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In Anambra, history offers Buhari one golden moment, By Emma Agu

By Emma Agu on 15/11/2017

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 •President Buahri (R) and Governor Umahi during Buhari's visit to Ebonyi State, Wednesday
•President Buahri (R) and Governor Umahi during Buhari's visit to Ebonyi State, Wednesday

How times change!


Here is a man who not a few Igbo believe, hates them with a passion. Here is a president who, a few weeks ago, some people claimed would never return to Nigeria let alone undertake a tour. To watch PMB traverse the zone with incredible zest and excitement is not only disarming but doubly reassuring. It is indeed remarkable that Ebonyi stood up for the President; at least, this convinces him that the country as a whole is his constituency and that the Igbo don’t really hate him.

How will Anambra receive him?  If he was at home in Ebonyi, he can as well go to sleep in Anambra. Here is a state from where he picked his running mate on two occasions: former speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt. Hon. Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, in 2007, and former Senate President Rt. Hon. Chuba Okadigbo, in 2007. For sure, in doing that, he must have reckoned with the often rocky yet politically expedient wedlock between the north and the east. What went wrong?

Whatever the case, here is a new dawn. Anambra epitomizes the Igbo dream. To see Anambra is to behold the Igbo entrepreneurial spirit, the can do it mentality, the never say die disposition. Whether in Ekwulobia or Nnewi, whether in Onitsha or Nkpor or Oraifite or Ihiala, no matter where you stand in Anambra, you can’t miss that ingenuity that has conferred on the zone the spectacular business reputation that it wears as an insignia, no matter the odds.

Will the President see Nnewi, that symbol of enterprise, a UNIDO cluster almost like no other in Nigeria because nearly 100 percent of the manufacturing wonder is promoted by indigenes that generate their own power, provide their own water and before Ngige came on the scene as governor, also constructed their own roads. The President will hear tales of woes in the hands of various security and enforcement agents and the trauma the companies experience because no port in the east is serving them just because political considerations have befuddled the country’s economic plans and implementation of strategic maritime and other projects. 

But it is not all a tale of woes. Depending on his itinerary, at Nnewi, he will behold the effort of his administration at encouraging indigenous engineering enterprise; where Innoson Industries Limited is collaborating effectively with the revamped Nigerian Air Force to produce spares for some of the aircraft that have contributed immensely in degrading the capability of Boko Haram insurgents. At every point, whether it is Ibeto, Cutix, Chikason, Coscharis, etc, the President will find reassurance in a people who have defied humongous odds to stay afloat.

For instance, the entrepreneurs, who are likely to commend the President for the ongoing work on the Port Harcourt Enugu-Onitsha expressway will tell him that the pace is far too slow, that the Enugu-Okigwe stretch at Lokpanta has become a nightmare hallmarked by punishing traffic snarls, actual lockdowns and accidents. Those who travel through Port Harcourt and the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airports in Imo State will have the same tale of woes to narrate. There are at least three reasons why Mr. President should not be discouraged by these revelations. First, all the proble revelations. First, all the problems have been with us for decades, with the highly orchestrated efforts of previous administrations falling flat on deliverables. We should never forget that, on one occasion, former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu had reminded a minister that reconstruction work on the road had witnessed more flagging off than any other project in the country and actual deliverables. It is a sad commentary on successive administrations and the country’s political elite, indeed a betrayal of the electorate that, eighteen years after the restoration of democratic rule, that strategic road, linking all of five states: Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Imo and Rivers is still in a state of disrepair. If the road was not done in eighteen years, it will amount to sheer hypocrisy to expect the Buhari Administration to complete it in two years.

At any rate, that is the second point, a commuter, on the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia stretch, will confirm that there has been some significant reconstruction effort at some sections of the road. What is worrisome is that the pace is not consistent with the Buhari style, the blitzkrieg remedial assault, as witnessed during the rehabilitation of the Abuja-Kaduna Road. Third, with budgetary provision already made for certain stretches of the road all that is left is for legislators, from the South-East and South-South zones, rigorously benchmark implementation, including co-opting their constituents to avoid a situation where bureaucratic inertia or outright sabotage could derail the high-minded goals of the President.

Yet, the President has a duty, to his integrity and the nation, to take additional steps towards achieving his goals. Already, feelers from the Presidency indicate that sooner than later, the imbroglio over the Calabar Port project will be resolved so that the firms handling the project complete dredging activities that were stopped. Such proactive presidential action is required to resolve the impasse that is frustrating the Aba power project. In this regard, it is important to stress that strategic projects with huge economic potentials should never be subjected to disruptive political and administrative manipulations that, in the end, could erode the Presidents goodwill.

Besides, I do not see anything wrong in creating a task force from the engineering ordinance of the Nigerian Army, and charge with rehabilitating badly damaged South-East roads, within a time frame of twelve months. Imagine the spectacle of soldiers, not in battle fatigue but engineering overall constructing bridges, covering deep pot holes and mending dangerous road pavements; think about the scenario where unemployed youth are productively engaged as artisans, craftsmen and casual workers in a collaborative effort with our soldiers, to rebuild the South-East; think about the situation where civilians engage soldiers in healthy after-work pastime, of whatever nature, instead of children fleeing on seeing our soldiers.

Finally, allow me to fantasize a bit: Suddenly, President Buhari remembers all the details of their discussion the last time Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, visited him in Daura; he recalls how Ojukwu said he would fight for one Nigeria, then he directs his motorcade to Ojukwu’s resting place. Imagine what will happen if, on getting there, the President Buhari announces:

“Fellow Nigerians, I am here to pay my respects; To a good friend, a patriotic Nigerian; A fellow combatant and comrade in arms; He spent his last days fighting for Nigeria’s unity;

Which he told me, was not negotiable;

That was in my house in Daura;

I cannot pay him any greater respect;

Than to support the proposed South East Development Commission; Your Excellencies Saraki and Dogara, take note; In the spirit of one Nigeria, Please send me the bill for assent before November 18. God bless ONE Nigeria!”   

Remember I was only fantasizing; yet, in real life, some of the most enduring legacies have emerged from people who could fantasize. Can our President dream? Can he seize the moment, to redirect the national discourse, change the narrative of his relationship with the Igbo ethnic group and make history as the President who practically implemented the three Rs of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction? Let me add that it is not mandatory for him to do so now, not even any time; but he can choose the side of history on which he wants to be remembered.

Anambra, tell our President, Daalu!

•Emma Agu is a veteran journalist and former Managing Director of Champion Newspapers.


Source News Express

Posted 15/11/2017 5:42 PM


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