South East after PMB's Visit

By DESMOND EKWUEME

The euphoria of the much awaited, talked about and publicized visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the South East has eventually died down as events have even overtaken it. The visit has come and gone but its memories will linger for ages especially looking back at those events that heralded it. It is therefore pertinent to ask has anything changed in the zone since that visit to reflect the huge hope, aspirations, dreams and anticipation of sporadic developmental strides which the people had expected prior to the coming of the nation's number one citizen?
Of course, the people had complained about being marginalized for decades and frowned at the new and scary dimension this has taken since Mr. President was sworn in on May 29, 2015. They point at the lopsided appointments of Buhari since his party -the All Progressives Congress (APC) swept away the People's Democratic Party (PDP). They are bitter about the fact that there is no major Federal project in the zone since this administration took over the reins of governance.. The Presidential order for the rail project that runs and cuts across five other geo-political zones but excluded the South East troubles the hearts of the people. 
The Operation Python Dance 2 which was to quell the excesses of the IPOB hurts some minds in the zone. They ask why kill an ant with a sledgehammer? More so, they felt the high-handed approach of the military in that operation exposed the mindset of the President towards the South East. 
However, some elites think otherwise, arguing that since the zone massively voted against Buhari in the election that brought him to power, the people should not expect much from Buhari as such expectation will not only end in futility but will also amount to reaping where they did not sow. 
Both sides of the argument then required the August visit of Buhari to understand his thinking and attitude towards the South East especially as preparations for the 2019 election gathers momentum. 
Buhari's visit to many was timely. He needed the visit just as the zone needed him. Before that visit, there were fears in some quarters that Buhari may be booed, jeered and rejected by the people of South East since he has not paid such visit since coming to power. Buhari needed to prove to all that he is the Commander-in-Chief and must freely visit any part of the country without fear.
Like he said in his inaugural speech that he is President for all and for none. Buhari needed to reach out to the zone knowing that it will play a major role in the next election considering the fact that a couple of aspirants could emerge from his party to contest his position. That obviously would need the support from the South East to align to any side of the divide particularly from presidential aspirants of the APC Buhari needed to prove to the South East that he never hated the zone but hated the fact the zone allowed one of its sons (Mazi Nnamdi Kanu) to spare-head a secessionist agenda which is a big slap to his government. Buhari needed to prove that despite all that has happened he still has friends in the South East and of course there will always be room for jaw-jaw or dialogue to resolve whatever differences that existed between him and the zone.
On its part, the zone needed Buhari’s visit to have some sense of belonging, responsibility and participation in the Nigerian project. The zone needed to belong. To an extent, the zone seems tired of being marginalized and left to its fate. It needed the visit to at least hear for once from the horse's mouth what the problem was between this administration and the South East. It needed to hear some words of courage and hope from Mr. President.
Buhari eventually came to the South East. He met a happy and peaceful people. He was warmly received by Ebonyians on behalf of the people of the region. He got two titles in one swoop. He had a splendid reception. He moved from Abakaliki to Awka for the final campaign of his party's candidate in the gubernatorial election Tony Nwoye who lost. He then returned to Abuja.
To critics, nothing has changed or seen in the South East to reflect or represent Buhari’s visit. But to the open-minded citizens of the South East a lot has changed. First, they argue that the rate of work at the second Niger Bridge has increased tremendously. Yes, critics countered this point by suggesting that the project started with the Goodluck Jonathan administration which implies that it was an inherited project by Buhari. But pro-group says truth is that it is under the present administration and particularly after Buhari's visit to the zone that the speed of work increased. 
The contract of the 11.9km length bridge which stood at N14. 4bn is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Contract for two access roads linking Asaba in Delta State and Onitsha in Anambra State worth N150. 84m has also been awarded and work ongoing.
It must be said that perhaps Buhari has heard the cries of marginalization from the people of the South East. Recently, he appointed 30 judges for the Federal High Courts and three of these judges are from the South East. They are Prof. Chuka Austine Obiozor (Anambra), Dr. Nnamdi. O. Dimgba (Abia) and Emeka Nwite (Ebonyi). Political pundits say, this is unprecedented and a massive shift from the policy of Buhari since he assumed duties.
In addition, a Federal College of Dental Technology and Therapy was approved by Mr. President about two weeks ago. It is to be sited in Enugu. The institution will provide courses of instruction leading to the award of degrees, diplomas and certificates in dental technology, dental therapy and other related courses and disciplines.
However, like Oliver Twist, the people of the South East can only ask for more. That request however will be further determined by the level of support they give to the second term agenda of Mr. President.
Buhari has been touring the country of late and observers opine that this is not unconnected to his second term bid. Surely a lot of alignment and realignment are already taking place as more and more aspirants declare their interests to run for the exalted seat. 
It is believed that the South East holds the ace in the 2019 election particularly as it concerns the position of President. Will the people pitch their tent this time with Buhari? Are they satisfied that a new dawn has come with Buhari's visit to the South East? Are they convinced that change has really been effected in the zone after Buhari's visit? Will this sway or endear the poeple to Buhari come 2019?

Perhaps like they say, only time will tell.
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