This is the topic I had wanted to deal with last week, but I had to handle another issue, “Democracy and nationhood,” which we all know is important. Few days ago, Ohaneze organized a summit. With that I think Ohaneze has scored a vital goal. The body’s President, Dr Nnia Nwodo, by holding the summit, has tried to redeem himself. Nwodo is intelligent but the position he is holding and time he came into office require smartness in addition. Ndigbo need to be interfacing and Nwodo achieved this with the summit held in Awka, capital of Anambra State on the penultimnate Monday, even though not exactly in the manner I would have wanted. The list of guests in attendance robbed the meeting of the high level of legitimacy it needed.
Doing an Igbo submit and flooding it very active partisan political chieftains from other zones at this time shows lack of political astuteness. The organizers should have known such a gesture at this time would water down the Igbo push and could provoke misinterpretation. I did not also like the fact that Ohaneze could not pull to the gathering nearly all very important Igbo sons and daughters. Many were missing from that occasion. Ohaneze is yet to fully harness its media and legal arms. Am not sure the leadership tried to reach out to these ones. It was not a good thing seeing an Igbo Star in the person of Prof. Ben Nwabueze was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at a time he should have been with his people at Awka, Anambra State. Nevertheless, it is great that the event happened and critical observers like me can pick some vital signs; mainstream Igbo desire a restructured Nigeria and the younger generation wants a country of their own. It is about divergent desires and I don’t want to go into speculation as to which has the greatest support. However, Ohaneze must know that this is where the challenge is and that is where it has to prove its ability to successfully offer leadership to Ndigbo at a time of great trepidation. Am happy Ohaneze raised the bar on the restructuring debate with specific recommendations. The call for entirely new constitution is like nail driven on target.
It is not so much about the Presidency of Nigeria, for indeed the issues as they concern the Igbo are far beyond ascending the country’s presidency, yet lovers of Ndigbo must be glad Ohaneze has at least started a move and whatever shortcomings can be corrected subsequently. The apex body of Igbo leadership must find creative ways of marrying the two positions. I like what I saw there, the young ones attended and when it was time to discuss structuring which they didn’t like, they walked away peacefully and Ohaneze officials did not threaten them with force. That was great.
I want to tell a truth: Ohaneze will not receive due attention unless they give the youths enough latitude to operate. Those who have conquered Nigeria and made it their own don’t fear talks. I have heard it said to my hearing that all southerners can do is talk, shout and nothing else. Anything northerners don’t want, that issue doesn’t go far and what they want, gains instant support. They did not want the national conference and it has been a case whether it is necessary or not; they even confront presidents and other national leaders who support it. The same for national commissions designed to deal with specific challenges in zones. The Petroleum Industry Bill has remained just that in the last 10 years or more. OMPADEC and NDDC that came before it were passed after protracted controversies and heavy distortions were effected on the regulations. The Act setting them up has provisions for ministerial and representation for other zones at the highest level of management.
They gave the North East a rehabilitation commission after few weeks of debate but 52 years after the civil war South East is still begging for one. Today same forces don’t know the meaning of restructuring neither do they know the beginning or the end of it. Suddenly they did not go to school. If it were northerners who wanted restructuring, they would have gotten it. They will harass the president especially if he is of another zone, abuse him publicly, stone him, fight in the streets, provoke riots and kill people especially Igbo, just to bring home the message and before you know it everybody is talking of concessions in the interest of national unity.
Nwodo has good mind and intentions but these are not enough, he would need more than meetings and consultations to get a hearing. If Nwodo is true to himself he would agree that he has not been getting as much attention as he used to when Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB pushed the other buttons. I do not subscribe to such options but that is the extent that greatest majority understand that democracy is about alternate views, that democracy is about issues, debates, engagement, compromise and consensus. Gani Fawehinmi once said it was folly to be sane in an insane environment. Don’t ask me if I agree.
Before the restructuring or Biafra, whichever one comes first happens, my advice would be that Ohaneze work to put its house in order. It must be able to rein in her prominent sons and daughters, business chieftains and those holding public positions. Like the Jews, Igbo must begin to think home, Ohaneze must come up with a strategy to make the governors recreate the states, make them good for modern habitation and work to promote industrialization at private and corporate levels. Governments should revive dead industries and establish new ones, talks that government is not supposed to be in business is bunkum. Those who teach us that nonsense, developed their productive capacity through government leading the way and till today government still does, including giving free money as social security. It is very important Ohaneze pushes our leaders to make South East a modern business and trading hub. There is need to stem high migration rate which has been because of strangulated economy deliberately propelled by successive Nigeria governments since after the civil war in 1970. We need functional international airport, seaport in Ukwa area of Abia, Oguta in Imo or Onitsha in Anambra State. We should collaborate with South-South to get the Calabar and Port Harcourt seaports working in full capacity in addition to improvement on inventive abilities. The region can be a haven if attention is paid to palm, cassava and rubber farming and value addition. Igbo should stop the blame game and work to gain sustainable salvation.
The South East can indeed be recreated to the point the people can be in Nigeria and yet not of Nigeria. This is the prevalent vision and it would be nice and helpful if Nwodo and others leading Ohaneze know. For IPOB, it is important they reorder their methods; I don’t have to teach here that it doesn’t help matters to start internal conflict with the enemy at the door. They can hold their positions but ensure they allow others to hold a view. Under this climate harmonizing can be possible after all the struggle is not about self but the wellbeing of a blessed race.