By Obi Aguocha
Sir: As Nigeria marks 60 years of Independence from Britain; there is little or nothing to celebrate. Most of Nigeria’s peers in 1960 like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have left her behind. Every available development index from human capital development, gross domestic product, foreign reserves, local revenue and infrastructure are all pointing southwards. What is even more worrisome is that today, Nigeria is the official capital of poverty of the world. This had not always been the case. In 1964 or thereabout, the World Bank described the economy of Eastern Nigeria as one of the fastest growing economies in the world when M.I. Okpara was the Premier of Eastern Region.
The military incursion into political leadership in 1966 coupled with the Biafran War caused a major set back in the eastern economy and Nigeria as a whole. As things stand now, it is my view that only a subnational or regional economic development that would lead to a healthy competition that can bring out Nigeria from the present economic doldrums. I, therefore, propose that Igbos who are well known for their industry, hardwork and enterprising spirit should look back home and begin a collective development of the Igbo homeland. Our people both in the diaspora and outside Igboland but within Nigeria must begin to think about the prosperity of our Igbo homeland like the Jews all over the world are doing with Israel.
To start with, the five Igbo governors should as matter of urgency come up with an Economic Blue Print for Igboland. We must have industrial zones with good roads and electricity clearly mapped out to accommodate at least 500 new companies in each state totalling a minimum of 2,500 new companies. Once a company pays for their designated industrial plot, they must be issued with a Certificate of Occupancy within 48 hours. These companies would provide employment for our youths, especially the university graduates and generate tax income for the states. We should build at least five new open markets in each Igbo state in the fashion of Ariara market, Aba, Onitsha Main Market and Alaba International market, Lagos. The total number of such new markets would be at least 25 in Igboland. Governors should map out new layouts for housing estates comprising of flats in high-rise buildings, duplexes and bungalows that can accommodate at least one million households in each state.
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Once a person pays for his plot of land into a designated government bank account, he must get his Certificate of Occupancy within 48 hours. The government can also partner with the private sector to build new ultramodern shopping malls. These malls would attract visitors from all over West Africa to Igbo homeland. In the area of transportation, apart from placing emphasis on road infrastructure, the five state governments as a matter of urgency must commence the construction of light rail to connect each state capital. From there, other towns and strategic villages within the state can be connected. We must revive our commercial agriculture starting with our palm, cassava, yam, coconut, plantain and rice plantations. But this time, we should have agro-based industries that would add value to our raw farm products. We should also grow our animal husbandry. In the area of security, the governors of states in Igboland homeland should recruit able-bodied men and women into a subnational or regional security outfit to provide security.
Attention should also be paid to health and educational facilities, regarded as the bedrock of human capital development. I believe that all Igbos across the world should commit themselves to these projects similar to the way Catalonia people in Spain developed their region. I have no doubt in my mind that if all Igbos commit to this blue print, the economic prosperity of Igbo land would become unprecedented in Nigeria and lead to a healthy competition in other regions of the country just like it was in the 1950s and 1960s, which has remained Nigeria’s only glorious era.
Chief Obi Aguocha holds the traditional title of Udo Ji Agu-Ohuhu in Umuahia, Letters