By Lukman Olabiyi Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed October 16, to rule on whether or not to discharge a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA ), Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was charged with N2.6bn fraud. The court fixed the date Friday after hearing…
Nsu is a vibrant community in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. Sometime last year, one of its hot brains, Chief Pascal Egerue, former Chief Executive Officer of Mainstreet Insurance Brokers, created the Nsu Economic Council (NEC), comprising the community’s intelligentsia. It was saddled with the onerous task of bringing together Nsu professionals and elite at home and in the Diaspora for the sole purpose of fashioning out and effecting a socio-economic blueprint for the bustling community.
And wow! What a constellation of men of clout doing great things in various human endeavours the NEC turned out to be. Ever since then, Nsu has burst back to life and is facing a revolution of sorts that will soon catapult it back to its prime spot in the affairs of Imo State. As a stimulus to what the group aspires to achieve, Chief Egerue posted a masterfully crafted article by Mbe Nwaniga on NEC’s WhatsApp page. Much of the views expressed therein have been married to this article. The aim is to spur our people, Ndigbo particularly, to worthier paths than the bickering and pervading inanities in governance.
Though belated, it is good that present-day Igbo leaders are now coming together, though their sincerity is questionable, considering the self-evident egotistic interests. Much as the economic summits by governors of the region are desirable, Nwaniga’s blueprint, more than anything else, is the catalyst for economic renaissance. Economic growth and development is not achieved by mere talk-shops and symposia.
Yes, ideas rule the world, ideas backed with action. And definitely, neither becoming victims of the deluding exit from recession nor the idea of illusory quest for Biafra by kooky characters, massaging their pockets and ego without due regard to the sustainability of the touted republic. Not the idea of creating chiefdoms for overly ambitious overlords and deified supreme leaders in pursuit of selfish interests, with ragtag armies, inviting incineration on our homestead by gloating enemies already amassed at our doorposts, eager to descend on Igboland with the speed of light. But ideas that will prosper the people, as evidenced in the achievements of our forebears.
However, before my head is used to break coconut, let me state unequivocally that I am a firm believer in Biafra. Nevertheless, I insist that certain foundations for its survival must be laid, otherwise these mobsters will have burnt our candle from both ends and it would be too late by the time we realise it.
It is instructive that while succeeding governments in the East are hosting all-night weekend parties or conducting government business from inside bush bars erected inside Government House premises, the late Dr. Michael Okpara, former Premier of then Eastern Region, was one of the best administrators Africa ever had. He was the first African leader to conceptualise an indigenous political-cum-economic philosophy on which his development strategy was anchored. He called it Pragmatic Socialism, and he came up with this even before Tanzania’s Nwalimu Julius Nyerere launched his Ujama, which equally had a socialist bent. Because we do not have scholars who dig deep into such authentic and original economic philosophies, nobody paid attention to their intellectual bent. What China under Deng Xiaoping launched in 1980 through its version of State Capitalism (and to some extent South Korea’s Chaebols) were all variants of Okpara’s Pragmatic Socialism.
As they say in development studies, a leader is as good as his circle of influence. Okpara was so good because he had great cerebral minds whose job it was to dream big and think big, churning out earth-shattering innovative ideas by the minute. His biggest influence was Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great dreamer, who, decades before, had idealised everything in his book, Renascent Africa, where he surreptitiously captured the Igbo Manifest Destiny in Africa (the same philosophy on which Ojukwu anchored his Biafra’s quest for freedom). Latching onto Zik’s development philosophy, Mbonu Ojike masterfully grafted Zik’s ideas into the Eastern Nigerian Economic Reconstruction Plan (1954-1964), the 10-year plan, which was handed over to Michael Okpara for execution.
Have you asked who the biggest influences of your so-called governors are today? Who do they take advice from; who do they listen to? Do the governors have advisers at all or cheerleaders while Rome burns? Is it these jesters and comic characters that will make our destiny dawn in glory? Is it the hungry hirelings and bootlickers around the corridors of power that will take us to El Dorado?
Zik knew that nobody could develop a region without easy access to financial intermediation. That was how African Continental Bank and Cooperative Bank of Eastern Nigeria were birthed. This instigated the rise of indigenous entrepreneurial initiatives on a massive scale in the East from 1953 to the early 1980s. The industrialisation of the Eastern Region was part of its urbanisation policy. That was why most of the cities had industrial zones embedded in their layouts: Aba, Umuahia, Calabar; Enugu and Port Harcourt had industrial free zones. So did Owerri and Onitsha, etc. Owerri, Aba and Port Harcourt were already designed in what was called “A three-city nexus”.
Okpara built the first farm settlement in Africa at Igbariam. He built the first indigenous brewery at Umuahia; a metallurgical industry at Onitsha; glass industry at Aba; cement factory at Nkalagu and also added the Calabar Cement Company as well as the Obudu Tourism and Entertainment Ranch. Nigergas. Nigersteel. Aba Textile Company. Standard Shoe Factory in Owerri and Modem Ceramic Industry. The Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation’s enormous estates of oil palm, rubber, cocoa, cashew and rice, with the intercropping of pineapples, banana, plantains and cassava and expansive rubber plantations, formed veritable bastions for cash crop and food production.
The closest we ever got to replicating Okpara’s landmark achievements was during the administration of the late Dr. Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, as governor of old Imo State. Today, where are the industries the pragmatic Okpara and Mbakwe, ‘weeping governor’ laboured to build? They have all been sold to proxies or looted to ‘unknown places’ by thieves sponsored by government, like the Nsu Ceramic and Tiles Industry, that Governor Rochas Okorocha sent his goons to cart away and is yet to give convincing answers.
Leadership is not a one-man show. Today’s ‘leaders’, unlike Okpara, have no intellectual giants whom they defer to. Okpara had Zik, Mbonu Ojike, Eyo Ita, Akanu Ibiam, Nwafor Orizu, Ozumba Mbadiwe, to name very few; all these men had smoke coming out from their heads due to deep thinking, writing and reading. Okpara was number nine on the NCNC hierarchy and he was humble enough to understand the privilege Zik gave him to serve. And he remained so loyal to the cause, he even forgot to build a house in his hometown. But today’s leaders announce their exhibitionist power by first hewing down the ladder that gave them the lead. Shame!
Because we are stuck with kleptomaniac, accidental somnambulists, leading us to the abyss, wonky characters give the false hope of El Dorado in Biafra. Worse still is the assemblage of rapacious, subservient elders with opaque and neophyte intellectual depth, who would rather remain unperturbed as goats give birth in tethers.
The Okpara blueprint, surely, is a faster route to Biafra land, and when we get there, no amount of Nigerian hatred can alter the course of our destiny.