After holding their peace for so long a time apparently waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari to fully recover having returned from the United Kingdom for a prolonged medical trip, notable Igbo leaders have looked Buhari in the face and told him that his dislike for the Igbo nation was obvious.
Led by Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu and the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo socio-cultural group, John Nnia Nwodo, these eminent Igbo delegation who met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock yesterday openly told him that his government has perpetually marginalised the South-east region. Recall that this government has carefully excluded the South-Eastern states from the ongoing revival of the railways across the country. The dredging of the River Niger has remained a political jargon and the second lane of the Niger Bridge also remain a political theory.
Aside from that, the same Buhari government that does not want the rail line to get to any eastern state is planning to link Nigeria the Niger Republic by rail. In Buhari’s government, aside from South-Easterners that won election on their merit, key appointments in the Army, Navy, Air force, Police, Customs, Immigration and a host of others excluded the South-Eastern states. The Igbo delegation comprising governors and deputy governors from five states of the zone, National Assembly leaders and ministers from the South-east, urged the President to address their plight, during the meeting held behind closed door.
Chief Nwodo who spoke with the media after the interface said the group had a blunt and fruitful discussion with the President. According to him, successive governments had abandoned infrastructural developments in the region, resulting in what he described as infrastructure deficit. He said the emergence of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), which has been campaigning for the secession of the South-east from Nigeria was a product of the region’s marginalisation.
Nwodo listed issues they tabled before the President to include cases of abandoned major roads such as Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Port Harcourt, Aba-Ikot Ekpene roads, in the region, which he said were no longer motorable. He also said the delegation called the President’s attention to infrastructure decay in the main airport in South-east, Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu as well as the need to dredge the River Niger, reticulate gas pipelines in South-east and devolve powers to the states.
According to him, President Buhari who could not deny these facts in his response, however requested for time to comprehensively examine their complaints. Nwodo said Buhari was frank in his expressions and they had no reason to doubt him. Mr. Femi Adesina, the spokesperson for Buhari who issued a ststement at the end of the meeting said the President told the delegation that he came to government with clear conscience, pledging that a substantial part of counterpart funding from the Chinese government would be deployed to fund infrastructural deficit in the region.
Those who attended the meeting aside from Ekweremadu and Nwodo were: Chairman of the South-east caucus in the National Assembly, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Governors of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, his Abia and Ebonyi States counterparts, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Dave Umahi while the governors of Imo and Anambra States, Rochas Okorocha and Willie Obiano, were represented by their respective deputies, Eze Madumere and Dr. Ikem Okeke. Others were Ministers of Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrrey Onyema. It was not surprising that Okorocha avoided the meeting because of his anti-Igbo agenda.