By Ignatius Arinze
The nature of the relationship of the South-east geo- political zone and President Muhammadu Buhari has been a subject of much speculation. The often quoted line is that there is no love lost between PMB and the people of the zone. This feeling gained currency because the zone had been a stronghold of the former ruling party, the then People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Indeed, during the election of 2015 which brought President Buhari to power, the zone remained staunchly PDP because the political elites in the zone who cut their political teeth in the PDP which came into being in 1998 as a national political movement, worked very hard to preserve their political territory and prevent the hurricane of the APC that swept other parts of the country.
While, indeed, support for President Buhari was lukewarm in the South-east zone, it needs to be said that the zone was not unmindful of the Change that was sweeping the country and the fact that the dominant days of the PDP as a political force were nearing an end.
Some discerning people in the zone knew this and worked hard for Buhari and the APC. The result was that while Buhari and the APC did not win in the zone, the zone likewise did not give the PDP the kind of landslide votes it was used to, which gave it resounding victories in previous national elections.
The recent visit of the President to the zone, to flag off some important projects constructed by the Ebonyi State government and later to Anambra State to grace the final campaign rally of the APC governorship candidate, marked a turning point in the political and social relationship between Buhari and the South-east.
President Buhari may have discovered that some of his most ardent admirers and those who believe in the popular Change mantra of his government and the APC, are in the South-east and that contrary to the impression of antagonism and dislike, the President, indeed, has many admiring eyes in the area who simply want him to understand their needs better.
PMB and the Southeast can make a lot of hay if the President and the zone can create mutual understanding. A lot of misinformation about the person and aims of the President has been bandied about by certain characters who are determined to feather their nest by ensuring that suspicion and distance is maintained by the President and the zone peopled by development enthusiasts.
The South-east zone supports the policies and programmes of the government. The prevailing view is that it serves their spirit of commerce, industry and entrepreneurship to support Change a la Buhari. The old ways of doing things by cronyism, corruption and dependence on foreign goods and services, has done incalculable damage to the spirit of enterprise of the people. There is growing confidence that the strict application of reforms by PMB will energise and propel the people of the zone to greater achievements that would benefit the whole country.
Unlike in the past, recognition and appreciation are daily being accorded manufacturers and industrialists from the zone, while the small producers are also doing well. The established shoe and garment manufacturers of Aba, in Abia State, are getting customers as never before, including top political and economic elites. The years of denigration of “Aba Made’’ is slowly giving way to “Buy Made in Nigeria.’’ This is a radical and welcome transformation. The important thing here is that economic nationalism is taking route in the country and PMB is responsible!
Recently, the Nigerian Army took delivery of operational vehicles made by Innosson Motor Industries in Nnewi, Anambra State. This would have been unthinkable five years ago with the contract award craze pervading the public sector of the economy. Then, the contract for the operational vehicles would have been awarded to a foreign firm without any effort made to check whether the local manufacturers can do anything. Thus under PMB, Nigeria is in the throes of positive change and industrialization.
Also, the need to earn foreign exchange through export has spurred fruit and vegetable cooperatives in Anambra State with the support of the state government. These cooperatives now package vegetables for export to the UK and the European Union. Reports show that the cooperative societies and the state government partnering them are making good profit in foreign exchange. The important issue here is that the culture of export is taking root in our economy and there is the realisation that we can earn foreign exchange from sources other than crude oil.
PMB has also discovered that in the South-east, there are millions of Nigerians who see him as a champion and who are ready and willing to partner with him to make Nigeria a productive economy and a leading light for Africa of the future.
The recent peaceful election in Anambra State won by the party of the soil, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is a testimony to the democratic credentials of President Buhari and more importantly, a sign that PMB has respect for the views and preferences of the South-east people. There are some people who expected that because of his love for his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the President would have used all the powers at his disposal to ensure victory for his party. PMB did no such thing, showing that the President of Change is a democrat and a disciplinarian who would not take actions that would undermine both democracy and national security.
The even-handedness shown by the President in the Anambra governorship election is an indication that Mai Gaskiya is, indeed, a man of integrity and is not desperate for power. As some analysts have said, the real winner of the governorship election in Anambra State is PMB. President Buhari has displayed real statesmanship and respect for the basic tenets of democracy, that is, the people’s choice.
President Buhari’s integrity and love for fairness, ensured that peace reigned after the governorship election in the state. This is a radical and pleasant departure from the usual situation in Anambra State. This writer would not be surprised if, in gratitude for his fairness and fatherly role, the people of Anambra State, nay the South-east in general, cast their lot with PMB in the 2019 elections.
Arinze writes from Abuja