By Chioma Gabriel
After the Senate passed the South East Development Commission Bill, there appeared to demand from other zones asking for their own development commission. The Speaker of the House of Representatives immediately asked President Buhari to do something about establishing the North West Development Commission. He was barely done when we started hearing of the South West Development Commission. It was obvious that all the zones want a development commission now.
Before the bill for the South East Development Commission was passed, there existed the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which was an answer to the agitations and rampant youth unrests in the oil-producing region. Basically, the NDDC covered the oil-producing states including those outside the South-South geopolitical zone where oil was being produced. When the North East Development Commission was established, the idea no doubt was an answer to the killings and insurgency in the North East. Both the NDDC and the NEDC were both fully funded by the federal government of Nigeria.
One is not in doubt what informed the bill for the SEDC which was recently passed by the Senate. But anybody judging the federal government presence in the southeast by way of infrastructural development by listening to what the sides of the current government are saying is living in limbo. Some of these projects described as being done or having been done in the southeast region don’t exist. They only exist in the imagination of those harping of such infrastructural development.
The southeast is a dead zone in terms of federal government presence. I started hearing about the marginalization of the Igbo since primary school. I heard about the marginalization of the Igbo through secondary school and university education. I’ve heard about the hatred for Ndigbo by other zones that make up Nigeria all my life. It was imbibed in my psyche that the Igbo are hated specie and I’ve tried all my life to prove this wrong. My family is spear-heading this.
Hence, in my family, they encouraged inter-tribal marriage. An uncle married from Kwara. Another married from Katsina. My elder sister married an Urhobo man. My daughter bears a Yoruba name Ayomide and I encouraged her to keep friends from other zones. Hence her best friends are Lolade from Edo State, Funmilayo from South West, Sarah from Plateau State and Chioma from Delta, which is South-South. She also has Aisha from North West. I knew those friends like the back of my hand and I tried to encourage her to build a healthy relationship with everybody. My house is where her friends could spend weekends and holidays and tribal or ethnic issues don’t come up.
The people who have helped me the most are from the North. Those who helped to build my career are from the North. I don’t want to mention names. I have also experienced true love and care from people from other zones. There have also been encounters with some good men from the southeast.
In personal relationships, there are no problems in Nigeria but when politics is involved, it’s a different thing. When you hear what your friend from other zones feels about your people, that’s when the fear of God becomes sacrosanct. A girl from the church visited my house and during a conversation, she said something to my daughter about young Igbo men being mostly money ritualists. That was the last time I allowed her to visit.
She might have a genuine concern about yahoo plus young men being everywhere in Nigeria but to say they are 90% Igbo is not acceptable.
Sometimes, I wish that those agitating for the sovereign state of Biafra should engage their youthful energy in something creative because I know when the millions who pay allegiance to pro—Biafra groups engage in something viable even as they agitate for the Biafra cause, it would be worthwhile. Perhaps by now, the southeast would have become the hub for agricultural development.
For these agitations and these lies about imaginary federal government projects happening in the southeast, the SEDC has become necessary. I perceive that since the civil war, the Igbo have not been fully integrated into mainstream Nigeria. I perceive they are still being treated somehow in government circles and establishment. I perceive they are still being treated with suspicion and I also perceive that a lot of Igbos is still saboteurs of the Igbo cause.
Sometimes, I watched with dismay, the Igbo being used against the Igbo and I remember that at the time Obasanjo was president of Nigeria, although the Yoruba didn’t fully approve of him, they didn’t attack him. They tolerated him and allowed him to serve his eight years peacefully despite his many mistakes and this gave him the effrontery to desire a third term in office.
But Peter Obi had barely emerged as Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, vice presidential candidate when hell was let loose in the southeast. Igbo leaders, governors, the clergy of Fr Mbaka’s mold and other Igbo leaders of thought took on him, projected their selfish interest of not being consulted first and began to forge all manner of lies against him. I’m sure Peter Obi would be wondering if there is another Peter Obi after reading some of the things being said about him.
Some Igbos believe voting for Buhari will bring to reality, the Igbo desire to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023. I don’t know whether these Igbos are serious or kidding. If they could join in spreading some of these lies about federal government projects in the southeast, then they need to be examined. If they believe this regime will hand over to an Igbo man in 2023, then, they are hallucinating. If an Igbo man becomes Nigeria president in 2023, something else would bring it to pass but not this regime. Only God can bring it to pass.
The Igbo have been left out in the scheme of things in Nigeria and they are contributory to this. I believe in miracles. I believe southeast should be reintegrated into mainstream Nigeria. I believe the intimidation of the southeast should stop. I believe southeast needs a development commission and others should not because of the passing of the bill escalate development commissions for other zones. But if these zones really need their development commission, why not.
But please someone should explain why the SEDC should be funded by the southeast when others are being funded by federal government. Someone should tell me this is not marginalization but the way things should be. Let somebody tell me about the undying love of this regime for the Igbo and why the south east has become another Sambisa forest where combined security forces are holding sway. That is why the zone needs a development commission and the federal government should fund it. When there is visible development in the south east, there would be no need for Biafra or all these military forces keeping watch over the region. There are perhaps more military men in the south east than the northeast. Yet, there is no war going on there.
What is that for?