We never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something; build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete —Buckminster Fuller .
THE fate of Igbo nation since the end of the unfortunate Nigerian-Biafra civil war in 1970 has been that of a sojourner on a voyage, mission, quest for political and economic survival. The after effects of the war which depleted Ndigbo politically, economically, psychologically and humanly are still conspicuously visible for even the blind to see. The gross infrastructural dilapidation of Igbo nation as a result of the civil war and deliberate economic strangulation of the people via anti-Igbo economic policies initiated by then Gen. Yakubu Gowon-led Federal government, forced surviving Igbos into massive exodus from Igbo land to look for greener pasture.
It is a known fact that post-civil war economic policies of Gen. Gowon’s government cost Igbos more than what they lost during the three-year protracted civil war. The change of currency which culminated in giving twenty pounds to each Igbo person, irrespective of how much one had in the bank and subsequent introduction of the Indigenisation policy (what is known today as privatisation), when Ndigbo was struggling to recover from the negative consequences of the war made hitherto Igbo millionaires paupers and economic slaves in their land.
These hostile anti-Igbo economic policies made to cripple Ndigbo economically made some of our Igbo brothers outside South-East geo-political zone to deny their Igbo heritage just to survive. It also turned some of our brothers and sisters into economic scavengers and adventurers—moving out in droves from the East to look for opportunities in other regions and countries of the world. Failure of the Gowon-led Federal government and successive governments after him to implement the 3Rs—Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Renovation in the war-ravaged South-East of the country alienated Ndigbo nation more.
Since then, there has been unwritten conspiracy against Igbos, not just to deny them political power but economic wherewithal. Igbos, out of sheer ingenuity, entrepreneurism and adventurous spirit have prospered, blossomed and advanced their economic fortunes in the midst of daunting challenges and stark marginalisation in Nigeria. At the individual level, Igbos have regained and made more than what they collectively lost during and after the civil war, but the psychological effect of the war still hangs on the Ndigbo nation.
Some of our people seem to have forgotten “home” entirely. They are busy investing and developing other parts of Nigeria while leaving Igbo land to deteriorate. A situation where an Igbo person is fixated on building industries, businesses and houses across the length and breadth of this country and beyond while neglecting where he comes from calls for serious concern. The irony and pathetic aspect of it is that the people Igbos are helping to develop their places still treat them with so much disdain and contempt, irrespective of the economic gains they have made from investment of Igbos in these places. They see Ndigbo as ‘an opportunist’ who is trying to dominate them in their own land.
For example, Lagos State—Nigeria’s economic capital will become a shadow of itself without investment and huge opportunities created by Ndigbo, yet we see markets built and run by Ndigbo being demolished at the slightest provocation without adequate consultation and compensation, thereby pushing Ndigbo to go and develop other virgin lands which are mostly swamps, that will still be taken over from them forcefully later. The Lagos State government makes 70 percent of its Internally Generated Revenue,IGR, from business investments of Igbos, yet they are still treated like third class citizens in their own country.
Eighty percent of goods coming into Nigeria via Lagos seaports are owned and imported by Igbo business people, yet no Igbo person has been appointed Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (I stand to be corrected). Senator Stella Oduah was blackmailed out of office as aviation minister for daring to upgrade Enugu Airport to international status, thereby opening Igbo nation to the outside world. Dredging of River Niger and construction of the second Niger Bridge have remained tools for political campaigns while other federal government projects more gigantic than these ones in other regions have been given accelerated construction. It is no longer news that the South-East has the worst network of federal roads in the country.
The Federal Executive Council recently approved additional seaport in Badagry, Lagos State, and there are plans by this administration to establish a ‘Dry Port’ in Kaduna State—where goods shipped to Nigeria via Lagos ports would be transported to Kaduna through railways for onward clearance, while Igbo nation, a major tribe in Nigeria famed for business exploits has no functional sea port or cargo airport. What an irony! It is time for Ndigbo to take her destiny in her hands. It is time to “think home and build home”.
It is time to unleash our inexhaustible creativity and potentials to develop the East. It is time to begin our own ‘charity’ from home. It is time to rally round South-East governors and South-East Leadership and Development Initiative, SELDI, to transform the East. Our people say: Onye ajuru adighi aju onweya (if you’re abandoned by other people, you shouldn’t also abandon yourself). We should not allow divide and rule elements to weaken us using political party affiliation and clannish sentiments.
South-East Leadership and Development Initiative, SELDI, is organising an Economic Summit for South-East to redirect economic destiny of Igbo nation billed to take place in Enugu in October, 2016. The title of this piece was picked from the theme of the strategic economic summit tagged: “Think Home and Build Home”. The event to be chaired by Deputy Senate President Dr. Ike Ekweremadu and to be attended by other renowned scholars and distinguished Igbo sons and daughters such as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Prof. Philip Emeagwali, Chimamanda Adiche, Tony Elumelu, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and a host of other resource persons.
This Economic Summit will marshal out roadmap on how to resuscitate economic potentials of South-East by ensuring amongst others: more international flights to Enugu Airport, revival of the Onitsha seaport; reconstruction of all Inter-state (Federal) roads in the zone; re-invigoration of moribund industries and siting of new ones in the zone that have the capacity of transforming South-East into an industrial hub; construction of good network of railways with new model speed trains linking major cites of South-East and beyond, especially South-South zone; huge investment in media industry to help in reawakening and reorientation the Igbo nation, massive deployment of resources in human development, etc.
It is time for Ndigbo to take the bull by the horn. Waiting for the Federal government to come to our aid, is to wait in vain.
Mr. Nwobodo Chidiebere , a public affairs commentator, wrote from Abuja.