Settling down to articulate these thoughts through and commit them into writing was an herculean task.
Primarily, this was for the swirling speculation in the popular media that some overzealous and unpatriotic Presidency officials had in the last few days convinced the Acting President ProfessorYemi Osinbanjo to order the re-arrest of the Director of Radio Biafra and the leader of the indigenous peoples of Biafra -Mr.Nnamdi Kanu.
The interrogatory that flashed through my mind is what the motivational force is that has pulled these so-called presidential aides to seek to railroad the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo into ordering the re-arrest of the pro-Biafra chief protagonist if he insists on encouraging the boycott of the November 18thAnambra governorship poll.
This question becomes more imperative and urgent given that this same presidency stood by, did practically nothing by way of law enforcement whilst a bunch of unruly youth under the aegis of Arewa Youth Forum were busy dishing out illegal quit notices to Igbo to exit the 19 Northern States or face the consequences of forced removal by .
Why are the aides of the Acting President urging him to go for another illegal arrest and detention of Nnamdi Kanu only because he exercised his constitutional freedom of expression by asking his supporters to boycott the Anambra governorship poll?
In the light of the above emerging information that filtered into the media recently, it became even much more difficult for patriotic writers to formulate workable panaceas to the ongoing heightened state of agitations with specific reference to the peaceful agitations championed by over 35 million registered members of the Nnamdi Kanu-led indigenous peoples of Biafra Worldwide for self determination.
That notwithstanding, whilst advising the president to go for dialogues constructively and avoid the temptation of unduly stoking another serial street protests that could elicit the brutal crackdown by the military-the type that led to the extra-legal executions of over 500 peaceful IPOB demonstrators last year as documented by the London based Amnesty International and several other local human rights groups.
However, this writer thinks that one amongst the best panacea towards reducing the severity of the agitations is for the Nigerian State to introduce a Marshall rebuilding and reconstruction plan for the former Eastern region so as to fix the broken and devastated public and private assets which characterized the 30-Months persistent bombardments by the then Federal Forces.
It is a well-known post-war reality that rebuilding and reconstruction process are integral aspects of ending any civil war.
But in the case of the Nigeria Biafra War, the region which suffered almost 98% of the destruction during the 30-Months War period –Eastern region was left without reconstruction.
The deliberate failure of the then General Yakubu Gowon-led dictatorship to rebuild the Eastern region after so much damage was unleashed on it amounts to a war crime.
A critical look at the history of Warfare globally shows that war ravaged entities have always received special reconstruction projects from both within the polity and the international community.
The examples of Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan suffices to demonstrate the validity of the aforementioned claim.
Cory Doctorow wrote that the government of the United States of America has spent more in rebuilding Afghanistan than it spent rebuilding Europe under the marshall plan.
“The US spent $120 billion which lifted the war stricken European nations out of disaster and launched them into post-war prosperity. But the USA spent $70 billion in rebuilding Afghanistan’s security forces and $8.5 billion to battle narcotics”.
Coming closer home, the North East of Nigeria has in the last five years faced unrelenting bombing campaign by the home- bred Islamic terror group known as boko haram. In the devastation that has followed this needless war by these terror gangsters, both the indigenous communities and persons from the South resident in those places have lost their entire assets. The Federal Government has however championed the advocacy for the comprehensive reconstruction of the devastated North Eastof Nigeria.
So with the reduction of attacks and the seeming victory or so we are told, of government over the terrorists, the Nigerian government has only just rolled out a Marshal plan to rebuild that region.
The question to ask is why was the old Eastern region which suffered a worst fate with over 3 million fatalities criminally neglected, but the North East has just bagged preferential treatment which in any case is in line with global best practices.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday this week met with service chiefs, Borno State Governor, Kassim Shettima and notable citizens in the State House on federal government’s reconstruction agenda for North-east destroyed by Boko Haram insurgency.
A statement by Osinbajo’s media aide, Laolu Akande, said although the agenda would be implemented in the entire region, it would be kick-started in Bama Local Government Area of Borno State.
According to him, the initiative would involve the construction of 3,000 housing units, 10 police stations, 18 primary and secondary schools, health centers, creation of Special Bama Squad for security operations and the recruitment of 1,500 local hunters to be known as Agro Rangers, among others.
Under the arrangement, Akande added that the federal government would contribute 67 per cent of the funds while Borno State would provide the balance of 33 per cent.
“Under the Bama Initiative, covering towns such as Bama, Banki, Gulumba Gara and others, the federal government in partnership with the Borno State government is expected to carry out actual re-construction of houses for the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as well as provide infrastructure such as roads for Bama town and adjoining communities.
“The initiative will also see to the kitting and deployment of thousands of police officers and officers of the national security, civil Defence corps who are expected to be trained for the special task.
“Equally, 20 doctors, 100 nurses and other relevant health officers are to be recruited to provide essential health services for the town, in addition to employment of teachers who will be deployed to 18 new schools to be constructed in the areas.
“Road re-construction projects are also featured under the Bama Initiative which is now under exploration, including the re-habilitation of Maiduguri-Bama-Daral Jamal-Banki road network.
“The welfare of returnees is also a major priority of the plan, ensuring a comprehensive support programme for IDPs as they return. It is expected that the implementation of the plan will kick-off in weeks,” the statement stated.
Besides service chiefs and Shettima, also present at the meeting were the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris; Ministers of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau; Budget and National Planning (State), Zainab Ahmed and the Power, Works and Housing (State), Mustapha Baba Shehuri.
Also present were the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, National Security Adviser (NSA), Baba Munguno and Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA.)
It must be noted that in the last three years the billions of public fund voted and released to National Emergency Management Agency have been swallowed by humanitarian crises in the North East. This preferential treatment is offensive to natural law and justice except the Nigerian government can work out a distinct reconstruction plan for the devastated infrastructures of old Eastern region.
The National Assembly seems to be more proactive in this aspective much more than the Executive arm of government which seems more consumed by the passion to rebuild the North East.
Although the attempt by the legislators isn’t far reaching enough.
The National Assembly has introduced the South East Development Bill which seeks the establishment of a commission that would handle the development of the states of the region through a joint states’ plan.
But there is an aspect of the bill that many people have not seen or refuse to look at, according to Senator Enyinaya Abaribe from Aba.
He stated that the bill which was shot down at the Federal House of Representatives never provided that the federal government should fund the plan. The funding will come from the allocations given to the states from which a certain percentage goes into the commission to handle development plans of common interest to the region so that, if you have to develop, for instance, a river basin scheme that flows across some states in the region, there should be a commission to handle the project without waiting for the individual states.
Abaribe spoke more thus: “It also wants to start from where the ‘three Rs’ pronounced at the end of the civil war in 1970 stopped. According to that proclamation, there was supposed to be Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation. Reconciliation was done but not the two other Rs and they need to be done because that gap is what has been causing the South East to lag behind others and there is the need to bridge it and make the people feel that they belong to this country. The intention is to complete the full reintegration of the South East to Nigeria.”
“Regarding the position of the South East senators on the government of Buhari, the Deputy Senate President and I led the Senate Caucus to meet the President in September 2016 and we explained to him the fears of our people because they are being rejected by him, sidelined by his administration and also the fears that the feeling is compounded every day by the lopsidedness of his appointments. We also brought to his attention the moves by President Yar’Adua to assuage the feelings of the Niger Delta region and how successful they were”.
“It is just sad that today, close to a year after that visit, we haven’t got the benefit of any response in action and rather an insistence by the government that what it does is right. They are the reasons for the problems we face today.”
The Senator shared the similar opinion being expressed in this piece that nobody in the South East wants to leave Nigeria because he thinks there is a better country somewhere. The entire situation is expression of hopelessness at someone that never wanted to treat our people like part of the nation and the youths express it in agitation. We have every need to review things and give justice to all. Restructuring is the surest way to that.”
It is the submission of this writer that aside the Soutg East Development bill the Nigerian state owes the old Eastern region the obligations of rebuilding the public infrastructures which were destroyed by the federal forces during the war. If this is implemented i believe the heightened state of agitation for self determination would be mitigated meaningfully.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria(HURIWA) and email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.