“Today, we are treated like slaves in our own land not just by this government, but by successive governments, since the military came into government”
Magnus Eze, George Onyejiuwa and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has accused the Federal Government of treating its people like slaves in their own country.
This was as Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, tasked the group to work assiduously to unite Igbo people so that other Nigerians could see them as part and parcel of the country.
President General of the body, Chief Nnia Nwodo, said, during a courtesy visit to the Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Agunwa Ohiri, that it had been tough for the organisation and Igbo leaders restraining their youths from arm struggle, in a bid to resist the brazen marginalisation.
Nwodo led the national leadership of Ohanaeze and their counterparts from the seven Igbo speaking states to visit the monarch as part of activities marking this year’s Igbo Day celebrations, which kicked off in Owerri, Imo State, on Monday.
He regretted that the unitary system of government foisted on Nigeria by the military had destroyed all standards in the country, insisting that the future of the country rests on restructuring.
“Today, we are treated like slaves in our own land not just by this government, but by successive governments, since the military came into government…I know how difficult it has been restraining our young people, who are disturbed by what they are passing through. But, we wouldn’t allow them because they didn’t see war, so, they don’t know what war is all about.
“We’ve come with the message that we are not going to rest until Nigeria is restructured. To show you the kind of solidarity we have, we’ve come with our brothers from Afenifere, led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo; our leader in the South South, Chief Edwin Clark would have been here, but he lost his son yesterday (Monday), though he sent a delegation; the Middle Belt Forum delegation is here too. When we were issued with a quit notice in the North, they rose in unison in our meeting at Ayo Adebanjo’s home, where they declared that nobody was going; that an injury to one was injury to all. So, we have come for your blessing because we can’t go far without royal blessing.”
Okorocha said until other Nigerians begin to come to Igboland to invest like Ndigbo do in other parts of the country, the gap will continue to exist, and they can do this if they are united as a people. “Ohanaeze is a socio-cultural organisation like Afenifere and Arewa. Ohanaeze could relate and marry these organisations and use them to launch the campaign that would truly make other parts of Nigeria see the Igbo as fellow Nigerians, in whom they should be well pleased. We are highly misunderstood, and until you come to an Igboman’s house, you will not know how hospitable he is. “We are highly misunderstood. This is why we must use organisations like these ones I mentioned to tell our story, so that other tribes may understand us.”
He further urged those clamouring for restructuring to lend their voice for the creation of additional state for the South East, stressing that “even if Nigeria is restructured today, the problem will continue. I think the best restructuring is devolution of power from the centre, if that is done, Nigeria will be better for it, and that is why I am supporting President Muhammadu Buhari to return in 2019.”
Responding, the Eze Imo applauded Ohanaeze and the traditional institutions for holding back the youth whom he said did not witness the war. He, however, noted that the young people are worried with the level of marginalisation meted to Ndigbo in Nigeria.
The monarch said: “I commend you, Nwodo, for what you have gone through in prevailing on the young Biafrans. As traditional rulers, we don’t belong to any political party, but, we will say no to any party that attempts to promote anti-people policies and programmes. Equity, justice and fairness must prevail in the country.”
He urged them not to give up saying that the struggle would soon be over and added that “I therefore, join hands with Ohanaeze, Afenifere and others to say that this country must be restructured.”
In their separate remarks at the Igbo Day lecture, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum promised to continue partnering Ohanaeze and other like minds in the clamour for restructuring.
Adebanjo said that the southwest is happy Ndigbo is talking about restructuring instead of agitation by some of its pressure groups.
“Stop embarrassing us with these agitations and talk about autonomy; we want the kind of freedom Awolowo and Azikiwe brought. The country must be restructured to give the Igbo the freedom they want and any other thing apart from that is unacceptable,” Adebanjo said.