Rebuilding Akaigbo requires strategy of engagement and development, By Chiwuike Uba

On the Dream 92.5 FM flagship live radio programme, Monday, January 6th 2020,on the World Bank Report on Poverty in Nigeria, where I and Comrade Fidelis Edeh featured as guest analysts, I stated that South East, representing Alaigbo is gradually sliding deeper into the poverty trap. The statistics show that whereas in the past, the South Eastern states were the first among least poverty states, the current situation indicates otherwise. The South West states have taken over. In the December edition of the Political Voices program of ‘Akurulo’, I did observe that part of our problem is that all the Igbo elites, are residing outside the Igbo land and we have absolutely become ‘ndi oka mma na ama’. It is important, therefore, to begin a campaign on ‘Mmadu rue Ulo’ as we continue on the campaign of ‘Aku rue Ulo’. If not, our case shall become what the songwriter said in his song titled ‘Okpa aku eri eri’. Let me say this; Alaigbo is endowed with abundant human and material resources. It is incontrovertible that we may be currently 1000 times richer in material resource than we were about 50 years ago; but, the painfully, despite these accrued and accruing resources, we are over 1000 times intellectually, mentally and spiritually poorer and less developed in the real sense than we were 50 years ago.

Unfortunately, we have refused to look inwards to find solutions to our increasing problems. At any given opportunity, we refer to the 30 months Biafran War, its devastating impact on our collective psyche as a people and also on our material wellbeing and the continuing marginalization of the Ndi Igbo by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Some Pastors would say, this is a lie from the pit of hell. Umuigbo is the real problem of Ndigbo and have caused us more damage than the 30 months civil and the marginalization from the federal government combined together. We have occupied very sensitive positions in the Nigerian government and all those who occupied those positions did was to enrich themselves ‘stupidly’ stupendously, while suppressing others. In most cases, they even steal what belongs to the development of the generality of Ndigbo. We have had Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate Presidents, Ministers, Governors of Central Bank, Heads of Federal MDAs, etc. Onye mere anyi ihe a. Aturu na anyula odu ya, ochee na ya na-eme onye nweya. Untill we change this borrowed mentality of ‘Onye kwuru oto akpatuya’ and reclaim our umunne, obi, nwanne, and the umeji anaghi egbu obi structure, we would continue to have more problems.

History shows that the giant strikes Ndigbo made between 1930 and 1960 were based on their assumed formless nature. They weren’t talkative; they believed in Ime Obi ‘izu ka mma na nneji’. Ndigbo were more discreet, working underground, making impacts without being seen. These days we hold several congresses, meetings, and conclaves on how to develop alaigbo and share the same on the pages of newspapers. Worst still, most of these meetings are mere showmanship with any action. Our governors are our worst enemies. Let me say this again, there are so much we can achieve without being loud about it. By being loud, we tip off our enemies and competitors to get ready for us. Have you asked yourself why others have come in to compete with us in many areas of businesses that we had exclusive preserve say 20 years ago. Interestingly, with the advent of online shops, Ndigbo may lose their hold on niche trading sectors in the next 15 years. What is our strategy? We need to innovate, but not on the pages of newspapers. We have pontificated enough; now is the time for action. We must begin to hold our governors and other leaders accountable.

I have read the arguments and counterarguments supporting the continuing unbridled migration out of Alaigbo. Most of these arguments center on land hunger and lack of opportunities in Igboland. If these reasons hold, what are we doing to create opportunities in Igboland to encourage our people to cherish Alaigbo. Evidently, the current Alaigbo is not enjoying good leadership. Pieces of evidence abound to support that Ndigbo are a people who under good leadership and guidance have shown the capacity to overcome whatever challenges and circumstances. We are go-getters. Remember that we were latecomers in almost everything in the landscape called Nigeria given the inability of ‘civilization’ to penetrate to us as the time other regions embraced westernization, due to our hinterland habitation. Maybe you are not aware that Ndigbo closed the 100 years gap others had over us in less than 40 between 1930 and 1965. Such that as at 1936, there were more Igbo people than any other nationality at the Yaba Higher College and in most major Nigerian secondary schools and as of 1952, the number of Igbo at University College, Ibadan, was nearly equal to the number of Yorubas, 115 against 118. We have the capacity to achieve greatness. It is, however noteworthy that between 1999 and 2019, the five states in the South Eastern region collected cumulatively over N19 trillion from the federal government in the monthly allocations. Can we honestly say that those who have been in charge of affairs in Igboland have utilized this huge sum creditably? Are there pieces of evidence to show that we have made efforts to develop Igboland or leave things as they are? Can we, in all honesty, continue to blame other Nigerians and the Biafra War for where we are today? Therefore, there is an urgent need to Restructure, Reclaim and Reposition Alaigbo and Ndigbo for Socioeconomic Renaissance. I ask again, what is our strategy? Who are the leaders?

In one of the articles by Kelechi Deca, he opined thus: “the Ikenga is the symbol of Igbo cultural unity. It signifies that we are one and the same, irrespective of where you came from, as far as you are in Alaigbo, you are one of us. The need to reconstruct the development trajectory of Igboland to reflect this cannot be overemphasized”. If this statement holds, it is, therefore, needless for States and Governors to engage in unhealthy competitions. It has done us more harm than good. Unfortunately, the South East Governors Forum Secretariat, the supposedly think thank arm of the Governors is not performing its function. How can it work when the secretariat has only politicians as Staff of the secretariat? Where are the link roads promised by the South East Governors Forum? Where are the Forest Guards? How are they implementing their resolution to ban land movements of cattle? Talk shop brings no change; action does. Clearly we have motion without movements and it can only cause us more troubles than we have at hand. Taa bug boo! For Kelechi Deca, “Our small land mass makes for easy connectivity which is an advantage. There is no place within Igboland that takes more than 4 hours to get to from any point. That is an advantage, what we need to do now is to integrate our economy, and specialize. We should help the states to project their areas of comparative advantage, instead of cross competing with one another. Imo should not compete with Ebonyi in agriculture irrespective of the fertile lands in Ohaji, however, Imo should focus on areas Ebonyi has no answer such as Palm Plantation and Cashew plantations. Enugu should not compete with Anambra on small and medium scale industries or with Abia on manufacturing”. I cannot agree less with him on this.

I earlier identified the giant strides of the South West States in recent times. This progress is anchored on its regional integration and development master plan. They are talking less, but acting more and there are evident and convincing results. The DAWN Commission is managed by professionals. Recently, they have established their regional police under whatever name/disguise and this will be inaugurated. This security outfit is designed to perform police functions along with other law enforcement agencies in the country within the South West jurisdiction. Whereas our States and governors are competing instead of cooperating to develop the region, the South West has laid a strong foundation for a regional police force, backed by the laws passed by the State of Houses of Assembly of the South West States and Signed on by their respective State Governors. On this side of the country, what have the Igbo governors done? Just noise-making characterized by meetings and issuance of communiqués… we need action and this is the time. Udooo!

Dr Uba is Chairman of the Board, Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF)