Four years after Prof. Chukwuma Soludo was inaugurated by the Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo to pilot the economic affairs of the five states of the South east, he has become a state governor-elect. Soon, he will assume office as substantive governor of Anambra state.
That sounds like a sweet coincidence.
I deliberately stood down publishing this article so that the loud frenzy would calm down and Soludo would hear me clearer.
Soludo who has made history for becoming a governor in two capacities has a date with history, the history of Igbo regional economic future. He is to become the governor of Anambra State, not the eastern region. So what is his business with the economic well-being of the region?
It is simple to answer. In July 2017, the Igbo apex union, Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo inaugurated an economic planning and strategy committee that got the mandate to “design both a new economic and political development agenda for Nd’Igbo.” The body was headed by Prof. Soludo who was to lead 99 other members drawn from the 7 Ohanaeze states.
The body created by Chief Nnia Nwodo, President General of Ohanaeze and headed by Soludo then was called the South East Development Company (SEDECO) Apart from Soludo, other experts in the Planning and Strategy Committee were Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa as deputy and Ferdinand Agu, and mandated to design an economic road map for Nd’Igbo.
Ohanaeze created the body as response to the audacity of the Arewa Youths who gave all Igbo people an ultimatum to leave northern Nigeria on a particular date. So, Ohanaeze felt it a duty that the Igbo should plan their way of survival with or without Nigeria.
After the announcement of the team, nothing was heard about it or its works in pursuit of the envisaged agenda. Many from the South East zone believe that the reason such policy plans by Ohanaeze don’t get implemented is because the governors of the states which Ohanaeze relies on for funding are always lax. They rather prefer their political personal gains to a collective action plan to grow the region which is easier and more beneficial than growing an isolated state.
Today, Soludo has been elected governor of one of the five states. All things equal, in 2023 after new governors are elected in the rest four states, Soludo would be the oldest in office in the zone and possibly be the chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum.
That becomes a compelling obligation for him to deliver on that laudable but abandoned mandate thrust upon him years ago.
The Ohanaeze’s mandate tasked the team to “articulate and formulate sound strategic economic and political policies for Nd’Igbo, as the recommendations of the committee would be used by the Ohanaeze to formulate integrative economic programmes for the respective states within the zone, in collaboration with the South-east governors as well as governors of Rivers and Delta states.”
That included “articulation of integrated railway network linking all the seven Ohanaeze states; an annual growth of one million palm trees in each of the states within the next five years; a corresponding growth of attractive processing industries for the palm produce but on high, medium and small scale levels and a policy for maximization of the zone’s coal resources for power generation.
Soludo’s team was also to create a “geological inventory of all mineral resources and a carefully scripted plan for engaging the federal government in their exploitation; the development of a refinery for petroleum resources; a paradigm shift to greenhouses methodology for vegetable production using the Netherlands experience as a typology and a deliberate policy for the development of ICT hubs in the states of the region to encourage human capital development.”
It further aimed to work on the educational curriculum of the zone that would focus on the development of skills among men and women and recommend appropriate policies to states to improve the educational standards in their schools at all levels and growth of reliable financial institutions for mortgage, small scale business financing and research.”
Today, the Lagos-Ibadan railway is a reality after it started operation in December last year and commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 10, 2021. But the history of that project is that of proactive regional integration championed by the Odua Group in the early 2000.
In about 2002, the South West regional Odua Group announced plans to build a railway line to link Lagos and Ibadan. But after it was resisted by the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) as no law of the NRC Act supported private sector participation, the group tactically integrated it into the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s 25 years railway revival and development plan that started in 2004. Today, that dream is actualized. That is the benefit of strategy.
In like manner, if the plan by Ohanaeze which Soludo was mandated to lead, can pull such positive surprises, there would be a new script for the economy of the region. Since it takes economic and political resources to implement this testament which Soloudo’s body lacked, now he is a governor, he can take more decisive steps and get something done working with his brother governors of the region. With dedication and resolve, it is not a tough task to actualize. This time, with Soludo in the saddle, no governor would frustrate Ohanaeze on this laudable mandate.
The truth we must admit is that the South East needs integrated economic agenda to develop. Such development must be structured and focused.
Regarding the electrification of the region, the group can push for an amendment of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) Act to provide that states or companies that build power plants can use such without the restrictive mandate of feeding the generated power to the national grid for redistribution, a clause that has been holding down the process from growth.
In early February of the same year Ohanaeze created this body, I had articulated my little thoughts culled partly from my recent book on China’s economic leap into a little piece I sent the ebullient President General of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo.
In summary, I suggested that an economic plan of the South East could include:
That the Igbo should use the two mega factors at her disposal – human and economic resources, to develop herself politically by playing economic politics so well that no one would ignore the economic clout of the region.
That would take integration of forces by the governments of the states of the region to form, work out and implement an economic political plan that would:
*Tap into coal power in Enugu. With this in place, the region would be assured of uninterrupted power availability and the entire nation would gravitate to the Igbo land. We have the experts and wealthy investors that would make this happen integrating with foreign investors and experts. I make it a point of note here that about 60% of China’s electricity is from coal and they have advanced the tech that pollution is steadily reduced to the barest minimum. Even some advanced countries, though mounting the slogan of cleaner energy, have not discarded coal. They keep advancing their clean coal technology (CCT)
·Build the cement industry to be self-sufficient and sell to the world. We have the raw materials.
·Build a railway link connecting the parts of the region.
·Build a seaport in Azumini, Abia State that is about 15 nautical miles to the Ibaka Deep Sea in Akwa Ibom. It takes only dredging and widening the track to do. They can also facilitate inland ports on River Nigeria at Onitsha, Oguta, Ihiala, Ndoni etc.
·Empower, improve on and bring specializations in our higher institutions and take them to world standard.
*Tap into oil and gas deposits in all the states of Igbo land with proven data.
·Re-order our city development style and settlement pattern to manage our little space, taking the South Korean example that is land pressed but effectively builds high-rise living apartments in clusters and underground parking lots, shopping malls and rail tracks to live in their small space that is covered by mountains.
These would force our investors in other parts of the country to move homeward
PHOTO CREDITS: Google Images