Emeka Ezekwesiri Chigozie
The issue of Biafra continues to stick out like a sore thumb in the socio-political discourse of this great country. Its trappings sold to men and women, children and adults, old and young, intelligent folks and urchins, believers and infidels is that the Igbo society and ethnic group has been marginalized in this contraption of a country. It is therefore essential, the message goes, that for the Igbos to advance and develop, they need to divorce from this country.
There may be some truth in the assertion that the Igbos have been marginalized in this country, especially in the area of appointments in federal institutions and the location of critical national infrastructure, but the question of whether Igbos have been marginalized has overshadowed the question of who is marginalizing the Igbos. But this is indeed logical. It is only when we agree, in the first instance, that there is marginalization that we can inquire into who is responsible. However, that is not the logic I have chosen to govern my inquiry. Perhaps if we know those who are responsible for the marginalization of Igbo land and their manifestations, they can we can inquire into the nature of that marginalization. It is like a criminal trial, where persons are accused of a crime, yet are presumed innocent, with the outcome that they only become convicts, when the crime is established. But before conviction, there must be accused persons.
The marginalization of Igbos, I propose to define in simple terms, is simply the ‘feeling’ that the Igbo ethnic group, is not getting a fair share of the developmental efforts happening elsewhere in the country. I have chosen this simple, yet powerful definition, because I think that the problem of appointments is only a smokescreen, to a more deeper aspiration—that perhaps by having sons and daughters of Igbo land in top government institutions, critical national infrastructures and development will be brought to Igbo land. Were this not so, then it makes no sense to ordinary folks who is in which government office or the other. After all, in the final analysis, it is only their families that will benefit from their kleptocracy.
If this is then accepted—that is that it is a feeling of inferior development status that is driving the marginalization discourse in Igbo land—it becomes clearer to see, as I propose, that the marginalization of Igbo people is down to three categories of people; the presidency, the state governments and Igbo people. It may sound quite rattling that I am alleging that the Igbo people—the supposed victims—are marginalizing themselves, but it is a claim which I think can be quiet easily established. The presidency, no doubt, determines appointments into the top levels of government institutions and parastatals. It therefore goes without saying, that any time any section of the country feels legitimately sidelined or insufficiently represented, the actors are either the president or powerful elements in the presidency. The same goes for identification and development of critical national infrastructures. However, while it is far too easy to blame the presidency, there may also be questions of economic, social and political significance that genuinely rules out a region from consideration in the location of national infrastructures.
The culpability of the presidency is far too known. But there has been a deliberate blindness to the role of state governments, of which Governors bear responsibility, in the development of Igbo land. With corruption ravaging, incompetence competing at different levels, and wickedness constituting the ingredients of the wine of folly some Igbo present and past Governors are drunk with, it is not difficult to see why Igbo land has turned to a ‘village’ where people visit for few days, and return to the ‘cities’. It was our fathers who said that a person who is being maltreated does not maltreat himself; but in our case, it is us, who are maltreating ourselves more. With trade and investment staring us in the face, Igbo Governors have chosen to remain clueless. Nowhere is this more brazen and evident than in Aba, Abia State, a city whose potentials remain so close, so within reach, yet so far, so pale and fading into oblivion. With agriculture almost dying out across Igbo land, one may be tempted to ask, when oil economy fades out, what will these people fall back to? With no national electricity project in the region, no infrastructural upgrade, where will the companies fall from? Perhaps, the often acclaimed industrious and commercial vibe of the people is what the government intends to tap into, but what does it mean? It means that the trader in Ariaria and the shoemaker in Bakassi, will keep paying different taxes, levies, rents, dues and ‘political support contributions’ to support his lazy and unproductive government, else his shop will be demolished.
It is the people’s fault, in line with my three categorization, that Igbo land is marginalized. Clannish politics in Igbo land is so forceful that it beclouds judgement and prevents the emergence of sane leaders. If it is not the Ngwa man contending with the Bende people; then it will be the Mbaise people contending with the rest, or the Aguleri people contending with their Umuleri brothers. Spread across the states are these clannish and also denominational politics, that the region continues to wallow in the prangs of incompetent leaders. As if that is not enough, an intelligent people have stubbornly continued to exhibit electoral illiteracy—willing to exchange cash for votes. Some Igbo entrepreneurs, industrialists and capitalists have shunned investing in Igbo land, as if the whole place is infested with leprosy. They prefer treating the place as a village they visit once in a year or even in two or more. Their children unable to speak their mother-tongue excel in others. They may genuinely complain that their state governments hasn’t made the place investment friendly; but that is because these state governments don’t see any challenge; they are demagogues at home, and no one can challenge them because those who can, has even forgotten the names of the roads leading to their villages. For political correctness, a Governor will quickly accept a proposal to build infrastructure to support a new industry, if he sees it will create jobs and help his abysmal record especially those seeking re-election. Therefore, the supposed industrialists have not done enough.
It is clear that the presidency only contributes to one-third of the problem, if the other actors are doing so well, the third can always be overlooked. A 75% grade is a success anywhere in the world. It is perhaps apt to conclude by asking you, in retrospection; who is really marginalizing the Igbos?