Where are South East governors? Even though it is a Nigerian problem, the truth is that 80 percent of those affected by this ugly development are Igbo.
The South East, and if I want to be charitable, some other parts of Nigeria like the North Central and the South-South have been the whipping boys of Nigeria. We have dealt with them like sub-humans. We take their benefits and yet relegate them in the scheme of things especially in dispensing national patronage. If this was the only thing we do to them, the feeling could be it is the mistake of the head and not the heart, and that time could reverse the situation and make it what it should be. But that is not the only thing we do to them; we have succeeded in creating political, economic and social structures that take away their ability to even talk and when they talk, the rest of us don’t take them seriously because we are convinced they are caged and would not do more than a caged object can do, running around a well guarded territory.
The South-South for instance produced a president by default because if Yar’Adua hadn’t died I can bet on my life that there wouldn’t have been anything like President Jonathan. Jonathan was the most insulted and assaulted President our country has produced, his bid for his first election threw up the issue of an agreement of restriction which on itself was a big insult to a people, their dignity and all they stand for. What am saying becomes clearer when we realize that a Northerner is about to finish the first tenure as President of Nigeria and the position has been rezoned to the same region and the issue on whether this is the last tenure for the region for the time being has not become the issue like it was during Jonathan’s era. This is instructive to those who care and who think well about the New Nigeria.
The North Central is the food basket of this country and until recently constituted the bulk of the Nigeria Army and the Police. The war to keep Nigeria one was fought by them but today, instead repaying them with good, we have turned their territory into a one sided war theatre. Indigenes go to sleep not certain to wake up the next morning. Often Islamic vandals invade their territories and by the time it is over, hundreds of innocent citizens, whose crime is only that they are Nigerians have been killed in the most despicable manner and the only response of the government is to appeal for non-retaliation. We all know that is the situation and we know it is bad, repulsive if you like, and yet we pretend we have no solution.
The Igbo case appears to be the worse, they are a majority group, by this I mean a race with very high population. They are very industrious and creative, having the highest singular contribution to the Nigerian project as a group. This is the group that lives out the Nigerian dream. They make every part of the country their home, they build up cities in “foreign lands” and plant their big businesses there, yet they are the most hated group, most harassed, maltreated and most killed. They were lured into a civil war in which over 3 million souls were lost through acts of genocide and starvation as a weapon of war. Since then every inter-ethnic uprising outside the Igbo territory has made the Igbo victims, it didn’t matter whether they provoked the disenchantment or not. Daily there are reports of governments in a deliberate manner going after their businesses. The Igbo are champions in commerce, not necessarily out of choice but an option imposed by the Nigerian state, consequent upon the defeat in the civil war, yet there is no seaport in the whole of the South East, even when there are evidences that routes can be created from the territory into the Atlantic Ocean.
Those who still demand to see evidence on a Nigerian policy to deal with the South-East on this score should take a look at the Port Harcourt, Calabar and the other ports in Delta State. Those ports are not functional, in fact they lie comatose. The Calabar port has been a victim of dirty politics; a game of hide and seek, no one would be surprised to hear the matter resurrect again during this campaign period. If those who have ‘conquered and subjugated’ others mean well, the crowding that Lagos sea port has become and the attendant nuisance to Lagos and environs would not be if we had given attention to developing and making functional the ports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Delta and the major waterways within Igboland, and of course making Enugu airport an international gateway worth its name.
Last week I wrote on managing our exodus and it was about the federal, state and local governments working in tandem, especially at certain periods of the year to give the travelling public enough comfort and security. I don’t know how many officials of government read that piece and out of the few who read, who among them has power to react meaningfully? Our leaders don’t read, they are held down by two issues: routine assignments, this is where they work at all and effects of hedonistic entanglements which take their valuable time and keep them unduly awake long into the night. I passed through Port Harcourt-Enugu expressway, through Onitsha, Benin-Shagamu-Ikorodu into Lagos last week and I can tell it was not a good experience at all.
Police, Army, Customs, Road Safety and others that were very difficult to identify have poured into the roads ostensibly to execute one security or economic task or the other. Each has mounted a road block and the citizens are the worse off. In the past, their focus used to be new cars but that has since changed, commercial vehicles are now included, not even renowned transport companies, including government ones are exempted. Customs and Police are impounding cars recklessly and extorting Nigerians in the most brazen manner. Bags of rice meant for family meals this festive season are being seized and taken away without records. The Road Safety marshals are suddenly working and overworking, all of them combining to impose terrible hardship on the travelling public. This is not acceptable. This is not the period for such acts; it should be a time for facilitation of traffic flow and security of road users.
Where are South East governors? Simple, even though it is a Nigerian problem, the truth is that 80 percent of those affected by this ugly development are Igbo. We all know they move most at this period. It is the man in the pit that should shout the loudest; Governor Ortom of Benue State has given the South East governors example to follow. They should shout and send emissaries to the President, the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, Defense Minister, Corp Marshal, Internal Affairs Minister and the Comptroller General of Customs. Finally, passing through Onitsha is hell; South East governors should work with Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano to ensure easy passage from the Niger Bridgehead through Onitsha town, this should be on a 24/7 basis.