The Southeast Zone has been excluded by the biggest rail project in Nigeria
Early in the past week, an interesting thing happened on the floor of the apex law making house in Nigeria, the senate. As the senate got set to consider the request brought by the federal government to borrow 5.8 billion dollars from China Exim Bank to finance some critical railway projects across the country, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia), stood up to oppose the request. His reason? No single part of the Southeast was included.
Abaribe wondered why an entire region would be excluded from such an ambitious project, while the rest of the regions benefitted. The senator who is the caucus leader of the Southeast senators, described the situation as unfortunate and an attempt to frustrate development in the Southeast Region.
He called on the senate to therefore roundly reject that request for the loan until the injustice was corrected and the Southeast included.
Funnily enough, as Abaribe spoke, a Yoruba senator from Lagos under APC, tried to trivialize the matter by arguing that since government was a continuum, the Southeast should be patient and wait for another time.
Expectedly, this sparked a heavy row in the senate as the majority of senators shouted down their Lagos colleague.
Fortunately, the senate president, Bukola Saraki, agreed with Abaribe that it was wrong to exclude the Southeast, or indeed, any region, from such a big project. He pledged to meet with the presidency to iron out the matter, while the request was stood down.
Furthermore, the senate agreed with Abaribe to invite the transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, to explain the exclusion of the Southeast from the rail project, an exclusion they described as mischievous.
I cannot agree more with Abaribe and those who opposed the obvious injustice. There is no plausible reason why a region such as the Southeast should not benefit with other regions from the rail project, especially when the Southeast is the undoubted commercial capital of the country.
The exclusion of the Southeast Zone from the national rail project is nothing short of mischief of the highest order and anyone who interprets it as a continuation of the punishment of the Southeast Zone for not voting for APC in the last General Elections cannot be faulted.
Come to think of it, what qualifies the North and West for having the rails go through their zones? What major economic activity goes on in the West outside Lagos? Ditto the North? The groundnut pyramids in the North have disappeared in the same way that our coal down here has vanished. But even at that, the Southeast Zone has contrived to remain the nation's Numero Uno commercial hub.
The nation's only local car manufacturing plant is in Nnewi, Anambra State, via INNOSON. The last time I checked, even the Army had started patronising INNOSON. The company manufactures SUVs, buses and smaller cars to serve the interests of the generality of Nigerians.
Besides INNOSON, the biggest industrial cluster is also in Nnewi. Whether or not anyone hates their guts, if they want the original spare parts of automobiles, they must come to Nnewi.
The biggest market in West Africa is in Onitsha, also in Anambra State, just as Nigeria's biggest arts and craft business is in Aba, Abia State.
Ebonyi State has been producing rice since God knows when, just as they have been the biggest producers of stone quarry. These are all very important revenue windows for the nation which can only improve by good road networks and rail transportation facilities.
From the foregoing, if there is any place which should attract rail transportation it is the Southeast. Indeed, it should even have had a lion's share of it.
But the federal government has closed its eyes to these things and rather preferred to extend its largesse to the North and West which hardly produce anything these days.
Is this how they want the country to become economically viable? Must everything be based on politics? Hasn't the Southeast paid enough price for not voting Buhari in the last General Elections?
It is these openly biased actions that have made the agitation for Biafra inevitable, even if it may not be realized any time soon.
It then brings me to my earlier point here that the Southeast has to carve out its own destiny as it has been seen that relying on Nigeria for anything is not going to work.
The Southeast should wake up and form its own economic bloc, make things work for them in their enclave and forget the aberration called One Nigeria.