Like programmed choreographers, some Igbos of the PDP and its allies’ hue are dancing themselves to stupor over the so called ground breaking ceremony of the second Niger Bridge. Their handmaidens, like in such similar vain orgies in the past, are spinning syndicated applauses to invest a non event with the halo of an achievement. Yes, it is a ceremony that is materially empty and of no value but which holds so much for the Igbos that have nestled in the PDP in their desperate bid to reserve Igbo votes and support for their flailing party en route 2015. Typical of the PDP and its well known penchant to take Igbo for a ride, nothing was spared to celebrate the so-called ground breaking ceremony of a one and half kilometers bridge over the Niger.
Mounting such vacuous revelry has been the favorite spot of the PDP since it perfected the art of selling placebo to the Igbo in exchange of their votes since 1999. Yes, they can even exchange Igbo votes for wads of counterfeit currency for Igbo are being made to look as if their votes and support count for nothing. Let us remember that the PDP and its cahoots in the South east mounted similar shows when they were commissioning the sham they called Onitsha seaport and during the commissioning of the ludicrous Enugu ‘international’ airport. It is a vote catching gimmick meant to create motion where there is none. Such shows are mere political gimmicks that are meant to deceive Ndigbo and nothing more.
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.
How he had kept faith with his promises to Ndigbo is a matter for another day but the state of Igbo today is enough to tell the story. However, we remember that he vowed to go into exile if he did not deliver the Second Niger Bridge before his tenure runs off in 2015. We remember he did not vow that he would mount another vote conning gimmick of flagging off the second Niger Bridge, which may come to nothing at the end of the day. It took the Obi of Onitsha to recently remind him of his vow and pronto, a loud ground breaking ceremony was organized where all the horses and men of South East and South South PDP gathered to recite their usual campaign platitudes Igbo have grown real weary of.
Apart from the importance of the bridge to the smooth movement of Igbo and other Nigerians to and from Igboland, there is nothing earth shaking about building a one and half kilometer bridge for a race that had been handed the shortest ends of the stick in an oil rich country. In a country where the despised Ibrahim Babangida built a twelve kilometer dual carriage bridge over the Lagos lagoon without blaring the trumpets till completion, it should naturally be condescending and insulting that Ndigbo should roll out every drum to celebrate the flag off of a one and half kilometers bridge that may end up abandoned. Again, this is just one out of several similar such ceremonies that ended up in smoke. Also, we are being told that the bridge would be completed in four years when it took Governor Fashola of Lagos State less than two years to complete a suspended bridge of nearly the same length as the proposed second Niger Bridge, even with more features and furniture and no one knew until its completion. For the millions of Igbo that travel to Lagos, those that have not travelled on the Ore-Shagamu Road in the past five moths may be shell shocked that Governor Ibikunle Amosun has erected a nearly one kilometer dual carriage overhead bridge in Ijebu Ode within the past five months. This is reportedly one out of about ten other such bridges the governor is constructing in Ogun State and no one remembers the governor closing down the road to flag off construction of the bridge. So why should Igboland screech to a halt and the president abandon his duties in Abuja just to flag off a bridge that may end up in smokes like such other rituals in the past? If one may ask, when has it become so fashionable to mount extensive road shows to celebrate intent to embark on projects?
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 Igboland 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. I think that stripped of the vote conning antics of the PDP and the Jonathan government, there is little or no value for Ndigbo or why should it take another approaching election for Jonathan and his PDP acolytes in the South East and South South to engage in an unnecessary road show to flag off the construction of the second Niger Bridge? Your guess is as good as mine but Ndigbo nigh for the commissioning of the second Niger Bridge and not commissioning the take of the construction of the proposed second Niger Bridge.
Peter Claver Oparah