Prolific writer and administrator, Chief Ireke Kalu Onuma, has said the most challenging problem facing Nigeria today is the skewed structure and constitution of the country. In this interview, the administrative executive of Ndigbo Lagos Foundation, spoke on a number of issues.
What is your view on the state of the nation?
Often times, one wonders if we have a nation or not. Ever since our formation as a country, we have continually done everything but build a nation. We have denied our history, our culture and our collective experiences all to the detriment of nationhood.
Be that as it may, the question is about Nigeria in its present state. I submit then that the state of the nation is bad. It is wobbling on one foot while it was meant to stand strong on the feet of the collective strength of our plurality. The indices of nationhood have all been sabotaged. Good governance, security of lives and property and the most elementary, rule of law have been jettisoned. So, Nigeria is in a fix and requires more to be done today to set it on the path towards nationhood.
From statistics, South East is among the lowest in IGR. The investments of its people are outside Igbo land; what has been the outcome of the think home mantra by Ndigbo Lagos on Igbo industrialists?
Our Internal Generated Revenue compared to Lagos is pathetic. We have not tapped into the individual chemistry of the business and entrepreneurial community. Investments and profits cannot be forced. They still abide by the age old laws of Supply and Demand. And these have to be backed by proper legislations, tax breaks and other incentives. Put all said together, it becomes apparent that these haven’t been so in the South East. The Think Home mantra of Ndigbo Lagos is an attempt at creating a viable platform for a proper handshake between the South East governments and the business community.
We haven’t yet got up the numbers in terms of success, but we are slowly chipping on the stubborn stone. While all these are going on, there is a visible collective failure of the governments to use what’s available to them.
An integrated approach would help them solve so many of the problems. Resources are not being tapped into and there’s so much waste and barely no savings. Pulling ideas and incentives together can help solve some of these problems. Growing the economy of the South East is still work in progress and we are constantly challenging ourselves on how best to get that done.
What is your position on the quest by Igbo to occupy the presidency in 2023?
It is a quest whose time has come. It is not that we are begging for it, it is our rights as citizens and members of the Nigerian community. The present state of the country continues to be a source of worry for us in the South East.
We consider the most challenging problem today to be the skewed structure and the bastardly constitution, which has railroaded every effort at making a nation out of this country. And we, Ndigbo consider this to be a serious problem and have thrown over the years all we’ve got to getting that resolved. In pursuit of this, producing a president of South East extraction is necessary and much overdue.
It is said that Igbo are not united and that they sing discordant tunes; will this not be a drawback for their 2023 ambition?
United in what? It seems that each time a serious conversation is going on; these sneaky attempts at changing the narrative are thrown up. Ndigbo, though the most open and democratic amongst the community of groups in Nigeria, do not have a problem of consensus.
We discuss, very often and disagree; yet we have never been shy of taking a common position. The only drawback in our quest for the actualisation of the presidential drive is the fear and primitive gang up of the Fulani Oligarchy and some of their South Western colleagues. For us, it’s never been an issue, we have been doing what we ought to do and more importantly, we are working differently now.
What is you take on restructuring; it is said that if the country is restructured that the South East will be the worst hit, do you agree with that?
That’s vintage nonsense. We must resolve to change the structure of this country from a no state and a failed state towards nationhood. What we’ve practiced is a mistake; a misnomer at most. We have all along created a fiefdom for the greedy and opportunistic political class, who has turned our commonwealth into personal properties. Yet they claim to act on our behalf.
Restructuring is an attempt at redefining what structure suits us most. And I do not see how we in the South East are going to be worse off. We must resolve to take this redemptive leap. We have for far too long made a mockery of ourselves by continually believing that we can do anything better with what we have. We won’t. Let’s face it, we are going nowhere without slowing down and changing course.
The National Assembly has approved $22.7bn loan for the federal government, but no project in the Southeast is included to benefit from the loan, what is your reaction?
The Federal Government has been allowed to get away with so much for so long. Hence, there is a need for all critical forces and stakeholders from the South East to rise up against this. First, there must be a conscious effort to get detailed clarification from the FG in the whole process of the loan and how it is intended to be used.
If in fact the South East isn’t part of the plan, we must resist it. Sue the FG and refuse to be part of the payment. We should aim to refuse further exploitation of the South East to feed the greed of the North.
Aside from that, this should be an appropriate time to pay serious attention to the whole Southern project. The governments of the region aren’t representing themselves, so they must seek to get the people to understand the overall long term effects and if all attempts fail, a coordinated civil protest should be explored.