Ndigbo lament marginalisation in federal appointments
Recently, Nigerians in the South East were engaged in a Town Hall meeting with representatives of Federal Government under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Information. The meeting was ostensibly to expose the direction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to the people.
The meeting also served as feedback mechanism to gauge the feelings of the people of the zone on government activities. Perhaps, because it was the first ever meeting between the zone and the Federal Government since the inception of the present administration, the people trooped to the Nike Lake venue in their numbers.
Although he reportedly sought that kind of meeting, even as the APC standard-bearer, President Buhari never held such a meeting while campaigning for votes in the zone. But at this meeting, his government was well represented. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, led other ministers including, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama and Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril among others functionaries.
Despite its appellation as a ‘town hall meeting,’ those who followed events around the South East and, especially, since the incumbent administration came on board would know that, being angry, Ndigbo would use the opportunity to complain about their alleged marginalisation. The Buhari administration was accused of furthering the marginalisation of the Ndigbo, similar to what led to the civil war through his appointments, budgetary allocations as well as infrastructural development.Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, fired the first salvo in what turned out as “floodgate of lamentations” and perceived Federal Government’s neglect of development of Igbo land.
Ugwuanyi asked Buhari to redeem his campaign promises to Enugu people, insisting that such had become necessary in view of the infrastructure deficit of the state.
“I recall the President’s campaign promise to revive the coal mines in Enugu and utilize it to generate electricity. Coal is a major resource in some countries of the world and we have it in abundance in the state. If this is done, it will directly create jobs for millions of Nigerians,” he said, adding that the Ada Rice project started by the Federal Government in 2007 had been abandoned.
The governor deplored the condition of federal roads in the South East, saying attention on the roads would impact on economic activities.Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma did not mince words; he said Ndigbo were not happy over what he termed the “skewed appointments in favour of the north” by President Buhari, stressing that the South East was seriously marginalised in key appointments.
While bemoaning that no Igbo man was currently in the security council of the country, the cleric accused President Buhari of abandoning the federal character charter to pursue an agenda that was anti-Igbo in his government.
Chukwuma who is a Bishop of the Anglican Communion, posited that the only highest office being occupied by an Igbo person was the Deputy President of Senate, currently occupied by Ike Ekweremadu “unfortunately the position was under contention following the trumped up charge of forgery against him, even when he was the popular choice of the legislators.”
He noted that the fight against corruption, which the Federal Government has pursued in the last one year was tainted with “corruption”, since according to him, majority of those who have been tried were members of the opposition party.“Does it mean that there is no corrupt person in the APC? Does it mean that the only corrupt persons in government were those in the PDP? We are not against the fight against corruption, but we want to say that it should be carried out with every amount of fairness, equity and justice,” he said.
The Anglican prelate also spoke on the continued incarceration of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, explaining that the Federal Government had held him even against court pronouncements, apparently because of his ethnic background.
Making a veiled allusion to the unrests in Igbo land by some secessionist groups, Chukwuma stated that only an unconditional release of Kanu would quell the agitations, just as he condemned the Federal Government for the alleged killing of unarmed Biafra protesters in parts of the zone. Evidently taking up the refrain, former Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amechi said: “Since the end of the civil war, we the Igbo have been at the receiving end. The worst situation is what we are having now and I don’t think it will be worse than we are having now. This time around, the Igbo people are not even regarded as partners in the enterprise called Nigeria. Our people are treated as slaves, who should be run over by the rest of the country. In my old age, I feel unhappy that our situation has gotten this bad.”
Former Minister of Information, Chief Nnia Nwodo, on his part; called for accelerated action to save the nation from collapsing under the weight of economic and socio-political crisis. “It took you five months to appoint Ministers, it took you five months to approve a budget and you are telling us about rain. State governments have finished building roads. I’m not saying this to castigate the Federal Government; I’m saying this to say we got to change gear.”
But in the attempt to provide answers to the posers, Ngige attracted the ire of the gathering, especially on the area of lopsided appointments by President Buhari. Undeterred however, he told the people that Buhari never orchestrated the alleged marginalisation of the zone in the scheme of things, stressing that the jettisoning the National Constitutional Conference crafted under late Gen. Sani Abacha, should be blamed for it.
His words: “Late Abacha crafted a wonderful constitution but Gen Abubakar back-tracked. Instead of using what Abacha did, he went and amended portions of the 1979 constitution, which is responsible for the country’s woos.“The Conference convoked by former President Goodluck Jonathan is suspect because the members were not elected. So there is no Sovereign element in the outcome of the conference. The only sovereignty rests with the National Assembly where you have elected representatives from all parts of the country.”
Ngige urged Ndigbo to stop wallowing in self-pity over the political problems facing the race adding, “I think the people of the zone should put on their thinking caps on how to solve their problems well. If by tomorrow Buhari decides to set up a constitutional conference, the Igbos should then go home and rest, because whatever gains they make there will not be taken away by anybody.”
Throwing his weight behind Ngige, an APC chieftain, Chief Ozor Amadi, said until Ndigbo start asking their leaders questions about the past, the realization of a better future for the people of the zone would remain a mirage.Amadi was later to tell The Guardian: “Look at the cacophony of voices today condemning the one year of administration of the country for the marginalisation of Ndigbo and I dare ask, what happened in the 16 years in which we played leading role in the affairs of the country.
“We had severally under the Obasanjo administration produced the President of the Senate, we produced the National Chairman of the ruling PDP, we produced the Minister of Finance, Education, Information Aviation, as well as, Chairman, Police Service Commission and what have you.
“Under Jonathan, we produced Secretary to Government of the Federation, we produced Minister of Finance, Aviation, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, Deputy President of Senate and what have you. For 16 years, the second Niger Bridge was not built, the Enugu airport though awarded the status of international airport is still being developed. Infrastructure collapsed in the South East. “To me, I think the entire thing is bottled up from the failure of the PDP government, which the South-East supported all through but got disappointed that it never left any footprints in the zone in the sixteen years they ruled. Granted that Buhari has not done much, but we do not have the level of economic buoyancy that we had then.”
Nonetheless, the Information Minister assured that the federal government was working to restore the country back to the glory days and lay lasting legacies for Nigerians; among other things.To a Professor of Political Sciences and former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Elochukwu Amucheazi, the meeting was a waste of time and energy.