With Ohanaeze’s Awka declaration, calls for restructuring get louder
If there is a project that has consumed time, energy and resources of Ndigbo, it is the search for equitable governance structure that should be acceptable by Nigerians from all walks of life.
This is based on the belief of the Southeast geo-political zone that the current structure of the country could not command universal acceptance any longer and that this anomaly was responsible for the constant threats to its peace, unity and progress by the various zones.
Although, the structural imbalances had been noticed since 1960 after the country got her independence, it was compounded with the adoption and implementation of the present 1999 Constitution, which the zone said was foisted by the military, which never considered the input of Nigerians.
Ndigbo said the faulty nature of the constitution is a deterrent to the growth and development of the country, stressing that Nigeria has remained relatively unstable and cannot survive and endure for much longer unless it is restructured through the provision of people orientated constitution.
It is in an effort to contribute to this “new order” that the zone had for several years set out in search of the best modalities that if implemented would impact and improve situation of things in the country.
In what has been dubbed, “Awka declaration,” Ohanaeze Ndigbo on Monday, led Igbo political, religious and traditional leaders in the Southeast to adopt an Igbo position on the restructuring of the country.
The gathering at Awka, Anambra State capital, also attracted leaders of the Southwest, Middle Belt, South-South and compatriots from Southern Kaduna.
There were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Olu Falae, Prof Banji Akintoye, Yinka Odumakin, former Ondo governor, Olusegun Mimiko; Air Commodore Dan Sulaiman, Dr John Darah and Chief Edwin Clark,
Among top Igbo at the event included the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Chief Nnia Nwodo, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Governor Wille Obiano of Anambra State, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who was the Chairman, former governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezife; Chief Guy Ikokwu, former Ohanaeze Secretary General, Dr Joe Nwaorgu, Senators Victor Umeh, Sam Daddy Anyawu, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Speakers of Abia and Anambra Houses of Assembly, wife of late Biafran warlord, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Bianca and ex-governor, Mrs. Virgy Etiaba among others.
Former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Charles Soludo, who presented a 10 point demand that included resource control, regional government based on the six existing geo political zones, fiscal federalism, devolution of power, additional state for the Southeast before further creation of states, removal of local government creation and funding from Federal Government, rotational presidency, six year single term with six Vice-Presidents, among others, said several painstaking efforts were made to arrive at the proposals.
Soludo, who heads Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s 100-man Planning and Strategy committee said: “The agenda presented here distils from accumulated years of work on the subject by successive regimes of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, various Igbo think-tanks especially the submissions of the Igbo Leaders of Thought for the 2014 National Conference; various Igbo positions for the 1994 constitutional conference and 2005 and 2014 national conferences; the report of the committee set up by Southeast governors on the review of the 1999 Constitution; the report of the World Igbo Summit by the Igbo Renaissance Centre, Uturu; various submissions/reports by Aka Ikenga; Izu Umunna; Nzuko Umunna; the Igbo intelligentsia; the World Igbo Congress; reports of various meetings and conferences of Igbo stakeholders and leaders.
“The Ohanaeze Planning and Strategy Committee and the Organizing Committee for the Summit on restructuring also embarked on town hall-style consultative meetings in Abuja, Lagos, and Enugu to collate inputs from major segments of Igbo society. Memoranda and inputs were also received from over 40 pan-Igbo groups, NGOs, and individuals. A draft was presented and debated at the National Executive Committee and the Imeobi of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.”
Explaining the rationale for the Igbo position, Soludo said: “The position of Ndigbo is to seek a transformed Nigeria that works for every Nigerian citizen, a level playing field for all Nigerians to enjoy freedom, liberty, fairness, equity and justice to maximize their fullest potential. Ndi Igbo are uniquely positioned, by virtue of their huge stake in Nigeria, to join hands with every willing party to champion a pan-Nigeria agenda. We do not seek any preferential or differential treatment from Nigeria.
“Ndigbo want a Nigeria that works to maximize their security, prosperity, and happiness. Igbo also want a Nigeria that allows every part of Nigeria the latitude and opportunity to develop at their own pace. We want a national conversation to create a new and better Nigeria for all Nigerians.”
The issue of restructuring of the country is one that has gained prominence in the last couple of years, following the insecurity, marginalization and other lopsided arrangements that have ensured that certain parts of the country remain underdogs.
There are notions that successive governments’ inability or delays to restructure the country on the path of true federalism opened the floodgate of agitation with calls of referendum and secession, especially in the Southeast.
The zone has also continued to appear in conferences and panels of governments in the past to present position documents that could engender unity and development, adding however that the public show in Awka was the first time such matter was declared before the people.
To underline the importance it attached to the issue of restructuring, Ohanaeze leadership in May last year set up the 100-man Igbo committee to look into various aspects of Igbo in the continued existence of the country. The idea, it was gathered was to identify which governance structure among other new areas that the zone could fit into under one indivisible entity. The work of the committee was what was showcased on Monday, after it had undergone the scrutiny of Ohanaeze leadership among other leaders.
Although, the leadership of Ndigbo had, amid tight security provided in Awka last Monday by joint security forces, achieved the declaration of its position on the vexed issue of restructuring, many questions still beg for answers over the development.
The questions arose following several conferences where suggestions put forward for a better country are not implemented. Ndigbo, it was argued, had shown regular presence and strong commitment at such gatherings.
Would the Federal Government, which has been accused of allowing the lopsided federal arrangement be amenable to a “new constitution” that could alter the present structure? How far can the Awka declaration go in assuaging the discontent in Igboland, especially by the agitators of Biafra even if implemented? How comfortable are other geo-political zones in some of the issues raised in the declaration?
While time would tell how much the government of Nigeria would love to look into the issues raised in the proposed restructuring by Ndigbo, there are already divergent views about the propositions of the zone among the Biafra agitators.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on whose threat security was beefed up at the venue, rejected the summit and its outcome, ever before it was convoked.
In a statement by its Spokesperson, Emma Powerful, it had described the summit as being “sponsored by those who have continued to kill Biafra indigenes in the name of herdsmen” and asked Igbo people to boycott the summit.
Some of the proponents, who managed to gain entry into the Ekwueme Square during the event, rose in opposition immediately it was announced that Ndigbo supported restructuring.
Leader of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu said the group was unshakable, irrevocable and resolute in Biafra restoration.
Reacting to the summit, he stated that, “We don’t believe in this geographical expression called Nigeria project because this entity is a failed state. The death of hundreds of our comrades in the cause of Biafra self-determination for actualisation and restoration can never be in vain. We cannot betray them.”
He continued, “Although we the members of MASSOB are not against Ohanaeze Ndigbo on their demands which they presented at the Awka summit; the presentation may be dynamic, very well articulated by the organizers and supporters and will end the pains and agonies of Ndigbo.
“Although MASSOB respects these great men and women who took time to organize this great event, we wish to allay our fear that this restructuring may hit the rock. It cannot work because the cabals and Hausa Fulani oligarchy will never allow Nigeria to be restructured because they believe Nigeria is their private inheritance.
“This is not the first time Ndigbo has made similar proposal; there was Oputa Panel, National Political Conference and National Conference, Ndigbo attended all these conferences and presented their demand, but till today, none of the demands was implemented. MASSOB is appealing to Ndigbo to join the movement for the restoration of Biafra. Biafra is the only hope for Igboman.”
Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu wanted Ndigbo to be pragmatic and stop squandering the golden opportunity of the Southeast to harvest the zoning convention between the North and South.
In a statement, Okechukwu dismissed the six-year proposition saying, “Methinks that pragmatism should be for Ohaneze to appeal to our people to work towards the low hanging fruit. One, the truism is that four-year tenure renewable by peoples vote blends squarely into the fine tenets of democracy, which allows a referendum on the incumbent.
“In other words the four-year incumbent is aware that he can be voted out and works hard to please the electorate; unlike the single six-year tenure, which entrenches corruption and do or die apocalypse.”
He stated that a President of Nigeria of Igbo extraction in 2023 would assuage the lamentation of marginalization and return Ndigbo into the mainstream.
On his own, Nwodo vowed to ensure that Ndigbo get their fair share in the country, insisting that until the present constitution was changed, the situation of the zone would not improve.
Ekweremadu gave full support for restructuring and challenged the Ohaneze leadership to do more to convince those yet to support the agenda while also assuring that he would sponsor the Bill for the restructuring whenever Ohaneze forward it to him for presentation to the National Assembly.
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