• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Buhari on ‘What do Ndigbo want?’

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What again can I say? I have been commenting over time on the tragedy of deliberately missed opportunities to get Nigeria moving forward more than 45 years after the civil war. The fleeting joy of putting and keeping Ndigbo down will get Nigeria nowhere. It reminds me of the situation in wrestling whereby the strongman who secures a pin-fall must let go of his defeated opponent in order to be able to stand up and move on. Less charitable analysts of Igbo extraction (wasn’t Prof Obumselu one of them?) have stated that until Nigerians allow Ndigbo to lead them with their “Onye aghana nwanne ya” principle, the nation will continue to stall in the shallows. Yes, that sounds like an extremist view, but there must be elements of truth in it. The Igbo development model of mass upliftment has been shown to work over and over again. All the negative tendencies for which Ndigbo are derided (or actually deride themselves) are of quite recent vintage. Without exception, they were transplanted into Igboland post civil war. One writer opined that words describing some of the obscene manifestations of graft, etc, actually do not have a direct translation or equivalent in Igbo.

I recall that up till about 15 years ago, the Nigerian Defence Industries Corporation was (and perhaps still is) involved in such mundane tasks as fabricating (note that I didn’t say manufacturing) simple farm implements, an activity already covered by the likes of Steyr at Bauchi and many artisanal operations spread nationwide. How many are aware of the time and resources wasted by DIC on DICON Salt of all investments? How Nigeria loves to beat about the bush! Ndigbo rightly feel that Nigeria is wasting its time! Many Ndigbo, including the obviously minority MASSOB and IPOB, are actually not interested in the Nigerian presidency or the character occupying the seat.

More than two decades ago, speaking in private circles, I have had cause to lament the so-called “No victor, no vanquished” mouthed with relish since January 1970. Nigeria would have turned out a better place if instead of deceiving ourselves, a war restitution of perhaps $1b (1970) was clamped on Ndigbo with the proviso that Ndigbo would be left alone to pursue economic activities with which to pay for it. Such an open legally-based demand would have been in much better alignment with the popular sentiments hidden just beneath the surface. A win-win situation! Ndigbo would have been selling refined petroleum products to Nigeria, West Africa and beyond, with change to spare. Ndigbo would have successfully dragged the rest of Nigeria (kicking and screaming) into the industrial era. A fully domesticated armaments industry in Igboland, under the eagle eyes of the occupying federal forces, would have made Nigeria, however configured, a powerhouse in this regard. The advantages of returning to Nigeria would be there for all to see. Economic progress all around. You don’t have to try too hard to sell a good product.

This current charade has gone on for far too long. Obviously no ministerial appointment can undo the decades-long neglect and obstructionism. It is time for the victors to rethink. It is in their own interest to do so. Then and only then can we truly say “Long live the Federal(?) Republic of Nigeria”.

Oduche Azih

Lagos