MICHAEL OKPARA’S LEGACY AS THE PREMIER OF EASTERN NIGERIA: A BLUEPRINT FOR TODAY’S IGBO POLITICIANS!
One of the sad ironies, that shows the lack of consciousness of the Igbo people, which perhaps, explains their failure to develop the southeastern region of Nigeria is in how they have failed to follow the examples of Dr. Michael Okpara. To properly understand the reason Nigeria is a failed state and Igbo land is the biggest casualty of its failure, it is important to study Okpara’s leadership, its place in history, and the tragedy of its interruption by the naively idealistic coup of 1966.
If we study history from this perspective, Igbo land comes into sight like the ill-fated child whose destiny of being a successful athlete was cut short by the accident of war which has kept it paralyzed for lack of adequate care. Okpara, as the Premier of the old Eastern Region in Nigeria, was a visionary leader who played a pivotal role in shaping the region’s development during his tenure from 1959 to 1966. His leadership was marked by a comprehensive blueprint for growth, encompassing key sectors such as agriculture, industrialization, tourism, and science and technology. Like an engineer who understood properly the architect’s vision, Okpara from 1959 to 1966 built Igbo land into a self-sustaining economy that would have gone on to be one of the best regions in Africa. So instrumental was Okpara’s leadership that a study in Michigan State University in 1964 found that Eastern Nigeria was the fastest-growing and industrializing economy in the world ahead of Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore–all of which are now global powerhouses. If the pace at which Igbo land was going at the time is anything to go by, being stuck in Nigeria–currently the world’s poverty capital–is then a tragedy of great proportion.
Okpara’s Works and Vision
Michael Okpara recognized the immense potential of agriculture in the Eastern Region and implemented transformative policies that revolutionized the sector. He initiated large-scale agricultural projects, including the Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board, which facilitated the production, processing, and marketing of agricultural products. Okpara focused on empowering smallholder farmers, providing them with improved seeds, modern farming techniques, and access to credit facilities. These efforts led to a significant increase in agricultural output, making the region self-sufficient in food production and a major exporter of commodities.
Another remarkable aspect of Okpara’s leadership was his commitment to industrialization. He established the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC) to drive industrial growth in the region. The ENDC established several industrial estates, attracted local and foreign investments, and promoted the establishment of manufacturing companies. Under Okpara’s leadership, industries ranging from textiles to pharmaceuticals flourished, providing employment opportunities and boosting the region’s economy. This emphasis on industrialization laid the foundation for the Eastern Region’s economic prosperity and created a diverse and vibrant industrial sector.
Recognizing the untapped potential of tourism, Okpara undertook initiatives to promote the region’s cultural heritage and natural attractions. He focused on the preservation and promotion of historical sites, such as the Arochukwu Long Juju Slave Route and the Ogbunike Caves, while also encouraging the development of tourist infrastructure. Okpara’s efforts positioned the Eastern Region as a desirable destination for tourists, attracting visitors from within Nigeria and abroad. Tourism became an important source of revenue and contributed to the region’s economic growth and cultural preservation.
Michael Okpara, the esteemed premier of the old Eastern Nigeria, demonstrated selfless leadership that was fueled by his deep passion for the Igbo people. His unwavering dedication to their welfare and his remarkable personal sacrifices set him apart as a true servant leader.
Okpara’s passion for the Igbo people was evident in his relentless pursuit of their progress and empowerment. He recognized their potential and worked tirelessly to uplift their socio-economic status. Through his visionary policies and initiatives, he focused on promoting agriculture, education, healthcare, and infrastructure development in the region. His commitment to the Igbo people went beyond mere rhetoric; it was translated into tangible actions that brought about positive change and transformation.
Furthermore, one of the most remarkable aspects of Okpara’s selfless leadership was the fact that he did not own a house of his own. Despite his position of power and influence, he chose to live a modest and frugal lifestyle. This self-imposed sacrifice symbolized his dedication to serving the people rather than amassing personal wealth. It was a testament to his integrity, humility, and genuine concern for the well-being of the Igbo community.
Okpara’s lack of personal property demonstrated his prioritization of the needs of the people over his own material comforts. His selflessness and humility set an example for other leaders, inspiring them to prioritize public service and eschew personal gain.
Failure of Present-day Igbo Leadership
Regrettably, present-day Igbo leaders have failed to build upon Michael Okpara’s legacy and adopt his transformative approach to governance. The region’s development has suffered as a result of its inability to take cues from Okpara’s leadership and follow his template. Instead of focusing on inclusive development and prioritizing key sectors, Igbo leaders have often been plagued by corruption, political infighting, and short-sighted policies. This lack of visionary leadership has hindered progress and contributed to the stagnant state of affairs in Igbo land today.
The failure of Igbo leaders to emulate Okpara’s blueprint for growth has led to the stagnation of Igbo land. Despite its vast human capital and entrepreneurial spirit, the region has struggled to capitalize on its potential. The absence of sustained investment in agriculture, industrialization, tourism, and science and technology has resulted in a decline in leadership in Igbo land. In order to retrace our steps, we must remember the works of leaders like Michael Okpara, and seek to follow their path, as there will never be good leadership without the acuity of vision and selflessness of personal sacrifice.
In total submission,
Nigeria’s Government can never and ever develop the Southeast, stand now and develop your region. Stop discriminating among yourselves, you can be discriminating against, Anambra, Abia Enugu. Ebonyi and Imo and expect the federal government not to discriminate against you, to build love and oneness among the Igbos.
Igbos should start looking out for each other, start supporting your follow igbos business, look out for your fellow Igbos in the media, support them, grow as many Igbos media outfit as you can, becomes selfishly with your fellow Igbos, stop caring about what people will say why putting igbos first, hauses does it, Yoruba do it, learn it now, learn to put an Igbo person first before others, in general, any business you are doing in the city should have a branch in the east. and stop saying every plan openly, let them see your work, don’t allow them to hear it,
Stop trying to make Nigerians love you, they cant, let it get to you that Nigeria hates you accept it and have peace.
Buhari has shown you, stop showing your fellow Igbos.