Just Because Southeast Will Not Join The Protest

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 By Chike Okafor

If I ever disagreed with the school of thought that says “we are a country of short memoried people,” I now certainly have a germane reason to agree wholeheartedly with that school of thought, in the face of the unfolding reality in Nigeria, today.

The North has without doubt ruled Nigeria far more than any other part of this federation, and it will be trite fact to say they have always enjoyed maximum support from the other regions, both during the military era and in this present democracy.

As such, the recent utterances prodding the Southeast to join the ongoing protests have struck a nerve. These calls, particularly from the North, come across as disingenuous, in the light of historical contexts and current realities.

It is indeed a surprise that the North suddenly finds its voice to criticize when they should support. It is even more shocking that they are making frantic efforts to stir up and incite the other regions, particularly the Southeast, into taking to the streets, in protest.

The Southeast has always decried marginalization, and it has been so, for almost six decades, precisely, in the last fifty – four years, since the end of the Nigeria – Biafra Civil war and we need not mention that this has been under the leadership of the North, save for the Olusegun Obasanjo years, both as a military Head of State and civilian President.

From May 29, 2015, through May 29 2023, the marginalisation of the Southeast became more evident and glaring. Several reconstitutions of the Service Chiefs, including Inspectors General of Police and heads of other para – military agencies like the Immigration, Customs, Prisons, and even the Civil defence still did not factor – in, or accommodate anyone from the region, and nobody from the North urged the Southeast to protest this, neither did they make a case for us. But today, one of our very own, Admiral Ikechukwu Ogalla, from Igbo Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, is the Chief of Naval Staff In the last dispensation, 2015 – 2023, it was certainly considered an aberration, if not a taboo for some one from the South East, even if he is the most qualified, to occupy such a strategic command position, in the armed forces.

In the 8th National Assembly, we may recall that Senator Godswill Akpabio, then, in the opposition party, became a Principal Officer in his first term in the Red Chambers in 2015. 

Today, he is the Senate President in the 10th Assembly. But we are witnesses to the fact that the ruling party, the APC between 2015 and 2019, in a brazen show of disregard, did not factor the Southeast in the election and appointment of  Principal Officers, even with the presence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers like late Senator Benjamin Chukwuemeka Uwajumogu in the Red Chambers and the presence of Hon. Austin Chukwukere and myself, Chike Okafor in the House of Representatives. 

Yet, nobody, not even from the North, called for protest on behalf of the Southeast, nor even lent a voice in that regard. 

It is needless to even talk about the committee membership of these APC members of Southeast extraction, despite being part of the ruling party. 

It was a story of impunitous exclusion.

It was much the same in the appointment of key ministers, headship of boards, agencies, and commissions within the aforementioned period. 

Even in the Railway infrastructure, which was built only in the North, and straight up to this same Niger Republic that is openly denigrating the Nigerian Government today, the Southeast was clearly side-lined, to the advantage of the North, and nobody coughed!

Certainly, nobody who kept quiet throughout that era has the moral grounds to speak up today or to call for protest,let alone deciding who should or should not be quiet.

Today, and under the current dispensation, the Southeast has the Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives,and by implication, a presiding officer in this current National Assembly.

Southeasters are also occupying full ministerial positions in some very key and strategic ministries like Senator David Umahi and Dr. Doris Anite in the Works as well as Trade and Investment ministries, respectively, among others.

Following, logically, from the above, no well – meaning or right – thinking person should call on Southeast to protest against a President who has done no particular wrong to the region, one who has given us a lot more sense of belonging in just his nine months in office, much more than we got in the entire eight years of the immediate past administration.

I find it rather amusing that someone could go on air to exclaim that he doesn’t know why Southeast is quiet.

Let me borrow the words of the immediate past Governor of Rivers State and the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Barr Nyesom Ezenwo Wike;

“Dey Your Dey, Mek We Dey our Dey” 

The threat from the North is highly condemnable and is hereby condemned. It is noteworthy that save for a few voices like Gov. Sule Abdullahi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon.Tajudeen Abbas,PhD,former Governor of the central bank, Khalifa Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, it’s been all criticisms and attacks from the North to this government.

 The economic woes President Tinubu is grappling with did not happen overnight. The free fall of the Naira and the astronomical rise of the Dollar are not magical occurrences but rather a product of programmes and policies of the past administration.

It will be important to draw attention to the immediate and remote causes of the present economic quagmire. Some people may wish to argue that it was the same APC in power then and now, but it is important to state here, categorically that the present economic situation would have still persisted even if someone else was sworn-in, in May 29 2023.

The undeniable fact is that there is no money to defend the Naira and sustain the subsidy all at once. Rather, the partial return of subsidy is meant to direct the policy implementation to suit local needs. Thus, it is evident that the federal government is making efforts to stem the ugly tide and reverse the cascade.

A few days ago, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Works, after meeting with cement manufacturers committed to the construction and rehabilitation of failed roads in the country, especially around the cement factories, to ease the transportation of the products.

Again, the last administration inherited a foreign reserve of 29 billion dollars. They borrowed over 32 billion Dollars, leaving an external debt profile of 43 billion dollars. There was also the issue of printing of over two trillion – naira, cash by the Central Bank of Nigeria during the last administration, which was not tied to any productive projects or programs, but rather the huge cash was handed over to the executive, and ostensibly used to fund recurrent expenditures.

The last administration inherited the dollar at less than two hundred naira but left it at seven hundred naira by 2023. 

We may also look at the dollar inflow and outflow between 2015 and 2023 and see for ourselves exactly where the rain began to beat us.

As a sequel to the indices espoused above, I regret to admit that President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu inherited a country on the brink of total collapse, but i am confident that he and the team he assembled so far has the needed capacity and expertise to rein in the situation. It is a gradual process, and sincerely we need to be patient. Let us continue to support this government to succeed for our own good, and in our interest, and in the interest of generations yet unborn.

(Chike Okafor, PhD, an Economist, Investment Banker and former Commissioner for Finance, Imo State is a third term Member, Representing Ehime Mbano, Ihitte Uboma, Obowo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.)

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