•We’re better in restructured Nigeria, says Ekweremadu, Mbanefo, others
From Ismail Omipidan, Lagos, Chidi Nnadi and Petrus Obi, Enugu
Igbo leaders have thrown their full weight behind the clamour to restructure the country.
They made this known after a stakeholders meeting comprising the five South-East governors, members of the National Assembly, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, religious leaders and other selected Igbo leaders of thought in Enugu.
In the communique issued after the meeting, which began on Saturday and lasted till the early hours of yesterday, the Igbo leaders called on the Federal Government and all other Nigerian leaders to commence a process of dialogue among Nigerians on the modalities to achieve the restructuring of the country within a reasonable time frame.
The call for restructuring had recently gained support across the country by the different ethnic nationalities as against agitation for self-determination.
Also, the South-East leaders stated the support of the region for a united Nigeria “where peace, love, fairness, justice, equity and equality of opportunity are paramount regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation.”
Equally, they condemned all hate speeches and conducts emanating from any segment of Nigeria.
Part of the communiqué read:
“That Ndigbo support the report of the National Conference of 2014 and urge the Federal Government to set up structures that will enable the implementation of same within a reasonable time.
“That the South-East governors, members of the National Assembly from the South East and the leadership of Hanapepe Ndigbo should, henceforth, constitute the official organs that will speak on behalf of Ndigbo on political matters.
“That the South-East leaders in consultation with leaders from other parts of the country will engage will engage the Federal Government on all areas of concerns to Ndigbo and to Nigeria as a whole.”
The leaders also called on Igbo living in the North not to panic over the quit notice served them by some Arewa groups, saying that they would ensure the safety of their lives and property just as they would protect those of the Northerners living in the East.
In his welcome speech, Gover Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who called on the Igbo to unite and love themselves, said nothing would please Enugu better than to be recorded in history as the venue where all Ndigbo gathered to resolve their differences and achieve peace and unity among themselves.
In his submission, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy President of the Senate and the highest political office holder from the South-East region in this current dispensation, said Igbo would fare better in a restructured Nigeria.
“The Igbo must continue to emphasise restructuring, which is presently enjoying acceptance by the South-South, South West, North Central, and well meaning people from other parts of the North. I believe that at the discussion table for restructuring, we will have sufficient allies that will enable us extract a good bargain for a just and equitable society, where we will, no doubt, excel.
“Ndigbo need a bigger space to operate. In fact, Nigeria as a country is even a small space for the enterprising spirit of the Igbo, hence our people are scattered all over Africa and are capable of dominating the space,” he stated.
Ekweremadu further noted that unless the Igbo leaders take the path suggested, the region might lose its friends and sympathisers from other parts of the country.
Ekweremadu whose presentation, titled: “Biafra: The legal, political, economic and social questions,” reportedly set the tone for discussion at the meeting, said the renewed agitation for Biafra began shortly after the 2015 elections, following the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government’s policy of 97 and five percent.
He said while the Igbo have every reason to be aggrieved and the right to ventilate their grievances, with a view to seeking equity and justice, through “democratic and non-violent means, we should also not allow our emotions to rule over our reasoning. As our people say, it will not be good to hear that the she-goat delivered in tether when elders are at home. Questions would eventually be asked. History would inquire if no elder was at home when the toad put to bed and the baby toad grew up a puffed creature because no one cared to stretch it’s hands or legs.
“There are two major opinions as to the way forward for Ndigbo at a trying time like this. We have mostly the younger generation, who believe they have had enough of the Nigerian union, which they have described in unprintable terms. The other is restructuring, which seems to appeal more to the older generation.
“Ndigbo also need to understand both the local and international political tides and sentiments to be able to make the right choices because the considerations for self-determination go beyond just the South-East.
“Already, extreme utterances and actions by some key elements in the agitation for Biafra are taking tolls on our goodwill, friendship, and the sympathy we enjoy. Insults hurled at religious and political leaders of other regions are not helping us, politically.
“South-East’s political future should therefore be put in context of its economic interest and survival. The Igbo have larger chunk of their investments outside the South East. Our people have invested heavily in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. They are into trading. Imagine a situation where a Republic of Biafra would have to depend on Nigerian passports to travel out.
“Importantly, as I mentioned earlier, we are not certain that the South-South will go with the Biafra idea. And in the event that they do not, what are our options for economic survival? Flowing from this, what guarantee do we have for international support if the main oil bearing region pulls out, knowing that no nation is a Santa Claus?
“Realistically speaking, is it possible that all Ndigbo living in the other parts of Nigeria, many of whom were born and bred outside Igbo land, and have been well assimilated by their host communities will return home? Many have never visited home and do not even speak Igbo language. Can we realistically expect those who have their investments in other parts of Nigeria to willingly abandon them and head home?
“Although international systems seek to guarantee the security of lives of peoples and their properties on either side of the divides, should there be a self-determination process that leads to the emergence of a new nation, such guarantees are not absolute and difficult to enforce, especially in a society such as ours.
“The quit notice and hate spewed by the Arewa youths to Ndigbo point to the fact that all is not well. And it calls for caution because the mother hen does not run without looking back to know the fate of her chicks,” Ekweremadu, added.
He stressed the need to set up a committee for a continuous engagement and moderation of IPOB, other pro-Biafra organisations and their leaders to avoid hate speeches and reckless statements that will make us lose our friends and sympathisers.
Prominent Igbo leaders who attended the meeting include: Governors Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), former governor of Ebonyi State, Dr. Sam Egwu, Former Senate Presidents, Chief Adolphus Wabara and Chief Ken Nnamani, Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe and Gil Nnaji, Enugu Deputy Governor, Mrs. Cecilia Ezeilo, Ohanaeze President General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Chief Gary Igariwey, Chief Chekwas Okorie, House of Representatives members, Pat Asadu, Toby Okechukwu, Anglican Archbishop, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma and Methodist Archbishop Ede.
Mbanefo supports restructuring, publication of 2014 confab report
From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Former Nigerian permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Arthur Mbanefo has joined other Nigerians canvassing the restructuring of the country.
He also demanded the publication of the national confab report to enable Nigerians know and digest its recommendations, saying that many Nigerians do not know the details of the confab report.
Mbanefo, who spoke with newsmen in his country home, Onitsha at the weekend, said restructuring the country was the only alternative to agitations and warned that careless talk can cause life.
He blamed the media for giving recognition to a number of young people who try to heat up the polity, saying two persons today that are still alive, served in Biafran government under Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; himself and Dr. Sylvanus Kuki from Okpobo land who fought the war and know the intrigues behind it.
“This country belongs to all of us. We are talking about restructuring, based on the confab report, but, out of 180 million people in the country, how many people have seen the report, why is it that the media doesn’t want to publish the report so that everybody will know the details in that report?
“If you want to do something, sit down let people know what you are doing, leadership is not by talking, it is by action. It is not a secret document, it is not a classified document, why didn’t they publish it in the media, even the executive summary of the report?”.
Mbanefo who was chairman of the Committee for State and Local Government Creation under Gen. Sani Abacha, said ignorance and money are Igbo main problems.
“Northerners just made a simple statement and Igbo land is shaking, because we are interested in wealth, we get worried over anything that affects our wealth.
“They said on October 1, Igbo should go and people are shouting, is any thing wrong with that? ‘Careless talk can cause life’, we should be careful how we talk because war is not an easy thing.
“They said they are going to the United Nations, that they want referendum, do they know what referendum is all about? Will it come just like that, who is going to finance it, referendum costs money, if you go for referendum tomorrow, nobody will side you.
“Ninety per cent of all the investments in Lagos is owned by Igbo, how many of them are going to leave all these things and come back to the East? .
“You don’t even have a government, you don’t have anything and you are saying you want to do this and that, it doesn’t work like that.
“No leadership in Igbo land today. So, all sorts of characters are becoming leaders and nature avoids vacuum. Let us cool the tension and those of you in the media should help us not to overheat the polity,” Mbanefo warned.