Former Minister of Foreign Affiars, Maj.- Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), has advocated honest effort by patriotic sons and daughters of Igboland to advance the fortunes of Ndigbo.
Nwachukwu, chairman and co-convener of the 2016 World Igbo Summit, made this known at Gregory University, Uturu (GUU), Abia on Thursday.
The three-day conference is expected to produce a road map for economic growth and prosperity in the Southeast and other Igbo-speaking states of Nigeria.
The conference was organised by the World Igbo Summit Group (WISG) in collaboration with the Igbo Renaissance Centre of the Gregory University, Uturu (GUU).
Nwachukwu said the objectives of the conference included to start, “a 50-year visioning for Ndigbo, captured in short term, mid-term and long term strategic perspectives.
“This will deal comprehensively with the development of Igboland, the wellbeing of our people in politics, business, education, technology and industry,” Nwachukwu said.
Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, charged the participants to take a holistic look at factors that stunted economic and political growth in Igboland in the Nigerian nation.
Iwuanyanwu further urged participants to lend its voice to the call by various groups and individuals for the restructuring of Nigeria in line with the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.
He also spoke on the activities of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
He said that the agitations by the two groups were not for the cessation of Ndigbo from Nigeria but for fairness and equity in Nigeria as well as an end to the marginalisation of Ndigbo.
Iwuanyanwu said that the agitators were exercising their fundamental rights in a democracy “without resort to violence or use of arms”.
He appealed to the Federal Government to release the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, from incarceration or charge him to court without further delay.
He also called on the Federal Government to pay reparation to the Enugu community, which was attacked by suspected herdsmen, leading to the loss of lives and property.
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife advocated, “a think-home”, philosophy among the Igbo entrepreneurs as well as an enabling environment that could attract foreign and indigenous investors to Igboland.
Similarly, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to U.S., Prof. George Obiozor, charged Ndigbo to put on, “our ‘thinking cap and start looking for solutions to our collective challenges in an orchestrated and well-articulated way among ourselves.
“No more lamentations and grieving, sorrow or sadness because of the monuments of disappointments, neglect or marginalisation,” Obiozor said.
Obiozor called on Igbo leaders to “build a strong base in Nigeria”, where safety and peace would be guaranteed for the people.
A former Secretary-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Col. Joe Achuzie, described the conference as timely, and urged participants to examine and proffer solutions to issues that hindered the development of Igboland.
The guest lecturer, Prof. Epiphany Azinge, spoke on the theme of the conference, “Igboka-Visioning the Igbo nation in 2016”, in his keynote lecture.
Azinge said that, “Ndigbo must look inward and harness human capital and other resources to become an economic giant and Dubai of Nigeria.”
He also spoke on the need to restructure the country, saying, “restructuring of any form will help to address and assuage the anger of those agitating for Biafra.
“It will give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians, especially to the marginalised people of Igboland,” he said.
Another resource person, Dr. Chris Aniedobe, said that, “Ndigbo want the unity of Nigeria”, considering their huge investments in different parts of the country.
Aniedobe, however, said that such unity must be built on justice, adding, “the two must go together”.
He urged Ndigbo “to keep faith with Nigeria, work for its unity and justice.”
He advised the MASSOB and IPOB members to operate within the dictates of the laws of the land.
According to him, the unity of Nigeria is the collective responsibility of Ndigbo and other nationalities in the country.
The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, in his remarks, said that “our destiny is in our hands”, adding that Ndigbo were “directly responsible for our problem in Nigeria”.
Achebe, who described the conference as “a wake up call for all Ndigbo”, said that the task ahead was a long journey.
He, however, said that the onus was on the present generation to rise to the occasion “for us and future generation”.
The Chairman, Southeast Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Eberechi Dick, applauded the conference conveners, saying that it would afford Ndigbo the opportunity to speak with one voice on issues of common interest.
Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra, represented by his Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke, called for collaboration among the governors toward the development of the area.
Obiano, who was the only governor in attendance, specifically called for agricultural revolution in the zone and construction of a railway to link the zone with other parts of the country through collaborative efforts.
Other speakers at the session, included the former President, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Prof. Joe Irukwu, the Chancellor, GUU, Dr Gregory Ibe, the Director-General, WISG, Dr Ifedi Okwenna, and Chief Francis Orji, among others.