The challenges facing Alaigbo
Nigeria is currently facing interesting times and Igbos are finding themselves in the crosshairs once again. With renewed conflict between IPOB and the FG, an escalation of violence has been witnessed in the region with no clear indication who is directing the attacks. IPOB has denounced these acts of violence while the FG seems to be in a hunger to accuse IPOB with little or no investigation. This is happening while the FG has remained mute over attacks by Fulanis across the SE killing farmers and ransacking villages. The recent attacks in Ebonyi and Enugu have failed to attract the same level of concern from the FG suggesting support for the activities of these criminals/terrorists.
These incidents are fairly recent in comparison to other challenges that face Alaigbo and this article will attempt to highlight these challenges, rank them, and proffer a path forward.
Coming in at number one, the threat of this group comes with loss of life and property, displacement, and illegal occupation of the lands of Igbos. While a grave challenge, the response this has received from the FG, SE governors, and Igbo elites has been non-existent and disappointing. One can say that this silence constitutes support for the activities of these terrorists and that presents a grave concern for the region. The only group that has taken any reasonable action against these terrorists has been IPOB with the formation of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and this has garnered the group more support from Igbos in Nigeria and abroad.
Igbos have pursued self reliance since the civil war and to solve this challenge, they may be looking at the same situation. Community vigilantes partnering with each other to build a robust network will be key to solving this menace. If a community is left to its own devices, they would not be able to stand against the terrorists. The saying, “Onye a ya na nwanne ya” becomes even more important during these times. This coordination should excuse the local police force and Nigerian military as reports from the middle belt, where this menace has significantly ravaged their communities, indicate a high level of collusion between them and the terrorists. The continued silence of the FG over the activities of Fulani herdsmen and its recent endorsement of a known Islamic terror sympathizer does not suggest that they can be trusted over this issue.
2. Igbo leaders and elites
Leadership abhors a vacuum and sadly, Igbo leaders and elites across the region have created a vacuum through their silence over all challenges that Igbos face in Nigeria today. There seems to be an unknown gag order on this group in sharp contrast to their counterparts across other regions especially the North and the SW. Their silence gives the likes of IPOB a lot of relevance as they have stepped up to fill that vacuum with their own agenda for Alaigbo. The recent creation of ‘Ebube Agu’ in response to security threats in the region has been embarrassing at best with no clear strategy since the announcement. Some have made open their ambition to go for higher political positions and have put their personal ambitions above those of Igbos under their care. It is no surprise that one of such leaders cannot speak up against the attacks of fulani herdsmen/terrorists in his own state out of fear that his political ambitions will be scuttled. Other Igbo elites who are heavily invested outside Alaigbo continue to shy away from holding Igbo leaders and the FG to account on issues that matter to the common Igbo man. It does appear that all those who should represent Igbos abandoned the interests of Igbos in pursuit of their own individual agenda. Igbos DESERVE better from their own leaders and it is time they action to salvage the leadership situation in Alaigbo.
Active participation in elections and better voting decisions will remain a key action that will address the leadership vacuum. This means Igbos have to let go of their nonchalant attitude towards elections and political campaigns. We also need to create better structures and join existing ones to drive a better future for the region. Emphasis should be placed on local, state, and federal government elections. This should be backed with holding elected leaders accountable via social media and physical campaigns during their tenures. There are organizations (like Alaigbo Development and Accountability Initiative — ADAI and Alaigbo Political Leadership Awareness Forum — APLAF) working towards this and young Igbos should join any one of them to help achieve this goal for the region. It is important that Igbos commit to an increased level of participation in politics to avoid having leaders imposed on them from Abuja as witnessed in Imo State. The upcoming elections in Anambra this year presents a good opportunity for Igbos to start being engaged in politics.
IPOB has grown like wild fire in the hearts of Igbos over the last few years owing to the indiscriminate treatment they have received from the current Nigerian government. They have remained largely non-violent despite false reports and accusations by the Nigerian government. They have also wielded great influence in recent times with sit-at-home orders to mark key dates for Igbos and during elections. It is this later part that poses a threat for Alaigbo. As discussed earlier, non-participation in elections and politics generally make it easier for elections to be rigged and poor candidates to emerge as leaders in the region. This will widen the leadership in the region and leave Igbos with more challenges and less solutions. I do not believe that non-participation in elections constitutes a positive way to achieve the end goal of IPOB which is the actualization of Biafra. Just like the formation of ESN, if IPOB really has the interests of Ndigbo at heart, they should encourage them to actively participate in elections to vote out incompetent leaders and reject those who have aligned themselves with Abuja in exchange for the interests of Alaigbo!
4. Food Security
As the Nigerian state descends into deeper levels of bigotry and tribal hatred, more incidents like the food blockade that happened earlier this year will repeat itself. That incident was a great eye opener ways the North wield power over the South and also presented an opportunity for more independence for Alaigbo. Igbos must act quickly to ensure such actions have zero impact and that the region has adequate food security now and into the future.
Currently, a lot of grains, meat, and vegetables consumed in Alaigbo is purchased from the North. Finding ways to grow these crops and rear animals at a large scale in the region will be beneficial. Currently, ADAI and APLAF are developing agricultural cooperatives across Alaigbo with emphasis on rice farming, vegetable farming using hydroponics, and livestock rearing. This presents an opportunity for young Igbos to find a source of livelihood. If you are interested in helping Alaigbo achieve this crucial goal and also develop a means of livelihood, kindly reach out to these groups on twitter.
5. Environmental contamination and degradation
The lack of proper urban planning and execution in Alaigbo means there is little emphasis on protecting the environment. Over 3 cities in Alaigbo are listed in the 20 dirtiest cities in world with Aba and Onitsha making the list. Sources of environmental contamination in these cities include improper disposal of refuse and sewage, and the burning of waste items that contain hydrocarbon and heavy metals. Improper waste disposal not only creates an unpleasant landscape for our cities but also pollutes our underground water bodies which are already hard to come by.
Gullying is another huge environmental challenge facing Alaigbo. This is driven by a combination of factors including the geology of region, lack of sustainable urban planning and drainage, absence of adequate soil cover in many areas, etc. There are over 1000 active gully sites across Alaigbo today most of which have caused significant losses to Igbos. Remediating these sites will require a huge amount of funds and government will power, both of which are lacking in the region.
Currently, there are multiple organizations looking at changing the narrative on waste management in Alaigbo. They include GreenaxisNG, Green Environment Network, ADAI, Plogging Club, etc. These groups have coordinated events across the region in markets, schools, and villages, trying to educate people on the need for proper waste management. The Plogging Club targets universities with cleanup drives to help mitigate the ever growing refuse hills observed in recent times. There have been whispers of a tree planting exercise to target erosion prone areas and to also increase soil cover for later this year by some other foundations. Supporting these organizations and helping them expand their reach across Alaigbo will be very beneficial.
While there are other challenges facing Alaigbo, these five present a clear and present danger to the future of Alaigbo. They also present an opportunity for more education, increased political involvement, creation of new sources of livelihoods, and a higher level of partnership across the region. It will be even better if the solutions to these challenges are integrated in a regional plan for Alaigbo with key metrics created to track progress.