Saturday, November 28, 2009

Igbo should stop marginalisation cry –Ohakwe

By Henry Umahi and Willy Eya, Sun News Online

Despite the dwindling fortunes of the nation, Mazi Tony Ohakwe, publisher of Maritime Voice, a specialized maritime newspaper, is one of those who believe that Nigeria has a bright future. He is confident that under President Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigeria would soon be reckoned with among the comity of nations.

Speaking with Saturday Sun, Ohakwe, who is also the President-General of Imo State Towns Development Association, gave President Umar Yar’Adua a pass mark in his assessment of the administration.

His remarks : “I think the president has performed fairly well but the problem is that Nigerians are always in a haste for results. But they should remember that the former Katsina governor met so many problems on ground. I would say without fear of contradiction that Yar’Adua is on the right track and he is gradually doing everything possible to put his acts together. Some Nigerians may like to judge him based on the nation’s epileptic power situation but the problem did not start now. His predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was in power for eight years and he could not fix the nation’s energy sector.

With all the noise on the Independent Power Projects, the Obasanjo administration failed to do anything positive in the power sector. By now, we ought to have been generating sufficient power.
If Ghana is celebrating 10 years of uninterrupted power supply, by now Nigeria should be celebrating at least two years of our own uninterrupted power supply. But we have to be patient with Yar’Adua who has promised that by December this year, Nigeria will be generating about 6000 megawatts of electricity.

I can tell you that once we are able to fix the power sector, other things will fall in place. It will be the beginning of our economic boom. It does not need re-emphasizing that all sectors of the economy depend on the power sector. Ohakwe also lauds Yar’Adua for allowing opposition to thrive and giving other arms of government the latitude to perform their functions.

‘On assessment of Yar’Adua politically, we have noticed within the parties that there is now a healthy opposition. The opposition now operates without any fear of harassment, intimidation and such other vices that are against the growth of democracy. The National Assembly members now carry out their jobs without any interference. They operate independently of the executive arm unlike in the immediate past administration under Obasanjo. So far, I think Yar’Adua is on the right track”.

But how can Ohakwe reconcile his optimism with the perception by many Nigerians that the administration is too slow to trigger off a change in Nigeria?
“Let us look at it sector by sector. Let us start from Yar’Adua’s effort to reform the nation’s problematic electoral process. The Justice Uwais panel on electoral reform panel set up by Yar’Adua has completed its assignment and the report is already with the National Assembly .

It is the National Assembly that should now fine-tune the reform and not the executive. On the power sector, I said before that Yar’Adua inherited the problem from Obasanjo but he is already making effort to improve the sector.
In the education sector, it is the same story under Obasanjo who was always fighting with the Nigeria Labour Congress . At several times, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was always on strike. But I want to say that if strike by ASUU can bring a permanent solution to our education sector, let it be. My only appeal is that the union should remember that Yar’Adua also inherited the situation.

I am not an apologist of the present administration but I am only trying to look at the situation objectively. I have never worked for the government and I have always being on my own. I thank God that a seasoned comrade, Adams Oshiomhole, the governor of Edo State intervened in the ASUU and federal government deadlock. You can imagine that at the height of it, some students of the University of Abuja attempted to kidnap the Education Minister, Dr Sam Egwu. There were several other crime committed during the strike that were being ascribed to students. We all know that an idle man is a devil’s workshop.

Maintaining that there seems to be some hope in the area of political power balancing, Ohakwe volunteered: “ You can see today that the political parties have level playing ground. If not, how can somebody in Ondo State who is not of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) win the governorship seat even in the tribunal? In Edo State, it was the same thing. I want to say that the political problems we are having today are caused by the elite. They are the major problem of the nation and not the down trodden.

All we need to do in Nigeria is to put the right amenities on ground. Today, we talk of bad roads but under Obasanjo, one minister allegedly spent about N300 billion on roads but where are the roads now? Would you now blame the state of roads in Nigeria on Yar’Adua’s administration?”
As a stakeholder in the South East geo-political zone, what is Ohakwe’s view of the future of Ndigbo in Nigeria?

“I would say that the future of the Igbo nation is very bright. I hate to hear people from my zone talk about marginalization. Before the civil war, Ndigbo were in control in Nigeria in all sectors. The Igbo had a say in politics, economy, business, education and any thing you can think about. It may interest you to know that before the war, the Igbo were even leading in the Nigeria Stock Market. The late Odumegwu Ojukwu was the first president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange.

So, the Igbo were doing so well but since the end of the civil war, our people developed inferiority complex. So they started feeling that they were defeated and that they were no more wanted in Nigeria. I know there were so many policies initiated by the federal government that were drawing us backwards but of recent, I want to say that our future is very bright if only we can put our house in order.

The major problem of Ndigbo now is not being together and speaking with one voice. If the Igbo nation can come together today and say look, I do not care if you are from Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi Abia or Imo, let us see ourselves as one”, he said.

He added that Ndigbo should re-strategize to hit top spot again. “To be a formidable force at the national level, we must begin to see ourselves as one. If we adopt that strategy, nobody can deny us our rights but because other tribes have known us as people who can’t speak with one voice, when it comes to political issues, they have a way of dividing us.

They know that when they dangle a carrot, we will rush at it and in the process get divided. So, the only thing that is lacking among Ndigbo is that we lack the culture of oneness and sense of unity unlike other ethnic regions. You can see that when it concerns an issue of national importance, the South West, South South and North would speak with one voice unlike the South East. Look at the case between Cross River and Akwa Ibom. They handled it with maturity. If it were to be in Igbo land, it would have led to ethnic clashes or even war. An ordinary party congress in Anambra State, look at the level of crisis it has generated.

“If you look at the people that usually criticize their governors, it is mostly the Igbos. We are good at washing our dirty linens in public. Most of our governors are performing better than their counterparts in other parts of the country but it is our own that everybody would hear about. People from the North for instance would go home and secretly advise their governors but Igbos would go to the pages of the newspapers”.

He scores the Imo ste governor, Ikedi Ohakim high in performance.
“I would say that Ohakim has done well given indices and parameters of assessment. One area he has done well is in the area of road construction and rehabilitation. I am from a community called Amucha in Njaba local government and we have had for long a very bad road network. It was Shehu Shagari sometime in 1981 that promised he was going to rehabilitate our road but he never did. It was in Amucha that we had the worst erosion case which attracted the president in 1980 or thereabout.

Subsequent administrations came and never did anything to our road. Even when we had a governor, Achike Udenwa from Orlu Senatorial zone, a good governor that did very well but the road was not rehabilitated under him. But Ohakim under six months did a lot for the people of Imo State. From statistics, he is reported to have done more roads than any governor in the past. Also, an area he has done well is in creating awareness in industrial development.

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