Presidents are often invited to a state to visit with the people, interact with them, ascertain the level of development of the state, gauge the working of his policies and note where his assistance is needed for the progress of the state, commission projects and make pronouncements. In such a visit, the people of the state will come out in colours, with dances and performances; file out in the streets to welcome the president. Students will be in their uniforms along the roads waving and saluting the president. None of these took place during the visit of President Buhari to Imo state to commission projects.
His criticized visit to commission a gutter labeled a tunnel and two other roads has been assessed as successful by his followers. Buhari was welcomed by empty streets. Government officials and some leaders went to welcome the President but there are reasons that the president was treated that way.
During his visit to the Institute of Peace in the United States of America, shortly after his election in 2015, he was asked a question by Dr. Pauline Baker on inclusive development of the Niger Delta in his administration. President Buhari responded that the constituencies that gave him 5% of votes will not be treated in all honesty on some issues like those that gave him 97%. It meant that his administration would be selective, partial and undermining to those who gave him 5% votes. At that point it was clear where the former Eastern region was placed and by extension the South-east region.
In his appointments to the security service chiefs, President Buhari, notably and consciously disregarded the South-east. He found no military officer from the Igbo land capable of becoming any of the service chiefs. When asked, he said he appointed only those he can trust. Igbo politicians were mainly given statutory appointments as stipulated by the constitution to the ministries that are regarded less endowed. Igbo people are also not favourably appointed to agencies and boards.
Not long after winning his election and being sworn in as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, president Buhari channeled his gaze on the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. One of his first worries was how to stop the radio Biafra airwaves from transmitting to Nigeria from Kanu’s base in London.
At the time, many people had not heard or known anything about the radio or even the activities of Kanu.
Boko Haram has been waging war against Nigeria and bandits and herdsmen, killing and invading communities but none of these killer groups have merited the big hand of the federal government but IPOB was hurriedly proscribed. Operation Python Dance was initiated to crush the IPOB which sent many Igbo youths to an early grave. Members of Boko Haram were released as repentant, as this has been going on; many Igbo youths including Kanu are detained in various security agencies across the country.
In June this year, the president on Twitter threatened the Igbo people that he will speak to them in the language they will understand for agitating for justice and equity and fairness in Nigeria. He went ahead to call them a dot in a circle. He changed the security strategy of the South-east that Igbo land became militarized even when there is no war as there is paucity of federal investments in Igbo land.
The events which I will not continue to enumerate here is a long list of the very unpleasant relationship Igbo people have shared with the president in his six of an eight year administration.
Based on these events, the IPOB declared a region-based sit-at-home upon his visit. That was to show dissatisfaction on the president’s utterances, highhandedness and exclusions of the Igbo people in his administration. The protest, which should have been observed only in Imo state, was successful enough to send a message to the president that the exclusions of Igbo people in his government have been translated to the deserted streets.
The president’s body language has been read as portraying the, ‘I don’t care’ attitude, he may not even care about the deserted streets but it is a political statement that marks of a relationship gone sour, unless he addresses the injustices and marginalization of Igbo people seen as entrenched by his administration.
In spite of all these, the president completed the Zik of Africa mausoleum which had been abandoned by the previous administrations and is working on the second Niger Bridge as well as opening up the hitherto suspended mining of crude in Anambra state as the state starts to benefit the 13% derivation.
It is a credit to the peace loving Igbo people that he came and left with no security issues despite tight security measures and several bullet proof bags spotted on his security details. That is to say that Igbo people are not violent people but want to get justice, equity, fairness and continuous systemic marginalization of the people will continue to elicit reaction and agitation from the people and with their determination, they will not relent until they are given justice within the country.