On January 28, 2017, the All Progressives Congress (APC) held her South East stakeholder’s meeting at Owerri, the Imo State capital. From the tone of speaker after speaker, it was obvious that they have a moral burden- the burden of selling a bad product to their kinsmen.
President Muhammadu Buhari made the tough task even tougher by elevating the marginalisation and mistreatment of the South East to statecraft- as promised in Washington DC, USA.
Governor Rochas Okorocha – the host governor summed it up in his own words, “You do not know what I have been passing through as a lonely child in APC”, alluding to the fact that he went into APC without his people – Ndigbo. Consequently, he was being marginalized by the party he laboured to plant in the South East since he was an “orphan” as Ndigbo never hid their disdain for APC. Today, APC in the South East remains a pariah. Buhari has given the party an irredeemable image of an anti-Igbo party.
Nevertheless, Ndigbo should never be blamed for not warming up to Buhari or voting for him at the last election. His antecedents should be blamed. From jailing former Vice President Alex Ekwueme 99 years and placing President Shagari under house arrest, after his 1983 coup, to superintending over the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which gave the South East a paltry 6% of capital projects, Igbos were convinced that Buhari presidency would never augur well for them.
Today, they are right, for rather than extending the olive branch to Ndigbo, Buhari’s government appear to have deliberately made life difficult for Ndigbo through exclusion in the sharing of appointments, opportunities, and projects. This is the first time since 1999 that Ndigbo have been shut out of the 11 man National Security Council comprising service chiefs and heads of other security agencies. Even IBB and Abacha never treated Ndigbo so badly.
President Obasanjo laid a precedent, which other presidents followed. He ensured that key government offices were fairly distributed among the six geo-political zones. But, today, none of the key ministries such as Finance, Power, Works and Housing and Justice was given to the South East. Even, Governor Rochas, despite being called names for campaigning for Buhari, merely got a junior minister for all his efforts. Prof Anthony Anwuka, a former university Vice Chancellor and a renowned academician was made a Minister of State for Education whereas the substantive Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, is a columnist who does not even possess a Ph.D!
Imo State is the only APC state in the South East. Yet, even the blind can attest that in terms of all developmental indices, the PDP states such as Enugu and Ebonyi as well as the APGA state, Anambra, are better off. If Imo is the poster boy of the APC, then Ndigbo will keep snubbing that party. Today, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi have better road networks than Imo. In terms of agriculture, Anambra (an APGA State) has now joined Ebonyi as a net producer of rice. What will Rochas’ APC administration be remembered for?
The only news coming from Imo is that of workers and pensioners protests. Imo State Government is only keeping faith with its APC character of lies and propaganda. In his first tenure, Owelle Rochas Okorocha started the construction of 27 General Hospitals in the 27 Local Governments of the state. Till date, all of them remain abandoned. Recently, his administration claimed to have floated an airline, yet it cannot pay salaries. Earlier on, he was engaged in a running battle with town union presidents when he started what he called the “fourth tier of Government”. Little wonder Governor Willy Obiano was so embarrassed when Okorocha claimed that three South East governors were on their way to the APC.
It was also for hard sell that APC is in the South East that probably pushed Senator Ken Nnamani to describe as an anomally for Ndigbo to be said to be occupying the office of the Deputy Senate President, when such a person could not attend APC caucus meetings because he was in PDP. He said Senator Ike Ekweremadu was only occupying the seat for his personal benefit. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Ekweremadu, even as Deputy Senate President in the opposition party in the last 19 months, has done for Ndigbo far more than what Chief Nnamani was able to do all his political career. The only road he did in the entire Igbo land and his constituency is a one kilometre road from the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway to his residence and housing estate in his hometown, Amechi Awkunanaw.
Besides, Ekweremadu has been a voice for Ndigbo in this dispensation. Unlike Nnamani, Ekweremadu has spoken out against the alleged massacre of unarmed Igbo youths during protests. He has spoken severally against the herdsmen menace. He has spoken out against Igbo exclusion, etc. And he has done it with a mark of statesmanship.
Ken Nnamani claims that the APC is only for men of integrity and asserted that anyone with slightest blemish would not be welcome in the South East APC. Well, he needs to be reminded that Nigerians are quite over the handling of alleged corruption against the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Tukur Buratai; Minister of Interior, Gen. AbdulRahman Dambazzau (Rtd.); Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir Lawal; Acting EFCC Chairman; Ibrahim Magu; etc, does not mean they have cleared them of the allegations.
APC members are all saints because the so-called anti-corruption war is sick with nepotism and selective persecution. Even Senator Shehu Sani of the APC has confessed that “When fighting corruption in the Judiciary, the Legislative and the larger society, the Presidency uses insecticides, but when fighting corruption in the Presidency, the Presidency uses deodorants”. God will bless the Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s, the Shehu Sanni’s and Junaid Mohammed’s of this world, who despite being Northern Muslims are not eager to condone the ongoing mega corruption. According to Junaid Mohammed’s expose, Buhari’s relations are the ones running the Presidency and nepotism is a worse form of corruption. The result is the ugly corner we are in today.
Senator Nnamani said in September 2014 that no reasonable Igbo man would join the then opposition APC because PDP put food on our table. So, if today he has defected, it is because he and many other defectors are looking for lunch ticket. It does not necessarily mean they are begging for food. It could also mean that they need the party to facilitate their businesses to be able to put food on the table.
Otherwise, how can they call themselves Igbo leaders and clap for Buhari while he gleefully mistreats Ndigbo? Last week, the new vibrant leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo condemned the killing of unarmed Biafran agitators during the Pro-Trump Rally in Port Harcourt, asking for an independent panel of inquiry to be set up to investigate the issue. Apart from Orji Uzo Kalu, which of the Igbo APC chieftains, including Nnamani, has spoken up in support of the call? Dead silence.
––Oji is Executive Director, Centre for the Advancement of Literacy& Leadership (CALL)