By Chukwudi Enekwechi, JP
It was the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill who asserted that ‘’jaw-jaw is better than war-war’’. The simple translation of this quote suggests that on issues of statecraft and even person to person relationships, if you like add husband and wife relationship, that dialogue is preferable and does good to all the parties than confrontation, war or bickering as the case may be. Indeed it is the hallmark of statesmanship, wisdom and patriotism. Every society occasionally has some issues that may cause ruckus in the polity, but what matters is the approach that is deployed towards solving the existential problems and ultimately creating harmony among the various constituents of the entity.
In the case of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has, with his recent visit to Imo State, adopted rapprochement as a strategy in order to placate the people of the South East region, and equally give them a sense of belonging. With the town hall meeting between the President and the South East leaders, it was glaringly clear that he was living up to his promise during his inauguration in 2019 ‘’to belong to everybody, and belong to no one’’. Till this day most Nigerians have been holding the president accountable to his words of endeavouring to be a leader for all Nigerians, and not for a section or few people.
An objective appraisal of President Buhari’s almost six years in office will indeed disprove the view in certain quarters, of deliberate acts of favouritism or nepotism, as it is commonly said in the distribution of government amenities in the country. In fairness to President Buhari, he has demonstrated a high sense of responsibility by embarking on the construction of N200 Billion second Niger Bridge, which when completed will jumpstart the economy of the South East and help decongest traffic gridlock in the ever-busy Onitsha head bridge.
He also used the opportunity of his visit to Imo State to recommit to the completion of the bridge, railways and other on-going projects in the region. As a reciprocal action, the South East prominent leaders who gathered to receive him did not disappoint as they pledged their determination to remain in one indivisible country founded on justice, equity and fairness. It was also an opportunity to renew the bonds of friendship between the Federal Government and the South East as a new dawn has unfolded. It is therefore expected that this camaraderie will open a new vista of economic and political opportunities for the people of the South East.
As the President noted in his speech, the people of South East are famous for their enterprising nature, hard work and adventurous pursuit of legitimate business ventures, and the willingness of the central government to provide the enabling environment for them to thrive through the provision of infrastructure such as roads, seaports and railways will go a long way to stimulate the region’s economy.
With the signs of inclusion of the South East in the governance structure of the Federation, as exemplified with the president’s visit to Imo State, there is no doubt that the future looks bright and there is a glimmer of hope for peaceful resolution of grievances. In practical terms the visit of Mr. President symbolises an extension of an olive branch to the South East, and for all agitators to sheathe their swords and work towards supporting the President to deliver on the general expectations of his hosts.
Some of the expectations include the quest to produce the next President of Nigeria after President Muhammadu Buhari, creation of an additional State in the South East to bring them at parity with other geo-political zones, tackling erosion menace in the zone and addressing the dilapidated infrastructure such as Federal roads, as well as siting Federal Government institutions and amenities as it obtains in Kaduna, Jos, and Lagos.
The visit also coincided with the period in the South East history when the agitations and discontentment among the youths and the people of the South East had reached their pitch levels.
These agitations unfortunately culminated into violence that has claimed many lives, but with the assemblage of who-is-who in the region and the jaw-jaw with President Muhammadu Buhari, it is hoped that peace for which the region is known will continue to prevail.
As the country grapples with several security challenges, one can only implore the South East people to latch onto the olive branch extended to them with the visit of the President and ensure that the import of the visit and the opportunities it offers will not be frittered away or taken for granted.
President Muhammadu Buhari has time and again shown his willingness to develop all parts of the country equally. As against the 16 years political voyage of the South East under the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the difference between the two eras is that PDP used their tenure in office to play to the gallery, and missed all the opportunities to fastrack the infrastructural development of the region, whereas President Buhari came with a single-minded determination to lay a solid foundation for the country, and his achievements in the area of infrastructure, fight against corruption and economic development are visible for all to see. There is no denying the fact that under the Buhari administration the railways, roads, seaports, agriculture and economic diversification are receiving attention and their completion in the life of this administration will truly position Nigeria well in the comity of nations.