Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do We Really Need An Igbo President?

By Chukwuemeka Umunnakwe, 234 Next

The amalgam of tribes which make up Nigeria are locked in a fierce contest to best one another when it comes to grabbing juicy political offices. Needless to say, these ethnic rivalries are more focused on the offices occupied by the members of these ethnic groups than what the occupants actually do in these offices to better the life of the ordinary Nigerian.

The Nigerian President wields enormous influence no doubt and his office arguably is one of the most powerful democratic offices in Africa. Due to this, which I daresay has been so clearly perpetuated that at times it rivals the absolute monarchy of 13th and 14th century England, the tribes that make up Nigeria are engaged in bickering, struggles and fights to ensure that they produce the President. The tribes also view the office, rightly or wrongly, as capable of having a far-reaching and positive impact on the economic and infrastructural advancement of the tribe fortunate to produce the President.

The craze to produce the Nigerian President has found no more passionate campaigners than the Igbo political elites of the south east region. A good number of Igbo people have been led to believe by their political class that a true integration of the Igbo people in the body polity of Nigeria will occur when an Igbo citizen assumes the office of the President. The Igbo elite and political class have entwined the political, social, educational, infrastructural and economic development of the Igbo tribe with the quest to occupy this office.

Do we, the Igbo people, really need a Nigerian President of Igbo descent? Judging from the performance of past Nigerian presidents in their respective regions, can we honestly affirm that an Igbo president is the silver bullet to the myriad of problems facing the Igbo today? Have we, the Igbo tribe, properly articulated our problems and the solutions to these problems?

Today, the south east reels from lack of basic infrastructure; electricity is epileptic in major cities like Onitsha and Aba and we lack properly equipped hospitals and decent social amenities. The public education is in a shambles while public health is virtually non-existent. Many public institutions crucial for an orderly society are moribund. The state judiciaries have not witnessed any significant investments since the return to civil rule in 1999. Court houses are derelict, court rules are antiquated, libraries are not equipped, judges sit in extreme conditions due to absent electricity and the state universities are glorified secondary schools lacking the requisite manpower and infrastructure.

Unemployment is rife in the south east. The youth that manage to get an education resort to trading while others migrate to Lagos, Abuja or any other part of the country or outside the country, in search of greener pastures. Those unable to get jobs resort to crime. Kidnapping is the new wave.

The south east has the most expensive state schools (secondary and university). There is no free education at the primary or secondary school levels, neither is university education subsidised. Literacy levels have continued to dwindle. There are few major industries in the south east and we continue to witness both manpower and intellectual flight from here to other parts of Nigeria. These are issues that our political class ought to be tackling but they are too concerned about feathering their nests.

Once upon a time, the south east was the most industrially-advanced region in the whole of Africa. Our economy was one of the fastest growing in the world. We were innovative and technologically-driven. However, somewhere along the path, we deviated. We lost our core principles and values of hard work, integrity, independence and intellectual pursuit. Our values became eroded and we imbibed a wanton love for money and material trappings.

We inculcated the habit of worshipping known criminals who made money through atrocious methods; we lost our respect for education and instead placed a high premium on illiterates with bags of money. We elevated illiterates and perennial underachievers to be governors, members of the legislature, commissioners, traditional rulers, among others.

It is time we looked inwards. If we must survive as a people, we must isolate ourselves from the politics of ‘Igbo president' or juicy federal appointments. We must focus on the real challenges facing us. We must articulate an ideology for our advancement which will bind us as a people. There must be a sense of higher duty, higher calling and higher responsibility in our daily existence as a people.

We do not need an Igbo President before our Governors can construct independent power projects, build hospitals, schools, libraries, good roads and provide security. We do not need an Igbo President before the south east states can pool resources together to build an airport, sea port, or railway facilities in our region.

I believe that as an integral part of Nigeria, the Igbo people are entitled to produce the President for the country. We must place ourselves in a strategic position of strength from where we can negotiate. Presently, we are negotiating from a position of extreme weakness and, understandably, we are not being taken seriously. We must first put our house in order. We have to earn the respect of other tribes before we can seriously contest for the Presidency. The Presidency of this country is not for the asking. The rest of Nigeria must see the benefit of having a President of Igbo extraction.

We Don't Discriminate In Admission - UNN Don


Dr Emmanuel Igbo, a Professor of criminology at the University of Nigeria and a major stakeholder in Imo State in this interview with Godwin Oritse said that the expectations of the people of the state are very high and called on the new Governor of the state to ensure that the grass people are carried along in the process of governance. Excerpts:

We hear the management of the University of Nigeria discriminate against non- Igbos when application by students are being considered, is this true?

The University of Nigeria as far as I do know, and I stand to challenged by anybody is very transparent in its admission policy and even handed in the sense that the University follows religiously to the letter the instructions from the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

In the admission policy of the University, you have a percentage of those who come by merit, then you have those that come by catchments area of the University, then you have what we call the educationally disadvantage states.

The University of Nigeria, I do not know about others insist very strictly that you adhere to this, if you do not your admission in that department will cancelled.

Merit is merit, if you get admission by merit, nobody is interested in looking at the names in the list.

If the merit is 45 percent for example, you just calculate it, if 45 percent of the quota you have is 20, then you count from one to 20 and rule off, then you come to catchments area , then you go to educationally disadvantaged states then how do you know now discriminate in the admission process?

Anybody who qualified to be in the merit list cannot removed from the merit list or somebody who is qualified to be in the catchments area list you cannot discriminate against the person.

In fact, we are looking for people to fill the spaces in educationally disadvantaged areas.

Anybody who tell you that the University of Nigeria discriminate on its admission process is perhaps is ignorant of the entire process.

What is your impression on the accreditation of courses in Nigeria Universities because this has been a problem that affects nearly all the universities?

Much as we know that there are many candidates at home who want to gain admission into the universities but there are limited spaces available.

What these students do is that once they see an institution, it could be a building or a few building put together and it is called a university and you see students trooping there .

What students should do is to find out whether these universities have the blessing of the National University Commission (NUC), that is very important.

Even the old universities are periodically being accredited in terms of their department, their courses, their lecturers and the infrastructure in place.

Even our law department failed accreditation and was stopped from admitting students.

Even our medical and surgery department failed accreditation and we have stopped admitting medical students.
Relevant Links

Those that complain are those that are actually deficient in almost everything like staff with requisite qualification, in infrastructure.

If you say that you are doing a course like pharmacy, you must have infrastructure like laboratory and these facilities must be inspected and approved by the NUC and Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria just like the medical profession, they have what is known as minimum standards and you must meet these minimum standards.

So those who are talking about not being accredited or asked to go home should find out if the NUC recognize the university and whether they can go there and obtain the certificates.

Do you have cultists in this university?

Yes but their activities are not pronounced because that is how the University's authority want it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eme: The Road To Biafra

By Kelechi Eme, The Guardian

The title of this piece is an adaptation of an article I read over fifteen years ago. The article was written by the erudite Adebayo Williams in one of the national news magazines. It was captioned “The Road to Kigali” and illustrated succinctly, the consequence of inactions on the part of policy makers and individuals. He aptly drew a parallel on the activities of two distinguished Nigerians on the political terrain after exiting public service at an unusual young age. This was during the turbulent military regime of the 90s that emboldened all manner of pro-democracy agitators (including nation wreckers and ethnic bigots who masqueraded as liberators of the masses). The country was at a dangerous curve and the possibility of full blown ethnic war loomed larger since the end of the Biafran war.

The objects of the writer were the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Gen. T. Y. Danjuma that retired with the first coming of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo on October 1st, 1979. He praised the former for abandoning his comfort zone in pursuit of better governance for Nigerians and castigated the later for his aloofness on good governance and human right matters. His conclusion was that silence in the face of injustice and atrocities breeds radicalism, extremism, ethnic cleansing and call to arms (emphasis mine). The reluctance to speak up was what led to the genocide in Rwanda. This he aptly captured as “The Road to Kigali” in his piece. In the past one year we have witnessed the elevation of terrorism as a means of fighting social and economic injustice by MEND and Boko Haram. These are horrible crimes that every well-meaning Nigerian must condemn. Our collective failures as citizens of Nigeria bred the terrorist groups we appear unable to confront today. Did we tackle the residual issues that threw these monsters at us? This is the question our leaders and policy makers must answer.

It is on this premise that I have decided to bring the ticking time bomb in the South East before Nigerians. The present state of the region is a clear manifestation of man’s inhumanity to man. You will wonder if you were in a different republic. Yes, it is part of Nigeria. Yes, the people are Nigerians. However, the bitter truth is that of a zone systematically neglected and wickedly destroyed for reasons that are ingloriously archaic, incurable hatred and misplaced fears by the ruling class. I have in earlier notes expressed my disgust on the actions of a section of Igbo leaders, but the problem is purely beyond them. Some Nigerians might live under the illusion that the South East problem is not theirs, yet history has shown that ambivalence over the agony of your neighbour might consume you. Two recent developments in our national psyche thoroughly brought this assertion into perspective. The first was the activities of MEND and other Niger Delta groups that were active within their geographical location. Bombs exploded in Warri, Yenogoa, etc without any iota of concern by non-Niger Deltans. The failure to immediately seek for a holistic solution to the decadence in oil producing areas brought the bombs to Lagos (NNPC facility) and Abuja(Independence day bombings). Boko Haram then took the center stage. Their religious agenda which tilted towards social issues were well known and nothing was done to nip it in the bud. I do not really understand what they are demanding in a multi ethnic and religious society. It was a case of misguided elements that were misrepresenting Islam by indoctrinating young and vulnerable youths to batter modernization for medieval existence. They recorded significant success because the youths were disgruntled and unemployed. They killed hundreds in Maiduguri and we pretended nothing was happening. Now we have a national emergency on our hands because they arrived Abuja and targeted the flagship of our civilian protection.

I raised the issue of systematic “decapitation” of the Igbos because there are facts to support that. I am concerned because I have seen the frustration on the faces of young Igbos who have almost lost hope on the Nigerian enterprise. The leaders and policy makers should remember the saying that “he that is down need fear no fall.” The first aberration was committed by the policy of 20pounds handed out to Igbos irrespective of the amount previously deposited in the bank. Even this paltry amount was handed out under the condition that the account was not operated during the war. The economic team of the federal government went a step further to indigenize foreign corporations like UAC, Lever Brothers, Cadbury, PZ, SCOA, the banks, etc. The Igbos had no money to buy shares in these companies and this led to a section of the country having absolute control over the nation’s corporate world. Yet, some Nigerians flaunt hard work before the Igbos. I must commend Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for introducing NERFUND which at least ameliorated the pains of the Igbos. It was through this agency that a company like Emzor Pharmaceutical was established. The harsh post war economic policy immediately converted Igbo businessmen into street hustlers. Those in the corporate world lost their positions and had to begin new professional careers. Importation of stock fish was banned to deny Igbos their only means of protein after the war (Remember that most livestock were lost during the war). This was followed by the problem of abandoned property implemented mainly by the old Rivers state. Nigerians must be reminded that The Distinguished President of the Senate, David Bonaventure Mark actually chaired and rationalized the properties of Igbos in the old Rivers state. A “statesman” like Chief Edwin Clarke was a major beneficiary of the abandoned property.

While the two issues above could be set aside as a watershed in our national evolution, how can one describe the neglect of educational institutions since the end of the civil war? The scare of the war is written all over the institutions. The example of Okigwe Grammar school is a typical example. To make matters worse, The South East was not considered for a new university during the boom of the 70s that led to the proliferation of conventional universities in Nigeria. The situation remained the same until the establishment of Federal universities of technology by the Shagari administration. This resulted in South East students “forcefully” seeking university education outside their homeland. This syndrome contributed to the increased migration of young Igbo intellectuals outside their home states. Prior to the creation of Abia state, the old Imo state accounted for 25% of JAMB applicants. How many of them were admitted considering the presence of only two federal universities in the zone (FUTO had very low admission capacity at the time) and the catchment area policy of JAMB and National Universities Commission)?

The greatest problem is the zero economic activity in the southeast. This is occasioned by the preponderance of zero businesses infrastructure in the zone. All the federal roads are in bad shape and there is not a single strategic national asset located in the region. How many Nigerians still remember that the garden city of Port Harcourt use to be under Owerri province? The city of Port Harcourt deserves more than its present stage of development, why is Owerri stagnant? The systematic neglect has even been extended to harm the economic interest of our dear country Nigeria. Why is the huge Hydro carbon in the South East designated as strategic reserve while oil in other zones is being exploited? The exploitation of this huge resource will create jobs for the teeming youths who might be used by the lunatic fringe elements in the society to ferment trouble. One of the largest Natural Gas reserve in the world is under the belly of Atani-Osamala-Ozubulu corridor and extends to Oguta. There is also the huge oil reserve along the Ohi-Ubomiri-Mbieri-Iho corridor. This oil reserve is under “locks and keys” for reasons known only to the federal government. What about the Aguleri-Umuleri deposit? A situation in which Akwa Ibom received N204.5billion in 2008 from the federation account (largely due to derivation) and the entire south eastern states got N176.2billion justifies the urgent need to commence the Hydro Carbon exploitation of the zone. The need for development of the region is so overwhelming that delay will not be in Nigeria’s interest. The migration of young Igbo men and women can only be curtailed through economic development of the zone.

I want to conclude with the quote by Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria: “Having said that, this nation must realise that Igbos have more than paid for their foolishness. They have been defeated in war, rendered paupers by monetary policy fiat, their properties declared abandoned and confiscated, kept out of strategic public sector appointments and deprived of public services. The rest of the country forced them to remain in Nigeria and has continued to deny them equity.

The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have conspired to keep the Igbo out of the scheme of things. In the recent transition when the Igbo solidly supported the PDP in the hope of an Ekwueme presidency, the North and South-West treated this as a Biafra agenda. Every rule set for the primaries, every gentleman´s agreement was set aside to ensure that Obasanjo, not Ekwueme emerged as the candidate. Things went as far as getting the Federal Government to hurriedly gazette a pardon. Now, with this government, the marginalistion of the Igbo is more complete than ever before. The Igbos have taken all these quietly because, they reason, they brought it upon themselves. But the nation is sitting on a time-bomb.

After the First World War, the victors treated Germany with the same contempt Nigeria is treating Igbos. Two decades later, there was a Second World War, far costlier than the first. Germany was again defeated, but this time, they won a more honourable peace. Our present political leaders have no sense of History. There is a new Igbo man, who was not born in 1966 and neither knows nor cares about Nzeogwu and Ojukwu. There are Igbo men on the street who were never Biafrans. They were born Nigerians, are Nigerians, but suffer because of actions of earlier generations. They will soon decide that it is better to fight their own war, and may be find an honourable peace, than to remain in this contemptible state in perpetuity.”

We have uprising in Niger Delta and the Boko Haram challenge to deal with. These challenges are all pointing to “THE ROAD TO BIAFRA”. A proactive approach to the problem of the South East will make this road a closed alley. A replication of the activities of the two aforementioned groups in any part of the country might unwittingly take us to that road to Biafra. “The Road to Biafra” is a metaphor for agitation for self-determination by any section of the country. This is the time for nationalist to rise and put all hands on deck in steering our country out of this dangerous slide.