Chief Solomon Ogbonna is a chieftain in the pan Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo,and an aspirant for the chairmanship position of the Lagos Chapter of the body. The Ebonyi State –born art curator speaks on his ambition and also evaluates the performance of the government in his state.
As an indigene of Ebonyi State, how would you access the performance of your governor, Dave Umahi?
When Umahi was campaigning to be first citizen of the state three years ago, many people did not give him a chance but today he has proved most of them wrong through his sterling performance. Today, it is no longer news that he has transformed the state. It is no longer in the news that as the chairman of South East Governors Forum, he has been able to bring his counterparts together and they now speak with one voice. The greatest part of his achievement, which I cherish so much, is the level of empowerment that has started in Ebonyi state since last year. He makes it a point of duty that all indigenes of Ebonyi outside the state, mostly youths, are taken off the streets and he is doing that through youth empowerment schemes using Ebonyi Town Union Associations in all the states in the country to end this scourge. He has been able to end the inferiority complex that hitherto beclouded Ebonyi youths. Today every Ebonyi citizen is proud because of this gesture; he has been a blessing to all of us.
How would you describe his relationship with President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress at the center?
For every right-thinking human being, the essence of politics is good governance. You can see how many times President Buhari has invited him for international engagements because of his positive contributions to the task of nation building. He has gone beyond party politics. When you look at his achievements, you will know that he has the capacity to deliver good governance to his people. He is in the opposition party, but he plays opposition in a reasonable manner.
When you compare the small income that comes in form of federal allocation and equate it with his performance, you will wonder how he is doing the magic. Civil servants, teachers and other workers in the state are paid regularly. He is a beautiful bride and that is why the opposition in the state is in love with him. His people and even the opposition love him because of his performance.
Recently the governor said no vacancy in Ebonyi in 2019. Do you agree with this statement?
What he said simply means that there is no point in changing a winning team. He has a module and the entire state apparatus have keyed into the arrangement. We who are from Ebonyi know that there is no vacancy there in 2019 because he has delivered democracy dividends to the people. All we are praying for is long life and good health for him to complete his tenure.
Umahi deserves a second term because we want him to complete what he has started. We also want anybody aspiring to be governor of the state in the future to have a closer look at what he has done so far, and the huge imprints he would leave behind. So essentially, there is no vacancy in 2019. The governor has done exceedingly well for all of us. My vision for him is that in the nearest future, he would be assigned a bigger responsibility to serve his people in bigger capacity because he has proved to be a trustworthy leader
As an art curator of international repute, how do you think you can partner with the state governor to showcase Igbo culture?
Our arts and culture form part of our heritage and my background as an artifact collector, started a long time ago because it’s in my family linage. Most of the collections that I have today are mostly from my grandfather and this is one of the things that builds a strong synergy between I and the governor because he likes arts as well. He is a governor that likes to preserve the core value of the Igbo because if we could look back the way our culture has been, I was afraid of it being extinct. If the Igbo exhibit belief in our cultural value, maybe things wouldn’t have been as bad as this. We seem to have forgotten where we are coming from and that is why the governor is trying to remind us through his cultural revival initiatives of the richness of our arts and culture.
Recently Igbo traditional leaders in Lagos endorsed you to lead the Lagos state chapter of Ohanaeze. How would you react to this development?
I saw it as a welcome development and I also see it as a big challenge for me because when people recognizes your strength and ask you to come and lead them and project Igbo culture to the international community, it is a big privilege because to whom much is given, much is expected. I see it as another challenge because when you look at Ohanaeze Ndigbo, you would discover that it is the apex Igbo socio-cultural group. Every other Igbo group is an offshoot of Ohanaeze that means that Ohanaeze is the apex body that holds the Igbo together. So I see the endorsement as one of the best things to happen to me so far.
I plan to change the face of Ohanaeze in Lago state. When you look at the last regime of Ohanaeze in Lagos, it leaves much to be desired because the leadership which was plunged into crisis. But today, I would take the bull by the horns and by the grace of God, we shall succeed.
Remember that Ohanaeze has always being there since in the 70s, but since Chief Nnia Nwodo took the mantle of leadership as the Presiden-General, he has re-ignited the zeal of Igbo at home and in the Diaspora. It is this type of revolution that we intend to key into in Lagos if given the opportunity to serve.