Ohanaeze Draft Submission To NASS Committee On Nigerian Constitution Review
(on behalf of the Igbo-Speaking People of Nigeria)

( Monday, July 2, 2012 )

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"TABLE OF CONTENTS"

1. BACKGROUND Page 2

2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE POSITION OF NDIGBO Page 6

i. Restructuring of Nigeria into Six Regions Page 6
ii. Powers of Federal, Region (and States)
Page 6
iii. Citizenship Rights
Page 8
iv. Form of government for Federal Republic of Nigeria
Page 8
v. Tenure of Chief Executive at Federal, Region/State
Page 8
vi. Revenue-Sharing (“Fiscal federalism”)
Page 9
vii. Reorganization of the Police
Page 10
viii. Reorganization of the Nigerian Armed Forces
Page 11
ix. State Security Services
Page 11
x. Civil Service Reforms – Federal Character Principle
Page 12
xi. Political Party Reforms
Page 12
xii. Judicature
Page 12
xiii. Population/Census
Page 12
xiv. States Creation and Boundary Adjustments
Page 13
xv. Role of Traditional Rulers
Page 13
xvi. Non – Adoption of State Religion
Page 13

3 CONCLUSION Page 14

From Ohanaeze Ndigbo
(on behalf of the Igbo-Speaking People of Nigeria)

28th June, 2012

MEMORANDUM FROM OHANAEZE NDIGBO

1. BACKGROUND

For our country, with its colonial stamp of 'made in England', the three hundred odd ethnic and sub-ethnic units in this land, brought together by the force of British Imperialism to forge a modern nation, have good cause to thank God for the astonishing abundance of human and material resources bestowed on us. We are still in the process of nation building, struggling to blend together and harmonize our various very rich but differing traditions, customs and cultures.

The recognition of the significance of ethnicity was clear at the birth of an independent Nigeria in 1960. The larger ethnic units of Hausa/Fulani-Igbo-Yoruba formed the basis of the three Regions North-East-West. Ethno-based agitations aimed at asserting the separate identity of the smaller groups, promptly sprouted in the three Regions. These include the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) Movement in the North, the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR) State Movement in the East and the Midwest Movement in the West.

The current concept of six geo-political zones is also ethnically based, with three zones accorded to the larger ethnic groups and, to balance them out, three also to a conglomerate of the smaller ethnic units. The simple lesson from this structural arrangement is that the ethnic units are recognized and accepted as the veritable building blocks in the on-going construction work and nation building process in Nigeria.

In our socio-political and economic intercourse, all groups (big or small) must be allowed free-play and equitable access to our country's resources and strategic political command posts, including particularly the presidency. Sustained imbalance in sharing responsibilities and the 'national cake' could conceivably induce in those units aggrieved a rethink of the value to them of our much vaunted national unity. The break-up of ethnically composite countries, some very powerful and prosperous, like the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, took place along ethnic lines. Nearer home, the Republic of Sudan has just split up after decades of fratricidal conflict. These are unsavory examples that we must strenuously strive to limit in Africa, already politically over-fragmented. The needed unity in diversity of our country and its political stability are best guaranteed via an equity-oriented formula that creates a comfortable sense of belonging for all Nigerians.

At independence in 1960, what our founding fathers settled for was a full-blown Federal Structure, with three Regions, East-North-West, as the federating units of our nation. All three regions were constitutionally equal in status. A fourth Region, the Midwest, was created by regular constitutional amendment in 1963.

Thus, the 1963 “Constitution of the Federation” (Republican Constitution), Chapter 1, Section 5(1) states:

For the sake of the FUTURE OF STEADY AND SUSTAINABLE NIGERIA as ONE COUNTRY and ONE NATION; AND FOR THE SAKE OF DEVELOPMENT; AND FOR THE SAKE OF FUTURE GENERATION OF NIGERIANS, and for the sake and benefit of ALL Nigerians; we must face the FACT that the STATUS QUO is untenable. This generation of Nigerians must, therefore, steer the ship of State along the course on the basis of which our country was founded by REAFFIRMING TRUE FEDERALISM as the best system of Government for Nigeria.

A reaffirmation of TRUE-FEDERALISM is CRITICAL to the success of political reforms as it provides the correct platform for strengthening the foundation of ONE COUNTRY and ONE NATION called NIGERIA. TRUE-FEDERALISM eliminates the fear of domination by one or a combination of groups of Nigerians over others and reduces ethno-cultural tension, thus releasing the positive and creative energies of Nigerians to the building of a nation that will be a pride to all black people on earth. The “Amendments” to be recommended by this Committee should aim at achieving this objective.

The various political crises in Nigeria from 1959 to date, underline the FACT that ethno-cultural pluralism is ineffective in a country which permits the domination of other ethnic nationalities by one or a combination of them.

In other words, NIGERIA HAS A BRIGHT FUTURE AS ONE COUNTRY AND ONE NATION, ONLY TO THE EXTENT THAT THE CONSTITUENT COMPONENTS ALSO HAVE A FUTURE. Consequently a primary challenge that we have in Nigeria today is to reduce ETHNIC and SECTIONAL potential conflict areas to the SAFEST MINIMUM.

This means a sincere affirmation of True Federalism by all Nigerians. This implies appreciable Decentralization of Power and Responsibilities from the Centre (Federal) to Federating Units. This implies greater Financial Resources to the Federating Units in tandem with increased responsibilities etc.

One of the most important advantages of TRUE FEDERALISM is the equilibrium between the CENTRE (Federal) and REGIONS (Federating Units). In a country like Nigeria with multi-ethnic nationalities, the constitutional balance required by TRUE FEDERALISM should limit the tendency towards over-centralisation.

In decentralization and devolution of powers from Centre to Federating Units, the OVERRIDING PRINCIPLE is not to use “tea cups” (States) to receive water from an overfull “drum” (Federal Government) of water - at least “buckets” (Region) are required for a meaningful exercise. Furthermore, the major Danger and Risk of imposing a Strong Central Government (over-centralization) is that it can only be achieved only by those who control the levers of power. An all powerful Federal Government controlling the bulk of NATIONAL PURSE and economic development is not desirable. It cannot endure and will not be tolerated indefinitely by the disadvantaged sections of the country, and there shall be several attempts to reverse it leading to serious and constant disequilibrium in the polity.

There can be no doubt that Nigeria was making more progress in national development in the early years of its independence when it practiced a true federalism of four regions with more extensive powers devolved from the centre to the regions. Those were the days of the significant export of groundnuts, hides and skins, and the tin ore from the North; of cocoa from the West; of rubber from the Mid-West; and of palm produce and coal from the East of Nigeria. They were also the days of such achievements as the free universal education in Chief Awolowo's Western region, and of the burgeoning industrialization of Dr. Okpara's Eastern region.

To return to true federalism, we need a major restructuring of our current architecture of governance. We would need six federating units, instead of our present 36 units which not only sustain an over-dominant centre, but also compel the country to spend not less than 74% of its revenue on the cost of administration. If the existing 36 states must be retained in some form, they could be made cost-effective development zones with minimal administrative structures within the six federating units.

WITH THIS BACKGROUND NDIGBO STRONGLY ADVOCATE THE RESTRUCTURING OF NIGERIA INTO SIX (6) REGIONS BASED ON ETHNIC/LINGUISTIC GROUPS (and other related parameters) NAMELY:

With ABUJA as the FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY

These regions will constitute the Federating Units, with greater emphasis on derivation in revenue allocation; and equality of the six regions with regard to revenue distributable to the Federating Units.

NOTE:
However, national cohesion and stability should not be jeopardized by giving undue encouragement to centrifugal forces - a potential risk in giving UNLIMITED POWERS to Federating Units.

The objective of the Constitutional Review must be to keep Nigeria as a whole (not a group or section) strong. Accordingly, the Centre (Federal Government) should have all that it genuinely requires to keep the country together, with minimum risk of abuse of power by the Central Government.

Finally we note that whichever way a True Nigeria Federation evolves, FISCAL and FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIP between the Center and Federating Units; and the economic development cum financial independence of the Federating Units are of crucial importance.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE POSITION OF NDIGBO

The position of Ndigbo on Nigeria has remained constant: i.e TO HAVE A TRULY FEDERAL NATION called NIGERIA with an effective CORRUPTION-FREE EQUITY ORIENTED GOVERNMENT, whose primary objectives shall be the welfare and well-being of the peoples of Nigeria irrespective of creed or culture.

Accordingly, Ndigbo at this point desire nineteen (19) constitutional provisions.

Restructuring of Nigeria Into Six Zones

TO RETURN NIGERIA TO TRUE FEDERALISM
Specifically Ndigbo advocate that Nigeria should be RESTRUCTURED INTO SIX REGIONS namely:
a) SOUTH-EAST REGION OF NIGERIA
b) SOUTH-WEST REGION OF NIGERIA
c) SOUTH-SOUTH REGION OF NIGERIA
d) NORTH-CENTRAL REGION OF NIGERIA
e) NORTH-EAST REGION OF NIGERIA
f) NORTH-WEST REGION OF NIGERIA

Each Region of Nigeria shall have its own “Regional” Constitution. The States of the present Federation that shall constitute each Region are as presently constituted in the zones with boundary adjustments where necessary.

Each Region shall have the right to determine the number of States, Local Governments, and District/Community Councils that shall constitute the Region, according to the limits of their resources.

Federal (Central) Government shall not be involved in State, Local Government, and District/Community Councils matters.

Powers of Federal, Region (and States)

Power shall be decentralized. The powers of the Central (Federal) Government shall be drastically reduced in favour of the REGIONS AS Federating Units. Details shall be worked out by the Review Committee bearing in mind the 1963 Nigerian Constitution, and devolution of powers as recommended by the 1994 Conference. (see Draft Constitution 1995).

As a guide we recommend that FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONS shall not exceed those exercised by the Center (Federal) at Nigeria's Independence in 1960 and shall be enumerated to include such matters as foreign Affairs, Monetary Policies, Citizenship, National Security, Defence etc.

THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA SHALL HAVE A FOUR-TIER STRUCTURE, namely:
CENTER (FEDERAL),
REGIONS (FEDERATING UNITS);
STATES
(to be determined by the regions and not by the center according to the will of the constituent peoples of the region and enshrined in the regional constitution), and

LOCAL GOVERNMENT. (to be determined by the States).

Over-centralisation removes power and resources from tiers of Government that are nearest to the citizen and promotes inefficiency, incompetence, corruption, alienation and loss of faith in Government. It ALSO PROMOTES INEQUALITY IN NUMBERS OF STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS PER ZONE/REGION.

THERE SHALL BE SUBSTANTIAL DEVOLUTION OF POWERS FROM THE CENTER (FEDERAL) TO THE FEDERATING UNITS (REGIONS).

However if any law enacted by the ASSEMBLY OF A REGION is inconsistent with the provisions of the CONSTITUTION OF NIGERIA or with ANY LAW VALIDLY ENACTED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, the law made by the ASSEMBLY OF THE REGION shall be VOID to the extent of the inconsistency.

KEENLY conscious of the danger to national cohesion and unity caused by the destruction of lives and properties in ethno religious incidents in the recent past and at present, Ndigbo consider it absolutely necessary to have Citizenship Rights clearly enumerated and guaranteed; by both the federal and regional governments.

The 1963 Constitution and the Draft constitution 1995 are explicit on the fundamental rights of the Nigerian Citizen.

iv. FORM OF GOVERNMENT FOR FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

Ndigbo recommend the Presidential System of Government for a restructured Nigeria.
There shall be ONE PRESIDENT elected: nationally” with a SINGLE VICE-PRESIDENT.
a. The Vice-President shall be assigned specific responsibilities by the Constitution.
b. Ditto for Chief Executives of the Regions (including States) with their Deputies.

v. TENURE OF CHIEF EXECUTIVE AT FEDERAL, REGIONS/STATE

Apart from stopping the inevitable distraction from the time and attention of the office holder in the quest for a second term, a single tenure eliminates the crucial and unfair advantage enjoyed by an incumbent with access to vast official, which are not available to his or her co-contestants in the conduct of electoral campaigns.

The tenure of the president shall commence from the date when he was sworn in as President.

ROTATION OF THE POSITION OF CHIEF EXECUTIVE AT FEDERAL AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS

Revenue-Sharing Between The Centre And Federating Units Must Be Comprehensively Reviewed To Reflect “Fiscal Federalism”.

There are two facets to the revenue issue.

At Independence under the Raisman formula, 50% of revenue was paid to the regions of origin on the basis of derivation, while 20% was paid to the Federal Government as a contribution by the region for maintenance of the integrity of the nation, and the balance of 30% was shared equally among regional governments including the region of origin. In the same vein, the 1963 Constitution of the Federation States in Sec. 140(i): “There shall be paid by the Federal to each Region a sum equal to fifty percent of the proceeds of any Royalty received by the Federation in respect of any minerals (including mineral oil) extracted in that Region”.

Over the years, the percentage kept by the region on the basis of derivation has been progressively reduced to the level of 3-5%. As a first step to redressing the present distortion, we recommend an increase in the weighting given to the derivation factor to 30%.

Accordingly,
a) We recommend that the amount to be retained by the Central (Federal) government be drastically trimmed down based on a thorough study of the financial requirements for accomplishing its reduced function; that the balance thereafter be shared equally between the six regions. We further recommend that the formula for sharing revenue within the regions shall be the same as recommended for the central (federal) government. However, derivation should be extended to all local governments or states that are environmentally impacted by the resource exploitation.

b) Ownership of resources must be by the areas where these are located.

Most importantly these recommendations will reduce the “CAKE-SHARING MENTALITY” in Nigeria and lead to faster growth and development of the Nigerian economy by encouraging PRODUCTIVITY AND EXPLOITATION OF THE VAST NATURAL RESOURCES OF EACH OF THE SIX REGIONS OF NIGERIA.

iv. Reorganization of the Nigerian Police

An effective and efficient Police Force is essential for the development of democracy in Nigeria.

However past abuses, including frequent incursions of military into rulership, underline the necessity for avoiding a Constitutional arrangement which provides the TEMPTATION and the MEANS to the Federal Government (via Army and/or police) to toy with matters of vital Local interest to the people of any Region or State of the Federation.

Accordingly, Ndigbo recommend:

a. That there be established a two-tier Police structure, to wit: REGIONAL POLICE whose jurisdiction shall be limited to the geographical areas of the Region, and National Police which shall have inter-regional jurisdiction.

b. THE TWO POLICE FORMATIONS VIZ FEDERAL AND REGIONAL POLICE FORMATION shall have clearly delineated JURISDICTIONS, RESPONSIBILITIES, MODUS OPERANDI and “INTERPHASE PROTOCOLS” to minimize areas of friction, whilst emphasizing integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness.

c. The NIGERIA (NATIONAL) POLICE shall draw a good portion of its personnel in each Zonal Command from the Region.

v. Reorganization of the Nigerian Armed Forces

There shall be one Nigerian Army, one Nigerian Air-Force and one Nigerian Navy.

There shall be a comprehensive review of the numbers and equipment of the Armed forces in the light of the nations objectives and resources.

The Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air-Force shall be reorganized in ZONAL COMMANDS. Accordingly, there shall be in each Region a a. Zonal Command of the Nigeria Army and Nigerian Air-force.

b. With regard to the Nigerian Navy, it must be ensured that the composition of their officers and men reflect a balance between the SIX Regions.

iv. State Security Services

There shall be one State Security Service in Nigeria, and it again shall be organized in Regional Commands.

v. Civil Service Reform - Federal Character Principle

There shall be for Nigeria, and for the Regions, a Civil service appropriate for the discharge of responsibilities assigned to each tier by the Constitution.

a. The emphasis in Civil Service Reforms shall be to streamline Federal/ Regional bureaucracies so as to REDUCE COST OF GOVERNANCE whilst infusing efficiency in the system. Civil Service Review exercises at all levels will necessarily accompany the restructuring of Nigeria based on the principles of TRUE FEDERALISM.

b. An appointment to the Head of Service of the Federation, Region shall not be made except from amongst the Permanent Secretaries or officers of equivalent rank in the Civil Service of the Federation or Region.

c. In exercising powers of appointment into the Federal, Regional and State Civil Service for the ranks of Director and Permanent Secretariats, the President, Governor-General and Governors shall have regard to the diversity of people in the country and in the Regions and the need to promote unity and balanced development.

FEDERAL CHARACTER PRINCIPLE

a. An essential objective in Civil/public Service Reforms shall be to enforce the Federal Character Principles. This should be made justifiable and aggrieved individuals/groups should be able under the NEW constitution to take the matter to court.

b. Ndigbo also advocate that the “Federal Character Principle” should not be restricted to man power only but expanded to include project citing and budgeting as well as execution by the federal Government. Thus there must not be undue disparity between the six Regions in Annual Budget.

iv. Political Party Reforms

Ndigbo advocate MULTY-PARTY system as a panacea against abuse of democratic practice and process. Given time to develop, truly National Parties shall emerge based on shared ideologies.

v. The Judicature

A strong and independent judiciary is indispensable for a stable polity. Consequently, Budgetary Allocations for the Judiciary shall be on “FIRST CHARGE”. Other recommendations on Regional Judiciary, consequent upon the RESTRUCTURING OF THE POLITY INTO SIX REGIONS have been, outlined earlier.

In addition:
a. THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA SHALL HAVE JURISDICTION TO THE EXCLUSION OF ANY OTHER COURT OF LAW IN NIGERIA TO HEAR AND DETERMINE APPEALS FROM:

i. THE FEDERAL COURT OF APPEAL

ii. THE COURT OF APPEAL OF A REGION.

b. THE COMPOSITION OF THE SUPREME COURT SHALL REFLECT EQUALITY OF THE SIX REGIONS

vi. Population/Census

Ndigbo consider the question of census as an important recurring issue since pre-independence. This subject was therefore passionately and extensively discussed as a matter that should be addressed in a comprehensive manner by the proposed Review.

We recommend that the Constitution should clearly state the following:

1. “That Census delineation exercise MUST include the followings:
i. Region of origin
ii. State of Origin
iii. Local government/Town of origin
iv. Language Group
v. Ethnic Group
vi. Religious Affiliation
vii. Gender and Age

These data are necessary for effective scientific and demographic analysis as is obtained internationally”

2. The information in the National Identity Card regarding Region/State/Town of Origin should be in tandem with census.

iv. States Creation And Boundary Adjusments

Ndigbo specifically have been unfairly treated in this matter (ref. Igbo presentation at the Oputa Panel).

The Igbo position is that:

a) The inequities and injustices of previous exercises need to be redressed.

b) This should become part of the delineation exercise for the new six regional federal structure.

v. Role Of Traditional Rulers

Ndigbo advocate constitutional roles for traditional rulers based on their closeness to the “grassroots” and rural development. It is the view of Ndigbo that harmony between the traditional and democratic forces at the grassroots level, will help to bring most of Nigerians into mainstream development.

We recommend that traditional rulers be constitutionally empowered to participate effectively in the responsibility of maintaining communal peace.

iv. Non-Adoption Of State Religion

Ndigbo ENDORSE FULLY SECTION ELEVEN OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION BY THE 1994 CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE WHICH STATES:

“The Government of the Federation, (or of a region), or of a State, or of a Local Government shall NOT adopt any religion as State, or Local Government religion”.

CONCLUSION

Ndigbo have given so much in spirit and material resources to the concept and construction of a truly united, prosperous Nigerian nation and deserve demonstrable appreciation from their fellow citizens. To the Nigeria project, Ndigbo are still doing much more to offer our eminently endowed and great country via their contribution in a true federal character setting of six equal geo-political zones.

WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH IN THE FUTURE OF NIGERIA anchored on GOOD GOVERNANCE, JUSTICE and EQUITY.

CULLED FROM NIGERIAN MASTERWEB - CHIEF CHARLES OKEREKE

 

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New refineries: Ohanaeze condemns exclusion of South-east

By PETER ANOSIKE

Ohanaeze Ndigbo has condemned the exclusion of the southeast in the proposed refineries to be established by the federal government.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, had told aviation correspondents that government would use the money realized from the removal of oil subsidy to rehabilitate the existing refineries and then build new ones in Bayelsa, Kogi and Lagos states.

president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos State chapter, Chief Oliver Akubueze, said that the exclusion of south-east from the states where the new refineries would be located is not fair.
According to him, Southeast should be considered for the location of the refineries, going by the fact that it is also oil producing geo political zone and has the least of federal presence among all the geo-political zones in the country.
He urged President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the neglect of the southeast, which has been the trademark of successive governments does not continue.

Akubueze said that southeast deserves one refinery among other numerous federal presence.
His words,” It is very disheartening to hear from the Minister of Information Labaran Maku, that how the revenue to be generated from the proposed removal of oil subsidy would be shared has been concluded without a mention of the southeast. I want to say that this is not acceptable to us. The time has gone when Ndigbo are relegated to the background. President Jonathan should make sure that Ndigbo is involved in the scheme of things in the country. What is the basis of selecting Bayelsa, Kogi and Lagos for the location of new refineries while no state in the southeast was selected. For how long would they continue to remind us that we were vanguished? Ndigbo has a very big stake in this country and we urge president Jonathan to make sure that there is equity in the distribution of federal government presence. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Nobody is more Nigerian than the other”.
On the proposed removal of oil subsidy, he advised government to make sure that the interest of the masses is protected in any programme it wants to come up with.

“The essence of government is the happiness of the greater number of the populace. Based on that, government should make sure that whatever decision it wants to take with regard to the removal of the oil subsidy is mass oriented. We don’t want policies that would be in the interest of only a few people. 

The interest of the majority should always be protected. If government feels that removal of subsidy should be the best for the country then it should go on to convince the masses. For now, I think that it is only the elites that have understood it. Government should take the message of how removal of subsidy would change their lives for the better to the grass roots using the appropriate channels. “he said
Source: Sun, 22nd December 2011.

 

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Expulsion irks Ohaneze, Enugu House

By Tony Edike, Enugu

The decision of the Abia State Government to lay off non-indigenes in her civil service has been flayed by Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Enugu State House of Assembly who say that it can jeopardize unity  among the people of the Southeast.

The Igbo socio-cultural organization strongly condemned the disengagement of the non-indigene workers from Abia State civil service saying that the development was not in the interest of unity and progress of the Igbo nation.

The Enugu State House of Assembly on its part is urging the Forum of the South East Governors headed by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State to wade into the matter with a view to getting the Chief Theodore Orji-led administration to rescind its decision.

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Engr. Ralph Ndigwe who made the position of the organization on the issue known, said it was unbecoming of governors to ask non-indigenes to return to their states, now that the apex organization was doing everything possible to sustain the unity among Ndigbo.

Noting the efforts by Ohanaeze to resolve the dispute between organized labour and governments of the South Eastern states over the minimum wage, he said that the expulsion of non-indigene civil servants would jeopardize the efforts of the organization.

The Ohanaeze spokesman said:  “I am assuring you that we will look critically at this development, which is unjustifiable.  Ohanaeze has been begging workers to go back to work. We have also been asking government to look into the issue of minimum wage. But I think this dimension of asking workers to go back to their state is not right.

We are going to investigate it. “Do you know that if you are sacking a non-indigene, you are sacking him and his family and all those dependent on him? Ohanaeze is going to meet to investigate this negative tendency because it is capable of  impacting negatively on the unity among Ndigbo to which Ohanaeze is very much committed.”

On their part, lawmakers at the Enugu State House of Assembly unanimously condemned the forceful transfer of non-indigenes in Abia State civil service back to their home states.  They maintained that the burden of the N18,000 minimum wage, which had become a national issue, was not a justifiable reason for laying off the workers.

The legislators urged the Abia State Government to retain the services of Enugu indigenes in its workforce in order to encourage mutual and sustainable corporate co-existence and peace in the South East zone.

Contributing to the motion brought by the Leader of the House, Sunday Ude-Okoye on the issue, the lawmakers called on both Abia and Enugu state governments to set up a committee to discuss the modalities of absorbing their respective workforce in terms of civil servants who are not indigenes of each state.

While urging the Abia State government to reinstate the displaced workers “since virtually all the states in the South-East and beyond are represented in Enugu State civil service”, the lawmakers, however, alerted the South East Governors’ Forum on the likely dangers and inconveniences that might result from the retaliatory actions of other states in the zone.

Moving the motion which he brought under a matter of urgent public importance, the House leader noted that Enugu state indigenes affected by the action of the Abia state government “do not in any way merit the way and manner Abia State government had thrown them out of their workforce hiding under the canopy of four unacceptable, irrational, reiterating and unconstitutional reasons.”

He pointed out that Enugu state indigenes resident in Abia state before her creation had lived there very peacefully, contributed immensely in various areas towards her development and assisted in moving the state forward in terms of commerce, social and political growth, adding that their children had education and became gainfully employed by the state government.

Ude-Okoye further stated that since the affected workers had spent their prime service period working for Abia State Government and most of them were about to retire while the rest have few years to retire, “these great patriots deserve to be paid retirement benefits, when they retire from Abia State Government service and disengaging these group of workforce is forcing Enugu State Government to inherit payment of service rendered to another state.”

While calling on Abia State government to rescind its decision on the non-indigenes, the lawmaker described the action as a violation of section 42 (sub-section 1, 2 and 3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which stipulates that “a citizen of Nigeria shall not be discriminated against.”

Speaking on the development, the Speaker of the House, Eugene Odoh, however, called for caution assuring that the matter would be taken before the South East Governors’ Forum in order to seek amicable way of resolving it.

However, while pressure is being mounted on the Abia State Government to withdraw the sack letters already issued to the affected workers, the South East Governors had been seriously criticized for failing to take a firm position on the issue.
Source: Vanguard, 26th October 2011.

 

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Insight as Ohaneze reburies fallen Biafran soldiers

BY ONYEBUCHI ONYEGBULE

It’s good thinking to remember people who lose their life fighting a cause they believe in. Biafra’s can’t be an exception. For the younger generation who may not know, Biafra was the former Eastern Region of Nigeria which today includes the Southeast, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom states and by ethnic affiliation, the Delta-Igbo. 

The Nigerian civil war was fought in these areas for three long years and though no exact record of the dead are available, thousands fell. 40 years on, these dead seemed to have been forgotten; but now their kinsmen say, ‘though fallen, we appreciate your sacrifice, rest in peace’. It’s good thinking and human.

My worry however is the flex attached to it. First, it’s made to have the colour of Igbo reburying their fallen heroes. I don’t think it should be so and for good reasons. For those of us who participated in the war, I know that the Biafran struggle produced many gallant soldiers of Ibibio, Efik, Ogoja, Anang, Ijaw, Ogoni, etc origins. I mean, great soldiers who fought without looking back- don’t talk about Major Archibong of blessed memory, the Tikilis, the Fiberesimas, etc. These were men of valour who not only fought but got the command to clear their axis; and they did. They weren’t Igbos but they believed in the cause, just like the legendary Gabriel Okara, fought and died for it. When now you say Igbos reburying their dead, where do you place them?

I remember being rescued from the Urashi river by Etuk-Udo in June 1969, I remember this Ijaw boy who was apprehended in Ihioma in January 1970 by federal troops after the Biafran surrender and was ordered to declare Nigeria and renounce Biafra; boldly he said, Biafra. We, the Igbos played wise and declared Nigeria. They separated us and took him along at gun point.

Unknown to anybody, he had his hand grenade by him and simply let it go. In a split second, both he and his captors were gone. He believed in his belief and died for it. Where do you place him now that the reburial is changing from Biafran to Igbo? I don’t want to talk about Tikili who helped clear the Oburotu-Ahoada axis or Major Archibong whose presence in a sector cleared the axis. Where do you place them?  I say these because the Biafran story has not been told and in trying to honour, we should honour all.

My thinking is that the organizers reach out to all the areas, involve them, compile their fallen and make it an all encompassing reburial event. You can’t fight as one in life and separate in death. It’s also said that the reburial event is a land-cleansing exercise. Good idea but it should go further. All those shrines and idols that abound should form part of the cleansing. Let them go and let Igboland choose GOD only. This is the real and major cleansing. At some point, I begin to see the organizers losing focus.

The burial committee is to send emissaries to Igbo linkages in Gabon, Ivory Coast, etc who were evacuated during the war to reestablish contact with the homeland and perhaps, return if they wish. Not bad, but it’s a separate project. These people aren’t dead yet, why include them in a reburial program? In addition, they say they plan to extend the consciousness to all ex-slaves shipped away to parts of the world from Igboland. So which program is it really- reburial, diaspora or ex-slave?

Clear thinking demands that you call one by its name, tackle it and move to the next. Since the reburial is a cleansing exercise, cleanse first but cleanse all. Take off diaspora and ex-slave for another event. That being said, I have to commend the organizers for  such a solemn reflection and I think, if they approach the federal government, they could get a condolence support in the spirit of reconciliation. But more importantly, their coastal kin must be carried along. Incidentally, the Niger Delta struggle has opened some unsavory flanks where some in the extreme are calling for a separate identity. Such visits by the Ohaneze could help dissuade such thinking, especially coming from those who had gone that avenue. Then it won’t just be about reburial but more, an opportunity to prevent a repeat. These are the kind of internal dynamic that should be encouraged. Ohaneze has a lot to gain widening its scope not just limiting itself to the Igbo-cocoon. Indeed, it’s even an opportunity to kick-start a broad range of reconciliation and recreates trust. Thinking along this line could make the difference and give the program the robustness it deserves.
Source: Business Day, 20th August 2011.

 

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Ohaneze Plans Reburial Of Civil War Victims

FROM CHUKS COLLINS, AWK

OHANEZE Ndigbo has set aside October 7 and 8, 2011 for reburial of all Biafran soldiers of Delta State origin who died in the Nigerian Civil War.

This, according to Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, a member of the Reburial/War Heroes Memorial Committee, is prelude to the more elaborate arrangement already slated for January 12 to 14, 2012 at Okwe, Okigwe in Imo State at the five thousand hectares of land where tablets/monuments would be unveiled in memory of all Igbo who were killed in the war.

The reburial plan is part of efforts at spiritual healing and cleansing of Igboland from its contemporary social woes and retardation which are believed took a more noticeable turn since the civil war.

The memorial site was donated by the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazurike.

“Besides, the burial committee has also mapped out and sent emissaries to all Igbo linkages in the diaspora, especially those taken as refugees during the war to Gabon, Ivory Coast and other places, to recover and re-establish contacts and brotherly relationship with them. It is aimed at re-inventing the hunger and initiate the process for their safe and easy passage and eventual return to their fatherland,” for those willing, Ezeonwuka said.

They also have plans to extend the consciousness to all the ex-slaves shipped away to parts of the world from Igboland.

According to Ezeonwuka, owner of the Rojenny Tourist and Games Village in Oba, Idemili South council of Anambra State, no business or social activity would hold in any community or part of Igboland other than those lined up or associated with the formal burial of all the wartime dead.

An all night interdenominational memorial vigil and special prayers for the peaceful repose of souls of all those who died in the war would be held simultaneously in all communities on January 12, while the reburial proper comes up the next day.
Source: The Guardian, 13th August 2011.

 

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‘Effective Igbo Representation Still Missing in National Decision Making’

Apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has insisted that effective Igbo participation in the national decision- making process was still missing in Nigeria’s political and economic development.

President-General of Ohanaeze, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, made the disclosure at the weekend, in a lecture entitled: “Charting A New Course For The Igbo Nation In The Nigerian Polity: A case For South East President”, he delivered at the Enugu Sports Club, to mark the inauguration of Barrister Richard Agu, as new Chairman of the Club.

Uwechue said that, what has been critically absent for decades, and still missing today is fair and effective Igbo participation in the national decision- making process, which he argued was entirely political. According to the Ohanaeze helmsman, Considering the Igbo manifest multi-faceted contributions to Nigeria’s political and economic development, ndigbo deserve rightful share in shaping the socio-political and economic destiny of our country.

He called on Igbo, both home and abroad to organize effectively their legitimate political and economic rights, within the Nigerian family, adding that the Igbo political role in Nigeria has been consistent in the pursuit of national unity and inter-ethnic cooperation. He recalled that under the leadership of the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbo played the role of bridge builders in the fledgling Nigerian nation.

Zik, he said, accepted the leadership of the legendary Yoruba political activist, Herbert Babington Macauley to form and direct the first truly national political party – National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC). Ambassador Uwechue, who was the first Nigeria diplomatic envoy to France, and former presidential aspirant on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), further stated that Ndi Igbo, have over the years borne the brunt of the onerous task of nation building, pointing out that for the Igbo, the unity and stability of Nigeria was paramount.
via nationalmirror

 

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Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo Address During the Dedication of Igbo Farm Village in Staunton, Virginia, USA

Igbo Village

Delivered by Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze on behalf of Ambassador Ralph Uwaechue, President General of Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo -18th of September 2010

It is with the greatest sense of humility and deepest appreciation that I stand before you today to address this historic occasion. Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo is the umbrella body that represents over 50 million Igbos and Ndigbo are the largest ethnic group in Africa.  Words (both in English or Igbo) cannot describe how an average Igbo person or an average African feels today as we live to witness with our own eyes what is taking place in Staunton, Virginia today. Not in my wildness dream did I ever envision that I would walk into an authentic, traditional Igbo village here in America - 17,000 miles away from Igbo-land.

Before I continue, I must pause to acknowledge those who made this humongous accomplishment possible. Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to give three happy cheers to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Three happy cheers to the city of Staunton! Three happy cheers to the United States of America and all its inhabitants! In traditional Igbo custom, each of you deserves a twenty-one gun salute, but I know that that is not possible now due to the gun laws in America.
Igbo Village in USA 12

 

Let me put this event in perspective: this singular act of replicating the socio-cultural heritage of the Igbos amounts to finally giving the African descendants who were part of the founding fathers of America, a resting place they can now call a home. This village is a home for all Africans and African Americans all over the world. It symbolizes the lives of many Africans that were lost during the journey towards building this country and making it the greatest place on earth. The intent of the museum is to use the Igbo’s as a point of contact for the entire African continent and it is a very wise decision because the Igbo’s as a group constituted the majority of the African slaves shipped to America.

The Frontier Culture Museum is the home the Irish, Germans, English, Native Indians (coming), and Africans of various ethnic groups represented by the Igbo Farm Village. It is important to note that regardless of how each group to came to the New World, they collectively worked together to build the most powerful country and the only super power in the world. It took the collaborative efforts of all these early immigrants working together, learning from each other’s socio-cultural and peculiar skills and craft, to build the United States of America. The early immigrants worked together to achieve the legacy we now enjoy, and I challenge you today to emulate them.

It gives a great joy to know that the Commonwealth of Virginia took the initiative and foresight to establish this museum in recognition of the founders of this great nation. Virginians were not under any obligation to do what they did because they could have opted for the negative route. Virginians instead chose the positive route and we thank God for that. However, it is borne out of the realization that a project of this nature is what made America great, as well as what it continues to need to remain the number one super power in the world.  Virginians could have neglected the contributions of our forefathers, but they did not. It shows that Virginians are special breeds that have the foresight to realize that a project of this nature will continue to foster ethnic collaboration and cooperation, which will ultimately put a lasting nail on the coffin of racism and racial intolerance, as we know it.

Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo is calling all people, particularly Africans, African-Americans and Ndi-Igbo to rally around in support of this project. If the Virginians have taken the first steps to honor our forefathers, the least we could do it is to support their efforts. I call on Ndi-Igbo to continue to do everything within their powers to provide financial and physical support in making sure that this Museum achieves its noble goals and is endowed so that it will continue in perpetuity.

Prof Akuma Njoku and his team; the Executive Director of the Frontier Culture Museum John Avoli  and his team; God(Chi Ndi-Igbo) will never forget your dedication and contribution for honoring our ancestors by building the Igbo Farm Village in Staunton Virginia.  Maka na Gidi gidi Bu Ugwu eze.

Supporting this museum –through financial contributions and museum visits --is the most practical way to continue to perpetuate Igbo traditional customs and values. Let’s pass on something of value to our children; let’s keep the spirits of our forefathers alive. Many Igbo sons and daughters have answered the call to honor our ancestors. It is important for us to teach our children how to honor our ancestors because respect for our elders is a basic tenet of Igbo culture.  Maka na onye fe eze, eze elue ya .    May the Almighty God bless those who built the Igbo village, as history is being made for Ndi-Igbo, Nigerians and Africans.

Long live Staunton!
Long live Virginia!
Long live USA!
Long live Igbo nation!
Long live Africa
It shall be well with us.

 

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THE ROLE OF OHANEZE IN FOSTERING NATIONAL UNITY AND NIGERIAN NATIONALISM

BY Prof. B.I.C. Ijomah (PhD. Northwestern)

Chief Executive, Centre For Policy Studies and Research, Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria.
Delivered at Owerri to Mark The Igbo Day Celebration, 28th. September 2009

Preamble: I was given the freedom to choose a topic for this lecture. I chose to discuss "Ohaneze, The Quest for Igbo Unity, Nigerian Nationalism and the Future of this Country". Whether anybody believes me or not, this federation and its federalism are not working well at all. We cannot sit down scampering for money when the source of that money is being systematically controlled by other people. It is our sacred responsibility to ensure that this country returns to the agreement Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Amadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa accepted as a basis for our living together as one country. What we parade as constitutions with all their sanctimonious amendments cannot keep this country together. The founders of Ohaneze knew that only in unity and strength can the Igbo people say anything that Nigerians would listen to. They have formed the unfortunate notion that whenever the Igbo man sees money, his perception on any issue changes.
I followed my political mentor, Chief Denis Osadebay to Ohaneze meetings since the early 1980's. At that time, the concept of Ohaneze was noble as it ought to be in recent times. The Founding fathers included Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. After the elections that followed, most of the founding fathers found themselves in the NPN while Dr. Azikiwe and his political son Chief Jim Nwobodo were in the NPP. At that time, there was the Summit of Ohaneze. The Summit was the Apex of Ohaneze. Some of us never knew when and where they met. Their views and decisions were always respected and accepted by Ohaneze itself. The Summit was made up of 9 leaders which initially included Dr. Azikiwe. It also included such other leaders like Nnanna Kalu, Dr. Michael Okpara the Premier of the defunct Eastern Nigeria, Dr. K.O.Mbadiwe, Chief Dennis Osadebay, Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam. I believe Chief Nwankwu and Chief Jerome Udoji were also members. I attended the meetings of Ohaneze at Enugwu – Ukwu, at Nara, and at Umana. It was at Umana that Prof. Nwabueze was elected the Secretary of Ohaneze. When Dr. Azikiwe pulled out from the Summit, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu replaced him. The number remained Nine. I cannot now remember the rationale for the sacred number nine.

Before the Umana meeting, Ohaneze was not properly structured. The Summit functioned like its policy propeller. Prof. Nwabueze no doubt, brought dynamism into the management of Ohaneze, but in the process, the Summit was allowed to wither away. The Secretary towered above Ohaneze itself. Any criticism of the Secretary became a criticism of the Ohaneze. Prof. Nwabueze became a Secretary in the 1980's from the date of Umana meeting. He sat tight until Ohaneze was engulfed in internal crises. Chief Achuzia who took over as Secretary also sat tight until he was politely pushed away. What I am trying to say is that the management of Ohaneze was not intended to be left in the hands of the Secretary and the President-General alone. I still see the wisdom in having matured leaders to serve in the Summit as its Board of trustees. Between the Summit and the Executive, Ohaneze will be given an orientation and a focus that will not allow juvenile critics to drag Ohaneze to the pages of the Newspapers as we saw in recent times. Ohaneze is the General Assembly of Igbo People. It should intervene whenever there is a misunderstanding among members of Ohaneze. Without discipline, and respect for leadership, outsiders cannot respect Ohaneze as the supreme voice of the Igbo nation. The Summit should be made up of experienced leaders with integrity who can settle all misunderstandings before they are publicised. Ohaneze should appreciate the peculiar nature of the Igbo people and accept the responsibility to speak boldly and intelligently on its behalf. I appeal to the Governors that while we respect their elevated positions as the elected leaders of the states, Ohaneze cuts across state boundaries and should touch on every Igboman wherever he is found. Ohaneze, if it is to be effective, should be the standard bearer of the Igbo nation.

The Problem of Ohaneze now is how to raise the funds for its programmes. As I mentioned at the Ohaneze meeting in Asagba's palace at Asaba, Ohaneze of the 1980's did not depend on the Governors alone for funding. Leaders and ordinary people donated the funds for the running of Ohaneze. Jim Nwobodo was the Governor at that time; but Ohaneze did not depend on him alone for funds. Ohaneze moved around from one town to another. Levies were collected; market men and women were convinced of the usefulness of Ohaneze, and donated money willingly. Ohaneze at that time was a symbol of Igbo nationalism. This last sentence is very important. There is nothing that unites the Igbos now except business; but the Igbos do not control the businesses: Yes, we are importers! But the Customs and Immigration are controlled by a section of the country that do not import. When goods are seized, generally, the goods belong to the Igbo man. I believe we cannot continue to be appendages in our own country. We must recalculate our mistakes of the past, and plot a new and honourable future. I see Ohaneze taking the lead in helping the businessmen with limited education and experience. Every misfortune of the businessman is a tragedy for the Igbo people.

Where we are? It is my view that Igbo nationalism which culminated in the formation of Ohaneze has waned. We have always preached that unity is strength; and yet we have failed to unite even in the face of provocations from other people. The unity among the Igbo people at the beginning of the Civil War was unprecedented. We were prepared to fight even to the last man. Unfortunately, we could not sustain this tempo till the end. People began to withdraw into their conches. The Publication of the Ahiara Declaration frightened many Biafrans, and dampened their perception of the war. Among the Igbo this perception assumed ethnic colouration. In conflict management external threat should strengthen in-group affiliations. This nation has never been one. It cannot be one, unless certain conditions are fulfilled, and the earlier the Igbo man understands the game plan of the in this country, the better for us to make contingent plans to enable us live with others according to the exigencies of the time.

The Constitution under which we agreed to live together as one nation was unilaterally desecrated by the military in favour of the North. The fiscal federalism which we accepted at independence was violated without reference to the South. I have spoken at various fora that unless the broken pledge was restored, there will be no peace in Nigeria. The militancy in the south is only an effect of the refusal to obey the agreements that made us one nation. When we agree to be one nation, we must invoke the provisions of our Independence Constitution. The Biafran war was fought because the Igbo people were treated like second class citizens. More are coming. The Northerners are playing a tape that was prepared for them by their leader, Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. The Northerners will always want to rule directly, or appoint a southern stooge they can control.

Let us consider the statement credited to Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, and see if what the Northerners are doing is anything different from the laid down injunctions. On the 12 of October, 1960, just 12 days after independence from Britain, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto said: The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate from our great- grand father, Othoman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities in the North as willing tooLs, and the South as conquered territories AND NEVER ALLOW THEM TO HAVE CONTROL OF THEIR FUTURE.
The Parrot, Oct. 12, 1960 Sir Ahmadu Bello's nationalism ended in uniting the Northern region under one Hausa language. The North has been on a systematic pacification of the South. The minorities in the North are actually manipulated. The Igbo people lost the Civil War; but I believe the Civil War is still on. The roads in the South East tell the story of a conquered and marginalised people. Having pacified the South East, the North under the JFT have pounded on the Niger Delta. The pacification of the Yoruba is not far from their calculation. I tell you that the Yoruba will not be taken for granted. Any attack on the Yoruba will be the end of this federation. The North is ready to tolerate this federation only as long as they control the nation. It cannot continue to be so.

From the beginning, we have not all seriously wanted a united Nigeria. As I said in my book, Essays on Social Controversies, What held Nigeria together was not the unity of the people but the force of Pax Britannica. The late prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was conscious of this transcendental unity when he said during the legislative council debate that: Many (Nigerians) deceive themselves by thinking that Nigeria is one….particularly some of the press people. This is wrong. I am sorry to say this presence of unity Is artificial and it ends outside this Chambers….. The Southern tribes who are now pouring into the North in ever increasing numbers , and are more or less domiciled here do not mix with the northern people …and we in the north look upon them as invaders, I submit that there was no deliberate effort made by any leader to develop an ideological orientation from the working experience of disparate peoples lumped together without consultation. I mean an orientation that would have enabled us to see what could unite us. Ours is the politics of sharing the little that we have. Even in families when food is shared, quarrels are inevitable.

As at 1952, the Westerners in the north accounted for 6.6% of the population. This included the Yorubas in Ilorin; the Easterners were 2.4%. The total stranger elements in the north were 9% of the total northern population. They did not mix freely with the northerners, and they did not understand them. When Abubakar Tafawa Balewa attacked the southern migrants, the figures were much less.

At the inaugural conference of Egbe Omo Oduduwa in June 1948, Sir Adeyemo Alakija attacked the Igbo people and declared that:

We were bunched together by the British who named us Nigeria.

We never knew the Ibos.

The Easterners in the West at that time were less than 3.5% of the Western population. This feeling pervaded the politics of the country and came to a climax when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who had won elections into the Western House of Assembly was not allowed to form the government simply because he was an Igbo man. This incident marred his relationship with Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Since that time, no serious efforts were made to socialise our children to feel that they belong to the same country. The usual slogan of north for the Northerners, East for the Easterners and west for the Westerners dominated until the civil war. When the war was over, Gowon's response was the creation of states. Whatever was left of Nigerian nationalism was jettisoned for statism. As at now, our nationalism has degenerated to local government consciousness and wardism. There was no effort made to create a nation with a will to live together as a nation.

PETROLEUM INDUSTRIES BILL
The struggle for the soul of this nation has already begun. Some of us are satisfied with the crumbs from the masters table. In so doing, we mortgage the future of our children. There is no oil in the North, but the Northerners control key offices in the oil and gas industries. The Petroleum Industries Bill should be studied by all of us before our legislators pass it into law. I know that it is voluminous. I beg our legislators, in the name of Nigeria to sit down and read it well. They should not vote for the sake of voting. Let their conscience guide them for the future of our children. Perhaps we need serious seminars on bills coming up at the national assembly so that our representatives will have the feel of the people they represent.

This country is not what we planned it to be. When we had our independence in 1960, I had just entered the University of Nigeria, Nsukka as an undergraduate. I became the first President of the Students' Union. We were immediately confronted with the obnoxious Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact. We blamed our leaders for not understanding the internal and external implications of the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact. I travelled to Ibadan and Zaria. We organised ourselves in the Institutions of Higher Learning to reject the defence pact. We won. Internal scheming among the leaders of the country did not create room for the germination of the spirit of Nigerian Nationalism. Yes, it is true that Zik and his colleagues fought for independence; but nationalist struggle is not the same thing as nationalism. Yes, we had nationalist fighters who drove the colonial powers away and won independence for us. But no sooner had the colonial administrators left than we descended on ourselves and made the emergence of one Nigerian nation impossible. What we had was in the words of Garibaldi, a geographic expression not a nation. What our leaders could have done was, to try to unite the nation, the political differences notwithstanding.

It would be wrong to say that they did not try. Dr. Azikiwe was said to have written a post-election letter to Chief Awolowo, suggesting that their two parties should form an alliance in the Western Region (West Africa, December 29, 1951).In April 1953, the Action Group and the NCNC formed a pre-Constitutional- Conference alliance in which they agreed to ask for Federalism and they would also ask for self-government in 1956. It was also agreed that if the North still refused to have self-government in 1956, "the Alliance would demand that a constituent assembly be called to prepare for self-government in 1956. In the event of the refusal of the Secretary of State for the Colonies to cooperate, the Alliance would summon a constituent assembly of Southern Nigeria, draft a constitution and declare the independence of Southern Nigeria (Daily Times November 27, 1953) also cited in Sklar, Nigerian Political Parties, pp.130-131.

On February 2, 1953, the Action Group and the NPC had signed an agreement to work together. The Sardauna of Sokoto and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa , Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Bode Thomas signed the agreement. Unfortunately, this agreement never came into effect before the Kano riot in which many Southerners mainly Igbos were killed even though the disturbances were precipitated by the meeting of the Action Group in Kano. The fact that the Action Group entered into the two alliances almost simultaneously raised doubts as to the credibility of the Action Group at that time. Several attempts by the leaders thereafter to come together collapsed due to their mutual suspicion of one another.

When Independence was finally achieved, the Colonial Government knew that they could not live together under a unitary system of government. The Independence Constitution provided for a Federal Government in which the federating regions had their separate constitutions, and a Federal Constitution for the centre. Even at that, the leaders found living together difficult, and ended up in a civil war.

The post war unitary military regime could only appear to work because of the garrison state in which Nigeria found herself after the war. Now we have a civilian regime; but the Governors keep running to Abuja to consult the President as if we are still running a Centralised Administration. The Governors should not be going to Abuja always with "cap in hand". The problem with the present regime is its over concern with oil and gas wealth that can be distributed without adequate concern for the people being degraded by those exploiting the oil and gas. Government should show more concern for what every state can derive and contribute into the distributable pool. The way this nation is being managed will certainly create pockets of disaffection from what we call our country. There is no justice in practically everything we do as a nation. This is wrong! We cannot apprehend and sanction corrupt leaders, but we drag ordinary taxi drivers to the police stations for questionable offences. This is wrong! We want education; but we refuse to pay professors who teach our children. This is wrong! A Local Government Councilor takes home a fatter pay than a University Professor. This is wrong! The National Assembly members are in a class of their own living in affluence, among their people who live in abject and pulverising poverty in their constituencies. This is wrong!

This country, this federation, without fiscal federalism, is not working well at all. It has encouraged prophets of doom to see their own kind of visions. I believe that if we are sincere with Nigeria we can make it work. But when ethnicism and nepotism are the basis for appointments, when incompetence becomes competence because a relation who is a Managing Director interprets what is competence, when there is a preconception of who or which ethnic group should rule this country, and some are to be manipulated and others treated like conquered persons, then the present and the future are fraught with conflicts and instability. I see a great danger ahead and I call on every Nigerian, especially the Igbo man who is everywhere, to shine his eyes. Nigeria could be better than it is if we had leaders who knew the problems of Nigeria before becoming Presidents. Most of the Presidents only become aware of the problems or the difficulty in running this country after their swearing in. They quickly assemble advisers and experts who had failed the previous regimes, and so the cycle of incompetence continues to the detriment of the nation. Presidents are afraid to appoint advisers who hold strong views on how this country can be improved. This is unfortunate. Mediocrity can never raise the tempo of development of this nation. Look at the mess in the economy and banking sector; see the avoidable impasse in our education system. In management, all issues must be elevated to the intellectual plain before impartial and workable solutions are found. When we stick to emotional and mundane principles in a sharing mentality, the reasoning faculty will be beclouded, and the nation will stagnate in a quandary.

OHANEZE AND THE NEW IGBO NATIONALISM
Those who conceived the concept of Ohaneze were men of wisdom and vision. In summary, what they were trying to tell us is that nobody can represent Ndigbo better than Ndigbo themselves. My personal assessment of my people is that we have clinged more to those who suck us, and use us. When the chips are down, the Igbo man will realise that he alone cannot protect the destiny of the Igbo nation. It is a collective venture. Clan associations are in adequate to project the Igbo agenda. Students' Associations are inadequate. Were it not for the internal bickering in Ohaneze, we would have by now built a formidable body as credible as the Arewa Consultative Body. Every Government listens to Arewa because of its discipline and internal cohesion. Its research outfit brings together first class scholars who advise AREWA on national issues. I was astounded to read its memorandum to the National Technical Committee on Niger Delta. AREWA people are not from the Niger Delta. But they believe that what affects the Niger Delta directly or indirectly affects them.

The Igbo man felt a little removed from the realities of the Niger Delta. This should not be. I have already painted a scenario of what is happening. The Igbo man must begin to analyse his future within the context of one Nigeria or in a fractured and fragmented Nigeria as some clerics are prophesying. In nation building anything can happen, depending on how the rulers rule. The common man is happy to live peacefully and do his business. A little peace is all that he needs for his business. In fact, the Igbo trader was in Sokoto and Maduguri before Southern politicians got there. There were Hausa and Yoruba quarters in Onitsha before Northern politicians got to Onitsha. It is the elite and the educated who are never satisfied with normal salaries out of greed. They want to carry all. There is an Igbo saying that "turu kam turu adighi ese okwu" It mean " take a little and let me take a little, and there will be no quarrel." The tragic mess in the banking sector and the mess of some governors who convert the money meant for developing their areas into personal wealth in the midst of the poverty of their people cry to God for justice. God has heard the prayers and the day of reckoning is near. This country has enough wealth to build many referral hospitals. The rich fly overseas to treat themselves. The poor die and are forgotten; but God does not forget their last moments of agonies. They could have been saved if we had leaders who love this country and who could have built referral hospitals to save people. Like Ogunde, the musician, told the Yoruba people in their period of listlessness and confusion, in his record-Yoruba Ronu, which means, Yoruba think. – I call on Ndigbo to think. I cannot imagine a Nigeria without the Igbo people.

It appears to me that Ndigbo are too busy looking for money; they are too busy taking risks to travel to different parts of Nigeria and Africa in search of wealth. They have no time to look into other requirements of life. They must unite themselves in order to make collective contributions to where they live, this nation called Nigeria. It is our own. It belongs to all of us. We cannot be second class citizens in Nigeria. We must collectively work to change the public perception of the Igbo man. We are also God fearing. While we may be busy, and we are very hard working people, let us support Ohaneze to be a think tank as the Arewa Consultative Forum is to the North. The Forum advises every Northern Governor and the President. They do not run themselves down on the pages of the Newspapers. There is no burning issue in Nigeria that Arewa scholars have not proffered suggestions. We have Igbo intellectuals on both sides of River Niger who can reason while the business men pursue their businesses. The political mess in Anambra State portrays a people desperate for power, and ever willing to us their wealth to fight themselves. People are not asking who can salvage Anambra? They are probably waiting for who can distribute the largest amount of money. The destiny of Anambra people is more important than the claims of aspiring politicians.

Mr. Chairman, let me use this opportunity to plead that we look inwards; we will find in the Igbo man, a divine gift to Nigeria. Let us use what we have to bring ourselves together. The Igbo day celebration is a period for sober reflection throughout the nation. It should not end in giving lectures and clapping hands. It appears to me that the leadership has not made enough consultations or that information was not properly handled. May I suggest the following :

1. The Governors of all Igbo-speaking States should be properly consulted to give legitimacy to Igbo ........Day. After all, that is what federalism means – ability of the federating units to handle issues peculiar ....to them like the Sharia in the Northern States.

2. The Igbo Day should be declared a holiday in Igbo Speaking States.

3. In addition to what the Ohaneze does, the Governments in Igbo-speaking states should on their own ....organise celebrations and thanksgiving services for what they are after the horrible civil war.

4. The Igbo Day Celebration should be well packaged to include the achievements of the Igbo man, and ....perhaps with exhibitions in all fields to show case the Igbo man.

5. There should be a grand finale.

6. The Organising Committee should be made up of :

i. Representatives of the five Governors in Igbo-speaking States

ii. Representatives of Igbos in Rivers State and Delta State,

iii. Representatives of Igbos in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities in Nigeria.

iv. Representatives of Igbos in USA; Great Britain; South Africa and in the Diaspora.

v. Representatives of the Igbo Traditional Councils

vi. Representatives of Women

vii. Representatives of Igbo Youths.

The late Chief K.O. Mbadiwe once saw me at Asaba, in Chief Denis Osadebay's house, and in a discussion that ensued, he challenged me to write a book on Ndigbo. "Who is an Igbo man?" He asked me. Seeing this crowd of brothers and sisters gathered here, I am moved to tears that simply because of minor dialectic variations, there can be any argument in certain quarters as to whether one is an Igbo man or not. The Ijaws in Lagos State, Ondo State, Bayelsa State, and Rivers State have found that they have a common heritage. They are members of Ijaw National Congress. It has now dawned on me that a book on the Igbo man is certainly an urgent desideratum. Prof. G.E.K. Ofomata's book – A Survey of the Igbo Nation, published by Africana First Publishers Limited 2002, is a good work. It has not, however, answered Dr. Mbadiwe's ontological question, "Who is an Igbo man?" May I humbly call on the President-General of Ohaneze to approach all Igbo sons and daughters, the governors inclusive, to raise funds for this monumental research. Igbo nationalism must be seen within the context of Nigerian Nationalism. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1949 observed that: The Ibo (Igbo) people have reached a cross road and it is for us to decide which is right course to follow. (Zik, A Selection from the Speeches of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961, p. 181

He advised the Igbos to follow the road to self determination within the framework of a federated commonwealth of Nigeria. Nigeria is a large and unwieldy nation. It requires the best persons to manage it and shape it into a nation. One would have thought that after the Civil War, we would have deliberately and consciously healed the wounds. As I said earlier, I believe the Civil War is still on, in the treatment being meted to the Igbo people as a conquered people. How does one explain the absence of any good Federal roads in the South-East. Nothing works! Even the North is not better in terms of infrastructural development. As I said, Nigerian nationalism died before it germinated. I lamented in my book Afrocracy that Where a number of historic cleavages intermix and create a basis for politics, democracy will be unstable and weak, for by definition, such politics does not include the concept of tolerance (B.I.C. Ijomah, Afrocracy, Basis For National Unity, Benin: Idodo-Umeh Publishers, 1988) We must think seriously on how to unite this country. By any indication, we are not yet a nation. Politicians and rulers are concerned about their states, local governments and wards and their pockets. There has been no reflection on what makes the spirit of the nation. In the National Assembly, one easily sees divisions on clear cut lines. The different sharing postures shows we cannot for now be one nation. We should learn to show concerns about other parts of the nation.

Our perennial mistake has always been that we allow parties to emerge from political coalitions without ideological orientation as we are still doing now. As long as political parties are gang ups for winning elections, there will be no room for any kind of national orientation to germinate. Nigerian nationalism will remain a twenty first century political mirage, sought after, but never attained.

I thank you for inviting me to speak. May God Bless the Igbo Nation, bless our Delta State, and Nigeria.

 

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Ohaneze: The Body Should Be Self-funding And Independent Of Government's Interference - Okorie

Chekwas Okorie3

Chekwas Okorie founder of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was the youngest member of Elders' Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan-Igbo socio-political organisation. He spoke to SAMSON EZEA on the emergence of the new leadership of the organisation, the crisis over who should be its national scribe and other sundry issues.

How do you see the emergence of Chief Ralph Uwechue as new President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, considering where he comes from and the situation in the organization before he took over?

THE emergence of Chief Ralph Uwechue as President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo is like a breath of fresh air. It is a development which every well- meaning Igbo person has given his or her support. There is a high expectation that he has the experience, the maturity, the intellectual capacity and the exposure that will equip him to re-focus the pan -Igbo organization on the path of serving the interest of Ndigbo especially in the areas of unity, the promotion of the rich Igbo cultural heritage and the protection of Igbo identity in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. The part of Nigeria that Chief Uwechue comes from is rather a source of strength to Ohaneze rather than weakness. It is part of Ohaneze zoning arrangement contained in the organization's constitution to elect its President General from Anioma part of Igbo land after the turn of Anambra State in alphabetical order. It will be recalled that Dr. Dozie Ikedife the immediate past President General of Ohaneze who is from Anambra State succeeded Prof J.O Irukwu who is from Abia State. By complying with the provision of Ohaneze constitution, the Igbo people of Anioma are now convinced beyond any doubt that they are as much Igbo as any other in spite of insinuation to the contrary by mischief- makers. It goes to follow also that at sometime in the future the Igbo people of Rivers State should equally provide leadership for the entire Igbo nation in Nigeria and in the Diaspora.

Do you agree that his emergence marks a new beginning in the organization?

As I mentioned above there is high expectation by Ndigbo that Chief Uwechue's leadership shall be a watershed in the chequered history of the Igbo people after the end of the Nigerian civil war. The extent he succeeds will depend on his ability to rise to the demands of the office and the extent the various forces in Igbo nation cooperate with him. He has a very challenging assignment on his hand. Ndigbo have never been more disunited as they are as at this time. They appear to be pulling on different directions at the same time. His ability to reach out to the major stakeholders and the contending forces to achieve a reasonable measure of cohesion and unity will determine to a large extent the level of success the executive of Ohaneze under his leadership will record within a short un-renewable tenure of two years.

What do you think are the challenges before the new leadership of the organization?

In addition to what I said above, the other challenge that will immediately confront the new leadership of Ohaneze is being able to establish a respectable, independent, bold, courageous and self sustaining pan -Igbo organization. The Ohanaeze that will command the loyalty and followership of Ndigbo must be seen to be honest, transparent and non-partisan in the leadership that it provides and the position it takes on issues that concern Ndigbo. It is important to recognize the fact that Ndigbo are domicile in different parts of Nigeria in large numbers. In this regard an Ohanaeze leadership that is docile, and stationed at its National Secretariat at Enugu without moving out as occasion demands to interact with Ndigbo at their different locations in Nigeria will not be satisfactory.

Do you think that the new leadership has what it takes to checkmate the overbearing influence of politicians and government in the affairs of the organization?

It will require tremendous amount of leadership sagacity, maturity and savvy to extricate Ohanaeze from the stranglehold of politicians and governments especially at the state level. I was vehement in my opposition against government involvement in the affairs of Ohanaeze.

The argument against my position was that the governments that controlled the Igbo speaking areas were necessary facilitators in the area of providing funds to the organization. Shortly after this robust debate at the Elders Council where I have been member for a long time, the leadership of Ohaneze under the leadership of Eze Ozobu as President General and Professor Ben. Nwabueze as Secretary General approached the Governors of the five Igbo States to nominate the State Executive members of Ohaneze. By that singular act Ohaneze lost its independence and freedom of expression. When it was time to elect a new national executive of Ohaneze according to the provision of its adopted constitution which prescribes the rotation of the President General of Ohaneze in alphabetical order, the Abia State Ohaneze was required to nominate three candidates for election where multiple candidates aspired for the office of President General. Naturally the Executive members of Abia State Ohaneze who were practically appointed by the Abia State government reverted to their sponsors. And by some manipulations that saw to the disqualification of a renowned Professor and a retired Admiral of the Nigerian Navy, Professor J.O. Irukwu emerged as the President General of Ohaneze having been endorsed by the Government of Abia State at the time. Using the same style the Anioma people put forward Chief Joe Achuzie as Secretary General and all the remaining states filled their own slots in the National Executive with officers approved by their State governments. Since all the state governments at that time were of the People Democratic Party (PDP) Ohaneze unwittingly returned to the dark days of the Second Republic when Dr. Azikwe pulled out of the organization.

Many Igbos believe that Ohanaeze has failed the people. Do you agree?

Ohanaeze cannot be described as a total failure. However it has not met with the high expectations of Ndigbo. Let me recall that during the sitting of the Oputa Panel, Ohanaeze presented the Igbo position in a manner that impressed Igbo people and attracted to the organization the admiration and respect of Nigerians. The leadership provided by Justice Eze Ozobu was quite purposeful but the occasional power tussle between him and Professor Ben Nwabueze, the then Secretary General affected the quality of leadership of the organization most of that period. But with the involvement of Governors who were all of the PDP extraction, Ohanaeze completely derailed. The open support of the third term agenda during the Joe Irukwu era was like a coup disgrace to Ndigbo. Ohanaeze degenerated to its lowest ebb.

There has been crisis over who will be Secretary General of the organization between Prince Richard Ozobu allegedly supported by Enugu State Governor Sullivan Chime and Chief Nduka Eya. What is your position on that as you recently witnessed the chaos that marred IMEOBI caucus over the issue recently in Enugu?

The controversy over who should be the Secretary General of Ohanaeze which was zoned to Enugu State is unnecessary. Any person who has followed my narrative in this interview will see the connection between the State Executive of Ohaneze in the various states and their state governments. For the office of the President General, the people of Anioma met and proposed Chief Ralph Uwechue as their sole nominee and their wish was respected. Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State witnessed the election of the national election of Ohaneze at Awka and the national officers from Abia State are those endorsed by his government. The National Officers from Imo and Ebonyi States were also endorsed by their Governments in accordance with the present tradition. The Enugu State Executive of Ohaneze practically appointed by the State Government according to the recent tradition of the Ohaneze proposed Prince Richard Ozobu a member of the Elders Council of Ohanaeze as their nominee for the Office of Secretary General. I do not see any reason why the out-going leadership of Ohaneze that supervised the election should not extend to Enugu State Ohanaeze the same consideration that was accorded the other States, including Anioma and Rivers. I am not impressed by the argument of those who are opposed to Prince Ozobu's emergence as Secretary General. When I was over-ruled in the involvement of government in the affairs of Ohaneze, the argument against my view was that Ohaneze needed the support of government for funding. Enugu State Government is the permanent host and landlord of the Ohaneze National Secretariat. To over-rule Enugu State Ohaneze on the important issue of filling the slot of Secretary General zoned to the State will be laying a dangerous foundation for an incoming Executive that requires everybody's cooperation to succeed.
Source: The Guardian, 25th February 2009.

 

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Ohanaeze and the Future of Igbo Institutions

A press statement released Monday February 9, 2009 by the Igbo group, Ndigbo Lagos on the initial controversy on the nomination by the Enugu State chapter of the Ohanaeze of a secretary general for the National Executive Council of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. The NEC, led by Ambassador Raph Uwechue was sworn in on Friday January 30.

OVER the past few weeks we have watched the unfolding drama of the question of who from Enugu State becomes the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Though we had expected this to be quietly resolved without the excesses we have witnessed recently, it has not been, hence the need to make this statement.

At the heart of this confusion is the attempt to truncate Constitutionality and uphold the rascality of oppression. We stand against that and pitch our tents firmly for the defense of our Constitution and Institutions

Ndigbo Lagos has over the years remained non-partisan over issues that concern Ndigbo, and have demonstrated this in various ways, most especially in the provision of un-dented leadership in areas often neglected by most: Standing for the Truth! Ohanaeze has firmly wrested on Constitutionality and we hope it remains the same.

Ohanaeze is a multipurpose platform for addressing Igbo questions and has over the years striven, even if with difficulty, to stand up for our people. In the last five years it became much politicised thanks to Prof. Joe Irukwu's and Chief Joe Achuzia's insensitivity and misapplication of the trust given to them by Ndigbo. We are not unmindful that external influence played a major factor in that.

When they took us through the wrong turn, it appeared as if none would ever speak up for Ndigbo again; Ndigbo Lagos came in to fill the gap, like they have done countless times. It was the process of standing up for Ndigbo, which led to the emergence of Dr. Dozie Ikedife, who if history is any guide, would be vindicated for upholding the Constitution of Ohanaeze, and faithfully seeing through a process that has brought in the present eminently credible leadership of Ohanaeze under Ambassador Raph Uwechue.

Up till the very week of the election, some of those who now strive to lead Ndigbo, or influence who does that, continued in their negative penchant for insulting the leadership of the institution they now crave to lead. They have maintained and carried out multiple anti Igbo actions including debasing our Constitution, Institutions and most brazenly our Values. They have proved by their antecedents that they do not possess the right kind of character Ndigbo can trust in the management of their affairs, and hence should not even aspire to be in the Ohanaeze National Executive.

We have heard a variety of arguments including some people purporting and pretending to be 'a candidate of the Governor of Enugu State'. This has been denied both by the Governor and his aides. Besides, even if someone stands as the nominated candidate of the Governor of a State, it does not translate to a justification to force such candidacy upon Ndigbo. States may have had candidates elected, who may have been favoured by their Governors, even if this were true, does tacit support by a Governor translate to suitability or electability? And who says that the Governors, who are Ohanaeze members, cannot lend their voices in nominating the candidates, but the final decision lies on the General assembly to choose such person.

Without any shadow of doubt, we commend the very good job the Governor of Enugu State is doing and welcome also the dignified manner in which he has tried to approach the issues of governance in the state. Those trying to use his name or associate him with their anti-Igbo activities and actions are surely on their own and would fail.

At the heart of these problems lies the rascality of the few who are determined to impose themselves on us. It sing-posts the deeper question of the collapse of values that have been bastardized and thus threatens to destroy every attempt at building and nurturing strong Institutions amongst Ndigbo. We would not be fooled again and would not allow our moral right to good leadership be jeopardized again by a handful of thugs posing as Igbo leaders, and pretending to be supported by a state Governor or even in time past by federal might.

The Executive

There is no question of where we stand on the matter. Ndigbo had by electing and swearing in the following: Ambassador Raph Uwechue (President, Anioma, Delta State); Chief Nduka Eya, (Secretary, Enugu State), Chief Eddy Onuoha (Deputy Secretary, Imo State), Chief Garry Emwo-igariwey (Vice President, Ebonyi State), Chief Alozie Nwogu (Vice President Abia), Barr. Hyacinth Nweke, (Vice President, Anambra), Chief Chris Asoluka, (Vice President, Imo) Chief Isaac Wonwu, (Vice President, Rivers State), Chief Enechi Onyia (Vice President, Enugu), Chief Elder E. O. Okparanta (National Treasurer Abia) Elder Nweke Anyigor (National Financial Secretary, Ebonyi), Chief Ralph Ndigwe (National Publicity Secretary, Anambra) Chief Barr. Reuben Okoro (National Legal Adviser, Imo) Barr. Elder Oyibo Chukwu (Asst. National Legal Adviser, Enugu) Barr. I. O. Ahize (Asst. National Treasurer, Anambra), Barr. Ifeanyi Olunkwa (Asst. Publicity Secretary, Abia), Chief Emmanuel Ajoku Alariche (Asst. National Financial Secretary, Rivers), Dr. T. N. Atanmo (State chairman Anambra), Chief Chimkwe Ndimele, (Chairman, Abia), Dr. J. B. Okolle (Chairman, Imo), Chief Augustine Ogbonna (Chairman, Ebonyi), and Chief Obi Emeka Nwaka (Chairman, Anioma), as the National Executive Council, in Awka, by Justice Ononiba, on Friday January 30, 2009 made a good turn. We stand by that and warn that those who think Ndigbo would shy away from fighting head on this time around to have a rethink. All those who think they can take us for granted and continue rubbishing Ndigbo would meet with firm and honest opposition, and we assure them that their brazen attitudes would not go unchecked and would be countered.

Our Pitch

We do not take it lightly that over the years, all over Igboland, not a few rascals, charlatans, mediocrities and self-seeking men and women have taken over our land and its values and Institutions and appropriated it as if it were their own. This ought to stop and must stop!

To the Uwechue team, we reiterate our support and commitment to the task you have been entrusted with on our behalf and urge you to go on without fear of intimidation to carry them out. To Ndigbo everywhere, we urge you to rise up and defend that which belongs to all of us. We cannot shy away from our duties and responsibilities, one of which is to stand by the Uwechue team today.

The values we have all shared and the Institutions we all have will be upheld by us. Ofo na Ogu awaits anyone, from within or outside who works against the Igbo ethos. In our watch, Igbo values, Institutions and Ethos would be upheld.

This we Chief Chris Ezeh (President), Prof. Anya O. Anya (Vice President), Chief Anthony Idigbe (Secretary), Admiral Allison Madueke (Executive member), Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (Executive member), Dr. Chijoke Kanu (Abia State President), Chief Emma Anyadike (Anambra state President), Engr. Victor Amorha (Enugu State President) Chief. Emma Ohakwe (Imo State President)

Chief Dr. Sylvan Ebigwei (President Aka Ikenga), Igwe Laz Ekwueme, Dr. Uma Eleazu and Chief Dave Nwachukwu on behalf of Ndigbo Lagos, stand for and would urge Ndigbo everywhere to pitch in.
Source: The Guardian, 11th February 2009.

 

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