By Emma Emeasoba
The recent killing of Dr. Chike Akunyili, the husband of Late Prof. Dora Akunyili, a former Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Minister of Information by unknown gunmen has, once more, brought to the fore some questions agitating the minds of some Igbos and non-Igbos alike about the region.
What do the Igbos really want? Is it self-determination, Biafra or Nigeria’s Presidency? If people from the region, famed and respected for their industry, doggedness, never-say-die spirit, business acumen and excellence and success in almost every sphere of life they are engaged in, want any of the above, do they have to self-destruct to lay claim to it?
What is happening in the South East region of the country presently gives cause for serious concern to all men of good conscience. Do the Igbos have to engage in mindless and avoidable bloodletting, kidnapping, armed struggle and gun running, wipe themselves out, bring their economy to a halt as occasioned by the ongoing sit-at-home every Monday decreed and being religiously enforced by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and carry out other forms of criminality targeted at themselves to make a statement?
This is tantamount to self-implosion. The killing of Dr. Chike Akunyili is one killing too many and has again put the South East in the public eye for the wrong reasons. It is despicable, reprehensible and condemnable. Was it a targeted, premeditated or random killing?
Whatever is the motive behind the dastardly act, the current goings-on in South East where Igbos are losing their lives in the hands of Igbos is definitely not the way to go. The scenario is akin to a mother hen eating its own chicks. In fact, it is more like cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. If people extinguish or decimate themselves in the course of agitating for a better deal for themselves, who will enjoy the victory when it is won?
This posture is self-defeatist and anti-progress. The most curious and saddening aspect of the present trend is that there is no visible effort being made by anybody, group or the leadership of the region to arrest the ugly trend. South East is experiencing a free fall in all ramifications. The insecurity is unprecedented while kidnapping and bloodletting have turned into a big enterprise.
Purposeful leadership and reorientation of misguided youths who have been unleashing mayhem on the citizenry of the region under the guise of agitation for self-determination will go a long way. But does the region have the will? Who will bell the cat?
Unfortunately, while the region is burning, the leadership is busy jostling for political positions and cross-carpeting from one political party to another without any clear cut ideology or vision for the development of the region. It is all about their personal and pecuniary interests. They have scant regard for the common good.
One begins to wonder why the people of the region believe they are being marginalized at the centre when their political leaders are actually the ones marginalizing and short-changing them.
What basic amenities have been provided by politicians of Igbo extraction in the last twenty-two years of uninterrupted democratic rule? For instance, most roads across the five states in the region are in deplorable condition, potable water supply is a luxury and electricity supply is at its lowest ebb.
Curiously, the pump price of premium motor spirit (PMS) is the highest in the South East region even when it is being sold at a government-regulated price in neighbouring states and other parts of the country.
In fact, the dividends of democracy are almost strange to the good people of the region despite the fact that there are so many politicians from the region holding elective and appointed positions in all levels of government.
Undoubtedly, Ndi Igbo are their own greatest enemies. Their problems are caused by them and can only be solved by them. The earlier the region looks inwards and tells itself some home truth, the earlier they will make the desired development and progress.
Truth is, the self-determination being agitated for by the region has been hijacked and criminalized by hoodlums who hide under the umbrella of the movement to perpetuate all manners of criminality. And this has made South East as unsafe as the North East. Life in the region has become short, dangerous and brutish.
Expectedly, the clamour for Igbo Presidency is gradually evaporating like the morning dew and Nigerians from other regions of the country are no longer taking them seriously. Igbos are beginning to lose their sympathy. Funnily, even if the rest of the country cedes the position of the next President to Igbos, they will fluff the chance. Igbos will find it difficult to take up the position in an organized and orderly manner. Igbos will never reach a consensus and can never present a common front or a generally acceptable candidate. Every Igbo politician will throw his hat into the ring for the contest and nobody will defer to anybody.
Laughably, unlike other regions of the country which belong majorly to a political party, the South East region is in political disarray. Little wonder, the region cannot present a united political front and demand and take its due from the Nigerian enterprise.
It is time for the leadership of Ndi Igbo to stand up, speak up and act up for the right reasons and for the common good of the long-suffering people of the region. One thinks that it is because of the docility and selfishness of leadership that the region has been politically backward in the Nigerian project. After all, if you do not say you are, nobody will say thou art. Let the Igbo stand up to be counted and the rest of Nigeria will count them for something. In the meantime, may God save Ndi Igbo from themselves.
*Emeasoba, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Lagos.