structure, which Ohanaeze is yet to properly harness that will bring about such development.
The committee is very likely to focus on billionaires in Igbo land. Without getting the towns involved the move may falter if seen as elitist. One is therefore looking forward to ‘Igbo crowd funding’, which the committee must try to swing, not hoping for patronage of the few billionaires.
If experience is anything to go by, League of Anambra Professionals of which some of us were members attempted something like this but was not able to deliver a single project in one to two decades of its existence. There was a time the South East Development Commission also came up through some private citizens’ initiative but it never really got off the ground. Since the COVID-19 pandemic too, a group called Anambra Professionals convened by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah has delivered a hospital and is inching to doing more. This is the extent such initiatives have succeeded so far.
Igbo individualism and atomisation of interests have always been a drawback. Ohanaeze has the franchise to do it differently if it can get both the strategy and tactic right. Time will however tell. As an incurable optimist and merchant of hope, one believes it will work this time.
On South East security, from all indications, the Governors of the zone appear unwilling to toe the steps of South West Governors who gave their zone Amotekun. Several reasons account for their seeming nonchalance towards South East or Homeland security. First is the way and manner they were recruited or elected, which made them to have neither respect nor allegiance to their people. Two, many believe they are scared and desperately want to be in the good books of the federal government. Fear of EFCC for corrupt practices can be a powerful control tool. So, if their books are not looking good, they may not be so eager to be pro-people more so with one or two governors already in jail.
Three, many say they are all ambitious and want to either go to the Senate, or become President or Vice President and therefore find being politically correct far more important. These are the key reasons they do not want to push for regional security outfits like Amotekun.
At a point, the South East Governors talked of Community Police. Even that one, as ineffectual as it is, has also gone with politics, thus making the South East the quite vulnerable zone in the country. None of the South East Governors is like Nwike or Orton who have shielded their people with their own blood.
Given this unfortunate scenario, the way out could be: using the town unions’ structure to get every town in Alaigbo to have a functional vigilante operation. That will give the towns some basic security. Not that it will be enough in terms of security and sophistication of the security threats coming from killer herdsmen, bandits and terrorists; but it is better than nothing and will act as stepping stones and building blocks when eventually the Government decides to take security more seriously.
There have been claims that, in the pursuit of President of South East extraction, Ndigbo have not been saying the same thing but they are. Contrarily, the campaigners are saying that all the political parties, particularly the PDP and APC should zone their presidential tickets to the South East as they did in 1999 when all the Presidential candidates were taken from the South West. That’s what some refer to as the Obasanjo/Olu Falae option. Therefore, the talk of Ndigbo not saying the same thing is nothing but an emotional blackmail as one always says. Those who may be Igbo naysayers in this regard are in ignoble and negligible minority. As a further response, the major groups mobilizing for the Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction met days ago in Abia State and agreed to form a coalition for working together.
However, there are two nonissues that have been made issues by some that need addressing as a way of helping such people to gain perspective. One is: should the quest be Nigerian President of Igbo extraction or South East extraction? The right take on this is: the quest is not an ethnic one, and, therefore, Nigerian President of Igbo extraction does not even arise. Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari did not emerge Nigerian Presidents as of Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Ijaw extractions. Their consideration was based on their zones and not on their ethnicity. That of Ndigbo cannot therefore be different.
The other issue is agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra by some Igbo Youths. It is quite unfair to equate the quest for Biafra by a few Igbo youths with the position of Ndigbo. At the Awka Declaration called by Ohanaeze in 2018, Ndigbo made it abundantly clear that what they want in the present-day Nigeria is a Restructured Nigeria. And this brings one to the final non-issue.
Some have also said that Ndigbo want Restructuring, not Nigeria’s Presidency. Without equivocation or vacillation: Ndigbo want Restructuring as well as Nigeria’s Presidency because both are not mutually exclusive and none hampers the other.
Besides, Restructuring is not a sole South East agenda. It belongs to South Nigeria, the Middle Belt and parts of the core North that want Nigeria to move forward. And both South West and South South have all produced Nigerian Presidents in the current democratic dispensation while still pursuing Restructuring. Ndigbo should, therefore, not be cajoled or blackmailed to drop their legitimate quest to produce Nigeria’s President because of their concurrent interest in a Restructured Nigeria.
· Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; tweet: @LawMefor1.