Sunday, 26 May, 2024




The multi billion dollars Lagos-Calabar Highway contract is the biggest and most ambitious of such contracts in Nigeria’s history and it was always going to attract great attention and commentaries. The current public fixation with it was guaranteed given the opaqueness and many questions which surround its award and rushed commencement of execution. The questions are legion, and the fact that satisfactory answers have not been proffered is profoundly disturbing.

Why, for example, did the Federal Government abandon the original route through the first ten or so kilometres of the road at its start in Victoria Island, Lagos, and embarked on a very controversial new route resulting in the destruction of otherwise secure properties at avoidable huge costs and destruction of livelihoods? Why was there no competitive bidding for such a strategic, generational project? When was the environment impact assessment (EIA) done, if at all? What is the exact total cost of the project? Why is it a priority of Tinubu’s government, all factors considered, including the fact that it is a grand duplication of the unfinished East-West Road and, as between Victoria Island and Epe, a duplication of the equally coastal Lekki-Epe highway?

There are just too many questions and for which Dave Umahi the Minister for Works did not provide any answer, and when he tried to do so sadly did not make much sense. The discerning public and the main opposition politicians expectedly took the Federal Government to task. And it was bad enough that Mr. Umahi was not making much sense, such as in his claim of the existence of an EIA, a necessarily very public process but which no one knew when it was purportedly done. What was well beyond the pale was his response to Peter Obi. Instead of sticking to politics, since he seems incapable of speaking or comporting himself professionally, he deviated into dog-whistling and ethnic-baiting Ndigbo, accusing Peter Obi of inciting them into hatred of Tinubu’s government.

Peter Obi in our view essentially only accused the Federal Government of gross misplacement of priorities with the coastal road project, and what that had to do with Ndigbo that Mr. Umahi had to drag them into his response to Mr. Obi beggars belief. It was most dishonest, cowardly and dangerous of Mr. Umahi to divert into ethnic baiting his own Igbo nationality in the course of rebutting Mr. Obi. The other major opposition figure, Atiku Abubakar, has since gone ahead to publish a much more trenchant criticism of the project, pointedly accusing President Tinubu of corruption on the matter. Not only has Mr. Umahi kept mute in the face of Atiku’s questioning of the integrity of the persons involved in the project, including himself the concerned Minister, even if indirectly, he did not see why Atiku’s Fulani ethnicity must be dragged into the verbal altercation. Again, weeks before the issues came to a head with the impending commencement of the project Afenifere (or at least a group identifying as such) had published a detailed criticism and also accused President Tinubu of corrupt motives in pushing ahead the project with indecent haste. And Mr. Umahi did not see in it an instigation of Yoruba people against the Tinubu Presidency, nor did he suggest such motives against notable Lagos indigenes and leaders of some affected coastal communities on the Lekki-Epe corridor who have complained against the project or its impact.

The League of Anambra Professionals is a community development oriented organization and we do not concern ourself with partisan political considerations. But this do not close our eyes from, and drawing attention to, egregious misdeeds of political actors and organisations which are inimical to community and national development. It is against this backdrop that we find it noteworthy that it seems to be a policy of the APC to not only deny Ndigbo their due but also cynically enable dog-whistling and setting their neighbours against them. They bore with equanimity the greatest brunt of President Buhari’s unspeakably retrogressive nepotism. As if this was not enough, the last general elections in Lagos State witnessed a systematic violent harassment of Ndigbo on a scale unseen since the Civil War, with vast numbers of them and those perceived as being of the ethnicity denied their right to vote.

In all this, not only did the APC and its leaders not disclaim the evils perpetrated in their name and for which they were supposedly the beneficiaries, they went on to reward with plum appointments some of the biggest culprits like Mr. Bayo Onanuga. It would thus appear that anti-Igbo rhetoric is a badge of honour and a step to promotion in APC, so much so that some of the Igbo lickspittles in the party like Mr. Umahi outdo themselves in their gratuitous denigration of their kith and kin. It is a sad commentary, in the foregoing vein, that Mr. Umahi has made a career out of nurturing of divisions amongst Ndigbo as well as between them and other ethnic nationalities.

As Governor of Ebonyi State Mr. Umahi made a habit of brainwashing the ordinary people of the state that their fellow Ndigbo from the other South-East states were responsible for their under development. It would be recalled that it was the same Umahi who resisted the location of a new police zonal headquarters in Anambra State, advancing as his reason the drivel that Anambra State indigenes have too much money and that Ebonyi State indigenes were not comfortable that their state was grouped under the same police zonal command. Reasonable people would wonder what the wealth of Anambra State indigenes had to do with the location of a police zonal office. And when asked about Igbo agenda especially regarding quest for a restructuring of the Nigerian polity, Umahi disclaimed it and claimed knowledge of only the ‘Ebonyi agenda’. His latest dart only serves to expose Ndigbo to further calumny and hatred and must not go unchallenged.

Dave Umahi was in the main wrongly ignored by the Igbo leadership as he stoked divisions and intra-Igbo hatred from his perch as the Emperor of Ebonyi, in the course of which he propagated such inanities like the former President Buhari being the greatest Nigerian leader. Now that Tinubu has given him a national stage which is proving too big and sophisticated for him, and clearly disconcerted if not disorientated by legitimate questions over the controversial mammoth project under his watch, Mr. Umahi thinks that his best evasive tactic is indulgence in ethnic baiting of Ndigbo. If Ohaneze Ndigbo has any relevance then they not only must have a word with Mr. Umahi but insist that he tenders a public apology not only to Ndigbo but to all Nigerians for deceiving and trying to distract them from insistence on their rights as citizens to question how their money is being utilized especially on such an unprecedentedly grand scale.

Chijioke Okoli, SAN; Orji Nnewi
President, League of Anambra Professionals



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