At Igbo Day in Imo, Ohanaeze joins voices of support for restructuring
When the lot of hosting the 2018 Igbo Day celebration fell on Imo State, it was seen as an opportunity for the apex Igbo socio- cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, comprising seven states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Delta, and Ekwerre, part of Rivers State, to take a position on national issues.
Interestingly, the theme was carefully chosen: Igwe bu ike meaning, Unity is strength. In attendance were some national officials of Ohanaeze, including the President General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Deputy President General, Hilary Opara, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police; the Secretary General, Uche Okwukwu and immediate past President General, Chief Gary Enwo Igariwey among others.
Chief Edwin Clark, who leads the PANDEF bloc, could not attend due to the death of his 43-year- old son. Yet except the host governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, no other governor from the other member states attended.
The event, which received the full representation of Afenifere, the apex body of Yoruba and representatives from the member states, was capped with a courtesy call by Ohanaeze leadership on the Chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Imo Sam Agunwa Ohiri.
Thereafter, the event was rounded off with the congregation of all the delegates at Imo Monarchs’ Parliament building at the Mbari premises in Owerri, for a symposium, where a lecture on how to revive Igbo language, culture and unity, was delivered by a religious leader and university teacher, Father Jerome Okonkwo.
In his remarks, Nwodo reiterated the socio-cultural group’s call for the restructuring of the country, saying it would put to an end the marginalization of people of Southern Nigeria, especially Southeast geo-political zone in particular. Nwodo regretted the huge marginalization against the Igbo ethnic stock, saying they are made to look like third class citizens.
Going down memory lane, Nwodo traced the marginalization against Southern Nigeria and wondered why, from 1960s till date; successive administrations have not addressed the issues despite strident agitations.
While insisting that restructuring was the answer that could take the mind of young people of the zone from the path of war, the Ohanaeze President stated: “The future of this country rests on restructuring of the federation. Ndigbo have had and are still having unmitigated hatred from other tribes in Nigeria as a result of their industry and perseverance.
“In fact, never a time is Nigeria at cross-roads as it is now and Ndigbo are feeling the main brunt. Ndigbo have been completely emasculated and dehumanized in their fatherland and indeed, have become even third class citizens, a little short of the era of slave trade. Never in the history of this country has Ndigbo been marginalized, denied of their fundamental human rights, and traumatized as they are now.”
He enumerated instances of marginalization to include the fact that industrious sons from the region have severally been harassed and arrested, while their businesses are threatened for no just cause. He stated: “Very often, the charges against them are frivolous and lack merit. Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership has had cause to defend them or sound a note of warning even on the pages of newspapers. Again, the state of infrastructure in the Southeast is most disheartening.
“A foreign loan, which all parts of the country are obliged to pay back, was acquired by the Federal Government but the whole of South -East was excluded from the beneficiaries. It took an expression of outrage by Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some sons and daughters of the geo-political zone for a half-hearted insertion of some parts of Igboland in the project.”
The Igbo leader explained that as patriotic citizens, “Our duty is to change our country and make the structure better. We are not going to stop until this is done. We have come to tell you that we are serious. We came with our Southern brothers.”Nwodo paid glowing tributes to Okorocha for constructing a befitting Secretariat for the socio-cultural organsiation in Enugu, as well as creating good atmosphere to host the ceremony in comfort.
The Imo State governor called for equal representation in the country’s administrative systems, stressing that what “Igbo need now is a bit of balancing.” Okorocha advocated for power devolution to make the states stronger, just as he traced his administration’s achievements to proper division of functions, executing over 1,000 projects.
In his remarks, Ohiri, who was flanked by a motley of monarchs and chiefs said: “Very soon you will see the benefits of your struggle. What I want to say is that this country needs to be restructured and one day it will be restructured. That is the only way out for a country with many resources.”
Nonagenarian Yoruba leader, Adebanjo, in his goodwill message, said the Southwest will always support Igbo in the quest for restructuring, adding, “We are sympathetic to Igbo people for what they are passing through. Afenifere will lend full support to Ohanaeze Ndigbo in asking for an end to marginalization.”
Also a representative of Middle Belt Forum, Jonathan Asagie, noted that all the 14 states in the forum would identify with Ohanaeze to ensure restructuring and the emergence of a new Nigeria.Chairman of the 2018 Igbo Day National Organizing Committee, Prof. Gregory Ibe, reminded attendees that the theme of the celebration was a reminder on what the ancestors of Igbo hinged on success. He paid tribute to the gallantry of both living and dead Igbo sons and daughters.
Highlight of activities to mark the Igbo Day celebration was the conferment of merit awards, namely Grand Commander of the Order of Imo (GCOI) and Grand Chancellor of the State of Imo (GCSI), on some personalities in the country. Beneficiaries included, those for Imo Merit Award: Late Sam Mbakwe (post humous, GCSI), Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (GCSI), Chief Arthur Nzeribe (GCSI), late Ikemba Odemegwu Ojukwu (post humous, GCSI), Governor Abdullahi Ganduje (GCSI), Late Alhaji Maitama Sule (GCOI), Dr. Paul Unogo (GCOI), and Chief John Nnia Nwodo (GCOI).
Others are Chief Gary Gary Enwo Igariwey (GCOI), Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd) (GCOI), late Dick Tiger Ihetu (GCOI), late Chief C.C. Onoh (GCSI), late Eze Dr. Akanu Ibiam (GCOI), Chief Jim Nwobodo (GCOI), Chief Ndubuisi Kanu (GCOI), and Ayo Adebanjo (GCOI).
While speaking at the Ikemba Ojukwu Heroes Pavilion, Governor Rochas Okorocha said, the recipients were honoured on merit, saying: “This is a night specially mapped out to honour our great leaders from this state and other parts of the country and beyond, who have distinguished themselves both in conduct and in service and in the overall development of our dear state and nation.
“We have discovered that the problem with our people is that we are not good with history and the fact that we don’t easily remember the worthwhile developmental strides of our heroes past; we are at a loss in the shortest possible time and tend to forget these great nationals that have brought about our greatness.
“It is therefore as a result of the foregoing that Imo State government, under law number 18 of the Imo State House of Assembly, passed a law to honour our own and those who have, in one form or the other impacted on the lives of the people of this state and beyond.”
One of the recipients, Iwuanyanwu, said he was elated by the award and confessed his indifference to the ‘Rescue Mission Government’ despite the kind overtures of the administration to him. He stated that he had received accolades from local and international quarters, but that this particular award was what he cherished most.
Nwodo said the state government did well in initiating the award, adding, “I know that someday someone somewhere will recognize these efforts just like Owelle has done this glorious night. I pray for the coming together of all Igbo so that we will all come to the drawing board to see and correct where we have missed it and to take our rightful place in the comity of this entity Nigeria and the world at large. I commend Owelle Rochas Okorocha for this award and for single-handedly building a befitting headquarters for Ohaneze Ndigbo in Enugu.”
Also, governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje said: “I hold this award very precious to my heart. I am not surprised at the award knowing that Owelle is one of the most detribalized Nigerians that have the heart for the general good of this nation. I commend the contributions of Ndigbo in Kano State and the foundation of the Imo State Governor, Rochas Foundation Colleges that have impacted positively on the lives of numerous Nigerian children from the length and breadth of this country.”