Gradually some progressive-minded Nigerians are beginning to appreciate the precarious position of the South East geopolitical zone in the Nigerian scheme of things and are desirous to redress the anomaly.
This results from the recent passage of the South East Development Commission Bill by the Senate.
But then, this will depend on whether the House of Representatives will concur with the Senate in passing the bill, and whether President Muhammadu Buhari will give assent to it.
For years, the people of the South East have been complaining of neglect and abandonment by Nigeria, particularly in relation to the devastation of the area, during the Nigerian civil war that was fought between 1967 and 1970, where the zone was made the battleground. But nobody had listened to them.
The three ‘Rs’ – reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war-ravaged South East proclaimed by former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, at the end of the war, was a mere exercise in nomenclature, as nothing concrete was done by the federal government to either truly reconcile the aggrieved or injured South Easterners with the rest of other Nigerians, or to rehabilitate them, not talk of reconstructing the many damaged infrastructures in the area.
As a matter of fact, the only noticeable rehabilitation which the people of the South East actually enjoyed from the Nigerian federal government was the reduction of every one of them to twenty pounds.
In other words, for the people of the South East, no matter what they had in their bank account before the civil war, what they were entitled to access from the account at the end of the war was twenty pounds or forty naira.
And in order to ensure that the people of the South East were excluded from the commanding height of state economy, the Nigerian federal government decided to auction out the national assets to people outside the zone, who then had the means or resources to buy them.
In the same spirit of reconciliation, virtually all the South Easterners who served in the Nigerian armed forces and the police before the civil war were summarily disengaged at the end of the war and their entitlements withheld.
Also, both private and public institutions in the zone – houses, schools, hospitals and clinics, bridges as well as other social infrastructures destroyed during the war, were left unattended to. These were to be rebuilt through self-help efforts.
It is not by accident that there is no asset of national significance in the entire South East zone, or that the people of South East were for years excluded from the top echelons of the Armed Forces and the Police, or not considered good to be President of Nigeria. These are deliberate policies aimed at excluding the people from the scheme of things in the country.
When some young men and women begin to protest against these injustices and see Biafra as a rallying point, some people think they are irresponsible or mentally deranged. But they are not. It is the system itself that makes them behave the way they currently behave, while the only way to cure that irresponsibility or derangement is to redress the systematic anomaly.
Perhaps, the South East Development Commission Bill may be a step towards redressing some of these anomalies if it is concurrently passed by the House of Representatives, assented to by the President and the federal government begins to implement and to fund it appropriately.