By SKC Ogbonnia
The Igbo should queue behind the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the ongoing registration exercise. Before I delve into the premise, it is necessary to acknowledge the following inconvenient truths. First, President Muhammadu Buhari is neither the best Nigeria nor the APC can offer. Second, he marginalizes the Igbo people because the East did not vote for him. Third, Buhari remains the supreme leader of the APC.
Ironically, however, the Igbo masses have every reason to be thankful for the last 5 years under the APC than the previous 16 years under the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Very true!!
Critics will fire back here. Some may even see my opinion as grossly offensive. They will, of course, rehash the different manners of Igbo marginalization in the current APC government. Examples are common.
Begin with the brazen exclusion of the major Igbo areas in the first phase of the nation’s railway network even though the region is home to the most widely traveled Nigerians. Follow that with the audacious exclusion of only the South-East zone from $22.7 billion loan secured to fund projects across the country—a loan that will be repaid by all Nigerians. Combine those instances with the fact that Buhari shortchanges the Igbo in area of political appointments.
Any seasoned critic will attempt to cap the argument by comparing the current situation under the APC to the PDP years where the Igbo occupied plum political positions. There were the eight straight years that the Igbo held the Senate Presidency, eight straight years of Deputy Presidency, two four-year tenures of Deputy Speakership, Minister of Petroleum, Ministers of Power, Ministers of Aviation, Ministers of Education, Ministers of Health, Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs, etc.
There are some other powerful positions held by the Igbo while the PDP was in power that deserve full mention. These include a Secretary and two Chairmen of the then ruling party, Chairman Board of Trustees, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, two Central Bank Governors, Secretary to the Government of Nigeria, Chief of Army, Chief of Defence Staff, and two Inspector Generals of Police.
Without a doubt, the Igbo received its fair share of political appointments when PDP held sway.
But beyond the façade of the appointment largesse lies the fact that these plum positions were merely self-serving for the politicians themselves. They did not translate to any tangible federal presence in the East. This failure becomes more embarrassing when considered that it was at the time of Nigeria’s oil boom, some of which were at the watchful eyes of President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, the Igbo “adopted son”.
The truth is that major projects trumpeted in Igboland during the PDP years were either phantom, poorly executed, or entirely looted by the contractors in cahoots with their political lords. They would deploy the corrupt proceeds to brandish lavish lifestyles. Nigeria quickly emerged in the list of countries with most private jets and helicopters, which the politicians use to avoid bad roads at the crude expense of the ordinary people.
The worst of all is that the then ruling party saw any opposing view as an act of war. Maiming, persecution, and witchcraft against opposition elements had become the order of the day. The PDP impunity in Igboland was simply satanic.
Enter the APC in 2015!
No one needed to be told that it was no longer business as usual. Opposition activity, which is essential for effective democratic leadership, began to thrive in the East.
The result has been massive infrastructural development in the region. The projects looted by the PDP people, for instance, Second River Niger Bridge, Zik Mausoleum, the major Eastern federal highways, seaports, and airports began to see real work since the APC came to power.
Think of any project in any Igbo area, constituency, or community. Think of the situation then and now. Think back!
A perfect example is my own area, the Enugu West senatorial constituency, arguably the epicentre of the PDP misrule cum missed opportunities in Igboland. This district once featured the Minister of Power, Minister of Petroleum, and the state governor from the same ruling party at the height of Nigeria’s oil windfall.
It is also the home to the then dateless deputy president, who presided over the infamous Constituency Projects of the National Assembly, a program he would reveal was “more than five times the size of Enugu State yearly budget”.
Yet, the only changes the masses noticed from these powerful positions are cemented on the shameful side of the history. For instance, the three federal roads that define the Enugu-West Constituency, namely, Enugu-Onitsha, Oji-Awgu, and Enugu-PH highways not only served as money-spinners through series of abandoned contracts but also represented the worst set of road network in the entire Nigeria during the PDP years.
Today, the above-mentioned highways, as well as other projects, which were looted in the Enugu West communities under PDP, are being funded again and completed under the APC federal government. Instead of few of their politicians gloating on the spoils of plum political offices as in the past, millions of the ordinary Igbo people are beginning to feel true dividends of democracy in terms of the measurable improvement in social amenities under President Buhari.
The perplexing paradox is that the apparent worst of the APC has shown better results in Igboland than the best of the PDP years.
One can only wonder then what could have been if the APC tenure was at the time of Nigeria’s oil boom. One can only wonder now what could have been if the East had voted for the current ruling party. But the Igbo must not continue to make people to wonder. The time has come for the ‘wisemen from the East’ to demonstrate every sense of sanity and the desire for progress by investing fully in the All Progressives Congress, beginning with the party’s ongoing registration exercise.
*SKC Ogbonnia writes from Ugbo, Awgu, Enugu State.