Commentary: Engaging The Entrepreneurial  Spirit Of The Igboman

Commentary: Engaging The Entrepreneurial Spirit Of The Igboman

Before the Biafran War, Eastern Nigeria was one of the few regions of hope in black Africa. The World Bank made this official in 1964 when it named Eastern Nigeria as the fastest growing regional economy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Certain indices validated this position. Nigeria was the world’s largest exporter of palm oil and palm kernel at the time and almost 90% of that came from the region. Beside palm oil, there were also cassava and coal, which formed some of Nigeria’s major export earners.

Unfortunately, the war destroyed everything – the people, infrastructure and of course the economy. With so much energy and dynamism seeking expression, something was bound to give. And it did in a number of ways. First, the Igbo elite were utterly fragmented and driven into individualist survival strategy. This marked the foundation of divisiveness and lack of cohesion among our political elite. Sadly, it was to rob us of our chances at the centre.

The second post war reaction of the Igbo was a strong aversion or dislike for home. One of the most significant responses of Ndigbo to their peculiar leadership challenges is the emergence of Ohaneze Ndigbo. This gathering of wise, Elder statesmen, scholars, academics, community leaders and successful businessmen and women has played a critical role in preserving the Igbo ethnic nation. Many factors led to the emergence of several other groups pursuing Igbo interests, while others are agitating the welfare of Ndigbo.

Somehow, there is this niggling feeling that these agitations would have been needless if there were no sense of alienation or neglect in the hands of the government; if most federal roads in Igboland were not in such absolute disrepair and if there were no undisguised regressive policies against the Igbo nation and, if there was no marginalization of Ndigbo. Agitation wouldn’t have been necessary if there was fairness, equity and justice. Other regions have rail lines but what about South East? Yet, they are the most travelled. Is Onitsha not good for Seaport?

However, Ndigbo have continued to mount a subtle response to Nigeria’s sustained indifference. A remarkable example is the growing spate of purposeful governance in some Igbo states. Some Igbo governors realized that they have their work neatly cut out for them. They discovered that the indifference of the Federal Government is not an acceptable explanation for Igbo’s backwardness. But that, though they may not have enough resources, the little they control can change the Igbo story.

For instance, in Anambra, Governor Willie Obiano has shown in seven and half years that an Igbo governor can do a lot with little resources; hence the legacy projects like the Anambra International Cargo And Passenger Airport, which the Anambra spirit propelled him to start and finish in fifteen months without borrowing a dime and without owing any contractor. Yet, salaries and pensions are never owed and other legacy projects are progressing simultaneously

Following this trajectory of excellence, Governor Obiano adopted a strategic approach to governance that opened the state up and turned it into Nigeria’s new investment destination. Obiano also clinically drove away the criminal elements that made the state difficult to inhabit and shored up the profile of Anambra as Nigeria’s most secured state, despite the recent politically instigated and cult-related upheavals.

Obiano’s approach to urban development is exemplified in the amazing transformation of the Awka capital city into an emerging centre piece for tourism with the three sparkling bridges, 13,000 seating capacity International Convention Centre, FIFA standard Awka Stadium, a vibrant social life and glimmering street lights. Obiano has shifted the paradigm by placing Anambra on the country’s agricultural map, while maintaining her enviable position on the educational map.

It is therefore, hardly strange that the growing nostalgia for Igbo land and the quest to rebuild it is one of the earliest obsessions of Governor Willie Obiano. Thus, he has repeatedly made strong appeal for a joint effort by the governors of the five states of the South East to build a new economic block. It is interesting to see the resurging consciousness among Ndigbo across the world that the time to look back home with fondness has eventually come. Indeed, that is the entrepreneurial spirit of the Igboman.

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