Viewpoint

February 25, 2024

Just because Southeast will not join protest

Just because Southeast will not join protest

By Chike Okafor

If I ever disagreed with the school of thought that says “we are a country of short-memoried people,” I now certainly have a germane reason to agree wholeheartedly with that school of thought, in the face of the unfolding reality in Nigeria, today.

The North has without doubt ruled Nigeria far more than any other part of this federation, and it will be trite fact to say they have always enjoyed maximum support from the other regions, both during the military era and in this present democracy.

As such, the recent utterances prodding the Southeast to join the ongoing protests have struck a nerve. These calls, particularly from the North, come across as disingenuous, in the light of historical contexts and current realities.

It is indeed a surprise that the North suddenly finds its voice to criticize when they should support. It is even more shocking that they are making frantic efforts to stir up and incite the other regions, particularly the Southeast, into taking to the streets, in protest.

The Southeast has always decried marginalization, and it has been so, for almost six decades, precisely, in the last fifty – four years, since the end of the Nigeria – Biafra Civil war and we need not mention that this has been under the leadership of the North, save for the Olusegun Obasanjo years, both as a military Head of State and civilian President.

From May 29, 2015, through May 29 2023, the marginalisation of the Southeast became more evident and glaring. Several reconstitutions of the Service Chiefs, including Inspectors General of Police and heads of other para – military agencies like the Immigration, Customs, Prisons, and even the Civil defence still did not factor – in, or accommodate anyone from the region, and nobody from the North urged the Southeast to protest this, neither did they make a case for us. But today, one of our very own, Admiral Ikechukwu Ogalla, from Igbo Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, is the Chief of Naval Staff. In the last dispensation, 2015 – 2023, it was certainly considered an aberration, if not a taboo for someone from the Southeast, even if he is the most qualified, to occupy such a strategic command position in the armed forces.

In the 8th National Assembly, we may recall that Senator Godswill Akpabio, then, in the opposition party, became a Principal Officer in his first term in the Red Chamber in 2015. 

Today, he is the Senate President in the 10th Assembly. But we are witnesses to the fact that the ruling party, the APC, between 2015 and 2019, in a brazen show of disregard, did not factor the Southeast in the election and appointment of  Principal Officers, even with the presence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers like the late Senator Benjamin Chukwuemeka Uwajumogu in the Red Chamber and the presence of Hon. Austin Chukwukere and myself, Chike Okafor, in the House of Representatives.  

Yet, nobody, not even from the North, called for protest on behalf of the Southeast, or even lent a voice in that regard. 

It is needless to even talk about the committee membership of these APC members of Southeast extraction, despite being part of the ruling party. 

It was a story of impunitous exclusion.

It was much the same in the appointment of key ministers, headship of boards, agencies, and commissions within the aforementioned period. 

Even in the railway infrastructure, which was built only in the North, and straight up to this same Niger Republic that is openly denigrating the Nigerian Government today, the Southeast was clearly side-lined, to the advantage of the North, and nobody coughed! Certainly, nobody who kept quiet throughout that era has the moral grounds to speak up today or to call for protest, let alone deciding who should or should not be quiet. Today, and under the current dispensation, the Southeast has the Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives, and by implication, a presiding officer in this current National Assembly.