Tuesday 28th March, 2017
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Ike Ekweremadu and South East Senators' marginalization visit to Mr. President

Ike Ekweremadu and South East Senators' marginalization visit to Mr. President

“He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down” - Igbo proverb
Chinua Achebe once wrote that one area where all Nigerians would probably have a consensus is in their resent­ment of the Igbos. Since the end of Biafra-Nigeria civil war, marginalization of the South East has continued unabated as a matter of policy. It does ap­pear that the successive Nigerian governments, military and civil­ian alike, are guided by this ob­noxious policy and each pursues it relentlessly. As an American Political Economist, Thomas Dyle, rightly observed, a policy is what government decides to do or not to do. So, any Federal Government deciding not to do anything about the ugly situation in the South East is no doubt a policy. pure and simple.
Many have asked what Dr. Goodluck Jonathan did in the South East as President. After all, he prided himself as Azikiwe, after the foremost Igbo man that ever lived. But a man who did virtually nothing in Bayelsa, his own State, except perhaps siting a federal university there, is a case for another day. Just like the Second Niger Bridge, East West road, a foremost federal project in the Niger Delta, remained a never ending story under their son, Jonathan.
Let it be repeated as often as there is opportunity: the few things done in the South East by the Federal Government since the end of the war are mere pal­liatives and core development including federal highways have all been kept in abeyance. In fact, there is no federal presence in the South East unless we have to count the ubiquitous police checkpoints, police stations and military barracks and one incu­bation firm tucked away some­where in Aba. And even if the zone has the economic power to provide such economic base for itself, the Constitution bars the States from embarking on de­velopment in core areas, such as railways, power, solid minerals, seaports, communication and even in internal security.
Real development in the States and zones simply has to tarry until the Federal Govern­ment looks in their direction, going by the constraining provi­sions of the unitary Constitution the nation operates in place of a truly federal one.
Systematic exclusion of the South East in strategic national development continues in all fronts. Another example is the area of the laying of internet fib­er backbone for Nigeria. South East again is the only zone cut off completely from this na­tional internet infrastructure. The South East will now rely on ancillary connections from the Calabar hub. This is just one of the numerous examples of how the South East is condemned to playing the second fiddle.
If the internet communica­tion backbone from which the South East is excluded is a nonis­sue, what do we say of the exclu­sion of the officers from South East in the Nigeria Customs Ser­vice from promotion to the cad­re of Assistant Comptroller Gen­eral (ACG), which provides the pool from where a new Comp­troller General usually emerges, the only zone to be so excluded? How many slots did the South East get in the other federal re­cruitments and appointments? Even the recent recruitment in the EFCC also ignored the Fed­eral Character provisions in the 1999 Constitution and recruited over 70% from the north alone. Yet this is the nation’s apex anti­corruption agency.
The Constitution, having vested virtually all political and economic powers in the Federal Government, and the South East short of at least one state and up to 20 local governments in defi­cit compared to the other zones, the zone is both constitutionally and structurally encumbered from making any square fac­ing to development through self-help. All these are fallouts of ethnic and ethno-political prejudices against the Igbos in the Nigerian polity, which are accentuated by the false percep­tion of the first military coup as Igbo coup, the civil war the Igbos fought to avert genocide even though it still ended in it, and more recently, for falling into the 5% voters’ zone.
Ndi Igbo have been living be­low par in the country where they have made the greatest con­tributions and all the people of South East like its senate caucus, have been screaming about this and nobody cares to listen. Yet it is the exclusion and margin­alization that have continued to provide the oxygen energizing insurgency in the zone as cham­pioned by IPOB and MASSOB.
It was to further make the case that the members of the South East Caucus in the Senate led by Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, on the 9th of November at the Pres­idential Villa Abuja, met with President Muhammadu Buhari. Some of the issues raised at the closed-door meeting, as usual, centred on the decaying infra­structure in the zone, especially federal roads that have since be­come deathtraps, the railways, airports; lopsided appointments and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
From the senators also we learnt that the President, who promised to do something about the complaints, admitted that governors from the zone had also raised some of the issues with him. The President is be­ing economical with the truth. For many Igbo leaders and Igbo groups have gone to him since his election to plead the Igbo in­terest. And only days ago as well, a group of Igbo leaders under the aegis of National Unity Forum also met with the President on the same issues. Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo has been raising the same concerns as well. Other notable Igbo organizations known to have been making the same case are World Igbo Summit Group and Igbo Ekunie, among others. They have all been making fran­tic calls on Mr. President to ad­dress the gross marginalization of the South East in all aspects of national life.
So, the visit Ekweremadu and the South East senators to the President is yet another echo of all the clarion calls, which have been ringing from the zone un­heeded. The most current signal that it may still go unheeded is the exclusion of the South East from the humongous infrastruc­ture loan of $29.96 Bn, approval of which is being sought by the President from the Senate.
One expects the South East legislators, especially the Sena­tors to bare their fangs by block­ing the passage of the loan when represented to the senate unless the South east is included in the intervention projects. The federal legislators have to bear in mind that such loan, which seeks to mortgage the future of even children yet unborn when their forebears benefitted noth­ing from it, is such a gross in­justice.
Some have argued that South East would directly benefit from the infrastructure loan. It is not true. Though the South East suf­fers the most in the areas target­ed for intervention with the loan - power generation, rail and road renovation and construction among other acute shortages of various social amenities - there is no single infrastructural pro­ject allocated to the zone. For the avoidance of doubt, infra­structural projects are allocated $18.3 billion. The projects to be embarked upon are the Mambil­la Hydro Electric Power Project ($4.8 billion), the Modernisation of Coastal Railway Project (Cal­abar-Port Harcourt-Onne Deep Sea Port Segment) valued at $3.5 billion and the Abuja Mass Tran­sit Rail Project (Phase 2) put at $1.6 billion.
Others are the Lagos-Kano Railway Modernisation Project (Lagos-Ibadan Segment Double Track) estimated at $1.3 billion and the Lagos-Kano Railway Modernisation Project (Kano-Kaduna Segment Double Track) valued at $1.1 bil¬lion. The bal­ance of $11 billion will then be expended on Eurobond ($4.5 billion), Federal Government Budget Support ($3.5 bil¬lion), Social Support for Education and Health ($2.2 billion), Agriculture ($1.2 billion), and Economic Management and Statistics ($.2 billion). There is nothing for for the South East unless theirs is hidden from public scrutiny.
We want great leaders who love the Nigerian peoples enough and respect all the Nige­rian people enough. If President Muhammadu Buhari is such a man, as many believe he is, he has a golden opportunity to be­come the real father of modern Nigeria. History has beckoned on him twice like Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo was and he prides himself as a “converted demo­crat”.
President Buhari stands a great chance of becoming Ni­geria’s ultimate hero, hero of democracy, hero of unity, hero of growth and development of Nigeria. To achieve this feat, what should occupy the Presi­dent now is inclusive governance and delivery of democracy divi­dends.
In this great duty, the Igbos can play a pivotal role as they have always done if given the opportunity. His rapproche­ment with the zone is now so imperative. Let the President start with the infrastructure loan if indeed he meant what he told the senators.

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