It was by sheer providence that I had the privilege of reading Chief Duro Onabule’s piece in Daily Sun Newspaper of 14th August 2015 titled “South East must stop whining, and proudly too”. I had more or less missed out on picking up a copy of the newspaper which has now become my daily routine, and was very elated when I eventually did and was reminded by the newspaper that Chief Onabule writes for the Daily Sun Newspaper on Fridays; he makes interesting reading and his column has become one of my must read columns because of his objective and pragmatic view of issues.
However, after perusing his latest effort, one is left with the impression that he probably does not have a full grasp of the issues in the politics of the South East. The impression that the South East was unanimous in rejecting President Mohammed Buhari at the 2015 general elections is rather erroneous. As much as the scale of preference tilted more towards former President Jonathan then, it was clearly not on account of the attention that Jonathan paid to the region as Chief Onabule tends to suggest. Of the six geo political regions, the South eastern region benefitted least from the Jonathan administration and it is on record that only 17% of projects commissioned and executed by Jonathan during his tenure are in the South East.
A barrage of sheer evil propaganda, blackmail and misinformation was unleashed and dished out by the political contractors identified by Chief Onabule, to create the impression that Jonathan was in a position to protect the interest of the region better than any other candidate at that time. Events during and after the elections have shown that these avaricious merchants of falsehood were more bothered about protecting their business empires than considering the interest of the generality of the South eastern states.
Suffice to state that prior to the country becoming an independent nation, and thereafter, the South Easterners have produced the most pan Nigerian citizens who have served this country without recourse to ethnic or regional considerations or sentiments. It is on account of this disposition that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; a South Easterner had the courage and temerity to contest for elective office in the South West. This was when the other leaders of that era were contented with playing the ethnic card and advancing only the parochial interest of their regions.
It is on account of the pan Nigerian nature of the South Easterners that we have industries and real immovable assets spread all over the nooks and crannies of this country. The South East has continued to produce detribalized men and women who have served the country meritoriously without any ethnic or regional contemplation. The South Easterner believes and understands that an equitable and united Nigeria offers more opportunity to all than a divided one. It is because of this outlook that it has been difficult to form an ethnic political party in the South East. This has resulted in the presence of prominent Easterners in about all the functional political parties in Nigeria, be they APC, PDP, APGA or any other. That the South East was pushed into a civil war cannot and has not stopped the people of the region from being pan Nigerian in nature, after all the war was a reactionary development and not an intentional act.
If there is anything like aboriginal Nigerians; the South Easterners are definitely amongst if not in leadership position of that group. Our sons and daughters joined others from other regions in the fight for independence. Military personnel and officers from the South East more or less built the Nigerian military; the pre independence civil service had South Eastern Trojans straddle the corridors of the civil service establishments, competing for space even with the white Heads of the service then. The South Easterners have been in the fore front of the development of other regions other than the South East. The evolution of Nigeria has cost the South East more than it has cost others, in blood, time, resources, opportunities and effort. It therefore follows that the survival of the entity we fought for its growth and development is dear to our hearts.
The failings of Dr. Good luck Jonathan was therefore not lost on the South Easterners. The drift towards anarchy was ominous, and obvious for all to see. But we must acknowledge that there was despair and hopelessness all over the nation, the politicians were raping the system they were supposed to protect. All over the country, there was a desperate hunger for change.
The acknowledged underdevelopment of the South East particularly in terms of infrastructure was glaring for even the blind to behold, the killings of South Easterners particularly in the North East without any seeming solution in sight was too heart rending not to warrant an outcry, even the level of insecurity in the region itself that prevented sons and daughters from visiting or staying at home was an unholy development that would not be tolerated in any saner society. Our brothers and sisters in commerce and industry were no longer sure of the fortunes of their enterprises, as the only industry that seemed to thrive then was corruption at all levels of governance resulting in blatant impunity that destroyed and frustrated all that is noble and decent in our society. The South Easterners therefore desired change more than anyone else.
South eastern groups and individuals were also in the forefront of the clamour for this change. The region may not have had such change Generals like now President Mohammad Buhari himself from the North West, or Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the South West, but there were discerning South Easterners who fought assiduously for this change. Some groups such as the Igboekulie Association were unrelenting in countering the propaganda machinery of the South Eastern bourgeoisie who favoured the status quo as it then was, the voices of individuals like those of Chief Ralph Obioha, Dr. Chris Ngige, and Dr. Pat Utomi amongst others rang out loud and clear in pointing the direction out of the woods, advancing the candidature of then Gen. Mohammad Buhari and also exposing the dangers inherent in sailing in the sinking ship of PDP with Good luck Jonathan as Captain.
The fact also that the APC itself did not seem to have done much in garnering support from the South East created the misleading impression that the rogue PDP candidates were preferred. As we await the verdicts of various tribunals in the South East, we have absolutely no doubts in our minds that the real voting pattern in that region will be revealed. The near absence of an opposition watch dog in the region also created an enabling environment for the PDP to unleash all sorts of electoral malfeasance on the electoral conduct itself, sometime in brazen connivance with officials of the Federal Government. Stories of coffins being used as ballot boxes, with charms, cutlasses and guns serving as electoral materials are very rife, so are reports of the production of electoral results without any elections whatsoever.
While a few South Easterners may have expressed concern as to whether or not the South East will be marginalized under the new dispensation, the fact remains that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other enactments have made provisions for some form of equity and fairness in the handling of the affairs of the country. We also believe that the government would be shooting itself on both feet if it ignores the potential and prospects in the South East, the determination, doggedness, brilliance and commitment of its people, their pan Nigerian nature and their industry at this time that the nation needs its best hands, brains and minds. Nigeria cannot afford to ignore and should not be led to ignore the very deep well of human and other resources that the South Eastern region brings to the union.
The President has confirmed that he cannot contradict himself so his saying that he belongs to nobody, but belongs to all supports the expectation of a fair deal for all component parts of the country. The South East is therefore, and cannot be afraid of marginalization.
Our president is set to develop Nigeria as a nation and not parts of it, he is obligated to deliver all Nigerians from the pangs, pains and vicissitudes of hunger and social vices, he is determined to take Nigeria to that enviable height that we have so often dreamt of, but have only experienced its absence. The President and his political party are opportune to put a lie to the negative propaganda of the South eastern mercantilists masquerading as politicians by bringing development to the South East. Those expressing concern are the political traders who can no longer hawk the spirit of the region for a few shekels of silver and gold as they did in the past. These are persons belonging to the same brigand that wasted the resources allotted to the region by their political godfathers; they represent no one, and stand for nobody. The real South Easterner appreciates that a corruption free, equitable and well governed nation as the President has committed to deliver will benefit the South Easterner more than the arbitrary tendencies of the past.
To Chief Onabule; the South eastern region is not a rebel region in this dispensation as opined in that piece; instead we are a critical factor in the advancement and development of the nation even at this time. We do not need to be patronized for we know who we are and what we bring to the Nigerian table.
Udo contributed this piece for pointblank.com