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Restructure: South East don’t need 3 mushroom seaports. It needs one standard seaport —Ugochukwu-Uko


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The founder and president of the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), Mr. Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, has lent his voice to the ongoing conversation on restructuring Nigeria.

Mr. Ugochukwu-Uko made the remarks during an interview with News Band over the weekend.

Speaking, Ugochukwu-Uko opined that the South East region does not need 3 mushroom seaports.

He said, rather, that the region needs just one standard seaport to thrive.

He condemned those plotting to hurriedly build mushroom structures called Seaport in Abia, Imo and Anambra States.

According to him, the move is tantamount to insulting the intelligence of the good people of the region.

Ugochukwu-Uko also spoke about the raging state police saga, issues surrounding a new constitution, restructure, self-determination agitations, et al.

Read excerpts of the interview below:

The Federal government is tinkering with the idea of State Police to tackle the insecurity in the country. What’s your position on this?

What the country truthfully needs is a holistic restructuring of the polity via a new people’s constitution. Regional police forces will better serve the needs of the country.

36 or 37 police formations maybe too unwieldy and difficult to manage, given the level of training given the intakes and resources available to each State.  6 or 8 Regional Police force will best serve the purpose. 37 different Police forces will definitely be too untidy. Those still opposing wholesome restructuring of Nigeria are the ones advocating for 37 seperate Police forces. They are looking for a short cut to solving the problems unitary structure foisted on the country. They are cutting corners.

If we take that route we may regret the error. Power devolution and true federalism via a new people’s constitution is the best option for the future.

The National Assembly has set up a committee to review the Nigeria’s constitution. The committee has called for memoranda from the public. What’s your view on this?

Complete waste of time and resources. Nigeria simply needs a new constitution.

Recently, a Yoruba group agitating for self-determination stormed the Oyo House of Assembly. Also, an Ijaw group is agitating to secede from Nigeria, when you add these to IPOB, where is Nigeria headed?

I am not conversant with the frustrations of Yoruba and Ijaw agitators. I can only speak on the South East agitators and I can tell you that they are scared of the future of the country under this 1999 constitution. They don’t want their own children to go through what they faced. The Yoruba and Ijaw agitators may have similar reasons. That’s why we need a new people’s constitution anchored on justice and equity.

What’s the difference between amendments to the 1999 constitution and a brand-new constitution?

Thank you. I organised seminars for Igbo youths all over the country between the 1980s and the 1990s, and I discovered that the younger generation Ndigbo who are not very educated and do not have classmates from UI, ABU, BUK etc. seem locked out from the Nigerian project unlike the educated Ndigbo who can always survive one way or another, no matter what.

These ill-educated fellows are easily convinced that they’d have a better deal in a new country where they’ll be treated right with dignity.

They start contributing monthly dues and start dreaming for a new country where they will not be marginalised and oppressed.

But the Igbo elite can wangle their way and penetrate the system.

I found out during the question and answer sessions of my IYM Monthly seminars for Igbo traders in the 1980s and 1990s, that fear of tomorrow drive the Igbo younger generation of a particular steak to believe that the grass is greener in a new country.

They’ll lament how they feel like unwanted people in their own country. How everything is skewed against them because their parents fought and lost a war in 1970.The bitterness in their hearts inspired Ralph Uwazurike to establish MASSOB 25 years ago.

Deliberate denial of critical Federal government driven infrastructure in the region for over five decades, seem to suggest scorched earth policy and war of attrition against the region. People of the region felt mistreated and helpless.

 Accordingly, some folks exploit this situation to tell them that Nigeria as presently constituted will never give them justice. That they’ll remain permanent onlookers and spectators in the Nigerian enterprise.

The unitary constitution makes it difficult for any kind of positive change. The unitary structure gave birth to the agitation. The strategy of containment deployed against the agitators deepened their fears and frustration and only convoluted the crisis.

The unitary structure is at the root of the feeling of alienation and exclusion that feeds the resentment, which in turn drive the agitation.

So a new people’s constitution will go a long way in creating a feeling of inclusion and incorporation that will douse or remove their fear of tomorrow. Making it harder for agitators to recruit new followers.

Constitutional amendments will only introduce minor changes, retaining the same old features that inspired the fears that breeds agitation. Nigeria needs a new people’s constitution.

Infrastructure such as?

Functional commercial Seaport for example. There are over two dozen Seaports on inland water ways such as South East Nigeria, all around the world. Google it.

All that may be needed is dredging, that’s all.

Container ships from intercontinental waters off- loading goods from China and other far-off nations at Oguta or Onitsha Seaport, will bring closure and resolution to the agitation faster than anything else.

Plotting to hurriedly build mushroom structures called Seaport in Abia, Imo and Anambra, will be insulting the intelligence of the good people of the region.

They need one standard Seaport to make them feel like they are actually part of Nigeria. They don’t need three Mushroom Seaports. They believe that the proposed tiny Seaport is designed for small steamers, boats and fishing trawlers. They know such ungodly plots are only planned to foreclose standard Seaport in the future by those who swore to block every positive infrastructure that will boost the economy of the region thereby foreclosing the commercial development of the region.

That will hurt the people of the zone, who are great traders who lament that it is cheaper to bring in a container from China to Lagos, than from Lagos to Onitsha, Nnewi or Aba.

Our people deeply resent the frightening idea by political leaders from the zone who are supporting the idea of useless mushroom Seaports in every state.

They are seen as black sheep who are willing to destroy the future of the region in place of their Vice-presidential dreams.

Nobody knows exactly what is still delaying the cargo wing of the Enugu International Airport.

A functional Clearing and Forwarding wing handling Cargo from all over the world decongesting Lagos, will transform the region.

These are some of the things the youth of the region believe their political class should have attracted to their region long before now.

The region have been stagnant since 1970. Those gleefully announcing the reactivation of the 120 years old Port Harcourt-Aba railway ( six years after completion of the railway to Niger Republic) do not know that our people feel insulted that we are expected to be jubilant and in a celebration mood. Sad.

Genuine power devolution, via a new people’s constitution and core infrastructure denied the zone for decades, will bring closure and resolution. The authorities have been erroneously struggling to crush the agitation without addressing the issues that led to the loss of faith driving and alienation and anger.

People of the region do not feel carried along. They believe Nigeria has consistently mistreated the region since 1970.

They also feel very bitter about the selfish hustle by their political leaders who they suspect are placing self-interest over and above group interest by discreetly taking sides with Agendists and conspiracy theories who plot on building very low-quality Seaport that will not serve the purpose of allowing South East trade directly with the world which is the sole desire of the people of the region.

Ndigbo are already very angry with the uninspiring idea of largely ubused Ebonyi International Airport, Anambra International Airport, Enugu International Airport and Imo Airport, yet travellers troop to Lagos and Abuja  before they can travel out of the country.

Replicating such offensive “wayo” in hurriedly building useless and unhelpful Seaports planned by the Governors of Abia and Imo just to foreclose and block the building of global standard Seaport in the future, will deeply hurt Ndigbo. Our people are watching.

Will these stop the agitation?

Answer: Of course. Nnamdi Kanu presented these items at the meeting with the South East Governors on 30th August 2017.  A new people’s constitution. Functional standard Seaport in the South East. East West railways, Functional International Airport with cargo wing etc. I was at the meeting.

It is not true that it is impossible to have a seaport for large sea vessels in the South East. Youths of my region believe that those driving that argument, are folks who are averse to any real development coming to the region. There are people who are scared of seeing AlaIgbo explode with positive economic growth.

They know what a Seaport will do to Igboland. They fear that Ndigbo, masters of commerce, will become uncontrollable. They fear they may no longer contain Ndigbo. They prefer the unholy manner Ndigbo are scattered everywhere as unwanted scavengers, harassed mercilessly to no end.

One large Functional Seaport will change our tomorrow. That’s what the people want.

Is Igbo President still feasible?

I was the first to march for that 22 years ago. My idea then was to stimulate the idea so politicians will articulate a road map. I have played my path. I have no interest whatsoever in partisan politics. The politicians should work that out.

Why do you distance yourself from politics?

Because it is impossible for an activist to seek power and remain true. The conflict of interest will make one compromise his or her earlier noble principles in favour of self advancement. I choose to advocate for the restructuring of Nigeria from an unbiased perspective.

Nigeria will not make progress under this centralised unitary constitution choking the land. The people advocating constitutional amendments are folks scared of a new people’s constitution. But they really have nothing to fear.

150 years ago, Just as President Abraham Lincoln was about to sign the proclamation abolishing slavery,  powerful team of Southern farmers lobbied against end to slavery. They feared their farms and plantations will collapse and Americans will starve.

But they were so wrong. Lincoln went ahead and ended slavery. Not a single farm or plantation ever shut down. So it is with folks opposing wholesome restructuring of Nigeria via a new people’s constitution.

Their fears are unfounded. They will not loose any of their privileges. No region will be shortchanged. Rather a new people’s constitution anchored on true federalism and power devolution will establish a stronger, united Nigeria.

Like the American slave masters, their fears are unfounded.

The current unitary structure is responsible for unemployment, sleaze, bad governance, nepotism, mediocrity, sectionalism, mismanagement of resources and prebendalism which have held the country hostage for too long.

Constitutional amendments will not restore confidence in the country as a new people’s constitution will.


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