By Nwobodo Chidiebere
“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 the Igbo nation since the end of the unfortunate Nigerian civil war in 1970 has been that of a sojourner or someone on political and economic survival quest. 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’s administration forced surviving Igbos into massive exodus from Igbo land to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
It is a known fact that the post-civil war economic policies of Gen. Gowon cost Igbos more than what they lost during the three-year protracted civil war. The change of currency which culminated in handing down of twenty pounds per individual, no matter how much one had in the bank and subsequent introduction of indigenization policy (what can be known today as privatization), when Ndigbo were 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 Gowon’s administration and subsequent regimes after him to implement the 3Rs—Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation in the war-ravaged South-East of the country alienated the Igbo nation the 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 marginalization in Nigeria. On 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 is still hanging on the Igbo 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 originated 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 economic gains they have made from the investments of Igbos in their places. They see Ndigbo as “opportunists” who are trying to dominate them in their own land.
Dredging of River Niger and construction of 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 what will be known as “Dry Port” in Kaduna State—where goods shipped to Nigeria via Lagos ports would be transported to Kaduna through railways for onward clearance, while the Igbo, a major tribe in Nigeria famed for business has no functional sea port or cargo airport. What an irony!
It is time for Ndigbo to take their destinies into their 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” at home. It is time to rally round the 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 abanded 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.
The SELDI is organizing an Economic Summit for South-East to redirect economic destiny of Igbo nation billed to take place in Enugu on 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, will be attended by other renowned scholars and distinguished Igbo sons and daughters like 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 the South-East by ensuring amongst others, more international flights to Enugu Airport, reviving of Onitsha Seaport; reconstruction of all inter-state (Federal) roads in the zone; reinvigoration of moribund industries and siting of new ones in the zone that have the capacity of transforming the 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 reorientating of the Igbo, massive deployment of resources in human development, etc.
It is time for Ndigbo to take the bull by the horns. Waiting for the Federal Government to come to our aid will remain a wild goose chase. Igbos all over the world should form synergy to make the South-East the pride of this nation, because great ideas make great nation and not population.
Chidiebere writes from Abuja