The Slow Economic Emancipation of Alaigbo
Since the Biafra-Nigeria war ended Alaigbo has been under tremendous manipulation by forces who fear that a resurgence Alaigbo is a threat to the unity of Nigeria. This more than any other machination has contributed to the economic malaise of Nigeria. Furthermore, the behind the curtain agreement by the winners made it difficult for Alaigbo to experience the type of federal presence both in terms of federal industrial allocation and infrastructural development that are prevalent in other regions. This un-gentleman agreement led to the seizure of Innoson Motors 25 containers despite the fact that the company was approved for importation of completely knocked down (CKD) parts, seizing and selling off of a large number of Igbo containers. I can write volumes on economic sabotage purposely perpetrated against Ndiigbo with the intention of impoverishing Ndiigbo and Alaigbo, however, the purpose of my article is to say that despite all planned efforts to under-develop Alaigbo, Alaigbo is finally gradually coming back at least economically.
In writing this article I reviewed information coming out of Nigeria regarding such issues as incidence of poverty, per capita income, educational attainment, maternal death, early childhood education and many other issues. I visited Alaigbo to ascertain the level of economic activities. I can say that based on my analysis of the information coming out of Nigeria and my personal experiences, Alaigbo is gradually grinding her way back. I used the word grinding her way back because if real and perceived insecurity of life in Alaigbo is discounted then Alaigbo would have been fully back. Investment which is a catalyst for economic development and economic well being does not do well in an insecure environment. Business men and women operate more effectively in a free environment. Freedom of movement is very important to business men and women. The desired level of economic activities will not be attained if people are afraid to move around freely to transact businesses.
I have read many times where some Ndiigbo said that they invested outside Alaigbo because of insecurity of lives in Alaigbo. To those people I say, tell us another story. Take for example Lagos, the city is a mega city and with that comes anonymity. It is easier to be spotted in a small city such as Nnewi or Owerri than Lagos. The cover of anonymity gives an individual the freedom to move freely than where one is known. In addition to anonymity, the law of averages works in favor of somebody in Lagos because of the population. Finally, open society that is prevalent in Alaigbo makes it easy for people to report crime than in closed societies. My friends from the other parts of Nigeria will always tell me that crime is more rampant in their areas, the difference is that they do not want to go to the press with the information. Contrast that attitude with that of a typical onye Igbo and you will know why perception can be reality sometimes. We have more Ndiigbo born outside Alaigbo than is the case with other Nigerians and that plays a strong role in the decision by such individuals to locate their industries outside Alaigbo. These individuals have soft spots for the areas outside Alaigbo where they were born and that makes the decision to invest in those areas less troubling.
I was very encouraged with what I observed and witnessed this time around in Alaigbo when I visited. I will start with Imo State. You will know the way people feel about any government by the level of excitement from the people. In Imo State the ‘feel good attitude’ is infectious. It reminded me about the first few months of Obama presidency when people thought that the new world order has finally come to be. Governor Okorocha has his work cut out for him because he can continue to feed into this frenzy but embarking on people oriented programs. When people feel good about themselves and their environment then they spend more money which in turn will spur more economic activities. So far Governor Okorocha has a lot of political capital to burn before he finds himself in a bind. In Anambra State, the level of economic activities has always been very high. Many people from Anambra State are seasoned business savvy people. The only disappointment I had about Anambra was the level of political discontent. I found myself defending Governor Obi to the chagrin of my hosts. Even some people in APGA are not happy with him. I have always liked Governor Obi and once I like somebody it takes a huge scandal to change me. I will still remind Governor Obi that his $50,000 pledge to Imo Farm Village in Virginia is still outstanding. In Enugu State, the Igbo Capital, Governor Chime has done a good job in the provision of infrastructure especially very good road network. The other day I Googled Enugu and took a virtual drive around Enugu and it was impressive. Like every politician Governor Chime has his share of detractors. That is natural in the political world. In Abia State and Ebonyi State, the story is different. That Abia State is not leading the other Igbo states in development is troubling. That Ebonyi state is not feeding the whole of West Africa is equally troubling. Hopefully, when SENEC comes into full existence some of these anomalies can be remedied.
Why Invest in Alaigbo
There are many reasons why investment in Alaigbo is not only a profitable venture but also a strategic move. The high concentration of educated and highly skilled people, highest per capita income (encourages consumption), high population density, highly mobile people, entrepreneurial people, fairly developed road network and technologically savvy people.
My Visit to Innoson Motors in Nnewi
My good friend Innocent Chukwuma arguable a foremost industrialist in Africa drove in from Enugu and met me at his factory in Nnewi. I was given a tour of the factory and that factory alone has positioned Alaigbo for the future. I have already posted the video clips of my visit previously.
Discussion with Engr. Chris Okoye, Chairman SENEC
I called Engr. Okoye to ascertain the status of SENEC. He said that the legal representatives from the south east states except Imo State met and drew the legal framework for the final take off of SENEC. For those who do not know what is SENEC, it stands for South East Nigeria Economic Commission. Please visit the web site at http://www.senec.org.ng/senec/. During the discussion Engr. Okoye said that 100 Igbo Men came to Alaigbo with Rapid Response System equipment and installed and are training umu Igbo to man the system. When I said that Alaigbo is gradually being emancipated economically it is because many more Ndiigbo are now thinking Alaigbo first.
Enugu International Airport
About a month ago there was very heated discussion about Enugu International airport. This came about because during one of our IWA meetings I as the DSG of Economic Institute of IWA complained that not much is being done about making Enugu International Airport a reality. A decision was taken by the governing council to invite the president of Ohanaeze and the PRO to discuss the issue among other issues. Coincidentally, after that heated decision we heard that the Airport will be closed for upgrade. The Airport was closed about the 15th of April for upgrade. Hopefully when it reopens by the end of the year it will open as a fully functional international airport.
Finally, in view of the perilous political, economic and security situation in the country it will be wise for Ndiigbo to continue to shore up Alaigbo economically, politically and to be able to secure Alaigbo in case the country decides to break up. We must not be caught unprepared.
Amadiebube Robert Mbama
DSG Economic Institute, Igbo world Assembly
DSG Economic Council, Conference of Igbo States in America
Chairman, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, USA District Society