Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State yesterday dispensed with partisan considerations to broach issues of core interest to the Igbo nation when Acting President Yemi Osibanjo visited the state on strategic consultations.
The governor detailed account of marginalization of people of the South-East and Imo State in particular by the present Muhammadu Buhari administration. Okorocha regretted that the region has been grossly shortchanged on many fronts, particularly in the areas of appointments and allocation of Federal Government projects.
His words: "No other group in Nigeria that had invested as much into our nationhood can sing the song of marginalisation as much as Ndigbo has been made to sing it.
We have nothing to show that we are part of the Nigerian project; neither do we have any sense of belonging in the present government at the national level. "We have been marginalised both in terms of projects and appointments. In Imo State, for instance, all we have is a Minister of State to show for all the efforts and extreme sacrifices we made to ensure that the All Progressive Congress (APC) had a good outing in the last general elections."
Okorocha continued: "I know you are the Acting President and has the ears of the President. So, there is no better person to tell our painful story than you. You need to take a second look at what is happening in the South-East. No serious political appointment, no visible federal infrastructure so far, to show the presence of Federal Government in the South- East in general. "I beg that as the government gives subsequent appointments, let the qualified sons and daughters of the state and region be considered.
Those in business should 1be considered for federal patronage." Apparently, these were no easy words for Okorocha who is also the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors' Forum as he carefully chose his words. "Imo State played major role in bringing APC to power because if what had taken place in other states was allowed to happen in Imo State and other states in the South-East, probably we wouldn't have had the APC government today.
"Given the roles that I personally played as a sacrificial lamb in the South- East during the elections, my state deserves a better deal. There is no Federal Government presence in the oil-producing areas, and none of our youths benefitted from the Federal Government's Amnesty Programme. I also use this opportunity to ask for the quick refund of the money spent by the state on Imo International Cargo Airport and on some federal roads in the state."
Okorocha, who noted that he had made a case previously to President Buhari, expressed confidence that Osinbajo had the ear of the President and will convey the feelings and grievances expressed by stakeholders in the state. Responding, Osinbajo said that it was not exactly correct that President Buhari had been unfair to Imo people. He said that the Presidency couldn't deliberately set out to marginalise Ndigbo in view of their contributions to the development of the country.
"You said that the highest appointment given to Imo under Buhari was Minister of State for Education. I will like to equally inform you that Katsina, the home state of Mr. President, and Kaduna State where Buhari resides all have ministers of state.
"If there is any governor in this country that has the ear of Mr. President, I will say that it is Governor Okorocha. As such, it cannot be said that the state is marginalised by the APCled Federal Government," the acting president said. Osinbajo, during the visit to the palace of the chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Samuel Ohiri in Owerri, however, conceded to the fact that the oil-bearing communities in Imo State have largely been mistreated and neglected. He reassured that the Federal Government would make amend.
He said: "My visit here is in continuation of consultations with all the states of the Niger Delta as directed by Mr. President, and I can say that the oilproducing communities in Imo State have been largely ignored and this will be appropriately redressed.
"The oil-producing communities in Imo have a lot of vibrant young men and women who must be carried along in the scheme of things. My interaction today with those concerned has given the government the opportunity to discuss with the people directly involved with a view to making sure that there is justice and even development across the Niger Delta communities." Meanwhile, Osinbajo has expressed dismay at the level of projects abandonment in the oil-producing communities of Imo state. Speaking at the Stakeholders' Forum held at the Imo International Convention Centre, Owerri yesterday, the Acting President declared that there are over 40 abandoned projects scattered across Oguta and Ohaji-Egbema, the two oilbearing communities in Imo State.
He, therefore, directed contractors handling all on-going projects in the oil-producing areas of Imo State to return to sites with immediate effect. Osinbajo, who also visited the N4 billion Federal Government's Skill Acquisition Centre and the multi-billion naira gas plant in Ohaji-Egbema explained that from the lists submitted to him by various groups, Imo has over 40 abandoned projects awarded in the oil bearing areas, apart from numerous roads projects that are abandoned. He equally warned against the diversion of projects meant for the oilbearing communities by political office holders, noting that such act compound incidences of marginalisation and restiveness in the oil communities.
According to him, the Federal Government was committed to injecting fresh ideas in the development of the Niger Delta area whereby the oil firms, government, corporate bodies and the host communities would come together and step up development of these areas. Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, who also spoke, assured that his ministry would investigate reports of diversion of oil wells due Imo to other states.
Chief Jones Uzoka, an indigene of the oil-bearing communities who spoke, claimed that some oil
wells in Imo were allocated to other states, while some others were shut down for no reason. Due to these reasons, he said Imo does not get her due share as oil bearing state and called on the Federal Government to remedy the injustice.