When I published what I now regard as the first part of this article exactly two weeks ago ((March 7, 2013) where I harped on the need for Igbo people living outside Igboland to bring back home some of their investments, I was only a concerned Igbo son expressing a sincere passion over what I feel is the “wayward” lifestyle of my Igbo brethren whose investments are scattered all over the world, and yet their imprint is hardly felt at home – instead, and most regrettably, their homeland remains a backwater. But this has since then moved beyond mere expression of feelings. I’ll elaborate.
In the concluding paragraph of that piece, I submitted: “While these things may not be as straight-forward as I present them, and while I can’t claim that this is the final word, I believe it’s a starting point. Let others who have the good of Igboland at heart join this debate. Who knows, we might still be able to redeem Igboland from its present calamitous state…”
The response that I have got since then has been overwhelming. And it is that response that has convinced me that we are not totally lost, that Igboland can still be redeemed, that many Igbo sons and daughters living and doing business outside Igboland realise that something urgent needs to be done to redeem Igboland. I’ll reproduce some of the reactions here, beginning with some comments that appeared under the article on the BusinessDay website:
Edward Igbokwe: “Good article. All stakeholders please take note. Let’s work hard to reverse the curse. We have entrepreneurs waiting to set up in South-eastern states, but no receptive government (federal and state) action. I have made efforts to connect. Through technology transfer, we can create global quality value-added products and its associated employment creation. We can do it if we believe, and are willing to network. We are a blessed people.”
Charles Umunnakwe: “Cheap and reliable transport system is what makes an economy grow. There must be a cheap way of evacuating yams from, say, Abakaliki to Onitsha, and move manufactured goods from Aba to Onitsha without using the expensive unreliable roads in the region – a light rail system to link key commercial cities in the zone such as from Onitsha
to Owerri to Aba which links up the Aba railway station; while from Afikpo links to Abakaliki to Enugu and down to Onitsha where the line started. As soon as cheap reliable transport is secured and the Enugu and Owerri airports become functional international airports, those Igbo Diaspora or even other foreigners shall come and invest in already available housing and industrial estates provided by the governments.”Victor: “You’ve some very important points, and it seems we think alike. We need politicians
that think strategically in Igboland and I think it will help if private individuals like us come together and register an NGO to advocate this specifically. I think Eastern Nigeria has many natural advantages to lead other regions if not for the politics following the civil war. We will have to co-opt the original Eastern Nigeria parts of South-South in economic integration with South-East. For example, there should be a double gauge rail line connecting the deep seaports of Ibaka in Akwa-Ibom, Onne in Rivers and Calabar deep seaports to Nnewi, Onitsha and Aba. The main factors keeping our people in Lagos are international airport and deep seaports for those importers/traders. Incidentally, Eastern Nigeria is where we have the most disposable income in Nigeria by virtue of 13 percent derivation, NDDC, Niger Delta Ministry. Eastern Nigeria also is nearer the north also for the market.”
These, as I’ve said, are not all the reactions. There are many more.
Then I got a call from Iyke Ogbonnaya in Umuahia, Abia State, who said he had been thinking along the same line and promised to join the debate by contributing articles that would go into the specifics of how this dream of bringing back the Igbo Diaspora to develop Igboland can be achieved.
I also went online to find out how much has been said about this topic, and I discovered, not unexpectedly, that many have been worried by this very situation many years before now. I was particularly impressed by the submission of Joe Nze Eto of the World Igbo Congress, an organisation whose objectives include to promote progress and development of Igboland. He wrote in 2012: “Although the Igbo is legendary for hard work, ingenuity and business sense, Igboland lacks
significant industrial establishments in Nigeria, a land flowing with milk and honey…. Sons and daughters of Igboland now find themselves in the thick of economic and social centres throughout the world. The time has come for the Igbo to think home. The time has come for Diaspora Igbo to bring the bacon home and work towards a functional education system for the homeland. This was once the hallmark of the Igbo. We must work towards technical education. We must work for development and industrialisation. We must work toward the restoration of our agricultural systems. We must work to provide good health for our people…. We must tap into our proverbial talents and unique gifts of innovation and technology. We must revisit the war-time technologies of the Biafra era that ushered in PRODA in order to quicken the pace of industrial development in Igboland.”
For me, what all these point to is the fact that, to an extent, there is already that awareness that things are not right, that the Igbo urgently need a change of tack. I would also assume that the debate is on already. What is lacking, perhaps, is yet a formal forum to harness the numerous fantastic ideas being expressed. That, hopefully, will come – personally, I don’t believe in “all talk and no do”. We certainly need to go beyond words. But while we wait, first, the tempo of these expressions, these outbursts, must be sustained. Greater awareness, I believe, is the first necessary pre-condition for getting it right. We must not lose heart. Let’s keep the fire burning. And let those with specific ideas on the way out of the woods bring them to the table.