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Tuesday 15 February 2022

The South-East Of Our Dreams

 The South-East Of Our Dreams

No good student of African history would tell the story of the African continent and miss the overwhelming magic of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara of the blessed memory, nor would anyone who is familiar with the history of Eastern Nigeria since the 1950s and 1960s overlook or dismiss Dr. Michael Okpara's enormous influence and developmental strides in the East, coupled with his political clout and sagacity in Nigeria.

The economy of Eastern Nigeria under Dr. Okpara, was the world's fastest developing and industrializing economy in 1964. Today, the designed absence of his purposeful leadership from the Nigerian Governmental Administration exemplifies the fundamental change, monumental carnage and abandonment of standards of merit and quality in our national affairs. The global alliance that helped to install incompetence, entrench ineptitude and nepotism has continued to abuse every strand of national cohesion and patriotism; thereby robbing the region of generations of selfless and visionary leaders.

Michael .I. Okpara's administration and generation of Eastern Nigeria represented the pinnacle of Nigerian progress. It indeed, was a testament to the unequalled and unparalleled local thinking but global action of the eroded era. By 1965, five years after Okpara assumed the premiership of Eastern Nigeria, the region had become the world's fastest expanding economy, surpassing Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. It was the realization of Okapra's singular vision, in which agricultural and industrial expansion were the twin pillars around which the Eastern economy was built.

In the agricultural sector, his plans focused on the creation of farm communities as the foundation for food crops (such as rice and poultry farming) and the establishment of oil palm, cocoa, and cashew plantations for export. His singular vision made a far away country like Malaysia the highest export of palm oil in the world today, while Eastern Nigeria that taught them, are buy from them today. An Error!

Along with the agricultural projects, there were a number of industrial projects strategically scattered across Eastern Nigeria from Enugu through Abakaliki to Aba and from Owerri to Nnewi. His main achievements include the opening of the Universal Insurance Company's headquarters building in Enugu on March 22, 1964. The Nigerian Gas Factory in Emene, Enugu was commissioned on May 10th of the same year. The opening of Aluminium factory at Port-Harcourt was on 16th May. On August 24th, the Glass Factory became operative in Port-Harcourt. On October 18th, the Asbestos Cement factory was opened in Emene, Enugu too. On November 9th, the foundation of the Central Bank was laid in Port-Harcourt. On November 30th, the Golden Guinea Breweries was commissioned at Umuahia, for the production of lager beer and allied products. All these happened in the same year, 1964.

Infact, Okpara made it a priority to build infrastructure and businesses in each of the nine states in the former eastern region, now one of three regions in the newly independent Nigeria. And because each region was in charge of its own spendings, known as fiscal federalism, Okpara could use tax from agricultural produce to fund projects. Some of the significant ones included the Trans Amadi Industrial Complex in Port Harcourt, Obudu Cattle Ranch and Resort, and the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation’s rubber and palm plantations. But Okpara was also one of the founding fathers of the prestigious University of Nigeria and key to the launching of cement factories, breweries and textile mills.

Apparently, with the travesty of justice in the leadership we have today in Nigeria, where one hear some of the politicians complaining bitterly of the Indigenous People Of Biafra(IPOB) destroying Southeast economy, it will seem as if IPOB started the day after the end of the war. It appears as if IPOB were the people that closed Ulonnam Palm and other companies. A complaint devoid of reason and emanating from a position of greed and selfishness. These crop of leaders has debased our society before our eyes.

To say the truth, the Southeast we have today was never the type of Southeast Dr. Michael Okpara craved for. It is in all certainty, not the Southeast of our dream.

Dr Okpara certainly deserves intense study, if we are ever going to appreciate where the rain started to beat us, given our current circumstances.

We need the Southeast of Dr. M. I. Okpara (Biafra), not the one we have today. It is only in a restored Biafra sovereignty that we hope for such South-east again. That is why we have said it is either Biafra or everything in Nigeria dies!

Written by Chidiebere Obulose

Edited by Chibueze Daniel

For Family Writers Press International

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