I am shocked that the Igbos are not speaking up at the apparent siege laid on their land by uniformed person of different categories. They range from Army, Navy, Police, Civil Defence, Customs, FRSC, etc. My journey had taken me by road from Isele-Mkpitime, where I had gone to pay tribute to a Nigerian icon, Chief (Dr) P.K.C. Isagba, the Odogwu of Isele-Mkpitime. He was one of the first Nigerians to believe in my ability as a young fledgling lawyer.
I had been handling his cases whilst at Chief Gani Fawehinmi’s Chambers. When I left as Deputy Head to set up my practice in January 1986, Chief Isagba personally went to Chief Gani Fawehinmi, to allow him move his files to me, to continue handling his cases; a request the amiable and selfless Gani granted immediately. So, Chief Isagba became my first major client as a tottering practising lawyer, trying to find my groggy feet. He became my bossom friend and elder brother.
My journey from Isele-Mkpitime, through Asaba, to Port-Harcourt, told me clearly that the entire Igbo land is locked down in a physical, psychological and mental siege, reminiscent of a civil war time.
When the Civil War ended January 15, 1970, the then military ruler, General “Jack” Yakubu Gowon, who became Head of State, at 31 and a bachelor, proclaimed the three Rs: “Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation”, which heralded his policy of “No Victor, No Vanquished.”
This was after the unfortunate failure of the 4th-5th January, 1967, of the “Aburi Accord”, that would have prevented the bloody war in which over 2 million civilians and 100, 000 military combatants were killed. Or, was it an historical mistake that these people who had already manufactured “Ogbunigwe” (series of weapons, that included detonation mines, IED, and rocket propelled missiles), with which they prosecuted the Nigeria – Biafra war between 1967 and 1970, were prevented from leaving Nigeria? Perhaps, we would today have had a Japan, Singapore or South Korea lying side by side a sprawling “giant of Africa” on clay legs.
These policies were meant to quickly heal the gaping wounds of the gruesome blood-letting, forget the horrors and evils of the fratricidal war and quickly reintegrate the Igbos into the society.
But, have these hardworking, gregarious “Jews” of Nigeria been reconciled, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the mainstream of the Nigerian society? I doubt it. Simple proof: show me any Igbo man in today’s all powerful cabal kitchen cabinet of PMB’s Government.
My journey from Isele-Mkpitime, Delta State, through Asaba, Onitsha, Oba, Oraifite, Okija, Ihiala, Mgbidi, Awomama, Owerri, Aba to Port-Harcourt, was a strangulating reminder that the Igbo, inspite of their unquantifiable contributions to the commerce, industry and innovations that drive the non-oil sector of the Nigerian economy and give it oxygen, are nearly a conquered people. The check-points along the above stretch of road are nauseating and asphyxiating, as the security agencies, including para-military ones out-do each other to harass, torment, search, intimidate and extort money from travelers.
Earlier journeys by road (I travel a lot on professional duties), had shown me the same siege through countless roadblocks: Enugu, through the Ugwogo Nike-Opi-Nsukka Road; Amansea in Awka-Ugwuoba Oji River; Nnewi, Alor, Ekwulobia, Amesi, Ugar, Umuchu; Okigwe, Awgu and Ituku Ozalla, Umuahia and Isiala-Ngwa, on Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway. On the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene highway, you have exasperating road blocks at Michael Okpara University junction; Isingwu-Nkweogwu junction of the Isuikwuato-Uzuakoli-Ajayi-Igbere road; and the 14 Brigade Army barracks junction at the Ohafia-Arochukwu highway.
As you are crossing one check point, a mere look ahead of you, of less than half a kilometer, will reveal another barricade. It is all so frustrating. There is no war, or security breach. South East is not North East where Boko Haram still calls the shots (forget about Government’s pet words of “we have degraded Boko Haram”; Boko Haram is still very potent, controlling large areas, killing and maiming people on a daily basis. Their representative said that much at the 2nd May, 2017, Re-Union meeting of the 2014 National Conference delegates at Daar Communications Centre, Abuja, where I delivered the keynote address).
Yet, in this Boko Haram-ravaged region, you would not find this armada of security, treating the entire geo-political zone made up of five states (the least in Nigeria; some others have seven states), like a conquered territory.
It is only the recent suit by my good friend, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, (six of us founded the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) – the first human rights body in Nigeria-on 15th October, 1987), over “marginalisation of the South East region”, that has perhaps brought to the front burner, these disturbing tons of injustice. That is why no one can ignore Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB, Ralph Uwazurike’s MASSOB, etc, agitating for self –determination, a right sanctioned and recognised even by the UNO.
These fully armed and trigger-happy security personnel have never taken steps to protect the Igbo race, against rampaging Fulani Herdsmen that raid their homes, to maim, kill and rape their wives (remember Nimbo in Uzo Uwani LGA in Enugu State). They have never repelled the incessant reign of terror by armed robbers, kidnappers, hired assassins and murderers. No, they are stationed there for three main reasons: (1) check the bid for self determination by the Igbos; (2) extort money from the wealthy and poor Igbo traders who ply these routes; (3) remind the Igbos that the all powerful Federal Government is on ground to silence the people and force them to toe their ruling party line.
Wait a minute; is that why some prominent Igbos, including erstwhile leaders, members of the BOT and two-time Governors for eight years under PDP, have been outdoing each other to decamp to a non-performing and fundamentally flawed party like the APC?
Let me end this piece by recommending to the Ndigbos, the legendary Hubert Ogunde’s immortal words, in his most famous 1964 play, “Yoruba Ronu” (“Yorubas, think”), a stinging satire that got his theatre company banned, which ban was later lifted in 1966, by the new military Governor.
Ndigbos, cheenu echiche (Igbos, think).
(Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist)
Earlier yesterday after news of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu’s re-arrest and re-arraignment surfaced a very quick press release was made public by a faction of Ohanaeze praising the rearrest of Nnamdi Kanu.
The tone of the release was unlike Ohanaeze that is now made clear that such did not emanate from the desk of Ohanaeze President General but by some factional mischief maker.
The Ohanaeze press release reads as follows.
The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to a publication currently circulating in the media suggesting that Ohanaeze Ndigbo has issued a statement regarding the alleged rearrest and re-arraingment of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB).
Ordinarily, we would have ignored the said press release, but silence in this circumstance would mean giving validity to such fallacy by the unsuspecting public.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor has not issued any press statement on the matter. Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the apex Igbo cultural organization does not issue public statements in a hurry. I hereby dissociate ourselves from the said press release and also warn those mischief makers, impostors and charlatans peddling the name of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to achieve selfish gains to desist from that shameful misadventure.
In the event of further breach of this warning Ohanaeze Ndigbo will be compelled to invoke the full weight of the law to deal with the offenders.
Chiedozie Alex. Ogbonnia National Publicity Secretary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide
Elder statesman and foremost Igbo leader, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, has urged the Federal Government to review its operation in the Southeast and initiate dialogue with the pro-Biafra groups to tone down the agitations.
Iwuanyanwu, who spoke in Abuja, when he was conferred with awards by the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria, and the Inter-Faith Youth Council of Nigeria, the Vanguard of Good Leadership and Epitome of Hope and Integrity Award of Selfless Service to Humanity respectively, maintained that the issue of insecurity in the country cannot be resolved through the barrel of a gun.
He wondered why any group would be thinking of breaking away from the country when the world is already a global village, adding that bringing all parties to the dialogue table, remains the most viable option in pacifying all the warring groups across the country.
Commending President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the area of infrastructure development, Iwuanyanwu however noted that Buhari was voted into power based on his promise to tackle insecurity, adding that “the protection of lives and property was the essence of life and not even to dole out money to somebody.”
He said, “you have seen it already and you know this is very serious and very bad. I think really that the government should now realise that this thing cannot be solved through barrel of guns. So, I think it has reached a point when the government should realise that peace cannot be attained from the barrel of guns. It is now time to start searching for these people.
“Go to Southwest, go to the man, Igboho or so or whatever they call him; go to Southeast, get those people from the Southeast, get all those people who are causing trouble, bring them together, they are your children, they are Nigerians, let us know what is the matter.
“That will be the best solution because it will save us money. But if you think we can solve it by this thing, it will embarrass us. If one day, these people come and start throwing bombs in Abuja here, Abuja will scatter and that could embarrass this country anywhere in the world. It means that all the embassies will run away, everybody will run away.
“And these people are not showing any sympathy. They kidnap in schools, they kidnap children; call them. Let’s beg them and see how we can solve the problem,” Iwuanyanwu further said. (The Nation)
Ebube Agu Security Outfit is the only recognized security outfit in the Southeast region and no other has the mandate to speak for the region.
The clarification was made by the Chairman, Southeast Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr Dave Umahi on Friday after a closed door Southeast Security Council Meeting, held at Enugu.
The Federal Government delegation led by the Minister for Defence, Retired Major-General Bashir Magashi, also included Heads of the various security agencies, including the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Farouk Yahaya.
Addressing newsmen after the meeting which lasted for hours, Governor Umahi, condemned exchange of inflammatory comments, killing of innocent citizens, attacks on security operatives, as well as destruction of public infrastructures in the Southeast region.
He restated the ban on open grazing in the region, which is fueling insecurity across the nation, including the Southeast region.
“In resolving any conflict, the nature and causes of the conflict must be identified and discussed. This meeting discussed the issues of insecurity and I must commend the Federal Government delegation for the commitment they have shown. Our stakeholders are excited and satisfied with such sincere commitment which I believe, is a new dawn not only in the Southeast but the entire Nigeria. We discussed issue of ban on open grazing and the delegation has agreed on our position on the ban,” he said.
Umahi revealed that the meeting also agreed that the Southeast governors articulate the grievances of Ndigbo as identified by Ohaneze Ndigbo, especially as it affects marginalization of the region.
He expressed belief that if the numerous agitations are addressed, it will go a long way to douse the tension in the region and encourage the people to continue to believe in the Nigerian project.
“Ndigbo are committed to one united Nigeria, where fairness, equity and justice thrive. There is need for the various zones to advise leaders of this country to mind their utterances so as not to speak the country into violence. Those who dish out hate speeches, or threats of succession do not speak for Southeast. Southeast people are not for secession and we condemn the wanton killing of security agents and attacks on security formations. This is not what we are known for,” the Southeast governors’ Chairman posited.
He made it clear that Ebubeagu is the only local security outfit recognized in the region, adding that the position of the region, which is in line with that of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, will be articulated at a meeting scheduled for the 19th of June.
Responding, the leader of the Federal Government delegation, Retired Major-General Bashir Magashi, said the Buhari-led administration is committed to addressing instability and other forms of criminality bedeviling the nation and the region in particular, and thanked SouthEast leaders for efforts in that regard.
The Minister, who promised to bring the issue of marginalisation reechoed in the meeting to the attention of the President, enjoined stakeholders in the region to encourage Community Policing as the Southwest did with the Amotekun regional security outfit.
“We have listened to the government, the traditional institution, and the religious leaders and we agreed to commit ourselves to addressing the issue of insecurity in the country. We have seen the commitment of the Southeast governors to the unity and stability of the country and I am giving them the assurance that the commitment will be raised to the President.
“We have discussed the Herders complaint, marginalization of the zone, issue of community policing among other things and we believe we can work together to bring back peace and stability in the region and the entire country,” he said (The Chronicle)
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) says the Igbo should be allowed to secede from Nigeria if that is what the south-east wants.
The proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) are campaigning for the secession of the south-east from Nigeria.
IPOB was formed in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, while MASSOB was founded in 1999 by Ralph Uwazuruike.
Addressing journalists after a closed-door meeting held in Abuja on Monday, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesman of the forum, said the agitation by the Igbo for secession has become widespread, adding that the leaders in the state appear to support the decision.
Baba-Ahmed advised that standing in the way of the agitators will only worsen the insecurity in the country.
“This nation has had to fight a terrible war to preserve the country. The north had paid its dues in that war, as indeed it did in many ways throughout the history of the country. Under our current circumstances, no Nigerian should welcome another war to keep the country together,” he said.
“The forum has arrived at the difficult conclusion that if support for secession among the Igbo is as widespread as it is being made to look, and Igbo leadership appears to be in support of it, then the country should be advised not to stand in its way.
“It will not be the best choice for the Igbo or Nigerians to leave a country we have all toiled to build and a country we all have the responsibility to fix, but it will not help a country already burdened with failures on its knees to fight another war to keep the Igbo in Nigeria.”
The forum warned that attacks and killings of northerners, federal government employees, and destruction of national assets must stop, adding that those involved must be arrested and prosecuted.
The northern elders also noted that until the Igbo decide whether it wants to secede or remain part of Nigeria, the law applies to it, as the federal and state governments have a responsibility to enforce the law and protect citizens.
They also supported the calls for northerners who are exposed to harassment and violence, to consider relocating to the north. They, however, advised that all Igbo and other ethnic groups residing in the north should be accorded the usual hospitality and security.
They, however, advised that all Igbo and other ethnic groups residing in the north should be accorded the usual hospitality and security. (The Cable)
Former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf has accused Southerners in the country of profiling the Fulani ethnic group even though some tribes from the region are allegedly responsible for some vices in the Northern region of the country.
Speaking in an interview with The Sun, Usman alleged that agitations for restructuring and secession are blackmail tools being employed by the Igbos and Yorubas to force their way into the Presidential Villa in Abuja in 2023.
When asked why he said the 17 Southern governors should have consulted Fulani groups before banning open grazing even though Kano and some other northern states banned the consumption of alcohol without carrying along other stakeholders, Usman said;
I said and I’m repeating it that the Asaba declaration is unconstitutional based on Section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution, which guarantees every Nigerian the right to live and earn a living in any part of the country regardless of ethnicity, politics or religion. What they did was unconstitutional, null and void. Secondly, making a particular law that is specific against an ethnic group is dangerous. I also said that Asaba declaration is nothing but a premeditated quit order for all Fulani to leave the South. It is just like the governor of Kano or any state in the North saying, ‘do not sell spare parts’ and does not provide an alternative place for Igbo traders to sell their wares.
Many of these Fulani in the South have lived there for generations; many don’t even speak Hausa. So, if I’m governor of a state in the North and say, do not sell spare parts in this place, but I did not provide an alternative place for you to sell spare parts, it is just like saying Igbo spare parts dealers should leave my place. Asaba declaration was nothing but a quit order for all Fulani to leave the South. Fulani herders have started leaving the South-East, which is very dangerous. Leadership matters.
Those 17 governors didn’t think through the national security implications of their political gerrymandering in Asaba. Those herders are citizens of the South; you don’t make laws without consulting them. They have lived there for generations more than many of these governors. All of a sudden, you tell them not to do what they have done for generations. You vilify them for all the crimes in the South. What of the Eastern Security Network and IPOB that are killing police and everybody there? Let’s see if these killings will stop as Fulani are leaving the South.
Southern governors need to be sensible. They are saying all the security problems in the South are because of Fulani herders who have lived there for generations. They are just trying to find an ethnic group to vilify and I warned that they should be very careful. There are over 15 million Igbo living peacefully in the North. We elders and all our traditional rulers, as well as clerics have been trying to keep things down. We have seen seven Hausa Suya sellers killed in Imo; we have seen pictures posted online by ESN IPOB of Fulani families, women and children they killed. I have personally interacted with these families.
Nobody is saying anything. I blamed Igbo leaders for their silence. If anything happens to the Igbo in the North, the first people that will come out are traditional rulers and the clerics will be calming down the situation. But in the South-East, Nnamdi Kanu and ESN are doing that rascality specifically targeting another ethnic group, but I do not hear a word from any Igbo elder. They are in Abuja looking for Igbo presidency.
The way they are going, South-East will be worse than the North-East. These Igbo leaders that are shouting Igbo presidency will run to Abuja or Lagos. They are afraid of Nnamdi Kanu and are trying to appease him. In the South-West, Igboho, who is nothing but an illiterate, a political thug is doing all this nonsense and now calling the shots in the region that claims to be very educated, but everybody is keeping silent. The North is looking and watching quietly. All of a sudden, the South-West leaders ran to Lagos to say, they are not for secession. You cannot have your cake and eat it.
You can’t gather 17 of you in Asaba and give people quit notice and came to Lagos and say, we are not together with them. No, you are together. Asaba declaration is unconstitutional, null and void and they need to be very careful. Politics is not threat, it is not blackmail. It is reaching out to people.
Usman also alleged that the Igbos broughts drugs to the north, while the biggest armed robbers in North have allegedly been Igbo, Yoruba and Edo people.
I’m 60 years old and I have lived in this country long enough. All they are saying is bullshit and they know that. All thee SANs, many of them are my juniors and interact with them and they call me. They are telling us that the Fulani are the cause of the security problem in the whole of the South. The Fulani have left the South-East now and it is scary. They can do all their talks. These SANs you are talking about are in Abuja, they should be in the South-East engaging IPOB, just as we go inside the forests to engage the bandits.
If I use my cows to destroy your farm, isn’t there a law against it? Why should they paint the whole of the Fulani in the South in bad light? The Igbo brought drugs in the North and they are also into robbery. The 19 governors have never tainted the Igbo. The biggest armed robbers in the North have been Igbo, Yoruba and Edo people and they are also the biggest kidnappers. Go to Kano, the drugs are brought from the East. We are warning the South against profiling, vilifying, dehumanising an ethnic group, as this will not get us anywhere. So they can do all the nonsense, we are very educated too. The constitution is clear; Section 4 protects every citizens. There are a lot more Yoruba, Igbo and other Southerners in the North living very well and peacefully.
The Southern governors need to be very careful. Ondo State governor, Akeredolu, who is spearheading this, did his NYSC in Yola and stayed in Yola to practise as a young lawyer. The hospitality of the Fulani in Yola is what made him what he is today. He is married to an Igbo woman and so, is supposed to be a better Nigerian that any other person. People need to be very careful; these politicians will mess this country and run away. This country we call Nigeria was brought by the blood and sweat of people, not this opportunistic politicians. If they continue making laws vilifying an ethnic group, Igbo will be the losers.
That is why we elders in the North are raising our voices to say that the Asaba nonsense must stop. The killing of Northerners in the East by the so-called unknown gunmen who you all know are IPOB/ ESN must stop. Igbo have far real estate and financial investments in the North, courtesy of the goodwill, the kindness and the generosity of our people across the North. If a governor decides to revoke or do any law to revoke their real estate or their financial investments, Igbo will be losers.
Igbo need to be very careful; they have so much investments and so many of them are living in the North. The North hasn’t anybody in the South, as they have now kicked out all the Fulani herdsmen in the South-East.
On Southern Governors asking for restructuring, Usman stated that it is equitable for northerners and also questioned the number of votes people from the South-East gave Buhari.
It is not equitable for us in the North. I’m from Katsina, the same state with the president. How many votes did the entire South-East give him? We gave him 1.2 million votes. What do we have to show for it? We have nothing to show but death and destruction. You guys say that Buhari is nepotistic. Is there any state that a president has fired four chief executives of key agencies from his state during his administration? Which state is that? It is Katsina. Lawal Daura, DSS; myself, Prof Usman Yusuf, NSIF; Prof Naimek Ahmed, and Hadija Bala Usman, NPA. These are four key agencies in this country that the president fired. Has he done that in any state? He is nepotistic when it comes to appointment and also nepotistic when it comes to firing.
The NHIS former executive secretary however doubled down and claimed that the north is not afraid of restructurig.
When told that the South cannot push for restructuring because the North will shout it down, he said;
Who is afraid of restructuring. People in the South think that the North is afraid of restructuring, and they are absolutely wrong. Our lives in the North were better than it was with all these states. All these people gathering themselves as Middle Belt Forum and this forum are not representing anybody; they are just representing themselves and trying to be relevant for 2023.
Nobody in the North is afraid of restructuring. Secondly, all those asking for restructuring don’t even know what they want. Thirdly, there are people who wrongfully believe that restructuring will change their electoral equation that will make their ethnic group to be the next president in 2023 and there are those who are using restructuring and secession, Biafra and Oduduwa Republic as blackmail tool, thinking that they will blackmail themselves into the Villa in 2023.
Restructuring can never happen without interrogating the 1999 Constitution as amended because it recognises 36 states. For you to do anything you must interrogate that constitution. I’m talking about going back to true federalism, where we were. Serious nations are charting the way forward, but selfish politicians want to take us backward where they will be the premier. These warlords that call themselves governors, can they relinquish their offices? They won’t. You want restructuring, go and interrogate the constitution. You can’t do it in the street of Orlu, in Sambisa Forest, in the forest of Niger, or in Igboho land. You can only do it in the House of Assembly through your elected representatives. All members of House of Representatives and Senators got their tickets through these governors who gathered in Asaba. They should assemble and tell them to push for the interrogation of the constitution to give way for restructuring. This is how politics is done.
Democracy is about number. How did Hope Uzodimma become Imo State governor? How did Wike become governor? Is it not because of the majority of the votes? That is democracy; a minority cannot impose its wish on the majority. If the minority wants its way, it reaches out. You gather 17 governors in Asaba and Igbo that are only about 15 per cent of the population want to intimidate a group with a larger population?
He also accused the Yorubas of making noise and also described their position as “nonsense”.
Yoruba have louder mouths than other people; they have the media, etc. The number two in this government is a Yoruba man. The number four is Yoruba. Fashola, a Yoruba was given three ministries. The South-West has benefited far more in this government than the North-West, and nobody from the North is making noise. They have been making noise and their position is nonsense. The South-West governors, after they went and romanced with the South-East and South-South governors, came back to Lagos to say we are not for secession. They should know that 17 governors or 17 states cannot make up the president. They need to learn politics. If you have a problem with the 1999 Constitution, go to the Senate and the House of Representatives. It wasn’t made in Katsina; wherever it was made, we need to sit down and sort it out. (Lindaikejiblog)
They called on the Chief of army staff to immediately stop the mass arrests.
The Professor George Obiozor led Ohanaeze in a statement signed by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia said: “The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to ongoing massive arrests of Igbo youths by the Nigerian Army.
The report indicates that “the military personnel, suspected to be led by the 34 Artillery Brigade, Owerri since Sunday have been arresting male residents and youths, particularly in Oguta and Ohaji communities and clamping them into vans and taken to unknown destinations”.
“The report adds that the army are “busy, carrying out raids, discreet searches and arrests of youths and residents who are suspected to be linked to the Indigenous People of Biafra and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Ambassador Prof. George Obiozor is unequivocal about the use of firearms by unauthorized persons, bodies or groups. Democracy, all over the world vests the absolute authority for the legitimate use of force in government. We had admonished that the exclusive indulgence of AK 47 to the Fulani herdsmen as canvassed by Governor Bala Mohammed is antithetical to the ethos of a decent society.
“For the armed forces to arrest the Igbo youths without evidence of arms, means of violence or crime is cowardly, uncivilized and mostly unacceptable to Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It runs contrary to every sense of natural justice and rights of citizenship for the army to invade some Igbo communities in search of youths; most of whom are brilliant university graduates whose society has denied employment and sense of belonging. This is adding salt to festering injury.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo does not just wax lyrical about Igbo youths of all categories or dispositions.
“We condemn crime irrespective of the source. On the other hand, we stand on a firm wicket that it is ruthless to arrest any Igbo in the guise of membership of a terrorist organization unless there is sufficient evidence of crime or unlawful possession of firearms.
“We call on the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru to urgently stop the wave of arrests before it gives impetus to the proposal by the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to offer asylum to person who actively and openly supports IPOB and likely to be at risk of arrest or detention, and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution”.
…Says opinion of South East is to get 2023 President
…Laments that 2014 CONFAB was another failed attempt at remodelling Nigeria’s federalism
…Notes it can’t deny IPOB members,
…Throws its weight behind EbubeAgu
By Henry Umoru
AHEAD of 2023 general and Presidential elections, the umbrella body of South East people, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has asked Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and other political parties to zone the presidency to the South East for equity, justice and fairness.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Abuja, the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Professor George Obiozor, who noted that time is ripe for Nigeria to get a President of South East extraction in 2023, said the talent of Igbo is yet to be fully utilized and maximised by Nigeria.
Obiozor, who expressed optimism that the South East would get the Presidency in 2023, however, warned that many were called, and a few were chosen. It wondered why why people were beaming unnecessary attention on negative issues such as security challenges in the South East because Igbo Presidency had changed from probability to possibility.
Responding to a question on how Ohanaeze Ndigbo would achieve its purpose for an Igbo President in Nigeria’s multiparty system, Obiozor said: ‘’We have many politcal parties. We would appeal to them to nominate an Ibo man or woman as their Presidential candidate.
‘’That would do. That would be wonderful. It is found in the Bible, ‘many are called, few are chosen. Politics is a matter of selection. We would sort out ourselves. Just support us, including the press. I am soliciting the press. For now, just support a president from the South East, an Igboman or an Igbo woman.”
The Ohanaeze President General, who stated that Igbo leaders had already started consultations on the realisation of Igbo presidency, said it had been wonderful.
“The results of the consultations are in the papers of day before yesterday, yesterday and even today. Very sound, positive results. Wonderful responses. Have you listened to Edwin Clark or read him? One at a time. None is on the run. ‘’So we are taking it easy. We have given you wonderful example of the support. First outing, tremendous success. You read it, you saw it. Edwin Clark is not a frivolous man. He is a man of history and he is leading a people who have had experience in this country. ‘’In the politics of precarious balance in Nigeria, they have had experience. They know what it takes to support any group and they have done it.”
On political parties he said: “As many as they are, each one of those parties should nominate an Igbo man from the South East. As for who (candidate) it will be, it’s found in the Bible, many are called few are chosen.
“During the last Presidential election, all the major candidates were from the same zone. It was also so in 1999. So why are we trying to break our heads because it is coming to our zone. Give us, our choice will be made by us with your cooperation. That is what the Ibos are demanding. We deserve it and it is reasonable.”
On how the South East would speak with one voice to avoid a plurality of interests and aspirants, Obiozor said: “Other tribes are more divided than us, Igbo are more united. But because all of a sudden there is possibility of Igbo Presidency, some people want to label Igbo a terrorist zone.
‘’I advise the press and ourselves to avoid certain things that are not necessary. Nobody can divide us. This time around, we can get the Presidency from Igbo land. Probability of Igbo Presidency in 2023 has become a possibility.
“Igbo want peace, but not peace of the grave yard. Whatever every other citizen of Nigeria is enjoying, the Igbo need it too.”
According to him, a President of Igbo extraction will bring “capacity, difference and Justice and equity. It is sad that Nigerian does not want to use talent of Igbos. The Igbos are known for their divergent opinions. Is a true consensus possible?’’
Obiozor, who dismissed the claim that South East people were not united politically, said the notion that the zone does not speak with one voice reflects the plurality of ideas by what he termed an egalitarian people which would be harnessed by Ohanaeze.
He said: “Speaking with one voice is dictatorial and undemocratic. We won’t speak with one voice, Igbos will express themselves in different voices which will be articulated by a central leadership that knows.
“For the Igbos having variety of opinion is not a crime, no section has only one opinion on an issue. Igbos have different opinions and they all converge on president of South East in 2023.
“Divergent opinion is healthy in politics and politics is not a science of exactitude. It is not mathematics. Politics is considerably and consistently a matter of choices. So for the Igbos having divergent opinions is not a crime.
‘’No section of Nigeria has one opinion or has one leader. Do we have one opinion in the North East, the North West, even South South. Igbos have different opinions and they converge in Igbo President, President from the South East in 2023. That is the opinion.”
Asked to speak on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, question, Obiozor said IPOB members are their sons that could never be denied.
“We won’t deny IPOB because they are our children, we can never never deny them. They are our people and they must listen to us just as we listen to them. Any area of conflict we will resolve as their father.’’
Answering questions on the 2014 National Conference, the Ohanaeze President hailed the conference as the best but faulted the refusal of the federal government to implement the recommendation of the conference, describing it as another lost opportunity.
“That confab was another failed attempt at remodelling our federalism. They didn’t want restructuring, they didn’t want federalism,’’ he said.
Responding to where the support of Ohanaeze laid between Eastern Security Network and Ebube Agu, Obiozor said: ‘’Believe me, an organization that is working for the security, peace, safety and interest of the Igbos is welcomed. Ebube Agu is formed by the government and governments of the South East.
‘’There is no comparison between Ebube Agu and any other organization. Any organization should come under the control of the government. This question is a very divisive one and we are a people tired of being divided by English language.
‘’Any organization that is fighting for fairness, equity and justice for Igbos is welcomed. If there is a difference, it will be method. It has to be harmonized. As the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, I don’t want any method that puts Igbos in harms way.
‘’That is inimical to our own safety, you get my point. In fact, every group in Nigeria is divided, some even more divided than the Igbos. Look around.
“Until recently, the South East used to be the most peaceful zone. Now all of a sudden, because the idea of a president from Igboland has moved from a probability to a possibility, people want to turn Igboland into a terrorist environment.
‘’Igbos are not nation breakers, we are not violent people. So we must find out the root of the recent spread of violence and Kidnappings and all that. So that is what I am trying to say. People should not use such a thing as the character of Igbo people. For all the things you can know Igbos for, Igbos are not known for getting money through laziness, like kidnapping. You kidnap your uncle, you get money.
“So my advice to the press, do not give publicity to things that do not merit it by comparing Ebube Agu with any other organization that is working in Igboland. Things have hierarchy. The governors of the states are the chief security officers of the states.
‘’So how do you compare them with organizations. Organizations are welcomed if they are working in the interests of the people and the nation. The people we are taking about are our children. They are our people.’’ (Vanguard News)
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)