How Can South East Work Again? By Emmanuel Onwubiko & CliffGrace Obilor

We will like to begin by recalling the exact prophetic proclamations made by Professor Chinua Achebe, of blessed memory, who in the early 1980’s recorded what can be called the exact poetic representation of the Igbo nation in a book titled “The Trouble With Nigeria.” His claims are of the highest empirical proofs. 

His words: “A distinguished political scientist from a “minority” area of the south pronounce some years ago that Nigeria has an Igbo problem. Every ethnic group is of course something of a problem for Nigeria’s easy achievement of cohesive nationhood, but the learned professor no doubt saw the Igbo as a particular irritant, a special thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian body-politic.”

Achebe who also penned one of the best read novel titled Things Fall Apart, further argued in that tiny book called The Trouble with Nigeria that: “Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo. They would all describe them as aggressive, arrogant and clannish. Most would add grasping and greedy (although the performance of the Yoruba since the end of the Civil War has tended to put the prize for greed in some doubt!).”

This he reasoned is because “Modern Nigerian history has been marked by sporadic eruptions of anti-Igbo feeling of more or less serious import; but it was not until 1966 – 7 when it swept through Northern Nigeria like “a flood of deadly hate” that the Igbo first questioned the concept of Nigeria which they had embraced with much greater fervor than the Yoruba or the Hausa/Fulani.”

Achebe made a very rational affirmation about a significant human factor that can be considered as the greatest drawback to the lack of infrastructural advancement and socio-economic sustainable development of the Igbo South East when he wrote about the last civil war which took place over half a century ago which left devastations in its wake in the Eastern region as it then was and was never reconstructed after the war. His words: “The Civil War gave Nigeria a perfect and legitimate excuse to cast the Igbo in the role of treasonable felon, a wrecker of the nation. But thanks to Gowon’s moderating influence overt vengeance was not visited on them when their secessionist state of Biafra was defeated in January 1970. But there were hard-liners in Gowon’s cabinet who wanted their pound of flesh, the most powerful among them being Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Federal Commissioner for Finance. Under his guidance a banking policy was evolved which nullified any bank account which had been operated during the Civil War. This had the immediate result of pauperizing the Igbo middle class and earning a profit of £4 million for the Federal Government Treasury.”

One fact Achebe never mentioned may be for want of spacebars that in modern history of warfare, it is a war crime and a crime against humanity for a post war sanctions such as the nullification of the accounts of all Easterners as was done by the then Nigerian government under the guidance of the late Obafemi Awolowo who read law in the United Kingdom.

However, this erudite man of letters who spent decades teaching White man’s language in different American universities, Professor Achebe just before his triumphant exit in a blaze of glory, also recorded detailed situation report about the state of the Igbo speaking South East of Nigeria in his last book titled “There Was a Country.” He forgot to also mention that behind the issues of gross infrastructure poverty imposed on the South East of Nigeria, one of the causes can be attributed to corruption and avarice of some privileged Igbo politicians who would lobby to attract projects to the South East of Nigeria but will simply collect mobilization money for those projects and disappear into thin air or even render poor jobs which inflict sufferings of unquantifiable and  unjustifiable dimensions on the over 50 million Igbo speaking citizens of Nigeria who live in geopolitical region of South East of Nigeria.

Before we forget, please recall that the South East is a geopolitical zone in Nigeria which comprises of five Igbo states that contains about 60 million people.

Having been in South East and toured around the states for so many years, It can be found out that the Igbo land is blessed with Natural Resources which includes: crude oil, natural gas, lead, zinc, rubber tree, oil palm etc.

On several occasions, we have asked questions like “ARE WE REALLY DOING GREAT IN SOUTH EAST” when it comes to the health sector, security standard, politics, infrastructure, education and agriculture , the answer is NO, we are not doing great . Now the question is HOW CAN SOUTH EAST WORK AGAIN?

There are pertinent steps which should be taken by the south east governments and the stakeholders in order to develop south East of Nigeria into an economic hub to attract Igbos and foreigners to invest substantially within the south East of Nigeria.

The south East governments should try as much as possible to look into the health sectors because from  research it be found that most places here in Igbo land lack good hospitals, while some areas don’t even have health centers talk more of hospitals, in one of our discoveries, there was a case where some individuals have to look for a hospital to drop an accident victim but all their efforts prove abortive, before they could locate a hospital the individual have already passed out and all these should be taken care of by the government and stakeholders in south east because it aids in discouraging most of our Igbo brothers from coming back home to invest because they have this feeling that they won’t receive the qualified treatment to any problem they have once they are in south east.

We are all aware of how politics is being played here in South East, it is all about greed and so many of us don’t feel secured when matters concerning politics is being raised and before we can attract our brothers to come back here for investment we must make sure that everything concerning politics is at equilibrium because they will have the mindset that their investments won’t be safe here as a result of the POLITICAL SAGA that goes on here in south east.

Looking at the security standard here in south east, it is a horrible thing to talk about, here in Igbo land the security standard is very poor, and you don’t expect people to come home and invest when the security standard is already in a mess, because the security authorities don’t actually channel their attention towards the work they are supposed to do and every individual suffers as a result of that, their only interest is on the money which will come out from each case there by making it not so possible for a poor man to get justice and when justice can’t be given to the right people, the crime level increases. So all hands should be on deck to fight the poor nature of our security here in Igbo land, the government should device a possible means of arresting the situation.

Whenever any of us in the South East of Nigeria remembers the infrastructure sector of the south easterners, it baffles us a lot because the whole South East is underdeveloped when compared to the neighboring states, south east lack the basic infrastructural development.

The stakeholders and the governments of south east should come together and make provision for adequate infrastructure like companies, good industries and also restructure the old ones like Ceramics, Golden Guinea and the rest of them and this will in turn create employment opportunities for the individuals it will also give room for seriousness amongst the Igbo youths who move around causing and creating problems in the south east environment. Good infrastructure will also attract foreign investors south east not just our Igbos.

South east cannot be a hub to attract Igbo investors if the Educational sector is not given proper attention, education here in Igbo land is in a mess, the students suffer greatly as a result of nonpayment of salaries of their teachers and lecturers and this is as a result of the nonchalant attitude of the south East leaders, most of the government primary/ secondary schools suffer greatly thereby making the teachers feel so lousy over their jobs at the end of the day the students won’t understand what they have been taught. If only there will be a step up in the education sector, most of the Igbos will come down here not just to invest but also to allow their kids school here.

Currently, our brothers who stay in the northern parts of the country have refused to come back home due to the level of attention given to agriculture here in Igbo land, so many Igbos are not really showing interest in agriculture owning to the fact that the government are yet to provide machines suitable for the work and at the end of the day the individuals find the work so difficult and this will in turn increase the cost of living because only few individuals have shown interest in agriculture. Agriculture is very important because it is one of the basic things that attract investors, our government and the ministry of agriculture here in south east must have to work hard to make sure that agriculture survives here in south east.

It is strongly believed that south east can work again, if only our leaders will put away greed and wickedness in whatever thing they are doing and if they can realize that they are there to protect our interest. South east can work again if our leaders will decide to develop our infrastructure, if they can develop the agriculture, if they can provide us with quality health centers, good security standard and also make good use of our natural resources all these will turn south east of Nigeria into an economic hub and at the end of the day it will attract our Igbo brothers who prefer to invest in Lagos and Abuja to come over here and invest.

The ball is therefore on the courts of all those seeking for elective positions to represent the South East of Nigeria to realistically arm themselves with actionable blueprints on how to re-develop the South East of Nigeria  and make the geopolitical region to once more start to function optimally much better than as it was just before the civil war. 

It is instructive to state that the National Assembly and the Presidency post 2019 election should develop a Marshall plan  to reconstruct the major infrastructures in the South East of Nigeria that were ruined by the effects and consequences of the 30-Months long bombardment of the then Eastern region of Nigeria during the civil war. Post-civil war reconstruction was never done and it is not too late to make amends. Also there was never any post civil demining of South East of Nigeria by the central government. This is another crime against humanity. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko and CliffGrace Obilor wrote in from Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs

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