EDITORIAL: Buhari In The South East

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President Muhammadu Buhari has just concluded a two-day trip to the South East. He may have been on his way to Anambra State to participate in the last stretch of the political campaign for the gubernatorial election that held yesterday. Beyond the political hue to that long awaited visit to the geopolitical zone and regardless of the reason for the mission, it is pertinent to note that the significance of the stop overs in Enugu, the regional capital, and Ebonyi State are not lost to political observers, particularly in the light of perceptions that there is no love lost between this administration and Ndigbo. The conviviality that was noticeable during the visit must have eased whatever tensions, real or imagined, there were in the relationship that existed between the President, his administration and the people of the south east.

On the lighter side of the trip, it was a pleasant sight to see the President donned in Igbo traditional regalia again after almost three years. In this instance, surrounded by the crème de la crème of the traditional institution in the South East with the Ofo, the symbol of his newly acquired authority, in his hand. There is wisdom in the choice of the title in keeping with the accepted norm that wise men always come from the East. To that extent, therefore, he must not allow the importance of the traditional title, ‘Ochioha Ndigbo 1(Nke Izizi) to be lost in the euphoria of the moment. The meaning of that title, literarily translated, means the First Leader of the Igbo. That title was carefully chosen in view of the allegations that the Buhari administration does not see the Igbo as part of his leadership’s sphere of influence. It could have been a surreal reminder that in the present democratic dispensation, after all said and done, the Igbo have only one leader, President Muhammadu Buhari.

That visit can also be classified as a fence-mending adventure after what is appropriately described as a clash between the impish rascality of Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) under Nnamdi Kanu and the sledgehammer response of the Military when the python danced. Buhari is not just a political leader; he is also an elder. In African cultural setting, elders don’t just make peace; they initiate the processes that engender peace. Ndigbo, with the massive welcome accorded him during the short but memorable visit, have proved that whatever angst they feel is barely skin deep.

The President used the occasion to reassure the Igbo that all is well and the people believed him in the expectation that previous miscalculations or disadvantages, in whatever form or shape, will be remedied in due course. In a recent publication by his media office, it was suggested that Ndigbo are getting their fair share in the current dispensation. Obviously, records and, indeed, figures do not lie. But Ndigbo want their voices to be heard at the topmost hierarchy of the administration, especially within the military and security high command. The President has promised that Ndigbo will not be left out the in scheme of things. As an elder, we give him the benefit of credibility in the assured hope that actions will match words and promises.

It is unlikely that President Buhari travelled by road to Abakaliki and Onitsha. If he did not, he must have missed a golden opportunity to apprise, first-hand, the horror infrastructure in that part of this country constitute. It is a nightmare the people have been living with. If he had refused the Chopper ride and rode instead in his presidential limo, the message would have been resoundingly delivered. However, we are satisfied that he may have seen a glimmer of it from the air and that is enough to spur a presidential action that will alleviate the feeling of neglect the people harbour.

Again, his hosts must have brought up the issue of the Second Niger Bridge amid the clinging of cutleries and glasses. That project, over the years, has become bogged down by needless political intrigues and gerrymandering. This time, we have every reason to be upbeat that finally, a Daniel has come to fair judgement, to do justice to a cause that had lingered unnecessarily. When considered, the trip, in our opinion, was one that will redefine political affiliations and relationships in the days ahead. As part of consultations for the visit, one of the South East governors, though from another political party, had suggested that the President deserved a second tenure. As 2019 approaches, it will be exciting to see how it all plays out.