Chief Onyeka Ifekandu is the Chairman/CEO Mac Akudiufu Nig Ltd and Eze Ndigbo Lagos Island. In this interview, he called on the Igbo to put the grudges of the civil war behind and embrace other tribes and ethnic groups, urging them to jettison the clamour for secession in order to earn the confidence of other Nigerians. He spoke on various issues.
What is the most challenging task before Igbo in Nigeria?
The challenge Igbo faces in Nigeria is what I call self-pity which has resulted to Igbo being marginalised politically. We fought a war which we lost and since we lost the civil war, all other groups telling us to secede from Nigeria don’t mean well for Ndigbo. It is an aberration for us to want to secede now. We tried it when we had the capacity, means and power, yet we lost the war which even the Nigerian government was magnanimous in using the word “No victor, no vanquished” through Gen. Yakubu Gowon to integrate us into the nation’s politics. But we chose to shut ourselves out of politics because we still nurse grudges against the rest of the country. We keep on reminding fellow Nigerians that we have bad blood in our minds, hence we can’t be outside government to fight for our rights. It is high time we do away with this nonsense called secession from Nigeria and fight for the Presidency. The best for us to do is to jettison any plan to secede and refuse to have anything to do with any group plotting for Igbo secession from Nigeria and fight for Igbo cause. We used to be the third major tribe and ethnic group in Nigeria, today other ethnic groups have overtaken Igbo because of Biafra agitation, hence we lost our position. We are being led astray by people who are not supposed to be our leaders who are only out for their personal interest. These so-called self-acclaimed leaders of Igbo include the leaders of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and that of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Ralp Uwazuruike. I’m not part and parcel of such groups because as the mouthpiece of Ndigbo in Lagos Island, I believe in one Nigeria and I’m a true Nigerian. I have Non-Governmental Organization known as Eze Ndigbo Welfare Union and its aims and objectives are the wellbeing of Igbo in Nigeria and to reinstate the pride of Ndigbo in Lagos Island. Whenever there is an issue between the indigenes and the Igbo, I come to mediate and provide legal service for them when the need arises.
How has the relationship between the Igbo and indigenes of Lagos enhanced development in the state?
So far, the relationship between Igbo and Yoruba is cordial. Among all the tribes and ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Yoruba are more friendly and accommodating. I was born in Tivland, Makurdi, Benue State to be precise and I attended both primary and secondary school there before I relocated to Lagos to seek greener pasture. While in Benue State as a minor, I saw marginalisation. I couldn’t secure admission into Government college, Markudi because they marginalizsd me due to my tribe even though I did well in my Common entrance examination. That was where I knew about marginalisation, but since I came to Lagos, I have not seen marginalisation. To me, Yoruba are the best ethnic group in Nigeria that have the interest of Igbo at heart. They are accommodating and their hospitality is second to none. Why do I say so? The Yoruba have given non indigenes in Lagos especially the Igbo every support to succeed in business than any other tribe or ethnic group in Nigeria. For instance, during the civil war, Igbo who lived in other parts of the country left their property and returned to Igboland. The Hausa killed our people both pregnant women and children. After the war, Igbo recovered all property in Yoruba land, but we lost all our property in South-South. They called Igbo property in the major cities in Port Harcourt “Abandoned Property” So, tell me, who among these tribes and ethnic groups will say love Igbo? Their bad blood or actions do not get to their heart.
How can the ethnic harmony between the Igbo and Yoruba translate to a healthy political alliance that will produce a president from the South East in 2023?
No doubt, politically, the Igbo is marginalised. But to a large extent, the Igbo are responsible for their political backwardness. Before we solicit for Yoruba’s support, we must first put our house in order. Igbo must first unite and speak with one voice before reaching out to the other ethnic groups for support. In 1967 as I was told because I was not born then, there was a gentleman agreement between Dim Chukwemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu and Chief Obafemi Awolowo that if he declares Biafra Republic, Awo should also declare the Republic of Oduduwa. Unfortunately, Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra, but Awo never did. So, that is the only area I faulted the Yoruuba if that is true.
Invariably, what you are saying is that Igbo ought to up its game politically and if they do, do you see President of Igbo extraction become a reality in 2023?
Igbo Presidency can only become a reality if the Igbo put the civil war grudges behind them and reintegrate ourselves into Nigerian politics. How do we reintegrate ourselves into Nigerian politics? First of all, we must jettison the agitation for Biafra and form an alliance with any of the tribes. Then we can lay claim to the Presidency. Yes, it is our turn because South West and South-South and the North have all taken their turn. It is then the other ethnic groups and tribes will see us as serious people, but right now, they see us as people that will secede if the opportunity is given to us. The other geo political zones believe that Igbo don’t want to be part of Nigeria and may secede if given the Presidency. Yes, we are doing very well in commerce, but it is time for us to replicate this in governance. We have dwelled too long in commerce and this has cost Igbo so much politically. So, the zeal with which we do business, the same attention should be paid in politics. Igbo should not only aspire to produce the President, we should also aspire for positions, get enlisted in the armed forces and become civil servants. It is worthy to note by my fellow Igbo men and women that South-East alone cannot produce the President, rather we must solicit the support of other regions. We must belong to strong and national political parties. What we know and have today as Igbo party is the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which is not a national party. Igbo must have or belong to a national party that has the interest of other ethnic groups at heart.