Chief Solomon Ogbonna is president, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State. Recently, he spoke with Daily Sun on Igbo culture and values; and threw light on how the association is partnering foreign envoys to empower Igbo youths. Excerpts:
What is the reason for your visits to some foreign envoys in recent times?
We are exploring all avenues to empower Igbo youths in Lagos State. My visit to Malta’s Ambassador to Ghana, Jean Claude Galean, was to discuss the admission of Igbo youths into the soccer academy in Malta. He is the first and only Malta’s Ambassador to Sub-Saharan Africa. That is the reason I had to fly to Ghana for the meeting.
Though, there are soccer academies here in Nigeria, but these youths enrolling at an academy in Malta, Europe, will expose them to soccer scouters from different European clubs. The visit to the Spanish Ambassador is for cultural exchange between Spain and Ndigbo. This will expose some of our youths to art and culture of Spain in particular and Europe in general; as they explore business opportunities in the sector.
We have plans to visit more envoys as we source opportunities for Igbo youths. The youth empowerment program is part of our grassroots development, and we are looking within and outside the country.
What is the position of the various Igbo town unions in Lagos on Ohanaeze Ndigbo?
The President of every Igbo town union in Lagos State is an executive member of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos and they are referred as VPs. As representatives of their various town unions, they assist in shaping the affairs of the organisation. VPs relay information from the organisation to their respective town unions. Members of the town unions are free to visit the secretariat to verify and confirm any information given to them by the VPs.
Are top Igbo personalities identifying with the organisation?
Some of them, who we address as stakeholders including our elders are identifying with the organisation. Some of these people help in financing our programmes and projects. But a good number of them are yet to show interest. These people stayed off, because there was no functional secretariat, no defined programmes except the Igbo Day celebrations, and accountability was difficult.
In fact, it was difficult to access information about the organisation, as members of the executives ran the affairs of the organisation from their respective homes and offices. Now, we have secretariat, defined programmes, and therefore room for accountability. Many of these bigwigs will join the organisation.
I use this opportunity to call on the big and mighty in Igbo land, to join us and empower the new generation with their resources, wisdom, talents and experiences. This time is not about money, it is about identifying with your people to guide the youths and shape the future of Ndigbo.
It is time to come forward to help re-engineer the Igbo greatness. If these personalities identify any anomaly, it is time to join forces with us to correct the anomaly. You don’t have to seat at your parlour and complain. We are all Igbo, and there is no other Igbo outside the one you are complaining about.
I equally appeal to our elders and dignitaries to support and guide these young leaders. You should not support only young leaders from your family and those with rich and famous family backgrounds. All young leaders need the support and the wise counsel of the elders and dignitaries to deliver good service to Ndigbo in particular and Nigeria in general. If they hear of anything going wrong, they should intervene, verify and advice. This is necessary to avoid being fed with lies.
How visible and accessible is the association in terms of its activities and programmes?
I think the attraction is the availability of a functional secretariat, which is accessible to everybody including media people. If you want to do business with any organisation, you will request some details including physical address; else, you won’t take the organisation serious. Many Igbo resident in Lagos are not aware that there is Ohanaeze Ndigbo chapter in Lagos. Many of these people think that Ohanaeze starts and ends in Enugu or Igbo land. This is because previous administrations of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos were not keen at publicising the activities of the organisation.
My administration appreciates the role of the media in sensitising, educating and informing the people. We have seen the need to create awareness through the mass media especially conventional media. Even at that, some members of my executive who think Ohanaeze is a place to come and share things kicked against media publicity of the organisation, preferring the old order of alienating Ndigbo from the organisation. But I say NO to them.
Ndigbo in Lagos must know that we exist and that we are working for them. It is yielding results, because every other day, Ndigbo in Lagos State from all walks of life visit the secretariat to acquaint themselves with the activities of the organisation.
Furthermore, the sacrifices we are making help to popularise the organisation and put it in the limelight. I make bold to say that no administration of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos had done better than our administration. Many industrious, hardworking and enlightened Igbo, who understand good leadership when they see it, will attest to that.
What exactly are the functions of the organisation?
In summary, the function of Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the welfare of Ndigbo plus building good relationship between Igbo and people of other tribes and nationalities. Automatically, the organisation must identify with Ndigbo experiencing crisis including accident victims and bereaved families.
In line with good neighbourliness, we visit victims from other tribes and nationalities. That informed our visit to victims of building collapse in Lagos Island. Leadership is sacrifice, and you must have the interest of your people at heart, applying common sense and native intelligence to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of your people.
This is my leadership philosophy and that is my own godfather. Furthermore, I always consult with the elders, benefitting from their wealth of knowledge and wise counsel.