By Okey Muogbo
How pleasant it was to see the five governors of the South East Zone (SEZ) sit down in one place, in conviviality and spoke with one voice, sharing and discussing the problems of the Zone. It was indeed one of the high points of the recent Summit on the South East Economy and Security which held in Owerri, the Imo State capital between 28 and 29 September, 2023. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. And so, it can conveniently be said that the problems of the SEZ have been solved half way by pulling the five governors together.
Many had thought that their excellencies won’t come and that even if they did, they would be too divergent in their views and thereby commence the immediate defeat of the purpose of the entire summit. Perhaps, their unity of purpose demonstrates the magnitude of the trouble in Igboland.
There is problem in the South East Zone and there is problem facing Igbo who inhabit the Zone. There is fire on the mountain and the people are mobilizing to extinguish it. That fire is the existential threat confronting the SEZ people. The SEZ is a sub unit (Sub) of the structure called Nigeria.
Insecurity is at the top of the problems of SEZ. A trading nation whose citizens cannot move around is certainly on death row. That is the summary of the situation of Igbo homeland.
As has been validated by several researches and experiences, a sub-unit hardly grows bigger than its main structure. When the sub-unit wants to ‘fly’, the super structure has multiple options to slow it down or out rightly truncate its growth. Sabotage, gang-up and sometimes outright violence could be unleashed. One tactic that has worked for the super-structure against ‘dissenting’ sub is the recruitment of renegade members of the sub-unit to work against the interest of the sub. This manifests in discordant tunes and inability or outright refusal of leaders of the sub-unit to work for the growth and progress of their immediate subjects. They take directives, instructions from outside their sub-units in decisions and programmes they implement, ignoring the genuine and critical needs of the locals. When this is successfully done, the sub stagnates, its growth stops, discontent brews within, and finally, the sub faces internal multi-dimensional crises and without appropriate intervention and remedy, the sub begins to die gradually. But the SEZ governors have risen above these retrogressive inclinations. This piece is primarily to commend their solidarity with their anguishing people.
How does this narration and analogy relate to the South East? At what level or stage is the South East in its existence and relation with Nigeria?
It is incontrovertible today that the South East is decaying, dying fast. Between 1967 and 2015, the Zone could be said to have stagnated, operating at the level the Nigerian system was comfortable with, that is, at the level where other subs were. Igbos competed well then with other groups in Nigeria within that national mediocre standard.
But between 2015 and today, the Zone has witnessed only retrogression and rot. The danger signals emanating from the south east have been fully captured by the political leaders, the state governors (may God bless them) and the socio-cultural leaders, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. It is a synergic combination the Zone had lacked since 1970 when the civil war ended and the people of this sub were scattered emotionally, physically, economically and politically. Locating the Igbos in the fore-going narration gives the real meaning and strategic importance of the just-concluded summit by the SEZ.
It was called the South East Summit on Security and Economy, with the theme: Time to Reset.”
The quality of mental work put into the crafting the Theme is great. In passing, let me commend Senator Chris Anyanwu, chairperson of the planning committee for the efforts in bringing the Summit to fruition.
What was the summit about?
It was for key Igbo leaders in all walks of life to come to Owerri, capital of Imo State on the 28th and 29th of September to brainstorm and generate workable ideas on how the SEZ can reverse its decay and make substantial development, save lives/properties; revive its economy and improve the living standard and happiness of the people. The recommendations of the Summit will be handed over to the governors of the SEZ for implementation. So, the reliance on the governors to turn the outcome of the summit into practical and tangible policies and programmes was quite understandable. They have the money and other resources of the SEZ under their control as well as the the instruments of authority of Igboland.
The five states have a combined capital budget of N724. 7 billion in the 2023 budget. That is a reasonably big sum of money to begin the development of a nation with small land space. Deploying this money in a coordinated development efforts of the SEZ has the capacity to unleash a monumental development of the area. This is the joy of the governors working together.
The best news is that with one voice, they are the ones asking for a workable document, pledging in their respective speeches, their readiness to swing into action.
The development attractions in the south east are overwhelming – common affinity, manageable geographical size, the best brains, the best labour force and a well known commercial drive among the people.
Igbos and their five governors have plenty examples to learn from all over the world. Catalonia is a sub unit operating comfortably within Spain. The sub’s initial agenda was to break away from Spain. The agenda was crushed. The disruptive Spain has not brought Catalonia down completely. Instead, the region towered and became the envy of the rest of Spain because its leaders looked inwards and implemented good development programmes for the region.
Igbos can do that in Nigeria, and even better than Catalonia through this Summit and faithful implementation of its recommendations. The temptation to confront and burst the super structure to secure freedom for the oppressed sub sounds sweet but in practice, it has in most cases, produced disastrous consequences and outright annihilation for the ‘rebellious’ subs.
Without doubt, there is an alternative to violently bursting Nigeria and breaking away. Many subs have overcome limitations placed on them by their super structures without losing their ‘limbs’. This is where and why the Owerri gathering is crucial for the Igbos.
Participation in the Summit was strictly by invitation but all Igbo segments and interest groups were adequately captured in the selection of participants.
Driven by the philosophies of: “onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu na eche ndu ya nche; izu ka nma na nneji; ezue ka aha eri Udele, a totue ngiga”, Igbos on 28th began a new venture to a higher level.
The miracle that turned N40 into trillions of Naira can be repeated. The God that wrought that miracle is a living God. The success that will result from that summit will tell the true story of the Igbo and vanish the lies and propaganda that are being dished out to negatively re-define SEZ people by those who don’t wish Igbos well.
Muogbo is a journalist based in Abuja.