Magnus Eze, Enugu
The Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU) has been in the vanguard for galvanising the Igbo to speak in unison. Its National President, Chief Emeka Diwe said they would not look back until the Igbo begin to bring substantial part of their investment to the region. He also spoke on the call for observance of Biafra Day; 2023 Presidency and the incoming government in Imo State.
What’s your take on the call for May 30 to be set aside as Biafra or Igbo Day?
There is absolutely nothing wrong in setting aside 30th May and making it sacrosanct for all Igbo as Biafra Day. If you could recall, 30th May 1967 was the day Biafra was declared, to flag off the Nigerian-Biafra war and the rest is history. I prefer Biafra Day to Igbo Day for two basic reasons. The geographical area being referred to as Biafra, especially then, was beyond the geographical boundaries of Igbo land. So, it will not be fair for the Igbo alone to lay legitimate claim to Biafra.
Secondly and perhaps, more instructive and passionate is the fact that, increasingly, Biafra has grown to become an octopus phenomena especially in the minds of the beholders. The injustice and inequity that was the initial soul that ignited Biafra has over the years metamorphosed into unwarranted and inexplicable marginalisation which, this Buhari administration has taken to an unprecedented and unacceptable levels. So, as this obvious marginalisation continues to increase, the Biafra passion and sentiment continuous to grow proportionately. And to that extent, every true Igbo man is a Biafran. QED! Note that Biafra does not necessarily mean secession. Therefore, the extent to which the Igbo and those within the geographical area of Biafra feel marginalised to that extent will they be said to be Biafrans.
Thirdly and perhaps on a lighter note; what is wrong with one having a second baptismal name -Biafra and celebrating his birthday on 30th May, in any way he chooses without offending the laws? If I chose to ‘sit at’ my own ‘home’ to celebrate my birthday, what’s your business; busy body? Am I ‘sitting at home’ in your own ‘home’?
Town union leaders seem to have become targets of attack as shown by the recent killing of the president General of Nimo community in Anambra State; what’s your reaction to the killing?
It is very unfortunate that the town union leadership as the most credible leadership in Igbo land is paying the price of integrity and credibility with their lives. I have cried myself hoarse in the past in trying to point out the high risk of credible Presidents General as a result of the sensitivity in carrying out their legitimate, unremunerated statutory functions of maintaining peace and order in the communities. What am I saying and why was our colleague (Chief Igboka) murdered in cold blood? Because he identified a criminal; security risk of the community and insisted and chased him out of their community; point blank, probably after fruitless attempt to have him properly apprehended via the statutory government security apparatus. We learnt that the armed robber/kidnaper went and reorganised his gang came back and murdered the innocent, unarmed and defenceless president general in cold blood. That was the confessional statement interpretation of one of the arrested assailants.
How many of today’s ‘politician’ government security officials who ‘eat all the money’ will confront a criminal the way Chief Frank Igboka did; it takes only a clean and credible, incorrupt president general with the genuine mandate of his people to stand and call a criminal by his name and order him out of the community, if he cannot stop his criminal acts. Moral chastity on its own, more than executive authority carries enormous prerogative audacity. Most presidents general parade this uncompromising disposition towards criminality and evil. That is essentially why they were elected president general in the first place.
To really fight corruption and evil is not a tea party, because it will launch a counter attack. But your perseverance and God’s grace will subdue the evil. It happened to me when I was a serving president general of my community- Akpulu in Ideato North of Imo State to the extent that there was seeming government collaboration against the people’s wish. But the community standing on truth; stood their ground and eventually defeated evil by God’s grace. I would have also lost my life in the process. It’s a long story but God gave me back the life as jara. That’s why am using this jara life to insist that integrity is everything and preach the Gospel of the audacity of chastity and glorify God.
Would you support the call for the use of say the vigilance groups to establish internal security organs in parts of the country in the face of growing insecurity?
Yes, there is need for special security for Igbo communities. There is an existing security system in every community (the vigilance groups) which need to be refurbished and strengthened through training and provision of equipment. The advantage is that this security system is localised in the community where everybody knows everybody, which makes it easier to timely dictate and handle any security challenges especially by infiltrators. A quasi-funding collaboration is possible between the government and individual communities via their town union because of the varying sizes of security situations in different communities. However, the details of this are beyond the scope of this interview.
With the way the country is moving, not a few people believe that the Igbo should begin ‘Think-home’ while making investment. Have you given thought to that?
In fact, all my thought about Igbo progress and development has centred on this backward integration investment phenomenon of ‘Akuruo Ulo’; it is one thing the Igbo need more than restructuring and Igbo presidency. It is the ultimate; more ultimate than restructuring. In fact it is an irreversible restructuring, untouchable by a second or third party. As a community apologist, I am particularly excited with the dream, especially when I realise the inherent economic multiplying effect on community development. It is a self-actualising solution to this excruciating effect of marginalisation we face in Nigeria as people. The Igbo nation parades the highest number of wealthy single individuals in Nigeria. Reflect on the Igbo exclusive cultural peculiarities in: the regenerative apprentice or ‘Boy Boy’ trading system; the be your brother’s keeper syndrome, that quickly rehabilitated the Igbo immediately after the civil war; the pride and title related status symbol in being identified with exclusive project, as Onwa, Mmiri, Okpata ozuo oha etc. of their various communities; their genetic republicanism, all combined in various proportions to give the Igbo the advantage of inclusive and self-help rapid development.
In fact, in my address at different Igbo fora, I have thrown-up the challenge that if any Igbo man living outside his community donates just one per cent of his income to his own community’s development efforts annually (which is very painless to do), in ten years, there will be no attraction whatsoever to live outside your community and subsequently relocate your business accordingly. The blueprint, again, is beyond the scope of this interview.
Of the five South East states; Imo is the only one that produced a new governor. If you are to set agenda for the incoming government in the state, what are the things you will be looking at?
Setting agenda for incoming governor is like living his life for him. He already has his vision from the time he started nursing the ambition of becoming a governor. I can only contribute and proffer advice for the area or areas I feel most passionate about. And that is the human angle; the character and integrity profile of his chosen apostles. People seem to concentrate more on the policy formulation and blueprint, the professionalism and technocracy. We have always had all these in their various research banks. These policies will not run themselves. It is rather the application of human elements on the policies that makes for good or bad governance. No matter how good administrative blueprint and policies are, when you allow one with character deficiency to operate same, you already know the result. In fact, my take is that it is better to have half-baked personnel, but with integrity who could learn on the job, than having a professional who is criminal. His expertise will be negatively applied to professionally defraud you more. This was what we had in the outgoing administration of Rochas Okorocha which negative smartness is from the top.
So, Emeka Ihedioha should take his time and start with credible lieutenants as much as possible. They are available. If he takes his time, he will find them not just anyone that calls him ‘father-father’. People have different callings. There are good politicians; there are good technocrats, there are good administrators, there are credible and trusted associates and non-associates etc. Those used in winning the election, without prejudice, might not necessarily be that good in running the government. Sorting and matching these values, profiles and virtues accordingly is the most critical task of the incoming governor and his advisers.
Some persons in the North have asked the Igbo to forget the presidency in 2023 because they would not get it. How would you react to such statement?
I am not surprised at the statement. It is stating the obvious they have never meant to let go. However, Igbo presidency in 2023 is not our topmost priority if you ask me. Not by choice but by circumstances. Developing political realities on ground, projected up to 2023, unfortunately, make the dream of Igbo presidency in 2023 wishful thinking. Igbo presidency will only be possible under a healthy democracy. Nigerian politics has continued to deteriorate progressively. We need ‘de-marginalisation’, referendum, restructuring, justice and equity more than a president of Igbo extraction for now. Igbo presidency may not work under the present level of marginalisation and impunity.