Credit: Thiday

Opinion: Second Niger Bridge, Four More Years Of Pains And Tears

In March this year, the PDP campaign organization led by President Goodluck Jonathan went to Onitsha end of the Niger Bridge to continue the endless and primitive politics of building a second Niger Bridge. The political promise to build the second Niger Bridge to lessen the burden of commuters and boost commercial activities in Igboland and Nigeria has been going on since former President Obasanjo’s days in office. The political promise continued with the late President Yar’Adua of  blessed memory with no avail. The matter featured prominently in President Jonathan’s campaign in 2011 and in March this year the Nollywood Actors went to Onitsha to kick off the project, promising that it will be delivered in four years, through Public Private Partnership (PPP). The implication of this is that Igbo are being made to finance the construction of the bridge as they would be placed in bondage for the 25 years the construction company will tax users to collect the huge N117 billion we are told the bridge will cost to build.
Now, as we wait for 2018 when the second Niger Bridge will be delivered according to President Jonathan, traffic chaos will continue to be the hallmark of that very important bridge till 2018. On Friday 25th April I was returning to Lagos around 9.00am and on reaching Onitsha, I was held for close to four hours just to access the bridge. Those coming from Asaba were held also and as I drove past them I noticed the frustration on the faces of travelers, the trailers, the tankers, luxury bus drivers. Consequently I figured that their sufferings will go on for four more years assuming the Nollywood Actors in PDP get their acts together and keep the long-awaited promise. I have been trying to imagine what commuters will go through in the next four years while waiting for this bridge? I have been trying to figure out what will be lost by Onitsha/Nnewi business axis in the next four years. I have been trying to imagine how many people will die on that corridor before the bridge will be delivered in four years. I have been thinking of what the South East and South South will lose in four years while waiting for the bridge. The plight of millions of Igbo and non Igbo who travel home for Christmas and Easter holidays are better imagined in the next four years. I learnt that what I witnessed on that bridge that day is now the daily picture of chaos, tension and endless suffering that Igbo have to endure.
When I returned to Lagos, I was disturbed by the news that the Minister of Works said that work on the bridge has stopped because necessary Environmental Impact assessment was not done. I smelt rat. The minister’s position was to be countered later in far away Rome by the former Governor of Anambra State who is neither the Minister of Works nor the spokesman of the Jonathan government. I knew it was an extension of the queer and nebulous politics that is being promoted in Igboland today, which promises Ndigbo a lot of placebos while other sections cart away the choice fruits of governance. Even as Julius Berger were to firm up Obi’s rebuttal, I smelt rat. The minister who is supervising the ministry of work can’t be wrong. I knew these were deft efforts to manage what is certainly an ugly development but I want to keep my fingers crossed.
What is happening today on this bridge is the price to pay for the inability of Igbo leaders to put a stop to politics of the stomach and play strategic politics. Igbo leaders through greed and political dishonesty have mortgaged the future of Ndigbo and turned them into beggars in a country where they are critical stakeholders. After the PDP convention that produced General Obasanjo in Jos in 1999 Igbo political pundits figured that if the South West takes 8 years, and the North picks 8years, then by 2015 it will be the turn of the Igbo in PDP to produce the President of Nigeria. Next year is 2015 and Igbo do not belong to PDP and neither are they in APC. The chance to be relevant in 2015 was lost when Igbo sold to President Jonathan politics in 2011. Now as the 2015 General elections draw near Igbo leaders have been shouting from the rooftop that to elect President GEJ is a desideratum for Ndigbo. Now tell me where this decision will lead Igbo politically in Nigeria.
A people must blow their own trumpet. A people who seek for a better future must lay the foundation today. When a people lack vision, there is no hope for such a people. Today the Nollywood Actors in PDP called politicians have tricked Igbo once again on the Second Niger Bridge and the target is 2015 general elections. In August last year the same Igbo leaders were made fools in Enugu Airport without them knowing when they were gathered like people without heads to witness the so-called official opening of Enugu ‘International’ Airport. You need to see our people dancing atilogwu music in the name of celebrating an International Airport that is not by any standard or stretch of imagination an International Airport. After the dance of shame I decided to travel to Nnewi via Enugu Airport to see things for myself. Can you imagine what I saw? These clowns just changed few things and repainted the old and outdated Airport and invited the world to come and celebrate mediocrity. Again, Igbo was shortchanged, and scammed for 2015.
You can take this or leave it, Igbo has paraded the worst form of governors in Nigeria since 1999 except two or three of them. No wonder bandits and kidnappers seized the entire South East while the governors looked helpless. Governor Peter Obi had the capacity to build the Second Niger Bridge, and he would have solved the biggest problem facing South East and South South in terms of land transportation. South East governors would have pulled resources together to build that very important Bridge and take the glory but political timidity and lack of vision beclouded their sense of reasoning. Governor Fashola built a longer bridge in Lagos and so did Governor Uduaghan of Delta State in building the Asaba Airport. All we have from the present loud political players in the East is politics of self and stomach and in such a selfish position, they accept anything so long as it would enrich them in the long run.
44 years after the Nigeria/Biafra war have been a long time for Ndigbo to use their tongues to count their teeth. This slave mentality must stop forthwith. This idea of blowing trumpets for other people to be President in a nation that belongs to all of us is unacceptable in the 21st Century. Nigeria still stands on a tripod but political traders in Igboland have consistently made efforts to remove the third leg that belongs to them for politics of the stomach.
I suggest that a radical revolution is needed in Igboland to clear the Augean Stable and replace them with men and women who play politics of ideas and advancement. Collective politics must take over personal politics for personal gains.
Joe Igbokwe

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