On Sunday March 28, 2021, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide Elders Council met at the Imo State Government House to discuss pressing issues affecting Ndigbo. Although the gathering attracted big names including the WTO DG Ngozi Okojo-Iweala alongside some governors and the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, several strategic voices were inexplicably absent.
Law professor, politician, and member of the Board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Nnamdi Obiaraeri joined Ukana Omon ‘TheKanon’ on The Agenda Monday morning on MyRadio 101.1 FM Owerri to bare his mind.
OHANAEZE TOO ELITIST; GATHERING OF OPPRESSORS
TheKanon: Professor good morning and thank you for your time.
Prof. Obiaraeri: thank you very much my brother and thank you listeners.
TheKanon: I wonder if you were present at the meeting yesterday (Sunday March 28, 2021) and what you made of it.
Prof. Obiaraeri: I was not invited and I was not present. I should have been invited, I should have been present. This is part of the Igbo leadership disconnect and deficit. If a professor of law of my standing and exposure is not invited to talk about Igbo cause as well as other well-meaning Igbo leaders, then I’m beginning to question the intellectual plank of this discussion.
TheKanon: Ok, we are filing this away for another debate but let’s go to the crux of the matter; this resolution that oh yes Ndigbo shall produce or perhaps to tame the language, should produce, Nigeria’s next president. You have been an advocate of this, have you changed your position?
OUTCOME OF 2023 ELECTION WILL DETERMINE WHETHER NIGERIA REMAINS ONE
Prof Obiaraeri: There’s nothing that will make me change my position. A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is a must do in 2023. It is the only natural, equitable, and fashionable thing to do if we are still one Nigeria.
Nigerians from all segments of the Nigerian society should elect the Nigerian president from Igbo race to bolster national peace, progress and development. I say this very strongly because the outcome of the 2023 presidential election will challenge the theory of indivisibility and indissolubility of the Nigerian state especially when it is tested against the immutable natural laws and principles clearly etched in section 14 of the 1999 constitution. And for the avoidance of doubt, let me reiterate that this section 14 of the 1999 constitution as amended provides very clearly that the federal republic of Nigeria shall be based on the principles of democracy and social justice. Accordingly the composition of government shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national integration.
So, if Nigeria will continue to be one; if Nigeria is going to continue to be indivisible and indissoluble, the time to do equity, natural justice and associated good conscience issues is now against 2023 for the Igbo race. We are not visitors in this country, we are clear stakeholders.
Other tribes, other geopolitical zones have had very clear shots at the presidency, so irrespective of who is advocating for it, irrespective of the fact that they are not particularly the Professor George Obiozor-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo is beginning to be more of a gathering of oppressors than an all-inclusive Igbo group; I think that call is germane.
TheKanon: I hear the tone of what you are not saying, that this group which met yesterday perhaps excluding certain principal voices. Let’s hear it professor, what do you think is the way forward in terms of pursuing the unity that Governor Uzodinma is clamouring?
Prof. Obiaraeri: Well, I hate to think that the agitation is being weaved around the person of Governor Hope Uzodinma, a serving governor of a state, a close friend and the governor of my state. This is an agitation of over 10 million or 15 million Igbos including our friends from other parts of the country who believe in equity.
We must begin to remove certain political office holders from this agitation so that it doesn’t become partisan. Because I heard you in the first instance when you said that the call should be made that APC should be embraced, I don’t agree with that completely. I’m of the APC but I do not think that it will be wrong to have all other political parties come to Igbo land and take their candidates so that we can be sure that whether PDP, APC, APGA whatever other political party an Igbo man is having the ticket, that is the way to have it. But if they begin to make the agitation to appear that a section of Igbo elites who I’ve already termed oppressors, who do not recognize the intellectual class, are now beginning to push this agenda, then it is going to lend itself to big sabotage and I don’t pray that that happens.
TheKanon: I suspect that many would say well governor Uzodinma is within his rights to call for a bombardment of the APC by persons of Igbo extraction because the PDP’s committee on reconciliation or strategy r something headed by Governor Bala Mohammed came up with this report insinuating or even inferring that they are throwing open the bid for the 2023 presidency. So it’s not zoned to any particular geopolitical zone however germane their clamour, or ambition or reach for it might be. Some Igbo leaders said ‘well this is an open insult and a slap in the face of Ndigbo considering our steadfastness with the PDP since 1998’. Don’t you think ‘well let’s look towards the APC since they have been more friendly towards Ndigbo’ according to Governor Hope Uzodinma?
MANY ROADS LEAD TO THE BUSH BUT ONLY ONE WILL LEAD TO THE SHRINE
Prof. Obiaraeri: I don’t want to demarcate my party. I’ve told you very clearly, I’m of APC, I have clear sympathy for APC, but I think that is a very narrow way to pursue the legitimate aspiration of Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. There are many roads that lead into the bush but only one will lead into the shrine. So localizing it and making it an exclusive preserve of the APC is not right. I want to think that insinuations of the PDP are mere proposals as far as I know that’s what they are and you know that 24 hours is a lot of time in politics. When they see the agitation that it is coming from a united coercive Igbo race, every political party would begin to look towards the Igboland.
What should concern us and particularly Senator Hope Uzodinma the governor of the state is how to unify the Igbo race. That Ohanaze Ndigbo meeting that they held inside Government House. Is that where it is supposed to hold? Is that not an audio Ohanaeze meeting?
Why would we have an Ohanaeze that is going to government instead of government coming to Ohanaeze. Why is the Professor George Obiozor-led Ohanaeze being run in such a manner as to see it as an appendage of a few political players?
On the same day that this meeting held, there was also, I hope you know, there was also another meeting of factional Ohanaeze led by Chief Chidi Ibe. In Enugu there was also another group that call themselves South east Leaders Forum. So, if you have a meeting of Ohanaeze-Ndigbo and you exclude key players, those who should talk… on that same day there was an election, a bye-election in Abia State. So where was the Governor of Abia, where was the governor of Enugu, where was the governor of Anambra, where are all the senators, where are the key players? Can you really be talking of Ohanaeze Ndigbo when you don’t have the input of Senator Rochas Okorocha? Let’s not pretend about it? If you don’t have the input of Orji Uzor Kalu, if you don’t have the input of Senator Abaribe, and you don’t have the input of professor Obiaraeri into it? So it should be a mass movement as opposed to clique business.
So I think the whole idea of making it appear that some people are in the forefront will lead, I’ve warned again, will lead to sabotage. Because if people feel uncomfortable especially if it is something that should be of aggregate interest and a few others are localizing it. I have a lot of respect for professor Obiozor: he’s a respectable statesman, I share a lot of things in common with him; he’s a colleague professor. I’m of the same Ivy League background with him; we all have a Columbia University exposure, so he knows what goes into that kind of exposure and accomplishment. If he has a meeting and he wants to exclude me, why would I be the one to support him? I hope you understand; it’s reciprocal. He’s an intellectual; he understands the basis of intellectual planking in things like this.
So Ohanaeze should be made to be one that is talking about contemporary issues in Igboland, so that we can win the support of our people. Why are the bombings, the killings going on in Orlu, in Imo, in Abia, in Ebonyi, why are our people being killed in our home front? Is Ohanaeze speaking about it? Is Ohanaeze talking about the carnage, the loss of lives in our system? I think Ohanaeze should move away from this elitist tendency and come down and challenge the issues of now.
What has Ohanaeze led by Prof Obiozor done to bring Nnamdi Kalu into the picture or you think he is not important?
OHANAEZE NDIGBO SHOULD REACH OUT TO NNAMDI KANU, RALPH UWAZURUIKE AND OTHER AGITATORS
TheKanon: Can calls for secession and calls for the production of a president of Igbo extraction ever meet?
Prof. Obiaraeri: They can meet. That’s what I’m saying, there’s no need pretending about it. Governor Uzodinma, Governor Umahi, these are big time players, these are respectable Nigerian leaders, but they do not, with respect, trump the relevance of Nnamdi Kalu and Ralph Uwazuruike in the scheme of things now. You live in an Igbo area; you understand what I’m talking about. If they doubt it let them go on a popularity walk with Nnamdi kalu on the streets of Owerri and see who will get more respect and more followership. So the truth is, to tone down the level of agitation from these people. And how do you do it? You must carry them in and their sentiments because Ohanaeze means ‘Oha’ and ‘Eze’, Ohanaeze. It is not a matter of those who have protection, those who have access to government house meeting. It is not a government House meeting.
Ohanaeze should be found in primary schools, in secondary schools, in tertiary institutions. Go to Imo state university, go to Federal University of Technology Owerri, go to Abia, ask them do they know who the president of Ohanaeze is, they will tell you that there are two leaders of Ohanaeze. So, the issue of secession, is still part of the right to self-determination. It can be discussed; it can be discussed and agreed upon. What everybody is not agreeable, is that it should be by use of violence. So those who dismiss Nnamdi Kalu, Ralph Uwazuruike and those of us who have very clear opinion on this matter are themselves. Nigeria is on a brink of collapse. Anything that can be done to bring it together, beginning from the Igbo spread should be encouraged.
So this is no longer time to bring in Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the rest of them: these are respectable people but they have no bigger regard, they have no bigger respect than any other person on this matter. If Nnamdi Kalu declares Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala today a persona non-grata in Igboland, she will find it very difficult to operate. You know that much. Not because he may be right but because he has followership. And one man’s thug is another man’s supporter. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. So we must balance this narrative and that’s why government must be careful the way they are running and pushing the people so that those of us who are intellectuals, who have open mind about this issue, should not be forced, by reason of non-inclusive politics, to join the other tendencies.
OBIOZOR SHOULD BUILD STREET CREDIBILITY, OHANAEZE SHOULD FORM CLUBS IN SCHOOLS, UNIVERSITIES, CHURCHES
TheKanon: Is it possible that we can invite people from every shade of opinion into a room?
Prof Obiaraeri: It is very possible. We are talking about autochthonous nature of leadership. The Igboman is predominantly democratic in nature. You don’t force or hoist leadership on an Igboman. It’s never done anywhere, so if the Ohanaeze that we are thinking about, the first thing is let professor Obiozor as respectable as he is reach out to the other faction, let them withdraw all the cases in court. Sort these things out in house, then come out with a blue print that will take the intelligentsia. You go to universities you form these group, you go to the polytechnic you form this group, you go to secondary school, you have this group, primary schools, churches, and the rest of them.
If you are having Ohanaeze and the big time church leaders or religious leaders of Igbo spread are not part of it, what Ohanaeze are you talking about? What Ohanaeze? What is professor Obiozor’s constituency in the first instance? If he goes into Ariaria Market can they recognize him? If they recognize him, will they listen to him? So these are the issues. At the end of the day, we use this mechanism to begin to speak as one voice forgetting about who will take the office. But the problem we have now is that people are placing the cart before the horse.
They are trying to say who will take the office as opposed to let us get this thing into the Igbo spread and let the Igbo man that has national appeal, that will be accepted and loved and supported by other Nigerians take this office and that is part of what is going on in Igbo land where people are taking a lot of rough measures to bring others down even though as I’ve always said power belongs to God. (TheKanon)