Lagos…Abuja…The Nigeria We Know
The bumpy twisted roads of Nnewi had just gotten on the last nerves of our camera man turned driver, as we raced to Inyaba in Anambra State, Nigeria to commence filming of a new talk show ahead of Nigeria’s 2015 elections in February next year.
Two things struck me, first, the roof of the car as we crashed into what used to be paved roads, then the unbelievable backwardness of infrastructure (particularly roads, walkways, buildings and waterways) in parts of Eastern Nigeria. It was such a rude awakening from the watered dream that my entire life in Lagos had provided. Questions flew into my head with every bump and upheaval, and answers were steadily in short supply as we drove through nearly 5km of non-existent roads covered in waste and trash.
My journey which started off from the airport in Enugu State to Anambra State via road, ended in a quick return road trip from Anambra State to Owerri in Imo State. Videos of roads being commissioned by various governors flashed through my head and I kept asking myself, if there was any reason why development in this region was so stagnant, underwhelming and completely non-existent.
Some people would point to the priorities of the elected leaders in Eastern Nigeria, from Mr. Theodore Orji, Mr. Martin Elechi, Mr. Sulivan Chime, Mr. Willie Obiano to Chief Rochas Okorocha, these are men who have had to take the reins of states that may have fallen off the radar of social and economic development over the years.
Eastern Nigeria has always assumed the role of the abandoned people. Since the end of the civil war in 1970, a lot of people have struggled to come to terms with what has more or less created an institutional divide between Igbos and the rest of the country. Whether this has contributed to the absolute debacle of infrastructural management which is present in the eastern part of Nigeria, is yet to be seen. Allegations of careless plundering and looting of state resources have remained an issue not certainly exclusive to the eastern part of the country, but while areas like Lagos, Abuja and some will argue – Rivers and Cross-Rivers states have seen some measure of development (notice how I’ve completely excluded the states in Northern Nigeria), eastern states in Nigeria have stayed well within the reaches of structural despondency.
Chants of change and promises of turnarounds have filled the air as governor after governor outlines his own agenda for the state. Heavy duty vehicles including caterpillars, steam-rollers and cranes cruise in with determined drivers changing gears like they had wands attached to their vehicles. Several decades later and ironically, it seems quite realistic that only magic might save these states. While my concerns as a journalist and political writer are very vivid, Ekiti State recently proved in completely ruthless fashion that the people are more interested in infrastructure that is closer to the stomach than they are to long term development. Good healthcare in Nigeria is a joke that has lost its humour, however in Eastern Nigeria, it is a myth that remains untold.
Eastern Nigeria, may yet be a microcosm of the entire country, whose citizens at this time are probably twiddling thumbs impatiently and waiting for February, 2015. The question is and has always been – who does the cap really fit? A slogan adopted by General Sanni Abacha in the early 90’s in his bid for election and has always been the question on the lips of 160 million Nigerians.
The journey is undoubtedly wretched at the moment and while the end remains hopeful, Nigeria is the perfect story of what happens when endless hope, is all there is.