Benjamin kalu and passage of the SEDC bill – bringing an end to SE cry of marginalisation 

By Ukoha Njoku Ukoha 

After the brutal Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, the victorious Federal Government declared No Victor -No Vanquished as a reintegration slogan. The Government launched the 3Rs Policy Initiative (Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation) aimed at cleaning the physical memories of the war by rebuilding the damaged and destroyed Infrastructures including normalising relationships between the South-East and the rest of the country. 

The victorious Federal Government No Victor – No Vanquished declaration was contradicted with a winner takes all Abandoned Property Policy, the £20 (Twenty Pounds) Policy and the Nigeria Enterprise Promotion Decree otherwise known as indigenization and Nationalisation Policy which completely impoverished and alienated people of the South-East from the economic scheme of Nigeria. The policies were deliberate economic warfare and strangulation against the South-East. In the midst of the declared No Victor – No Vanquished, the Victorious side shared their booty of war and the Vanquished were further decimated politically, economically, socially and psychologically. The Federal Government was preaching Positive-Sum-Game while practising Zero-Sum-Game.

The 3Rs Policy Initiative was abandoned on paper. The Federal Government rather concentrated on building the North and South-West that witnessed no war and destruction than reconstructing the theatre of war in the South-East that was completely destroyed. 

In the words of my mentor, Dr. William Wilberforce Chuba Okadigbo (Oyi of Oyi) of the Blessed Memory, ‘If you want to see practical marginalisation, drive from Abuja to the South-East, the more you get closer to the South-East, the more marginalised you become’. Dr. Okadigbo further posited that, ‘A war was fought between 1967 – 1970, No Victor – No Vanquished was declared even when we are always reminded that there was a Victor and Vanquished but the war is still on. Nigeria cannot move forward if we do not end the war – PLEASE, LET US END THIS WAR’.

Since the end of the civil war, the South-East has produced Vice Presidents both under Civil Rule and under the Military. The Zone has produced the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate Presidents, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker, Minority Leader in the Senate, Chief Whip and other principal officers in both chambers. If the aborted 2nd and 3rd Republic were short-lived for Parliamentarians of South-East extraction to draft and sponsor a bill for the reconstruction of South-East Infrastructures damaged and destroyed during the civil war, lobby for its passage and influence the assenting by the President, the 24 years unbroken democratic ‘experiment’ is more than enough to get something in that direction done. The zone has had a share of seasoned and influential representatives in both chambers including senators and House of Representatives members who have served multiple tenures in the National Assembly. They only think about and represent themselves and sometimes their constituencies. The collective interest of the South-East is not considered a top priority. 

Nigeria had an unbroken 16 years of PDP dominance. The People’s Democratic Party was a household party in the South-East. Politicians of South-East extraction were the face and cream of the party in the 16 years of the Party’s hold on National power until 2015. Under the PDP, the South-East produced Senate Presidents, Deputy Speaker, Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Inspector General of Police, Central Bank Governor, Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister, National Chairman and Secretary of the Ruling Party, NDDC Chairman and other top ranking positions in the Country and Party. They were so powerful and could have influenced and gotten anything they wanted for the Zone but most of the key players failed to bring the Zone to the front burner. 

The South-East was so loyal and engrossed with PDP that they gave APC no chance. The Zone rejected the APC in its entirety. According to the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo (A Double Doctorate Degree Holder, one in Political Philosophy and another in Metaphysics and Spiritism), ‘It takes the act of political sagacity to understand political arithmetic’. The South-East kept their eggs in one basket. The APC was made more unpopular and pariah in the South-East by former President Buhari’s 97% – 5% ratio of zones that voted or did not vote for him. The APC had no chance of winning election in the South-East in reaction to the official marginalisation policy of President Buhari APC administration. 

As a freshman and first time member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu was appointed the spokesperson of the Green Chamber. He exhibited class, capacity, competence and candour in the discharge of the functions of his office. His carriage and demeanour endeared him to his colleagues across party lines which positioned him for higher call to service. He was elected Deputy Speaker on his second tenure as member of HoR, a position he currently holds. Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu has demonstrated leadership in bringing the challenges of the South-East on the National stage. He has tactfully lobbied, appealed to the conscience of his colleagues, mobilised and secured the nod of both chambers of the National Assembly to pass the bill for the establishment of the very strategic SOUTH-EAST DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (SEDC) as a Special Purpose Vehicle of the Federal Government for the reconstruction and development of damaged and destroyed Infrastructures around the South-East Zone. This singular act of political sagacity and statesmanship has placed Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu on the spotlight in the evolution of the South-East and Igbo renaissance. He has in less than 5 years achieved what most could not achieve in more than 16 to 24 years in National and Sub-National politics. 

What is important is to get things done and Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu has demonstrated his capacity to achieve big goals within a short timeframe. What the army of very high ranking South-East political actors under the PDP platform could not work together to achieve as a team in 16 years has been achieved by a near South-East lone voice in APC in less than 5 year. In the popular quote of the late Chinese statesman, Deng Xiao Peng, ‘Black cat or white cat, anyone that catches the mouse is a good cat’. Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu is a good cat and must be applauded. 

The passage of the SEDC bill is a huge achievement to assuage the feelings of marginalisation against the South-East. The success of Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu’s Peace in the South-East Project (PISE-P) is tied to the reintegration of the Zone into the mainstream of National politics. The SEDC act when assented by President Tinubu can renew the hope of the people of the South-East, persuade them to abandon restiveness and violence to restore law and order in the Zone. The commission will address the restiveness and insecurity in the South-East Zone by employing young people in the reconstruction scheme, fund the training of the youth on knowledge based skills and assist start-ups within the Zone. The 2 initiatives by Rt. Hon. Benjamin Kalu can lay a groundwork for the ultimate release of the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (MNK).

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining. In spite of the abysmal performance of the APC and her retrogressive policies since 2015, the passage of the SEDC bill, the codification of the SEDC act and the eventual establishment of the Commission by the APC dominated Parliament and Mr. President; the 54 years of injustice of the aborted 3Rs will be effectively addressed. If and when the South-East Development Commission act is assented by Mr. President and the commission established and funded, the APC would have done for the South-East in less than 9 years what PDP could not do for her most loyal Zone in 16 years.

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