Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Ohaneze Ndigbo in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has called on governors of the South East region to brace up and make adequate arrangement to receive Igbo returning from South Africa following the xenophobic attacks in the country.
President of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, Abuja chapter, Odozi Nwodozi, made the appeal on Tuesday while briefing journalists on the preparation for the 2019 Igbo Day celebration slated to hold in Abuja on September 29 with the theme: “Promoting culture of peace for socio-economic development.”
The Igbo Day 2019 will hold at the Old Parade Ground, Abuja.
Nwodozi, who described the attacks as not just a blight on South Africa but a shame to the entirety of Africa, urged the governors to ensure they are absorbed into the society with ease.
Ohaneze-Ndigbo chieftain said: “The South East governors must put things on the ground to assist those returning from South Africa; the bulk of whom are Igbo people. We call on them to use this opportunity to put infrastructure that will cushion the effect of their unplanned dislocation.
“However, with the return of our brothers and sisters, Ohanaeze is not empowered economically to assist but I am sure the states and the Federal government must have done things to make sure that those people coming back don’t feel the effect of their unexpected disengagement from South Africa.”
Nwodozi who recalled that Nigeria was at the forefront of liberation of the South Africans from apartheid including housing the late Nelson Mandela in an Igbo man’s house, described their action as unfortunate.
He said: “I know the role Nigeria played in the liberation of South Africa. Nigeria was a frontline state in that struggle. Nigeria in the 70s took responsibility of not only nurturing but empowering those that are today leaders in South Africa. I am also aware that Nelson Mandela in the heyday of his struggle was quartered in Igboland, precisely in the house of the one we call the boy is good, Chief Mbazurike Amaechi, the only surviving minister of the first republic.
“For South Africans to at this stage start behaving the way that they are behaving is quite unfortunate.”
On the forthcoming Ndigbo Day celebration, Nwodozi said, the group would be honouring prominent individuals from the South East who had contributed immensely to the development of the Igbo nation and the country at large through philanthropy.
Nwodozi said: “We cannot wave aside the role of certain persons like Allen Onyeama, the owner of Air Peace, the wonderful Ernest Azubialo of Next Oil in ensuring the network was built and the Igbo were secured. We cannot stop but to remember the first president of the Igbo Community Assembly in Abuja, Mark Okoye, who contributed so well. I did not meet him but from the records, he did so well in bringing the Igbo in Abuja together. Also Chyne Iwuanyanwu, who silently made sure that the Igbo took a stand and many others.
“We are honouring our heroes past and remembering those that are present. Without doubt, a lot of Igbo have contributed immensely not just to the good of Igbo nation but beyond the Igbo nation. For a start, the peace we are talking about today the Igbo are the cement that is holding Nigeria together,” he noted.
The Ohaneze Ndigbo chieftain assured guests of their protection during the event as he condemned the attack on former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, during a similar event in Germany recently.
“I must start by saying that we are all Biafrans in spirit by the mere fact that we are born Igbo. However, we must put what we are doing into contemporary times and perspectives.
“We must know that there is a culture of respect for elders; it is a taboo in Igboland for a child to beat his father.
“The Nuremberg experience was shameful. We must give honour to our elders but if our elders make mistakes we shouldn’t come to the market square to insult them; we have a way of telling our elders, ‘you have not done it right.’
“Therefore, this year’s Igbo Day is not an avenue to molest anybody. Anybody, be they politicians, public servants, are all welcome to this year’s Igbo Day. I’m sure our brothers that were involved in that unfortunate Nuremberg experience have come to the reality that they made a mistake and I am telling you they are forgiven.”
Chairman of the organizing committee for the event, Dr. Kachi Iheme, disclosed that the President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo and an industrialist, Arthur Eze, were among prominent guests expected to grace the occasion.
According to him, the Ndigbo Day would showcase, promote and celebrate the exotic Igbo customs and tradition to inculcate the spirit of peace, unity and development among all Igbo speaking people.
The event would also help to build bridges of national unity and create a culture of peace amongst Igbo groups in Abuja and beyond, Iheme added.
The celebration which start on 22 September, will feature inter-denominational church service, symposium, special awards and cultural fiesta.