WHEN in 2003, a Lagos-based lawyer, Femi Kayode, in a debate on who owns Lagos, said it was owned by the Yorubas, he advised Igbo people to go to Igboland and develop their place. The late Igbo leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu had in several occasions, advised ndi Igbo to take their businesses and investments home for security reasons. Some heeded to the advice, some did not.
Last year, Arewa youths gave Igbo people living in northern parts of Nigeria an ultimatum to leave the north. It attracted criticisms both from within and outside the country. Just recently, some Yoruba people in Lagos, held a protest against the ndi igbo in Lagos, telling them to go to Igbo land and build their own Lagos.
Some people received that news with shock .The shocking thing about it is that ndi Igbo, over the years, enjoyed a cordial relationship with the Yoruba. Come to think of it, why is it that Igbo people don’t heed to advice? They have huge investments all over the country and abroad and at any slight provocation, their investments are targeted and destroyed. The ‘abandoned property’ experience of the civil war should have thought Igbo a lesson.
During various crises which occurred in different parts of the country, especially in the northern parts, Igbo businessmen/ investors were the worst hit. Some came home and started life afresh having had their shops, houses, burnt down. Some of them lost patronages and their businesses crumbled.
Senator, representing Anambra North Senatorial Zone, Senator Stella Oduah, in an interview she granted to some pressmen in Abuja, last year, called on all South Easterners to bring some of their investments back home to develop the South -East region.
She particularly spoke to Anambra State indigenes and said that any wealthy Anambra person who refused to invest in the region was not only doing a disservice to the region in general but the state in particular.
She said that one could only be said to be wealthy if the people around such individual felt and benefited from the wealth.
Speaking on the need to invest at home, the senator explained that her campaign project ‘Akulueuno’ is a prosperity sharing gospel that the South -East must adopt for their well being, as well as the growth and development of the area. She added that ‘Akulueuno’ is a concept that encourages indigenes to think of their homes in their investments.
“It is not just the right thing to do, it is economically viable to invest at home, particularly for those from the South East and Anambra in particular. We have the enabling community, we have the population and current government initiatives have provided enabling environment. So, what we need is to bring back our investments, our commercial abilities home”.
Senator Oduah was of the view that, “What we have outside the South- East zone should be replicated in the zone. We need to start domesticating our investments so we can help our people. We will help in improving the poverty level, we will help in creating jobs, we will help in growing our domestic economy…”
She explained that in doing so, “we would be doing what is termed shared prosperity. In doing so, we are doing what is termed Akulueuno,”
Oduah itemised the magnitude of wealth controlled by Igbo people , particularly ndi Anambra and said that according to statistics, one out of every four industries in Nigeria belonged to an individual from Anambra State and one out of every importer or exporter is from Anambra State. We also know that one out of every five successful businessman or woman is from Anambra State.
“The gains from that investment, if we can channel just 20 percent of that home would be enormous. We would create massive employment, we would create massive mentorship for the young ones and we would have a society that will be the envy of all. So, my advocacy is to encourage all Anambarians, all South Easterners to think backwards (home) on their investments.”
There is need for more Igbo people to think homewards so that people at home can feel their impact, so that people can grow. It is only by doing that that one can say that somebody is a wealthy man because it is only by doing that that one can say yes, he or she is an Igbo man and he or she has made it”
She notes, “In my book, you haven’t made it if you haven’t invested what you have invested outside in your community. Any wealth that does not reach home is a lost wealth as far as I am concerned and it is a useless one. There must be semblance of that in your state. We must help the state to grow, we must help our people to grow, we must share our prosperity, we must be involved in Akulueuno concept,” she said.
The senator advised Ndi Igbo not to show their wealth only by building mansions or showing off when they organise or are invited to events. She said that investing in the region would also be profitable, adding that there is an enabling environment and access to markets. She argued that Anambra State is safer than Lagos State and pointed out that the international airport in Enugu provides access to international markets.
According to her, Anambra State is putting enabling environment for its people to come and invest, there are tax incentives in place to encourage investments. “Most importantly, there is security .We have better security in Anambra State than you have in Lagos State . In Anambra State, you do not have violence like you have in Lagos State. We have lacuna on infrastructure; rail, airports and so on, but then, the state is in joint venture to build the cargo airport’.
She noted that we have an Airport in Enugu. “Enugu has an international market, so you can export. The federal government needs to put inland container terminal in Onitsha so that importers can from Onitsha, get their goods without having to go to Lagos or Port Harcourt.”
Another senator, Ben Uwajimogu, representing Okigwe Senatorial zone, Imo State,in a separate occasion, advised Igbo people to invest more in their homeland rather than outside. He said investing more at home would fast-track the development of the South East geo-political zone, the homestead of Igbo people.“Let us not forget that the Igbo are in the forefront of self-development. So, what I am saying is that we should begin to establish industries here, invest more in the South East geopolitical zone immediately.”
Uwajimogu was of the view that investing in their homeland, Igbo in diaspora would be contributing their quota to the efforts at addressing the challenges and creating fallback platforms for themselves and the future generations, when they return home.
”Such investments need not be in billions to create the desired result, but they must be borne out of “thinking East and thinking home, so that we can develop the economic latent potential of the zone. If you look at the developments we have in Igboland, much of it have always been driven by the people themselves.”
The Igbo apex socio-political-cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, had on various occasions, also advised Igbos to invest their wealth at home.
Ohaneze Youth Council (OYC) has given reasons why this would make the region the economic hub of Nigeria.
In a statement by its Secretary General, Okwu Nnabuike and National Vice President, Obinna Achionye, when the Lagos State Government embarked on demolition of some “illegal” structures, the group decried how Igbos lost their investments estimated at ”over N63 trillion” in the North to fire and violence. They lamented that the demolition exercise ordered by Lagos State Government has affected Igbo people.
The statement added: “Igbo Youths mourn our Youths who fell victim during the operation Python Dance and those killed in the North East. We call on the federal government to protect all citizens no matter the circumstances. We also call on our brothers outside Igboland to relocate their business headquarters to the South East in order to make the region economic hub of Nigeria”
The governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano is not left out in the campaign. In many gatherings he attended both in Anambra State and outside the state, he urged the people of the state to come home and invest.
For instance, at the commissioning of an ultra modern filling station in Awka,( Stanel ),he thanked the chief executive , Uzochukwu, for coming home to put Anambra on the path of development and assured him and other investors of enabling business environment in the state throughout his tenure as the executive governor.
He commended the businessman for his giant strides to have acquired the Chicken Republic franchise in the entire South East region, and for employing over 700 youths before the take off of what he described as the “first to none mega complex” where everything is available.
A business mogul, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, was of the view that Igbo people need to learn from the mistakes they made during the Biafra war.
“Igbos lost their properties during the civil war and we’re given 20 pounds to each person after their properties were forcefully taken away from them, they suffered marginalization, deprivation, yet, they have not learnt their lessons.
Heaven helps those who help themselves. It’s high time Igbos came home, they should emulate the likes of Innoson, Reverend father Ejike Mbaka and others who came home and invested in the South East.
The government should create an enabling environment for investors to invest. The federal government should have her presence felt in the South East. Security should be enhanced; the infrastructural development should be improved on.
In the words of Senator Stella Oduah, “Alaba and other markets in Lagos are our people’s market. We should have a huge portion of that domesticated in Onitsha”. When our people invest largely at home, they will build our own Lagos in Anambra,
When the Igbo investors invest in the South-East zone, people from other zones and outside the country would definitely come down to Anambra State, to the South East zone to transact their businesses, cutting across agricultural produce, motor and bicycle parts, arts and crafts, mineral resources, among others. Both the state and the zone would not only be a business hub but a heaven in earth. When the tourists potentials in the states in the South East are developed , people will be coming for sightseeing and revenue generation will increase and we will have our own Lagos here.
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