Chieftains of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the South East geopolitical zone of the country have called on President Bola Tinubu to revisit the post civil war programmes of former Military Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon, encapsulated in the 3Rs, namely- reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
The chieftains stated that the 3Rs were not faithfully implemented by the then Military Head of State, Gen Gowon and successive administrations in the country.
Dr George Agbakahi, South East Leader, Tinubu Support Organization and Member, Directorate of Media and Publicity, Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), APC; and Dr Faustinus Chinedu Ilo, Member, Tinubu Support Group, and Member, Directorate of Media and Publicity, PCC, APC, made the call in an open letter to President Tinubu in Enugu on Tuesday.
The party leaders listed some of the key projects and programmes that the Tinubu administration needs to executive in South East to include: infrastructure, business economy and funding, ensuring speedy completion and operation of Onitsha River Port, mediation into issue of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and separatism, equity in federal appointments, and creation of additional states in the South East.
The open letter stated, “We kindly implore you to revisit the South East region, as a peculiar case in the nation’s socio-political history, which requires concerted efforts and leadership. Most of the challenges that bedevil the region are unarguably, post-war ideological views, which influenced the way most Igbos perceive the nation and how others perceive them too, and heightened by ineffective political leadership that grappled the region since the Fourth Republic on May 29, 1999.
“Moreover, the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the region worsened the problems, as most contracts awarded to better the lives of the people ended in untold stories. The representatives and politically connected superintended over the affairs of the poor and helpless weak majority. Consequently, poverty, crime, and insecurity exponentially multiplied.
“With the increasing agitations, the poorly informed aligned with the secessionist groups, while the elites clamor for restructuring to grant autonomy to the geopolitical zones, then, recently, the call for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction.
“All these views, therefore, reflect the perception over the years, that the region is arguably the most marginalized in the country in terms of infrastructural development and national inclusiveness.
“Since the war ended on January 13, 1970, the South East region blame the Federal Government for its failure to implement General Yakubu Gowon’s Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation (3Rs) policy, which ought to address these issues. Today, the big question south easterners always ask is, what will Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s president do differently?”
The chieftains, while congratulating President Tinubu for his victory and good start, expressed confidence in “his visionary and courageous leadership, and one who has shown love, cooperation, and interest in supporting the South East, and indeed other regions of the country, as regards inclusive leadership and development.”
“As members of the Directorate of Media and Publicity, Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the APC, and leaders and promoters of the Renewed Hope Mandate campaigns (online and offline) in the region, we witnessed all forms of abuse from revolting family members, within and across the clans and villages visited.
“Their reasons are obvious and genuine, escalated by misinformation and disinformation that characterized recent opposition politics.
The South East perhaps witnessed the highest rate of negative perception and severe campaigns of misinformation and disinformation against the APC and her candidates in the 2023 general elections.
“These were directly connected to several issues, mostly, inadequate communication of government policy actions, programs, and achievements of Buhari’s led APC government, and weak relationship with the electorates. In addition, previous governments launched several poverty alleviation and social empowerment programs, which did not affect the lives of the most expected beneficiaries, especially the grassroots.
“Many of the party stakeholders and leaders in the region sabotaged the genuine efforts by the loyalists to sensitize and mobilize voters for APC, due to several reasons including diverse political interests and ideology, clash of ego and power tussles, conflict of interest over the campaign funds, etc,” they stated.
On the state of infrastructure in the region, the party chieftains noted that since the return to democracy in 1999, the South East region had been roundly sidelined as a beneficiary of the federal government’s infrastructural schemes, compared to other regions.
They therefore prayed for the inclusion of the South East in the ongoing multi-billion naira railway projects of the Federal Government, insisting that there was no iota of justification for its exclusion in the ongoing contracts for the construction of new Standard Gauge railway lines, despite the high mobility of the people of the zone who are mostly itinerant traders and skilled workers.
The chieftains added that the operationalization of new and existing cargo airports in the region will create millions of jobs and facilitate increased economic development, through increased access to raw materials and exports of agricultural and other local contents and resources at competitive global prices.
On business economy and funding, the party chieftains noted that due to the business orientation of Igbo people, an average Igbo person wants a favorable economic environment and policies that will facilitate his trades and businesses and therefore there is a need to hearken to the cries of the Igbo entrepreneurs who constantly decry stiff economic and financial policies targeted at them as part of a devious policy of economic asphyxiation of the Igbo.
“Ndigbo believes that your administration will establish policies that would widen the horizons of south-easterners and expand their business reach both in terms of goods and services and which will widen their geographic reach to new markets, make soft business loans available to upcoming business enterprises, supported by the remodeled road and rail network to enable businesses mobility,” the chieftains added.
The APC chieftains urged the federal government to quickly implement the planned concession plan of the Onitsha River Port which was officially opened over three decades ago but had been neglected and virtually abandoned.
“When operational, the Onitsha River Port will facilitate efficient trade within the country through cheaper, easier, and cleaner methods of transporting goods and services.
“There is a real perception that the river port and the seaports within the Igbo axis are deliberately neglected considering that Lagos seaports are congested since the ports handle over 80 percent of the cargoes that enter and exit the country,” they noted.
The chieftains expressed strong need for the president to mediate in the growing tension in the South East zone flowing directly from the separatist agitations, which themselves are a product of the earlier stated perception of marginalization.
“You made it clear, Your Excellency, during your electioneering campaign in Ebonyi state, that you will engage the leaders of the South East in a heart-to-heart discussion on all issues agitating their minds on secession and the IPOB demands to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu and resolve all these issues,” they recalled.
The chieftains also weighed in on the perceived visible imbalance in the political structure of the country, hence the feeling of the Igbo being treated as second-class citizens.
“The lopsided appointments in federal positions by the Buhari’s administration were evident and there is a need for true implementation of the Federal Character principle and to ensure that the Igbos are positively involved in the distribution of positions in the military, paramilitary, police, all other security institutions, public service, parastatals, and publicly owned companies,” they hinted.
The party chieftains made a strong case for additional state created from Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Imo, or Ebonyi states in order to make the South East have six (6) states like other geo-political zones for ease of administration, to promote equity, and enhance development.