Chuks Ibegbu is Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. He spoke to MAGNUS EZE on the controversy concerning the adoption of Atiku Abubakar; arguing that it was in the best interest of the Igbo. He said that President Muhammadu Buhari, like a chameleon would never change his attitude towards Ndigbo.
Ohanaeze secretary general and some other Igbo leaders have disowned the endorsement of Atiku Abubakar by the Imeobi Ohanaeze. What’s your view?
People have right to express their views, Uche Okwukwu is the secretary general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, he has right to express his views and any other person has right to express his view but you know that in a meeting and when the decision is taken, majority carry the day while the minority have their say. The National Executive Committee of Ohanaeze met, the issue was discussed extensively; majority believed that there should be adoption. I, as the spokesman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, I said no, there should be no adoption that we should be more diplomatic. Barrister Uche Okwukwu said there should be no adoption but even if we must adopt, we should adopt Buhari but the majority said we should adopt Atiku; the minority lost and the majority won. As the spokesman, I said no, from my own insight and experience we should not adopt anybody. Remember there has been insistence by Ndigbo that they will support anybody that will restructure Nigeria. So, majority have their way and minority have their say. The Imeobi was scheduled for 24th of January, the chairman of the Imeobi is the President General and the Secretary of Imeobi is the Secretary General. By the time the meeting was fixed; nobody was told that Buhari was coming to Igbo land or to Enugu and we fixed our meeting. But when we got the information later that the President was coming, we said well since our Imeobi members were also in APC and in other parties, we should give them the benefit of adjusting the time and we adjusted the time to 4:00pm so that everybody will be given opportunity to be there. By the way, we don’t owe anybody obligation to fix our meeting; Arewa Consultative Forum or Afenifere does not take permission from anybody before fixing their meeting but that notwithstanding, to carry everybody along, we shifted the meeting to 4:00pm but along the line; we understand that the Governor of Ebonyi and some other governors pleaded for further shift and I think it was agreed to give another shift but when the Imeobi people came, they said no to the further shift in timing, that many people came from outside, some came from Lagos and said they were not ready to sleep there. So, I think the meeting started around 5:00pm and the resolutions were taken, and that was what happened.
Is it true that the meeting did not last up to 30 minutes?
It was a one agenda meeting; whether to support or not to support the endorsement and those that were they were Imeobi members. Those that were there, majority want to support Atiku; that does not mean that there was no minority voice. I have told you earlier that at the NEC; people have their different views but the majority said we should adopt.
People are confused about the status of the Imeobi, does the Imeobi take decision and the general assembly will ratify?
Yes, that’s the procedure.
If that is the case, when will the General Assembly ratify the Atiku endorsement?
Any moment from now the President General of Ohanaeze will tell us when he will call for the General Assembly. It is just a formality because the Imeobi takes a decision before General Assembly ratifies. The NEC submits memoranda to the planning and strategy committee headed by Prof. Chukwuma Soludo which met and gave the NEC their resolution and it was that resolution that was debated on before it was taken to the Imeobi. The report of the committee was read out to members of NEC in session.
Are you not bothered about the trend the adoption has taken?
This is a matter of opinion, people can have dissenting views. We should try to understand where we are coming from and where we are going to. I think the Igbo want the restructuring of this country; let us not lose sight of what the Igbo want. Let us be sensible for once and mark you that the Ohanaeze is for the Igbo, therefore it was not a personal opinion. Ohanaeze is there for the common man, we are there for the man in the village, we are there for the IPOB, MASSOB and we are there for the millions of our people that are jobless. We are not there to pander to the whims and caprices of a few tiny elite. The controversies are part of a right but the issue is what do the Igbo want; Igbo want restructuring, Igbo are not comfortable with the reality on ground, the five states in Igbo land have 95 local governments while Kano state alone has 44 local government areas when everything is based on states and local governments, what are these so called elites talking about it? We have 95 local government areas and our people are suffering.
Atiku said he would do restructuring, have you seen his template or you just embraced him because he said it?
It is said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. It is only God you can trust in anything in life but out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. This is the man that has said something and somebody that refused to say something, somebody that is silent and somebody that has said something even if at the end of the day he doesn’t do it the way he has planned; at least he has said that he is going to restructure. He has said he understands the feelings, the grievances of the people of Nigeria, so which one do you prefer? We are not God to know whether he will not do it but he has said he will do it.
Zik mausoleum was inaugurated in Onitsha, people had thought that Ohanaeze would have been there even that of the IPP, knowing what the Ariaria IPP means to the Igbo. How do you react to that?
The President General of Ohanaeze told us that Ohanaeze was not invited for the commissioning of the Zik Mausoleum; that he read it in the newspaper like every other person. He said nobody invited us and also I don’t know whether the President of Ohanaeze Abia state was invited to the Aririra programme. So the President General said we were not invited and there was no need because they are attacking Ohanaeze on the pages of newspapers. I am speaking with the facts available to me. However, we honour Zik. In fact, the President General is the protégée of Zik, he is like his son and there was no way he couldn’t have been there if we were officially and properly invited. The man that initiated that thing, I mean the mausoleum, Prof. Madubuike Ezeibe, from the Michael Okpara University, nobody invited him. People may not know that he was the one that initiated it.
Now that all is not well, how do you intend to come out of the whole thing?
How we would come out of it is for our people to know our core interest, the interest of an Igbo man. Forget about politics, our core interest is equity, justice and fairness, and people-orientated leadership; that is the core interest of our people. Anybody that satisfies these core interests, we tell our people to identify with him. I have told you our challenges in Nigeria, if Buhari is ready to address these interests, good and fine. Then, go to the polls.