Friday, 22 January 2016

                                                                    OPINION BY:
                                                              FR. ERNEST MAKATA

What is trending is how Igbos are being marginalized everywhere. This post is not about that. Until the Buhari government is set, I won’t say much on that. However, since OBJ’s time, I think Igbos have had a fair deal in political appointments. What is clear is that they have not enjoyed any benefits from those appointments as a region. It is obvious that Igbos do not have much space in the current administration but that is not actually what Igbos need now. We need the development of our zone.

I am concerned here about how our leaders (South East politicians) have shortchanged us. They keep embezzling our commonwealth, while at the same time telling us that our problems are the North and the Yorubas. We all agree that Igbos are the most industrious people in Africa, except that we don’t feel the effect in Igboland. This stems from lack of visionary leadership in the South East and the selfishness of the average Igboman. Without boring you with details, I just want to state certain things which I think will make the Igboland the place to be: an economic block that is self-sustaining.

A. Join hands with the South-South to pressurize the FG to develop the PH and/or Calabar wharfs. But most importantly the PH wharf. It is our best bet for development of businesses in Aba, Onitsha and Nnewi.

B. Seek investors to build a railroad between Onitsha and PH: Enugu and Aba are already connected to PH. This will help in moving goods from PH wharf to Onitsha and they kill our dependence on Lagos. It will also make importers in Lagos who have to do business at Onitsha and Aba to open businesses in these places as their containers can come directly to the SE.

C. ROAD NETWORK ACROSS THE WHOLE SOUTH EAST: Roads in the South East are in bad shape. I am not talking of the Federal roads. I mean state roads. The Federal roads are bad but the state roads are even in worst shapes. How can we develop and move goods within our states if we have no good roads?

D. PATRONIZE AKANU IBIAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Igbos are the most travelled people in the whole of Africa. Yet, only 1% (if it is even up to that) patronize the only International Airport in the SE. Many International airlines, except Ethiopian Airways, have not found AIA a viable place for business. We still prefer, Lagos and Abuja. There is no way our place can develop if we decide to abandon such a big asset in our land. Apart from being a transit spot for many passengers, it could also be developed as a cargo airport. That will certainly boost the economy.

E. REDUCE VIOLENT CRIME TO THE BAREST MINIMUM: The South East is about the most violent crime-prone zone in Nigeria. Forget the rise of Boko Haram. Their operations are deadly, we know. Hitherto, the South East was the most dangerous place to live in. Truth be told. Armed Robbery, kidnapping and assassination happens more in the SE when averagely compared with other zones. Thus, our wealthy sons, probable investors, are on the run. Many of our children are hanging around in the diaspora as they are scared of coming to visit their parents, not to talk of investing in any part of Igboland. It is not enough to blame the North or the FG for all our woes. Our zone is dangerous for the survival of investment. Thanks to Gov. Obiano who is putting up a good fight. But Anambra is just one state.

F. DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND AGRO-ALLIED INDUSTRY: What no one can deny the South East is fertile land. Ayamelum, Oyi (Anambra), Uzo-Uwani (Enugu), Ezza and Ikwo (Ebonyi) can supply the volume of rice that can feed the whole of West Africa annually, to be modest. If we are sincere with ourselves and if our governors are not playing games with our future, this is one area that needs serious investment. Modern rice mills and bagging stations, irrigation and improved seeds etc needs to be provided.

Bottom line: 

1. OUR LEADERS ARE FAR MORE COMPLACENT THAN WE CAN IMAGINE. They cannot unite to lift up the zone. If they team together and make development of Igboland a project, in two decades, the SE will be everything we have aspired to be.

2. THE BANE OF IGBO BUSINESSES (TO BE FAIR MOST BLACK PEOPLE) IS LACK OF SYNERGY AND COLLECTIVE INVESTMENT. WE HARDLY TRUST EACH OTHER TO DO BUSINESS AS A TEAM. THE SE GOVS MANIFEST THIS IN EVERY WAY. We can continue to do our individual things and continue to fade away that way. In any modern economy, polling resources together and joining hands is the way to go. We have forgotten the Igbo adage that “Igwe bu ike.”