As the lockdown declared by President Muhammadu Buhari to check the spread of the Corona virus pandemic enters second week, Chief Solomon Ogbonna, President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State took a critical look at the exercise and declared that the measure is a necessary evil to check the pandemic. He speaks on other issues.
What is your view on the total lockdown of Lagos, FCT and Ogun state by the Federal Government?
The lockdown is a painful but necessary measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Quite, it is hard for people to stop business and work without any income, but it is only the living that does business. So, at this period, the most crucial thing is to stay alive and stay safe. So, I am in support of the measure taken by the government, especially here in Lagos which is the epicenter of the coronavirus in the country.
How has it affected your family and business?
My family is doing great, as the lockdown affords us time to bond together. The children are all home, playing and keeping us parents company. It is in our best interest to stay at home, and avoid contamination from any place. Moreover, you can’t visit anybody, as every family is observing the lockdown. As par business, nobody is thinking of that now. Whatever business arrangement I have goes through online. In fact, my focus now is the welfare of my people and all Ndigbo in Lagos. We will start talking serious business when the pandemic blows over.
What is your advice to Lagosians who are feeling the economic pains of the lockdown?
It is hard and painful to stay indoors without any income especially for those who depend on daily wages. However, the Lord is our Shepherd and He will surely keep Lagosians alive and safe. I advise all Lagosians to adhere strictly to the government instructions and recommendations, no matter how painful. No pain, no gain. We have to bear the pains necessary to stop the spread of the virus and overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is the response of Igbo with regard to the handouts from Lagos State government?
The handout from Lagos State government is for the poorest-of-the-poor in our society, especially those whose livelihood depends on daily wages, the disabled persons and homeless people. The handout is for that category of Lagosians including Ndigbo. The government has its parameter in categorising those people, and knows where to see them. So, I am confident that all Igbo in that category will be reached. I advise Ndigbo in that classification to watch out for the sharing in their area.
What is your view about the handout to the poor by the Federal Government?
The Federal Government arrangement is even more elaborate than the Lagos State arrangement, as theirs involve both cash and foodstuff for different categories of people. The Federal Government programme is being controlled by the Federal Ministry of humanitarian Affairs, and it is meant to reach the poorest people in all the 36 states plus Abuja. From what I learned, the money is meant for the poorest people whose names are in the National Social Registry. The ministry has parameter for the registration and those registrations were made before now. So, they know those qualified for the cash payment and food handout. I commend the Federal Government for the steps being taking to ameliorate the pains of the indigent at this period. I urge Ndigbo whose names are in the National Social Registry to watch out for the disbursement, as the ministry will reach all beneficiaries.
Some Igbo people are against donations from wealthy Igbo people for the Covid-19 fight, alleging that the Federal Government excluded South East in the projects for the proposed $22billion loan. What is your take on that?
This question can be answered better by our President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, as this is a very serious national issue. And I am confident the President General must have been discussing the proposed $22billion loan and its usage with our political leaders. Furthermore, our political representatives especially at the Senate and the House of Representatives must be doing something to protect the interest of our zone and ensure we get what is due us from the fund. Be that as it may, people should not politicise the war against coronavirus or place ethnic sentiments ahead of the battle to save our lives. These wealthy Igbo people are Nigerians and should identify with such worthy cause and support the government in the fight against coronavirus. So, I commend Igbo people who donated to the coronavirus fund and urge others who have the capacity to donate, to do so. We should stop viewing everything in this country from ethnic and tribal angle. Whoever has the capacity in cash or kind to support the government fight to save Nigerians from the coronavirus, should do it. Once again, I thank all wealthy Nigerians who are supporting the government with money and material in this fight against the pandemic.
What have Igbo personalities done through Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the umbrella Igbo organisation to support the fight against Covid-19 pandemic?
As of now, nobody has channeled any donation through Ohanaeze Ndigbo especially here in Lagos. Anyway, the battle against the pandemic is not over yet, so they may still channel some materials through Ohanaeze Ndigbo. I spoke to some of our personalities, encouraging them to support their communities in this crisis period. I am happy some of these people are responding and donating money and material to their rural communities. I believe some of them will still channel material through Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Your role model, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu turned 68years last month, what do you say?
Just as you said, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (the Jagaban) is my role model and I thank God for this milestone in his life. I pray God Almighty will grant him more years of service to Nigeria in particular and humanity in general. I wish him many more years of happy birthday Celebrations.