April 22, 2024

SEDC as valid answer to the South-Eastern question




THE great performance of the economy of Eastern Nigeria which was predominantly made up of what is now known as the South-East geopolitical zone has been a personal marker for what the economic development should look like. I remember those days I spent evenings as a boy listening to inspiring tales and stories of great men who governed the region.

The region was endowed with, and paraded an army of heroic patriots like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr M.I. Okpara, Chief Mbonu Ojike, Chief Jaja Wachukwu,  to mention but just a few. Those were leaders who placed the interest of the region above their personal gains. The single-minded drive towards the glory of the region by Dr M.I. Okpara and his contemporaries remains, perhaps, the best trace of leadership our region has ever known. Alas, all that was halted by a war that did not just take the best of us but also the best of what the region could become.

Since then, the region has witnessed a harvest of decaying infrastructure, rising insecurity and an economy that competed with other world economies is currently at its lowest state. In the midst of all these, sentiments of marginalisation have persisted, fuelling calls for secession in some quarters.

It is imperative to recognise that addressing the “South-Eastern question” transcends regional boundaries; it speaks to the broader importance of achieving justice, fairness, and equity for all Nigerians. Just as a weakened limb affects the entire body, the challenges faced by the South-East reverberate throughout the nation.

It falls upon the shoulders of the current President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to lead the revitalisation efforts in collaboration with the region’s leaders. The lack of a unified vision among South-Eastern Governors underscores the pressing need for a structured framework to guide our region back to prosperity. Hence, the South-East Development Commission, SEDC, Bill couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

In this context, the proposed South-East Development Commission Bill arrives at a critical juncture as it has the potential to become a powerful tool for unlocking the economic potential of South-Eastern Nigeria and contributing to a more just and equitable nation.

The SEDC will help bridge the gap between the South-East and other geopolitical zones. It will be the right vehicle to drive investment in critical infrastructure – roads, railways, and energy – to improve connectivity and attract investment. It will tackle social issues like healthcare and education, improving the overall quality of life for residents. Ultimately the Commission will play a role in tackling feelings of marginalisation by ensuring equitable distribution of resources and fostering a sense of inclusion in national development plans. 

I commend the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, for his steadfast commitment to bringing the bill to its final junction at the legislature where it requires assent by the President. His unwavering dedication underscores the urgency of finding viable solutions to the challenges confronting our region. 

Amidst the decay of infrastructure, rising insecurity, and an economy that once rivaled global giants now at its nadir, the South-East has long found itself at a crossroads. In this dire scenario, the South-East Development Commission emerges not just as a beacon of hope, but as a lifeline for a region on the brink. By addressing the systemic challenges plaguing our communities, the SEDC has the potential to rejuvenate the spirit of resilience that has long defined the South-East. 

As we embark on this journey of revitalisation, it is imperative that we rally behind the vision of a more prosperous and equitable Nigeria, one where every region can thrive and contribute to the nation’s collective prosperity.

In conclusion, the SEDC Bill represents a timely and much-needed initiative in our journey toward regional revitalisation and national unity. I call on every region to support us as we embrace this opportunity to chart a course toward a brighter future for all Nigerians.

*Chief Ogbonnaya is a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Abia State