What society are we in that a young man woke up and said that people should not participate in voters’ registration? The journalists did not challenge him. The intelligentsia did nothing. There was no protest against him; just as the clergy said nothing. Our people listened to him excluding themselves from registering. I am referring to Nnamdi Kanu. People destroyed their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, or burned them.
When Jesus Christ was born, his parents Virgin Mary and Joseph went for census. Judea, Samaria and the entire Trans-Jordan were under Roman rule. That is why he was born in Bethlehem in Judea. But in 2006 I was in Keffi prison with Ralph Uwazurike charged with treason by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Census was going on and Uwazurike issued a statement as MASSOP leader urging Ndigbo to boycott it. I protested that if we boycott the census they would say that the Igbo didn’t have the population. It would affect us in local government creation, state creation and ward delineation. We physically fought each other inside the prison and the Department of State Service, DSS, and police were drafted in to protect me.
The outcome of that voters’ registration and census is what we are suffering today. You can see the results coming out of Igboland. Abia State 300,000 votes. Ebonyi 300,000. Anambra 600,000. Imo 500,000. You burnt your PVCs because we are in a society where none talks. I trembled seeing Professor Ben Nwabueze hugging Kanu as his Messiah. But the truth is that Kanu is running a campaign to destroy our race. Then 48 hours to voting Kanu told his followers to go and vote. But vote with what after burning their PVCs? Can Ndigbo produce a president with only 300,000 votes from Abia?
The issue at hand is the abysmal dearth of political leadership. We want an inspired leader capable of addressing the problem of Ndigbo. That leader must be patient, resourceful and intelligent. He or she must have the capacity to conspire with other Igbos in defending our collective interests.
Secondly, we are disunited and fragmented. A united Igbo extending from Igbanke in Edo State to Ika, Ikwerre, Ogba, Ekpeye, Egbema to Arochukwu to Izzi of Abakaliki is desirable.
The Ohaneze Debacle:
The President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, come January 2021, will be elected from Imo State. Ndigbo must painstakingly search for a leader who can unite them. Such leader must not be arrogant. He must be patient and willing to consider alternate opinions. The watchword is “consider.” The worst is not to consider at all. More importantly, our envisaged leader must not polarize Ndigbo into Igbo North and South. I was shocked when the suspended President-General Ohaneze, Nnia Nwodo, started pushing for Igboland North and South. My question was, if there were northern and southern Igbos where would the Ikwerre be? Where would the Ika and Igbanke be? Where would Arochukwu be? But I shall let you into the secret behind the Nwodo travesty.
President Muhammadu Buhari agreed that the Igbo were marginalized. He promised to move an Executive Bill using his position to create an additional sixth state for Ndigbo. At Ohaneze we set up the Ohaneze Committee on State Creation to considered all the proposals for new states. Professor Chigozie Ogbu, former deputy governor of Ebonyi State, was the chairman of this committee. I served as the Secretary.
The committee agreed that Aba State was the most viable. Subsequently, in a letter dated 10th October 2018 and titled “RECOMMENDATION OF OHANEZE COMMITTEE ON STATE CREATION,” the committee recommended for the creation of Aba State on very strong reasons. Aba State would satisfy equity. From the old Anambra State we already have three capitals, namely, Awka, Enugu and Abakaliki. But the old Imo State has only two capitals of Owerri and Umuahia. An additional capital from old Imo was proper. Beyond that, Aba State has the landmass and more local government than the proposed Adada State.
Economically, it would energize the people providing the engine, fuel and oil for industrial revolution capable of impacting positively on other Igbo states.
But Nwodo being from Nsukka was angered that the committee said no to Adada State. Till date he refused to listen to the yearnings of Ndigbo. Nwodo killed the creation of Aba State by making sure that Buhari did not get the recommendation for a sixth state for the South East.
The same Ohaneze, if I was not there, would have adopted Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate without considering the deeper political implications now and beyond. I had to stand up and say to Nwodo, you’re wrong. I did that at the risk of my life but I stood my ground. Till date the Igbo have not questioned Nwodo apart from Chris Ngige; and few others like former Governor Rochas Okorocha and Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, for his clear anti-Ndigbo stance.
The Igbo want to produce the president in 2023 but supported Abubakar to take over power in 2019 and stay till 2027. If he had succeeded where would we stand and be talking about 2023? We believe power should rotate between the North and South. If Abubakar had won how would power rotate; all because of the personal interests of Nwodo? He took steps that undermined the interests of Ndigbo. For example, at the time the 6th state for Ndigbo was promised, the same promise was made to the Yoruba to legalize June 12 and recognize Abiola. Buhari has fulfilled his promise to the Yoruba but our own is still pending.
So the question I ask the Igbo man is precisely who his enemy is? Is our problem Buhari, the North or ourselves? The Igbo man must pick and choose a leader who is not egoistic or a bigot. That we have few Local Government Areas, LGAs, today is not because of the North or West. It is because our own people never agreed when the LGAs were being created. The mindset was, instead of the LGA coming to you let’s stop it. The Igbo are completely insensitive.
Igboland is the only community in the world where the intelligentsia is not interested in who rules it. If you go round Igboland most of our Ezes and Igwes are not products of struggle. They were imposed. The intelligentsia would be there and somebody arrives with bags of money with which he buys his Ezeship and an autonomous community. None would go to court to challenge that and there would be no protest. So the intelligentsia has an active role to play in who governs Igboland.
I have always asked our elites, how come no practicing journalist ever becomes the Publicity Secretary of Ohaneze? The blunt truth is that our journalists are not interested. They write off the body as “Ohaneze Ndiapari.” But it the same “stupid” Ohaneze that would go and negotiate your future and destiny.
Secondly, Ndigbo as collective must be interested in who governs their communities. They must examine the characters of their Igwes, Ezes and presidents of town unions. To effectively do this they must bother to come home because they are too far away. A lot of our people do not know what is happening in their villages. They don’t visit home and when they do are in a hurry to leave. By so doing, they put the destiny of their children in the hands of people they do not know.
Thirdly, Ndigbo must be interested in elections. We must be interested in who goes to the National Assembly, house of assembly and local government to represent us. Whether you agree or not, the resources of a state are handed over to those with political power to distribute. If you’re not interested in elections and a man who is irresponsible and wicked takes control of these resources, he distributes them the way he likes. So you must be interested. As lawyers we must be proactive and embark on class litigation to stop somebody who cannot run a village from going to the senate.
Finally, we must use the pen to define and defend the Igbo agenda. Every revolution is engendered with the pen. Igbo journalists must come together and form the Union of Igbo Journalists, UIJ. This body should have branches all over Nigeria and in the Diaspora. The UIJ should educate Ndigbo through seminars and lectures. Igbo students should be made to understand what the Igbo interests are and how to defend them wherever they find them.
How come a society that produced Chinua Achebe and Chinweizu who wrote “The West and the Rest of Us” is yoked with bankrupt leadership? A good number of those taking decisions that affected 60 million Igbos are compromised, why? But can you have impossible leaders without a docile population? I had expected student protests when Kanu asked people to boycott voters’ registration. Instead, our students who were supposed to be reasonable were the ones supporting him. After all, they asked, what were we benefiting from Nigeria? But what were the Jews benefiting from the Romans, even when Caesar imposed heavy taxes on them, when they agreed to be counted?
What were the blacks benefiting from Apartheid but they still submitted themselves to census? They must show they were in the majority otherwise there was no Apartheid and minority rule. The only argument blacks had was the census that convincingly showed they were in the majority. Let the world install democracy and South Africa will vote and see who carried the day. But suppose a census was done only for blacks to boycott it and the result showed whites were the majority, would blacks be free today?
Self-defeatism is what the present Igbo leadership is all about. What the Japanese call hara-kiri or suicide. Ndigbo should wake up from their civil war-induced slumber. Journalists, the clergy, industrialists, etc, must interrogate every pronouncement from the lips of our leaders.
Dimm Uche Okwukwu is Secretary-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide.
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