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Between Ekweremadu and south east people

By UCHE ANICHUKWU

Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man — Duncan Smith
IT doesn’t take a genius to segment players on the Nigerian political turf. There are the rabble rousers, the empty vessels who make all the noise, yet have virtually nothing to show for it. We have peddlers of synthetic images on television screens, pages of newspapers, and life-size billboards, no thanks to compromised, kabu-kabu journalism. Unfortunately, they constitute an overwhelming majority. There are also those who believe in force as a tool of political engagement. They tend to burst arteries in championing a cause. Whereas some in this category are truly spurred by genuine perception of confrontation as the best way of getting the attention of successive intransigent governments, most of them are pure theatrics who smartly ride on the crest of public sentiments and disenchantment to pursue private agenda.

There are, however, the silent achievers who believe action speaks louder than voice. Closely related to them are those who believe in and actually deploy cutting edge diplomacy to bring down gigantic trees of obstruction  to development, leaving bystanders to imagine what noiseless force could have accomplished what the noisome chainsaw could not achieve for ages. They are masters of diplomacy as a veritable tool for political engagement and socio-economic transformation. Such men/women are life-forces in the form of water that subtly tell the world the calmness of the water can indeed be more forceful than the ferociousness of the fire or the toughness of the iron. Like water, they calmly, but surely rust away iron bars and pull down bridges. Even in frozen form as glazier, they level great forests and mountains of injustice. Leaders like the deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, easily fit in here.

Incidentally, while an executive’s leadership impact could easily be felt in a presidential system, it is not exactly the same for the legislator, especially if you don’t believe in trumpet-blowing. Our teething system, in particular, coupled with a k-legged federalism, is even presidential to the letter, creating awesomely powerful and sometimes monstrous executives who confiscate and manipulate virtually all instruments and institutions of power to suit their whims. Hardly could a legislator influence development in the manner and speed he or she would want it.  Executives always have a way of twisting even Appropriation Acts that should have been reliable policy instrument for parliamentarians to set the tone and direction of development, leaving budget performance abysmally low since 1999. Unfortunately, the south east bears all the imprimatur of conspiracy of neglect, lacklustre budgetary implementation regional leadership, and the enemies within.

The Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu has for long remained one of the nagging epitomes of  neglect. For reasons best known to powers-that-be, it was the only airport among its peers slated for facelift and upgrading to international status at the inception of Obasanjo’s regime that could neither be so internationalised nor upgraded despite featuring severally in the national budget. How a Yola airport held greater economic promises for the nation than the Enugu airport which serves a predominantly business oriented region and people demonstrated how crooked our priorities could be. The traditional foot-dragging on matters of south east development literarily conspired with the intra-regional muscle-flexing among south east political elites (as to whether Enugu or Owerri airports should actually be internationalised) to rob the region of this great project for almost a decade.

It is against this background that the sighs of relief that greeted the recent award of a N4.1 billion contract by the Yar’Adua Administration for the modernisation/upgrading of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport could be better appreciated. In the midst of the euphoria, however, the diplomacy and coordinated efforts of the South East Caucus in the National Assembly via the leadership of  Ike Ekweremadu seems understandably lost on the people. For instance, the deputy Senate president, it was, who sold to his south east colleagues the idea of foregoing the usual petty constituency projects to enable the Federal Government  muster enough resources to execute the airport project. One of his colleagues also narrated how the deputy Senate president followed up the legislative masterstroke with diplomatic rounds to the Villa to get what force and noise could not get over the years.

Another remarkable dividend of     Ekweremadu’s diplomatic ingenuity is on south east roads. Though some of the roads had always been captured in successive budgets, they hardly got awarded, let alone executed. Conversely, today, never in the recent history of the south east has the region recorded the number of contract awards for the rehabilitation of so many key roads. They include the rehabilitation of Ninth Mile-Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway for N8,964,995,597.25; rehabilitation of Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageway Section II for N7,251,451,515.00; rehabilitation of Oba-Nnewi Section I for N3,794,656,941.08; rebilitation of Abakaliki-Afikpo road Section I for  N2,987,774,166.30; rehabilitation of Abakaliki – Afikpo road Section II for  N3,500,000,000.00; rehabilitation Oba – Owerri road for N2,668,318,112.69; and of course the rehabilitation of Oba- Nne- – Okigwe road route 429 Section II   for  N2,572,473,142.28.

Also worth mentioning here is the almost forgotten release of Ralph Uwazuruike. It is neither about the justifiability or otherwise of Uwazuruike’s agitation or the unabashed discrimination displayed by the authorities in handling his matter vis-à-vis fellow agitators like Asari Dokubo and Ganiyu Adams.

Neither is it about the south east leaders who either refused to intervene because they were afraid to hurt their political ambitions and chunks of federal patronage nor about those who unwittingly adopted aggression and brashness. No! The truth is that Uwazuruike’continued detention and regional infrastructural decay would have provided a perfect cover for the masterminds of the booming kidnapping industry and general state of insecurity in the region to masquerade as champions ant-marginalisation agitators. And it is from this perspective that the import of Ekeremadu’s silent efforts towards that important release and towards redressing perceived injustices that threw up the Uwazuruike’s through development projects can be  further appreciated.
Anichukwu is an Abuja-based public analyst


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