By Ori Martins
Since the departure of the legendary Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Zik, at no other time had Ndigbo be more united in their political support for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction than now. The emergence of Mr. Peter Obi as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, has almost unprecedentedly unified the zone, and conversely dwarfed and at the same time endangered the fortunes of the other parties, including the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA as well as the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“It is true and easily verifiable. Obi’s rising profile seems to have endangered virtually all the existing parties in the South East and their leaders. He has equally united the South East that was said not to speak with one voice politically. Most Igbo leaders are campaigning for Obi, their fellow Igbo.
“Everywhere you go, what you hear is Obi. Obi, through his Obidient Movement, has taken over the political structure of South East. Every person is involved – the youths, women, traders, artisans and the professionals. If this pattern is maintained till the election months of February and March, 2023, victory is assured for Obi and other LP candidates. This kind of force has almost made all of APC, PDP and APGA powerless in South East”, John Unaoma, a public affairs analyst submitted in Owerri, Imo State.
Obi’s popularity is both phenomenal and symbolic. It is fundamentally based on the LP’s presidential candidate’s character and personality which is anchored on honesty, integrity and vision – attributes he characteristically distinguished during his reign as governor of Anambra State.
“Everything has a process through which it merged. The Obi revolution did not just descend from the blues. Obi, through his decent and disciplined way of life, proved that Anambra State could worked and it worked under him.
‘His prudent financial applications, vision on security and social well being as well as inclination of insisting on quality education stood him out as a great leader.
“The Igbo and indeed law abiding Nigerians are rooting for Obi as a point of contact to uproot corrupt politicians majority of who are domiciled in APC and PDP, especially in the South East. Obi now serves as a unifying force for Igbo unity”, Chinyere Uduma, Convener, South East Political Family, Umuahia, stated.
Uduma observed that Obi’s message, which had been centred on going for massive production, waging total war against corruption and improving on the war against insecurity, were all attractive and exciting to both Ndigbo and Nigerians in general.
According to her, ” the fact must be made clear that for a long time Ndigbo have been searching for an honest politician who they would follow.
“However, that search had been quite elusive until Obi came into the scene. His arrival has galvanized Ndigbo into acting as most opinion molders, leading politicians, religious and traditional leaders have all agreed to work as well as campaign for Obi in the 2023 general elections”.
A pointer to Obi’s acceptability and his immense dwarfing of other parties in the South East is how the generality on Igbo leaders roundly condemned Anambra State governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo when he came down hard on Obi.
As it were, former minister of finance, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu noted that Soludo’s open letter to Obi was “an act of frustration and anger”. Prof Uzodimma T. Nwala noted that Soludo was being “jealous of Obi’s raising political profile”. Kenneth Okonkwo charged Soludo to ‘ be mindful of his utterances’. All across Igbo nation, it was one form of condemnation or the other against Soludo.
Another point that clearly shows that Obi’s rising profile has seriously diminished the other three major political parties in the South East is the mammoth crowd that usually attends anywhere he visits in the zone.
“Obi’s presidential rallies are usually spectacular with thousands of supporters and followers falling on one another to either catch a glimpse of him or hear him speak. No other political leader attracts this kind of following in the South East currently and this is a fact”, Afam Echi, a commentator on national issues enthused.
Indeed, Obi is the rave of the moment not just in the South East but also in Nigeria as well. His emergence, by popular rating, is causing serious concern in the camps of APC, PDP and APGA. While APC and PDP are somehow managing to keep their heads above the water levels APGA is almost consumed in the face of the Obi challenge.
“I think I agree to the fact that many of Obi’s supporters are the youths, who are dissatisfied with the grand failures of PDP and APC in the last 23 years.
“Two, those, who lost primary elections in APC and PDP or those the system in the two parties are not favouring are now in LP. However, the worst hit is APGA. Since LP has come out stronger, there is disquiet in APGA in the South East as members claim that LP, with Obi, is irresistible”, Uduma concluded.
Abandoned East- West rail project further marginalizes Igbo
By Ori Martins
One of the hallmark projects and achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is the construction of thousands of kilometres of railways across the country, including the one from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic.
However, none of these projects connects the South east. Indeed, the only one planned to connect the zone, the East-West rail never took off the ground after so much noise was made about it. Abandoning the project as it now seems mean the South East zone is left out in the billion dollar railway schemes and what would have been the most lucrative section of the project may never be.
This explained the agitation and concern of some members of the House of Representatives, who drew the attention of government to the need to restart the project because of it’s huge economic potential for the country. Although, government has order the project to be revived, most people are sceptical of government sincerity given the limited time of it’s tenure.
Initially, there were the huge sum of $14.4b allotted for what was called East – West Railway project. The scheme, otherwise known as Coastal Rail Line, measuring 1,400km standard guage links Lagos-Ore-Benin-Sapele-Warri- Yenagoa-Port Harcourt-Aba-Uyo-Calabar -Akamkpa-Ikom – with a branch from Benin-Asaba-Onitsha-Port Harcourt- Onne Deep Seaport.
As it were, the Federal Government of Nigeria abandoned the East-West Rail Line and it never got funded like in other zones: the Abuja-Kaduna in the north and the Lagos-Ibadan rail lines.
As far as the South East is concerned the abandoned East-West Rail Line project is another proof of the age long Igbo marginalization.
Igwe Ubadi Egwu, a technology expert and commentator on national issues, made it known that such an exclusion was an indication of further marginalization.
According to him, “I am very much disturbed that at a time we hoped the issue of Igbo marginalization should be disappearing from the national prism, the present APC government at the centre still does not factor in the South East interest.
“The deliberate abandonment of the East – West Rail Line is nothing but an extension of the Igbo marginalization. It is really uncalled for but it is not unacceptable”.
A researcher and publicist, Nduka Chuks, noted that a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon Dozie Nwankwo had charged the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure that the East-West Railway project be captured in the 2023 project.
In his submission on the floor of the Green Chambers while he presented his motion, Nwankwo observed that the opting out of Exim Bank of China, the contractor in March 2021, made arrangements for $11bn alternative counterpart funding with Standard Chartered Bank out of the $14.4bn required to execute the project.
In his contribution, Princess Nkechi Ugoh Daniel, a grassroots politician in Enugu State, in a phone conversation, noted that the abandonment of the railway project is a clear case of marginalization against the South East by the Buhari led APC federal government.
“As we talk now, work is on going in all other railways in the other zones except in the South East. This is quite condemnable. It is wrong because it means we are still marginalized. I am not surprised because this APC federal government has always marginalized our people.
“Are you aware that the South East has no representation in the security architecture and there are about 16 of them. This administration has built seven federal universities without any in the South East?
“This is the first time in democratic Nigeria an Igbo is not the president, not the vice president, not the senate president, not the deputy senate president, not the speaker and not the deputy speaker. We have not had it this bad before now”.
The burden of marginalization, according to investigation, is at the root of the now notorious insecurity currently trending in the South East. A situation where the there is no functional international airport in the real sense of it is condemned by the generality of Ndigbo who also see the abandonment of the East-West Railway project as an act of marginalization.