The Vice President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Dr. Charles Odunukwe, has appealed to the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano to forgive and restore the 13 suspended traditional rulers in the state.
In this interview, Chief Odunukwe reminded the governor that to err is human and to forgive is divine. He spoke on other issues.
What is your reaction to the 13 traditional rulers suspended by Governor Obiano?
Governor Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano has been my friend for over thirty years. He is a man I know very well; a man of honour, integrity, a man that loves his people and a very jolly good fellow; an astute retired banker, a gentle man and a God-fearing person.
The mistake has been made and it wouldn’t be right to continue to over flog it. I appeal to the governor to use his good office to reconcile with the 13 traditional rulers because they are the custodians of their various kingdoms. Whatever may be their mistakes, they should be forgiven and pardoned, so that they will be happy to continue to play their roles as the traditional rulers of the various communities they represent.
In the same vein, our illustrious son, Chief Arthur Eze, Ozoigbondu, a great philanthropist, cheerful giver, who at every point in time helps the poor and the needy in the society, I don’t think he had any bad intention of taking the 13 traditional rules to Abuja. I saw that as his own way of contributing to the development and advancement of the state. Whatever may be the case, Governor Obiano should see that as something well meant for the good of the state.
I don’t think that it will be right for the governor and Chief Arthur Eze to engage in any form of misunderstanding. Having said that, I plead with the governor and Chief Arthur Eze to sheath their swords and realise that they must agree as brothers in the Lord and work for the good of the state and humanity.
I want also to plead with our traditional rulers, particularly the 13 affected, to see themselves as rulers and custodians of their kingdoms and always adhere to the rules of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council, headed by Igwe Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha; and to always respect the laws of the state, and know that the governor is the chief security officer in the state. They should make sure that at any time they need to travel, as provided in their constitution, necessary permissions should be sought and obtained.
Governor Obiano being a jolly good fellow, as I said earlier, should make sure that he restores them and let bygones be bygones.
Anambra is heating up over the issue of power rotation among the three Senatorial zones. Some argue that rotation should be jettisoned since all the three senatorial zones have had their turns, and that it should go to the most qualified, while others still insist on it. What is your position on this?
Anambra is a state other states in Nigeria are presently looking up to. What do I mean by that? In terms of development and transformation, the state has come of age. It is important for Anambra people to realize that what they need is somebody who will continue with that developmental and transformation agenda of the previous governors – Governor Chris Ngige, Governor Peter Obi and the incumbent, Willie Obiano. These two former governors and the present have done excellently well and I give them kudos. To continue with that, we need somebody who is capable, who is exposed, who has been tested and who is good. To me, to get such a person should not be restricted to either left side or right side, or wherever, provided that person is from Anambra State; let us go for whoever that is very capable.
You said other states look unto Anambra for direction, which means they have men and women who are tested and capable. It means, in every zone, there are people who are capable and exposed, but the zone that is claiming that it is their turn is saying they have as many capable people as other zones. How do you reconcile these positions?
I said, let us go for somebody who is able and capable. It doesn’t matter whether he is from left or right. In other words, wherever he comes from is immaterial. This attitude of where somebody is coming from has been a serious issue in Nigeria’s politics and until we get rid of that, we may not progress as expected.
What we need is result. Anambra is a result-oriented state and for you to get that result, you should not bother yourself or concern yourself with where someone comes from, but concern yourself with what that person can do. We need to move the state forward better than what it is today and to do that, we are looking for people who are able and capable, and wherever they come from is not my headache; the important thing is that such a person has to be able and capable and fit and proper to be a governor of a state.
There is this think home mantra for Igbo to move part of their investments to Igbo land, how has the response been?
In answering that question, I want to take it from the position as one of the leaders of Ohanaeze; the think home mantra is not only for Anambra but the entire Igbo land. No matter your wealth in any part of the world, make sure you have part of that business, part of that office, part of that work you do in anywhere in Igbo land, and by so doing, you are creating employment for the people there; you are also making some sort of income. When you are making income, you are creating employment. That employment you are creating is what brings development in that area. It is a very good idea, I support it wholeheartedly.
How are they responding to this call?
So far, I will not say that the response is fantastic. Like a preacher in the church, he continues to preach and overtime, it will gradually sink into the minds of the people. If you preach repentance today and expect everybody to repent immediately at the same time, it may not be all that possible or work in that way.
Remember, preaching has been there and you will continue to preach, and gradually people are repenting and changing for better. So, it is in this think home message to the Igbo people everywhere. In Ohanaeze, that is what we have been preaching and that is what our governors are also preaching; that is exactly the position of Ohanaeze that people should come down anywhere in Igbo land to invest, even in farming, no matter how little it may be, which is a very good idea and gradually people are beginning to realise the importance of doing so.
The only thing I will add to calling people to come and invest is that fact that the governors of the Igbo states should also help in providing the enabling environment. Security is number one, then infrastructure, road networks, power and other things that will help those investments to thrive. These things have to come from the government. Once these things are put in place, people will be very willing and very happy to invest in Igbo land. That is a very good idea.
What lesson have we learnt from COVID-19
COVID-19 has brought a lot of good lessons and experiences to majority of the people. Firstly, those who have not been saving before should realise the importance of making money and saving some. People never imagined that one day their businesses or their works would come to a standstill; within three to five months, they didn’t have anything in stock; they make money and spend it over night. Making money is one thing and saving part of it is another thing. It is important for people to note that while making money, they should realise that they have to save some of it.
Secondly, to the authorities, it exposed the government, especially in respect of our medical sector. It simply shows that we don’t even have good medical facilities that we can use in the event of emergencies. Corona virus came and all we were doing was adhoc arrangement, erecting tents here and there; looking for this and looking for that and finding it difficult to cope.
This is a time that the government must focus on building quality and high standard hospitals and having professionals, mostly our people that have gone abroad because of greener pastures. The government should lure these people to come back and manage the health facilities. There is the need for the government to invest heavily in medical facilities.
Thirdly, to organisations, corporate bodies, it is also important for them to know that anything can happen anytime, which can affect their businesses. When you are running a company, you should also put some measures in place in the event of something happening, and then you can stand the shock. Many companies laid off their staff; they couldn’t cope because they didn’t prepare to close their businesses for five, six months. Till today, many workers are yet to be recalled by their employees because the companies or organisations were not prepared for what hit them. While you are running businesses, there are measures that you must put in place. Just like we are talking about individuals making money and saving part, companies essentially should also make some provisions, so that in a situation like that, you have something to fall back to. It is not every money that comes to you that you use for expenses. Within two months, big companies were gasping for breath, some of them only paid salaries in the month of March, thereafter they were not able to pay April, May, June and July because these were the peak period of Corona virus. The reason is either they don’t have money or they were not doing business. Yes, you are not doing business because of COVID-19, but you are supposed to have something in stock, at least, to take care of the staff, take care of necessary expenses, but they were not able to do that. These are some of the lessons of COVID-19.