Cry, The Beloved South-East

By Casmir Igbokwe

Alan Paton wrote his famous “Cry, the Beloved Country” in 1948. In the novel, he chronicled the social inequalities and dichotomies that gave rise to apartheid in South Africa then. But it was as if he had the South-East people of Nigeria in mind. Today, like in Paton’s country of 1948, the cup of discrimination against Nigeria’s South-East region is full. The worst is that the more the people of the zone agitate for a change of the situation, the more the problem festers.

Last week, the Senate suspended the confirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s four nominees for the board of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after a rowdy session. Among the nominees, there was nobody from the South-East and the South-South zones. They were Ndasule Moses (North-Central), Lawan Mamman (North-East), Galadanci Imam Najip (North-West) and Adeleke Adebayo Rafiu (South-West). Besides, the Acting Chairman of the commission, Ibrahim Magu, is from the North-East while the recently confirmed secretary, Olanipekun Olukoyede, is from the South-West.

The confirmation almost went through but for Senator Victor Umeh who represents Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Senate. He pointed out the grave error and demanded that the two regions be included in the list.

This exclusion trend has been consistent. One, no South-East person, for instance, is found worthy to head any security outfit in this country currently. Do we talk of the army, navy, air force, police, immigration, customs and so on?

Just consider this: Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali (North); Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai (North); Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar (North); National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno (North); EFCC chairman, Magu (North); Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris (North); Director-General, State Security Service, Yusuf Magaji Bichi (North); Controller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali (North); Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigration, Mohammed Babandede (North); and Commandant-General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu (North). Only the Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonishakin (South-West) and Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas (South-South) are from the South.

Any time some South-East youths make some civilian noise over some of these things, the powers that be send military pythons to swallow them. In the last Operation Python Dance, which the army embarked upon in that region, some citizens paid with their lives. Since then, there have been occasional raids in some parts of the region in search of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Two, many federal infrastructure in the South-East are dilapidated. The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, recently debunked this allegation of neglect and claimed 69 projects were ongoing in the region. According to the minister, the South-East got N16.6 billion worth of projects from the N100 billion Sukuk Bond like other zones. Alhaji Lai concluded that “the South-East has never had it so good in the area of infrastructure. Had the previous administrations done even half of what we are doing now in that region, no one will be complaining today. It is all right to ask for more; but it is unfair to say nothing has been done.”

Should we clap for Lai? Not yet. An in-depth investigation by BusinessDay newspaper discovered that the Federal Government’s list of ongoing projects in the South-East “contains truths, half-truths, lies.” The newspaper reported in its September 19, 2018, edition that some of these so-called ongoing projects were either completed before the advent of the present administration or are not going on at the moment.

To me, some of these projects have become like the Second Niger Bridge – the more you look, the less you see. Each time I drive through the Niger Bridge, I keep looking everywhere to see how far Julius Berger has gone in the implementation of the Second Niger Bridge project. But so far, a lot still needs to be done. We have heard that the Federal Government has so far released a total amount of N33 billion for the implementation of the project. It is estimated to gulp a total of N220 billion. And the completion date is 2022. Let us see how it goes.

Three, they say South-East has four ministerial slots in this government. That’s good. But what type of ministries? Dr. Chris Ngige supervises the Ministry of Labour and Employment. His main duty now appears to be persuading labour leaders to call off strikes. Ogbonnaya Onu is Minister of Science and Technology. You wonder what the major activity in that ministry is beyond setting target to manufacture pencil. Geoffrey Onyeama is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tackling deportation of our citizens from Libya and some other countries.

Four, do we talk of admission into unity colleges in Nigeria? This is where our federal character principle works very well. If my child from Anambra State scores as high as 130 in the entrance exams, he may not be admitted. But if a child from Zamfara scores just 2, he stands a better chance of being admitted. And we claim to be in the same country!

Five, what about the number of states and local governments in the South- East vis-a-vis those of other zones? Only the South-East has five states. Others have not less than six. Every attempt to create a new state in the South-East to equal the number in the other zones has failed. The number of local governments in the zone is also lower than in the other zones. This has had tremendous effects on the allocation of resources to the region.

Six, no Igboman has been found worthy to become the President of Nigeria despite being one of the three major ethnic groups in the country. In the First Republic, an Igboman, Nnamdi Azikiwe, was a mere figurehead President. The real power resided in the Prime Minister in the person of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, a northerner. After the failed coup of 1966, Aguiyi Ironsi became the Head of State. But some soldiers, mainly of northern extraction, staged a counter coup six months after and killed him. Events that followed precipitated the civil war of 1967 to 1970.

That is why I don’t so much blame the Igbo who support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election with the hope that this will engender return of power to the South-East in 2023. But in having this hope, they forget that Buhari does not own the All Progressives Congress (APC). There are other regions eyeing the same position and it is a matter of contest and votes.

Nevertheless, the President does not pretend about rewarding those who campaigned and supported him in his quest for the presidency. He once said those who gave him 5 per cent would not get the same reward as those who gave him 95 per cent votes.

So far, the industrious nature of Ndigbo is what has kept them going in Nigeria. But for how long? The time to restructure this country and bring enduring peace is now. Will President Buhari heed this call? Will he put a lie to the statement of a prominent northern politician, Junaid Mohammed, in 2016 that, in the history of Africa, he had never seen any level of nepotism that had equalled or surpassed that of Buhari’s government in his entire life?

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Re: National Assembly’s new ridiculous universities

Your article “National Assembly’s new ridiculous universities” at page 46 of Daily Sun, Monday, December 10, 2018 has shown that our representatives are myopic and extravagant. Otherwise, they ought to know that the establishment of 80 new institutions in Nigeria without adequate funding of the existing ones is nothing but a mere multiplication of glorified secondary schools. I can remember that former President Jonathan approved and released N78 billion for the establishment of two police colleges, one in the North and one in the South. Only N18 billion was utilised for training while the remaining fund went down the drain.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644

My dear brother, these “universities”? E taya me too. Soon there would be more “universities” than primary schools. Nigeria we hail thee.

– Anonymous, +2347035390254

Despite the increase in our population, we don’t need more varsities for now. Rather, let the three tiers of government equip the existing varsities to compare favourably with other varsities internationally. Those who brought the idea of opening new varsities don’t wish Nigeria well. Government should suspend the idea of establishing new varsities for now until existing ones meet international standard. It is a waste of resources if we establish new varsities.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Cas, good day! Thanks for the views you expressed in last Monday’s article. Every
day on TV, one would come across a byline to the effect that either the Senate or the House has passed a bill for the establishment of one institution or the other in a certain part of the country. Every member wants to have such institutions in their constituency. It makes no sense and smacks of insensibility on their part.

– Anonymous, +2348033072852

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, December 17, 2018.

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