A few years ago, in 2011, there was great fervor for the establishment of an economic commission of the Southeast States to harness their human and material resources for the rapid economic development and industrialization of the Southeast, long marginalized through deliberate federal policies as a consequence of the Nigeria-Biafra War. The idea of an entity to bring together the famed Igbo industry, smarts and ingenuity to change the face of Igbo land to a highly developed place brimming with economic opportunity was noble. As the Igbo have a tendency for total support of anything they perceive to b e in their economic interest, it was only a matter of time before a tremendous well of goodwill would open up for SENEC, provided its leadership steered the organization aright. SENEC therefore had a responsibility to draw up a strategic plan, objectives for attaining the goals of the strategic plan, a timeline, and funding mechanisms.
Any big thing must invariably start with a strategic plan segmented into time periods (5 years, 10, 15 and so on) during which goals are set and implemented with monitoring mechanisms. The great projects of the past century—The Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe following the devastation of World War II, the rebuilding of Japan after the World War, and a few other gigantic projects—were planned and completed that way. It is disturbing that 4 years after the founding of SENEC, not much has been done to fulfill its great promise as the economic beacon of hope for the Southeast. That the Southeast brims with smart people ready to apply their brain power to the economic and industrial uplifting of their region, there can be no doubt. They only need visionary people to lead the way with ideas and attributes of competence and ability.
It is possible that political constraints are responsible for the SENEC’s inaction, but then SENEC was conceived as an economic organization impervious to political influence. If economics were the guiding principle of SENEC’s leadership, then the vaunted Igbo capital, applied in a humongous manner to develop every corner of Nigeria, can certainly be wooed to channel some of the capital to the Southeast. Whenever that happens, assuming SENEC comes out of the current funk it’s in, competent leadership must be in place to make the correct decisions regarding how that capital may be effectively deployed. Does SENEC have development plans, for example, for building new 21st century cities in Igboland, industrial estates, aviation hubs, rail hubs and riverport hubs?
The way it is done in developed countries is for some infrastructure to be laid—roads, electricity, etc—and investors moving in to put up residential buildings and service facilities. A rail line runs through the Southeast right now following Jonathan’s rehabilitation of the Eastern Rail Line. There is no reason why SENEC cannot identify a location along that rail line or close to it (the Azumini area which is only about 20 nautical miles to the sea is a great area), sign an MOU with the appropriate authorities, and kick start a process of developing the place. I am convinced that the Igbo folks who built Abuja would want to be a part of it. The population of the Southeast and their kith and kin in Rivers and Delta states should easily support massive colonization projects out of virgin territory. SENEC’s current leadership may have to step aside for new and imaginative leadership.