By Peter Claver Oparah
The revelry over the Niger in the name of a second Niger Bridge has been an attractive weapon the PDP employs to con and deceive Ndigbo. In 2003, then President Obasanjo mounted a prodigal carnival in the name of flagging off the construction of the second Niger Bridge. It was election year and he badly needed the Igbo votes so he came to Onitsha to engage in a vain ceremony that can only con any race that attaches no worthwhile value to the power of their votes. Then, as at today, the PDP and its enablers celebrated and listed the empty ceremony as one of the ‘achievements’ they have wrought in serially abused Igboland, as they are doing with such similar ceremony eleven years after! Obasanjo walked away with overwhelming Igbo support even when he was contesting against Odumegwu Ojukwu. The very same forces that are at play today were at their best then, telling Ndigbo how Obasanjo as a ‘good in-law’ as they put it then deserves total Igbo support in preference to Ojukwu.
Goodluck Jonathan, when he was campaigning for Igbo votes in 2011, didn’t bother himself to mount a fresh revelry over the Niger. His task was made easier for him by the evergreen Igbo PDP lobby who quickly adopted him as an Igbo. He was quickly baptized with an Igbo name; Ebele Azikiwe. With such flattering wave of approval, he simply needed to add nothing to walk away with Igbo votes. But then, he promised. He promised to build a second Niger Bridge, promised superlative highways in the South East, promised refineries, promised industries, promised additional state funding, promised to redress the marginalization of Ndigbo, among truckloads of promises he made to seduce the trusting Igbo into giving him the totality of their votes in 2011.
Igbo did not look back as they packed all their eggs in one unsure basket. With a fervency that surprised Jonathan and his people, they hooted, thumped and fretted and indeed cried more than the bereaved in endorsing Jonathan. When told that Igbo have indeed regressed in value since 1999 when PDP’s hold of the country’s rein of power began, they said they won’t count such in supporting the party and Jonathan. PDP and Jonathan, so surprised at their good fortune, threw a ball and made all the noises about their readiness to address the woes of Ndigbo.
Of the promised second Niger Bridge, we have been told that it would be constructed in four years! If this is not a gimmick to con Igbo votes again, I wonder what it really is. Jonathan has been in power for four years and is fighting the battle of his life to remain in power. Effectively he has only one year left of his present commission as the probability of his re-election seems unlikely. so why would he flag off a four years bridge at the very twilight of the five and half assured years he has in power? What happens if his successor decides not to tow his own plan on the bridge? We have been told that Nigeria will borrow to construct the bridge. We have been told the for 23 years, the financiers of the bridge will tax every person crossing the bridge to recover the hefty N117 billion that we are told the bridge will cost.
The inference is that the bridge will be tolled from at least two points, the implication is that Igbo people will pay to cross the bridge as the second Niger bridge will be the only pay-as-you-cross-bridge in Niger. Conversely, there are more than twenty bridges on the East-West Road that are being constructed and some of these bridges are as long as the Niger Bridge. Why is it only in Igboland that people must pay to cross a bridge? What happens to the petty traders that transact their businesses between Onitsha and Asaba? What about the taxis, the commercial buses and motorcyclists? So they have to pay to cross the one and half kilometer bridge when all other such facilities in Nigeria are accessed free?
Again, Ndigbo and indeed all Nigerians must demand to know the financing schedule for the proposed bridge. How much of the contract financing plan is assured and how is the project safeguarded to ensure that it is delivered on time. It would be very difficult to convince Ndigbo that there is no money to construct a one and half kilometer bridge in Igbo land at a time when trillions are being stolen from the treasury and when minions and hirelings of the present government are building universities and snapping up choice properties everywhere.
Peter Claver Oparah via firstname.lastname@example.org