By Nwokoro Idika
I have taken time to think and rethink why the Eastern part of Nigeria has continued to suffer economic and infrastructural stagnation, yet no reasonable explanation resolves this problem. Instead, all I see is the existing relationship between the conqueror and the conquered.
The pitiable situation Easterners find themselves in has given them the desire and willingness to hope amidst a hopeless situation. Then I ask, should so be the case? Ask anybody who’s not from the East to show you the problem of Nigeria, you will see him pointing towards the land where the sun rises from. Why do Nigerians chant “One Nigeria” when they don’t really want to be one? The marginalization of the Easterners in Nigeria is unspeakable.
The East records zero federal presence; no functioning sea port and no airport connecting international flights. After the genocide, the Nigerian government initiated what it termed the 3 Rs: Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation. But has there really been any of these? Has there been any reconstruction? Has there been a rehabilitation? What of reconciliation? Far from it! A lot of Easterners are still moving about with wounds that were covered to fester. Rehabilitation is to rebuild that which was. And this points to both human and material. The Nigerian government never bothered to rebuild. Hence, since they did not bother to rebuild, how can they reconstruct for there to be reconciliation? The war cost the East so much, both in human and material resources. Therefore, I will not be saying the truth if I should say that much has been done to ameliorate the pains and loss of the Eastern region of Nigeria after the bloody war between Nigeria and Biafra. They claim equal rights to all Nigerian, yet we know for a certain that Easterners are treated as second class citizens. Thus, it has made Easterners become the proverbial bat which is neither of the earth nor of the sky.
The thought pattern of this article is not anchored on pity party, far from it. But it tries to rebuke and direct, to reconstruct and to guide. The Igbo people have a popular adage: “ihe ojoo gba afo ya aghoo omenaala”. The evil has lingered enough, and we have to bale the water now that it’s an ankle deep before the evil that will come with it will consume what’s left of Nigeria. Inconsistency and inequality is the foundation upon which Nigeria stands. As such, there will be no amount of argument that will be tough enough to justify the unconstitutional and immoral actions of power brokers in Nigeria, as to why the Eastern region should be systematically marked off from every economic project that will better the wellbeing of it’s inhabitants.
I wonder why the hen that lays the eggs which other regions are plundering continues to beg for crumbs in order to eat and survive. Why should it be so? A workman is deserving of his wages. 80% of the national revenue that sustains Nigeria is generated from the sweat and pain of the East, but there’s nothing much to show for it within the region. It becomes a case of monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.
Since the end of the civil war 49 years ago, the East has suffered in the hands of political demagogues who felt the Igbo people of Nigeria crossed the red line. So, in order to deter the region from nursing the idea of abandoning the one Nigeria dream in the nearest future, plans must always be in the pipeline to arrest any laudable decision that will revitalize a region which is seriously gasping for both economic and political air.
I am very bold to make it clear that the Eastern part of Nigeria has been deprived and cheated in this Lugardian creation called Nigeria. The East has suffered all kinds of premeditated exclusions in Nigeria’s political and economic structures. These exclusions are quite comprehensible through the insincere actions of leaders who profess to be more Nigerian than others.
Now, let’s reason this together, a dry sea port was established in Kaduna State, whereas the operational strength of Port Harcourt sea port with a quay length of 1,259, capable of accommodating eight modern sea-going vessels, loading and discharging at the same time and also equipped with 16 tanks of 3,048 ton capacity of bulk oil installation has been reduced to 10%. What is the rationale for creating a dry port in a place where there is less economic traffic? Secondly, there is another proposed plan by the government of Nigeria to establish another dry port in Ibadan when the one of Calabar and Delta States are under lock and key. Why should a region surrounded by water suffer the anguish of travelling all the way to Apapa sea port to bring in their imported goods? Besides, the major importers and exporters in Nigeria come from the East. Does it not amount to economic witch hunt, and a calculated game of economic exclusion to deny these people easy access to the sea which is the vehicle to what they do? Many eastern importers spend so much money and effort to finally bring their goods back to the east from Lagos. Yet, this is something they can assess from their region, and at the same time generate revenue for their region. But billions of dollars are being generated annually by the Lagos State government from this miscarriage of justice. Most times, when I listen to Adeyinka Grandson lying to his audience about how Lagos State alone generate and remit billions into federal pocket, I only laugh over his narrow sense.
Without the lopsided structure of Nigeria, Lagos State would have been an average State. If this ugly trend can be revised with immediate effect, Lagos State will be reduced to a ghost land. For example, all the oil servicing companies in Nigeria will relocate their headquarters back to their operational base. Royalties should be paid to the state government were they are domicile. High commissions should have their presence in every state, so that, this pain of running to Lagos State to get one or two documents from any of these High Commissions will end. There should be an International Air port in every State; this can help in arresting the horror of travelling to Lagos before connecting to any International flight.
Business men and women of Igbo extraction have incurred so much collateral damage while conveying their goods from Apapa sea port down to the East. This collateral damage begins from heavy extortion by uniform men mounting road blocks, attacks from arm robbers and accidents caused by the poor state of federal roads in the region. Even the minister of transport, relegated some part of the Eastern region in the rail project. And there is also a concluded plan to downgrade Enugu International Airport, the only hope of a people found in a hopeless situation.
I don’t need to be reminded again that ‘one Nigeria’ project is nothing but a disappointing fiasco. Millions of Nigerians are truly aware of this but none can muster courage and call a spade by it’s name. Only those with red eyes can stand tall and repudiate the mess that has seemingly become a norm in Nigeria. The dream of achieving one Nigeria cannot be possible in the next 200 years if the right decisions are not being made. Until all the sea ports in the Eastern region are reopened, overhauled and upgraded to international standard, oil servicing companies relocate their headquarters to their operational base, High Commissions having their presence in every region and connecting all the cities in the region with railway network. Anything short of this, is a lip service.
Have Nigerians ever taken time to think and ask what is fueling Biafra agitation? The problems I identified above are some of the major catalyst of Biafra agitation. To end Biafra question, the economic strangulation of the East must end. A one Nigeria were Paul is been robbed to pay Peter is unfair.
Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst and freelance journalist
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