Igbo Unity, South East and Okorocha
Since May 29, last year when he was sworn into office for the second tenure, Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha has taken it upon himself to forge a new unity among Ndigbo. His latest outing in this new reawakening was last week’s gathering of Igbos at the International Conference Centre, Owerri in what was themed “Unity forum.”
At the event held under the umbrella of Ohanaeze Ndigbo were embattled Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Enugu’s Deputy governor, Cecilia Ezeilo; Okorocha; and his Deputy, Eze Madumere; former Nigerian diplomat, Dr. George Obiozo; Dr. Pascal Dozie, Rear Admiral Allison Madueke (rtd); Chief Simeon Okeke; Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Prof Anya O. Anya; Chief Jim Nwobodo (who chaired the event); Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd); President General of Ohanaeze, Gary Igariwey; among others.
Prior to the event, Okorocha had intervened and resolved the leadership crisis that lingered in the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Two parallel executives – one led by Igariwey and the other by Chief Ralph Obioha had laid claims to the authentic headship of the organization and had held opposing views on issues affecting Ndigbo. The organization had lost steam and was not reckoned with among other ethnic organizations due to the crisis.
Also, when suspected Fulani herdsmen attacked Ukpabi Nimbo community, Uzouwani Council of Enugu state recently, Okorocha who is the Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor’s Forum led a strong delegation of governors of the party across the country to empathize with the state government.
In the unfolding debacle over the governorship seat of Abia state resulting from a recent Abuja High Court ruling that removed Ikpeazu as Governor, Okorocha has met with him (Ikpeazu) to ensure that the state did not inflame pending the determination of the appeal in court.
These developments and the latest Owerri meeting are raising posers about Okorocha’s intentions. So many questions have been asked – why a Unity Forum now, why is Okorocha the one driving it? Why a Unity Forum to be spearheaded by a Governor whose party at the national level has continually marginalized the Southeast in appointments? Since the southeast zone rejected the APC during the 2015 general elections, could this be a ploy by his APC to continue to hoodwink the Igbo and make them embrace the party?
At the Owerri Unity Forum, which is perhaps the highest assemblage of Igbo leaders in recent times, the leaders had downplayed their various political leanings to find answers to the questions, the theme of the event (unity) as well as harped on the need to work together and end all forms of rift that had hindered the development and growth of Igbo region.
Ohanaeze’s President General, Igariwey noted that it would help Ndigbo resolve their problems. Taking a broader perspective at the way things were unfolding in the country, he had observed that there was need for Igbo industrialists to think home and develop the economy of the zone.
“We should invest at home to create jobs for our people. So today is a special day because we have decided as a people to close ranks and proffer solutions to our problems”, he noted.
Prof. Anya noted, “The solutions to our problems can only be found within and not outside. We are the ones that can solve our own problems,” stressing that there was need to rebuild Igbo land of the 21st Century. “We have gathered because the time is critical so that we can chart a new course for our people. There has never been a time we are faced with a barrage of problems like now so we need our past to find solutions to our problems”, he stated.
On his part, Ukiwe said Igbos should not regret forget the past and cannot be intimidated by anyone, while Okorocha explained that the meeting was to bring Igbo under one umbrella again, adding that if the strength of Ndigbo was well harnessed, they have the potentials of driving development in the entire country.
“There is so much to be done and we can achieve a lot if we remain united. There is no need to fight each other. The number of people that are gathered here today is a clear demonstration that we are once more united”, the Imo state governor stated.
However some observers believed there could not be true unity in Igboland without her political leaders, majority of whom have embraced certain ideologies for their own individual interests, coming to work together as one. Others believed that Ndigbo couldn’t forge ahead when her leaders looked different ways, especially on issues pertaining to the common interests of the people.
They insisted that Okorocha, being the oldest governor in the Southeast Governors Forum should have started galvanizing other governors of the zone on the need to build a stronger region, emphasizing that it would have made much impact than his present effort with Ohanaeze leaders.
A political analyst, Dr. Ikechukwu Onah said: “I am really worried about how Okorocha is going about this because he has opportunity with the Governor’s Forum. I’m however told that he has not been attending their meetings; he has not found the need to pull resources and create a strong economic base for the Southeast whereby our people can be gainfully employed to end this common story of marginalization.
“I also have my doubts that our leaders trust that anything good can come out of the effort because each of us have this mentality that unless it is for individual benefit, then it should not exist”.
Leader of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu had in reaction noted: “Should there be a forum of Ndigbo, what should dominate it is how to free her sons and daughters in various prisons across the country as well as stop the killing of innocent Igbos by security officers”.
“The meeting avoided raising paramount and fundamental issues affecting Ndigbo in Nigeria which includes the quest and agitation for Biafra, the release of Nnamdi Kanu, Benjamin Onwuka, Lotachukwu Okoli, Chidiebere Onwudiwe and 21 others at Onitsha and Awka prisons. They avoided the killings of non-violent Biafra agitators on February 9th at Aba and 30th May at Nkpor. They ignored the continued maiming of our people in their home soils by Fulani herdsmen; they ignored the continued marginalization of our people by the Buhari-led administration to start talking about unity. You cannot discuss unity when there is an orchestrated plan to continue to make you irrelevant in the scheme of things,” he added.
A former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi, said in an interview with The Guardian, that what was required presently was a unity of purpose, stressing that leadership gap has dealt seriously with the aspirations of Ndigbo.
Referring to the common saying that ‘Igbos have no king’, the political scientist noted that “The problem is that the compradors in power have succeeded in dividing us further for their selfish interests. Ndigbo are versatile. The mere fact that they survived the war and are contributing to the development of the country is an indication that this country cannot move without the input of Igbos. That is why I worry when I see the level of lopsidedness in appointments in the country, especially under the present regime. It has never been heard of in our history that you made over 25 appointments without an Igboman, it has never been heard in history that a constitution of a country is neglected in such a way that, people no longer have faith in their own system”.
Amucheazi argued that the present condition in the country has created room for each region to begin to look inwards “because the federal government by their action is telling some Nigerians that you are not part of the system. Ndigbo have cried out for many years; there is heightened agitation by MASSOB presently and elsewhere due to the way things have gone. That is why so many Nigerians have this believe that we should restructure the country. It is only in unity that we can benefit from restructuring and any system that might have been put in place. It was this unity of purpose that guided the success of Ndigbo during the civil war”
The Secretary of Ohanaeze, Dr. Joe Nworgu, said that there was no better time to bring Igbos together than now, explaining that the Owerri phase was the “first in the series of efforts by Ohanaeze Ndigbo to bring all Igbos into one umbrella.”