BUHARI IN IMO: A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
It was not a triumphal entry. It was not designed to be. It was just a duly and legitimately elected President visiting a part of the territory he presides over.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s working visit to Owerri, Imo State on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, had no measure of braggadocio, bravado, or vainglory. Count the man out of such conceit. A father was just visiting his children, despite rattling of the sabre by some misguided folks, who had ordered everyone to stay at home, and shun the August visitor.
The President was in Imo, and what a breath of fresh air the visit turned out to be. Despite a ‘Sit at home order,’ which is often enforced by mayhem and murder, a good number of people turned out to welcome the President. Men, women, boys, girls. Those who didn’t congregate at the venue of road commissioning, and at the precinct of the newly rebuilt State House of Assembly, and the Government House, were in front of their houses, waving to the convoy, as the President drove past.
You know what I saw in Owerri and environs? A people fed up with shackles, waiting to burst loose, and enjoy their liberty once again. “Man is born free, but everywhere, he is in chains,” (Rousseau, in The Social Contract). Owerri people cast off their shackles, came out singing, dancing, and welcoming their President. That was what they wanted, and it was what they got.
Who first puts a people they say they want to liberate under bondage? They cabin and crib them every Monday, (Ghost Monday, they call it, when no business must be done), at huge social and economic costs. And any other day the leader of the separatist movement currently standing trial also appears in court, they compel the people to sit at home, to their disquietude and sorrow. Tuesday was one of such days.
But did all the people stay at home? Not so. They were tired of being turned to slaves, when they were born free. You could see the excitement, the joy on their faces, as they turned out to receive their President. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by the yoke of slavery. “ (Galatians 5:1).
The Owerri/Orlu, and Owerri/Okigwe roads, being done in sections, were commissioned. Well built roads with good drainage, which will guarantee longevity. And then the rebuilt ultra-modern State House of Assembly. The President entered the complex, shook his head in wonderment, and told Gov Hope Uzodimma: “You have written your own history.” Wonderful!
At the reception and lunch later in Government House, the Governor could not stop recounting all that President Buhari has done in the region, despite what seems eternal antagonism by some brainwashed people. Let me adopt this chronicle I’d seen on social media, which rather satirically speaks to those entrenched in certain unfounded positions in the South East. It goes thus:
This is how President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC Government marginalized the South East geopolitical zone in Nigeria for 7½ years.
Apart from the 2nd Niger Bridge at Asaba/Onitsha, the following projects were used to “Marginalise” the South Eastern Nigeria to punish the people because they did not vote for PMB and his party, the APC in 2015 and 2019.
Evidences of gross marginalization of the East:
PMB marginalized the South East. Here is proof of that.
▪︎ Rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu.
▪︎ Re-construction of Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Rail Line, linking the South Eastern States to a planned new Sea Port in Bonny and to Northern Nigeria (Ongoing).
▪︎ 2.8MW Solar Power Plant at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State under the Energizing Education Programme (EEP).
▪︎ Ariaria International Market (Aba) Independent Power Plant supplying electricity to 4,000 shops in the market under the Energizing Economies Initiative (EEI).!
▪︎ Brand new $5.5m Medical Diagnostics Center in Federal Medical Center (FMC) Umuahia under the NSIA Healthcare Investments. (Completed and Operational).
▪︎ Approval for new Air Force Base in Owerri and Naval Base in Oguta, both in Imo State.
▪︎ Revitalization of the moribund Fertilizer Blending Plant in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State which now supplies NPK Fertilizer to farmers in the State and beyond under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI).
▪︎ Financial Close on the ANOH Gas Processing Plant, with a processing capacity of 300 million standard cubic feet of gas and 1,200MW of electricity generation potential, in Imo State which is a Joint Venture between Seplat Petroleum Development Company and the Nigerian Gas Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPC Limited).
▪︎ President Buhari approved the investment of $10 million by the Federal Government into the Waltersmith Modular Refinery in Imo State, with a production capacity of 270 million liters of petrol annually. First phase was commissioned by President Buhari in 2020.
▪︎ Imo State was selected as one of 7 pilot States for the Special-Agro Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZ) Programme, which is a $500m partnership between the FGN, AfDB Group and other stakeholders including the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Bank of Industry, with the goal of establishing modern agro-processing centres across the country.
▪︎ President Buhari approved the establishment of the following: A new College of Education in Isu, Ebonyi State; a new Federal Polytechnic in Ohodo, Enugu State; and a new Federal Science & Technical College (FSTC) in Amuzu, Ebonyi State.
▪︎ Alvan Ikoku College of Education Owerri is to be upgraded to a Federal University of Education while the Federal Medical Centre Owerri also in Imo State is to be upgraded to a Teaching Hospital to serve the Federal University of Technology Owerri Medical school.
▪︎ At the last count in 2021, more than 60 Federal road and Bridge projects, across the five South East states are ongoing, completed or at various stages of progress and completion; financed through SUKUK Bond and other deliberately designed funding mechanisms, including:
Sections 1 to 4 of the Enugu – Port Harcourt Expressway.
Construction of Ihiala – Orlu Road in Isseke Town – Amafuo – Ulli with Spur (Ihiala – Orlu – Umuduru Section) in Anambra State.
Rehabilitation of Oba – Nnewi – Okigwe Road Route Section II: Anambra/Imo States Border – Ibinta – Okigwe Road.
Construction of Oseakwa Bridge in Anambra State.
Rehabilitation of Old Enugu – Port harcourt Road (Agbogugu – Abia Border Spur to Mmaku).
Rehabilitation of Nsukka – Obollo – Ikem – Ehamufu – Nkalagu Road in Enugu State.
Rehabilitation of Owerri – Umuahia Road Sections I, II & III spanning Imo & Abia States.
Rehabilitation of Oba – Nnewi – Okigwe Road Section II: Anambra/Imo States Border – Ibinta – Okigwe Road.
Rehabilitation of Bende – Arochukwu – Ohafia Road Section I in Abia State.
Rehabilitation of Abakaliki – Afikpo Road Sections I and II in Ebonyi State.
Plus Others Road Projects.
▪︎ As at 2021, a little over N60 Billion out of the N362.5 Billion Naira raised in Sovereign Sukuk Bonds since 2017 which has been shared equally across the 6 geopolitical zones had been allocated to the South East.
▪︎ MTN Nigeria is to reconstruct the Enugu – Onitsha Expressway, under President Buhari’s Executive Order 7 (the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme), signed in 2019.
▪︎ The committed implementation of the Automotive Policy of the Federal Government under President Buhari has helped support the revival of the old Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company Limited (ANAMMCO Limited) factory in Enugu State. Since 2016 the revived factory has assembled more than 4,000 trucks, valued at tens of billions of Naira.
▪︎ Completion of the following
A new 120MVA 132/33kV Substation in Awka, Anambra State that will deliver an additional 70MW of electricity capacity.
Installation and Commissioning of 2Nos 132kV circuit breaker at Abakaliki Transmission Substation (T/S).
Installation of 33Kv Nnewi Industrial CB at Onitsha T/S, Anambra State.
Construction of a new 33kV IGI Feeder at Aba 132KV T/S, Abia state.
Energising of the 1X40MVA Substation at Nsukka, Enugu state.
Installation of a 60MVA Transformer at GCM, Onitsha, Anambra State, another 60MVA Transformer in Aba, Abia State; and 2X60MVA Transformers in New Haven, Enugu in Enugu State.
Completion of installation and commissioning into service of a brand new 300MVA 330/132/33kV power transformer in the Alaoji Transmission Substation, increasing the station’s installed capacity from 450MVA to 750MVA; making it the biggest substation in Southern Nigeria which has boosted supply to Enugu Distribution Company (EDC); benefiting Abia North (Ohafia, Arochukwu, Item, Abriba), Imo State (Okigwe, Arondi-izuogu), and parts of Ebonyi and Rivers State.
Construction of 2x60MVA Substation in Amasiri and a 150MVA 330/132kV Substation in Abakaliki, both in Ebonyi State.
Construction of a 2x60MVA transmission substation in Ogbunike/Ogidi communities of Anambra State.
Completion in 2016 (after ten years of stalled construction) of a 330kV Switching Station (and associated Double Circuit lines) in Essien Udim/Ikot Ekpene local government area (LGA) of Awka Ibom State, to serve the South East and North Central Nigeria. The Switching Station wheels power from 4 power plants into the National gridat, at Ugwuaji, in Enugu State and onwards to other parts of the country.
▪︎ Payment, in 2017, of Pension arrears to police officers who were granted Presidential pardon in 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the Nigerian Civil War. These officers, and their next of kin, waited for their pensions for 17 years since the Presidential pardon. No other administration deemed it fit to clear the backlog.
▪︎ Completion and Commissioning in 2018 of the Zik Mausoleum in Awka, Anambra State, 22 years after construction started.
▪︎ Partnership between the Nigerian Army and Innoson Motors, for the local production, modification and repair of armored fighting vehicles and other military hardware.
▪︎ Ongoing deployment of the Federal Government’s Electric Vehicle Pilot Project, spearheaded by the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State.
▪︎ Under the Buhari Administration’s National MSME programme, the completion of an MSMEs Shared Facility at the Ogbunike Leather Trading Cluster, in Anambra State.
▪︎ Completion of Adada Dam in Enugu State and Amauzari Earth Dam, Imo State; and Completion of the Inyishi Regional Water Supply Project in Imo State; Ofeme Water Supply Project in Abia State; and Uburu Water Supply Scheme in Ebonyi State.
▪︎ Development of Nigeria’s Eastern Ports, to decongest Lagos and to better serve the population in the South East and South South of the country. The Calabar, Rivers, and Onne Ports have witnessed significant infrastructure upgrades and fiscal incentives to promote their attractiveness. An LPG tanker berthed in the Eastern Ports (Rivers Port) for the first time ever in October 2019. That year Onne Port also received its first container ship in twelve years, while Calabar Port received its first container vessels in eleven years.
▪︎ Successful Concession of Onitsha Inland River Port for a 30 year period to Universal Elysium Consortium Ltd in July 2022 after decades of dilly-dallying by successive administrations.
▪︎ Plus Others.
Food for thought, isn’t it? Yes, there’s no part of the country that doesn’t have one grudge or the other against government at the center? But if you have grudges, is the next thing murder of policemen, soldiers at checkpoints, and other uniformed men deployed to your area for protection of the people? Do you burn down police stations and other public and private buildings? Who first kills a people they claim they want to liberate, I ask again? Who first urinates in a well, where he will later fetch drinking water? Who first murders the leading lights of its own geopolitical zone, as a way of protest? I mean, it is mind boggling.
A lot of trepidation had preceded our trip to Imo State. Family, friends, relations, well-wishers were full of prayers, with some even wondering why we were going into such area in the first place. They were all very relieved when we came back in one piece. Should that be the case in a country?
I think those agitating for one thing or the other should change strategy. Engage. Convince. Dialogue. Play better politics, that would emancipate your region. Stop the orgy of bloodletting, because even your own people are tired. They are like men and women in servitude and subjugation. They wanna be free. That was what we saw in Owerri, and it’s a perfect picture of what is happening in the entire South East region.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity