A free and fair election was conducted where Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene emerged the President while I became the Deputy President.
Chief Vitus Chukwudubem Uzoh is the Deputy President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos State. He speaks on the move to unite Ndigbo in the state ahead of next year’s election.
With your inauguration attended by Igbo leaders like President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Nnia Nwodo, would you say there is no more division in your fold?
It was a very successful one and it was the concluding part of reorganization process which began when Chief Nwodo intervene to end the crisis rocking Ohanaeze Lagos Chapter by setting up a subcommittee headed by DIG Hillary Okpara (retd). That subcommittee alongside other chieftains of the Igbo apex socio cultural group worked tirelessly until we got to where we are today.
First of all, he invited all of us to the national stadium where he told us about the importance of peace and unity amongst ourselves. The Hillary Okpara Subcommittee conducted election which for the first time involved other Igbo sociocultural group like Igbo Amaka, Otu oka Iwu, Ndigbo Lagos, Aka Ikenga, Igbo speaking South-South people were also represented at our inauguration. The present administration recently united all the Igbo leaders (Eze Ndigbo) in Lagos State. Now they have agreed to work together as brothers. We have behind us Igbo leaders in Lagos like Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe rtd, Ndubuisi Kanu, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, Chief Guy Ikokwu, Joe Irukwu, Chikason Okafor to mention but a few. All of them were brought together under one umbrella. A free and fair election was conducted where Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene emerged the President while I became the Deputy President.
During the inauguration, many people from all walks of life attended to add colour to the event. We had people from the South-West, Middle Belt and the North indicating that the association has the blessings of all Nigerians. After the inauguration, we hit the ground running by visiting the various councils and LCDAs to initiate reconciliation moves. You will recall that in our country today no matter how free and fair election is, there would still be aggrieved persons.
We hear that Chief Solomon has taken some steps to reconcile Igbo in Lagos; can you throw more light on this?
Just like he promised during his campaign, Chief Solomon said his objective would be to unite Ndigbo in Lagos. To attain this feat, he got a secretariat for the association in highbrow area of Lagos State. For the first time ever, the association can now point to a place they can call their own. The secretariat located at 19, James Robertson close, Surulere is now a beehive of activities as various Igbo sociocultural groups and royal fathers use that premises for their meetings. So I commend the leadership of Chief Solomon for such noble initiative and I believe it is the beginning of better things to come.
Some time ago, UNESCO came out with a report that Igbo language is on the verge of extinction? Do you believe in this report and what effort is Ohanaeze making to save the language from extinction?
There is every reason to believe this report. First Igbo are in the Diaspora and because most of our children are born outside Igbo land, they are exposed to other languages and cultures. Under these circumstances there is the risk of these children losing their identities if care is not taken. In this regards, Ohanaeze Lagos is working hard to address this problem because it is not only affecting Igbo in Lagos, it is affecting Igbo all over the world. We want to set up a committee that would comprise Igbo intellectuals with the mandate to come out with action plans to address this cankerworm. This programme would use both print and electronic media to promote Igbo language.
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I am also using this opportunity to appeal to Igbo parents to speak their mother tongue to their children. And in setting good example, all Ohanaeze meetings from Ward to national level are conducted using the Igbo language. In Lagos, We shall organise Igbo quiz and debates within the various local government with prize for the best Igbo speaking pupil. Ohanaeze is also appealing to Lagos State Government through the Education Board to include Igbo language in the curriculum so as to promote the Language in the state. After all, Igbo constitute a very large percent of non-indigenes in the state. Igbo Language must not die. All hands must be on deck to save this language from extinction.
What is Ohanaeze Lagos plan to help the less privilege among its members?
Yes, many of our members have one challenge or the other. So we want to empower them as much as possible. Among us there are some members who have been active over the years but due to economic downturn are down financially. Through revolving loans, we intend to work with other stakeholders in Ohanaeze to bring them back on their feet. Our president, Chief Solomon is drawing action plans to see how some of the children of our deceased members could return to school through scholarship. We also have plans to set up skill acquisition scheme through which many of them would be trained so that they can also earn living from there.
What has been the relationship between Igbo and their host community?
The relationship is cordial but we want to improve on that. We want peaceful co-existence. We want our host state to see and treat us like fellow human beings. Although we are from the South-East, the bulk of our investment is here. So we want to live in harmony with them so that issues that would bring disharmony could easily be trashed out. Ohanaeze intend to set up monitoring team to ensure that conflicts especially in market places are reduced to the barest minimum.