Opinion

Ohanaeze Ndigbo: The dawn of a new era, By Prof George Obiozor

Access Bank

It is obvious that at this critical time in our history leadership of Ndigbo ought to transcend partisan politics, make-believe, rhetorics, propaganda and shadow-boxing. In other words, it is imperative that the primacy of Igbo interest, as opposed to self-seeking agenda and mere political ambition should be the bedrock on which Igbo desirable  and ideal leadership today must be anchored. 6. Security and safety of Ndigbo will be our priority.  Speaking Frankly, my decision to contest for the  office of President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo World Wide was a decision not based on self-aggrandizement, personal ambition or self promotion.

By my age and career history, I have  long out grown all that. Indeed, my most  compelling reasons were crucial service at one  of the most critical time in Nigerian history with  dire consequences, particularly for Ndigbo as a  national entity. Generally, not only has  governance become both difficult and complex in  Nigeria but downright anEXISTENTIAL TREAT TO  NDIGBO in particular.
The Igbo dilemma in Nigeria has finally come home at last and we must take critical, even delicate decisions and those problems need pragmatic solutions and quickly too. And the time  requires careful and delicate skilled manager in  the relationships between Ndigbo among  themselves and other Nigerian nationalities  especially the national power elites.
This requires a mature and experienced person with a capacity to build enough consensus among diversities of opinions and to define and fiercely but reasonably defend the interest of Ndigbo.
To my fellow Ndigbo, with all modesty, I have some idea of our needs, pains, griefs and expectations. Many others may have more. Together we shall bring to bear new narrative to  salvage our vital interest.

For me this is the second time the Igbo nation, supported by five Governors of the South East, decided to send me  on a mission of critical national significance to  Ndigbo. The first was the 2014 National  Conference when I was appointed the Coordinator and Head of the Secretariat of South East delegates, again on January 10, 2021, I was elected President-General Ohanaeze Ndigbo  World Wide with the consensus of the five Governors of the South East. By the grace of God,  just as I did not disappoint Ndigbo in 2014, I and my team will not disappoint Ndigboin 2021. Weare  aware of what is at stake, and will face the  challenges and responsibilities with dedication, devotion and faith in God.
The new narrative must begin with being conscious of the lessons of history as ATILLA THE HUN advised “choose your enemies wisely and your friends carefully.”
For far too long Ndigbo have been object of  stereotype and profiling which ended in being  misunderstood and misrepresented in national  politics or business or academia. Negative  profiling has been an Igbo cross to carry since  Nnamdi Azikiwe’s emergence in Nigerian politics  in the 1940s.
We are now at a point to REASSESS the IGBO DILEMMA in Nigeria. Every major group even the minorities are doing same today. Ndigbo in all  indication see RESTRUCTURING as the most  preferred option. However, whatever or  whichever options others offer, what is real is  that all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria will  sooner or later go into negotiations or debate over the future of Nigeria and we must be  prepared.
Specifically, Ndigbo seek unity but not unity of  slaves and masters and we seek peace but not  peace of the grave yard. We seek justice because  we know that throughout history those denied  justice have had no interest in peace

NDIGBO PRIORITIES
Security: The most urgent and imperative need of Ndigbo today is SECURITY.
The security of Ndigbo in Nigeria and beyond has  become a compelling primary responsibility and  of serious concern for Ndigbo. At home in Nigeria  the story of insecurity of Ndigbo has reached  incrementally dangerous level of  EXISTTENTIALTHREAT. Ndigbo are indeed in terms of security, the most vulnerable and  victims of violence throughout Nigeria.
They are the most exposed to physical violence, attack and destruction of their houses or properties at the slightest crisis in any part of  Nigeria. In fact, this “Victim syndrome”,  Vulnerability and insecurity has gone beyond our  shores, in Ghana, South Africa etc. There must be  a solution to SECURITY problems of NDIGBO at  home and abroad.
There are ways of doing this and there are certainly Ndigbo who are capable of either helping to “Contain’’ the propensity towards  violence against Ndigbo or persuading the  appropriate authorities to do so. In matters of  this nature, knowledgeable leadership is ‘’sine  qua non’’-a necessity.

ECONOMY
Of all thecriticism of Ndigbo, nobody and no group has ever accused Ndigbo of laziness. Ndigbo instead have been associated with economic and business ingenuity. However, this too has had mixed response of praise, jealousy and envy. And  also, the economic success associated with  Ndigbo has always been individual achievements  and successes. Hopefully, the NEW ERA of  prosperity of Ndigbo as collective efforts is about  to start with the laudable initiative of Ohanaeze  Ndigbo , in terms of the ALAIGBO STABILIZATION  FUND.
This is definitely going to enhance and promote  the ‘’AKU RUO ULO’’ dictum currently also promoted by Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other stakeholders.
We must take the idea of building up the economic and industrial base of Alaigbo as a priority. Indeed, in general analysis Ndigbo have in  comparison to other parts of Nigeria had successful economic managers and  entrepreneurs. Thus we must encourage, support  and advance the course of domestic and foreign  investment in Igboland. We will and we must  always be happy to know that what others deny  us we can do for ourselves.

EDUCATION
If there is one palpable regrettable issue in Nigeria today, it is indeed the neglect or abandonment of education as a national priority.  This has its worst impact on Ndigbo whose claim to modern education came relatively late but who  within few years were catapulted to the highest  level of the ladder of education in Nigeria.
Ndigbo even made history when two Igbo sons, Prof. Kenneth Dike and Prof. Eni Njoku, became Vice Chancellors of two Nigerian pioneer  Universities of Ibadan and Lagos. One remembers  with nostalgia, stories of Igbo Union Schools  across the country and the competitive establishment of private primary and secondary  schools across Igboland. Ndigbo must return to  education, give education its priority as the key  that opened the door to Igbo prosperity and  positive reputation. Ohaneze Ndigbo under my  watch, will promote the use of Igbo language in all  schools in Igboland and beyond. In addition to our  commitment to education, the cultural aspect of  our people through the film and music industries will be strongly supported in view of its potentials  in Tourism, Education and promotion of International Relations.

Nnamdi Kanu/BIAFRA
The Igbo nation is not at war with Nigeria and has nothing pending before any institutional authority that demands a separate existence from Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu is one of us and he must listen to  some of us for several reasons. The fact and  reality are that the issues of Biafra are above and  beyond his capacity to decide. He must listen  because he is one of us and we are all in this  dilemma together. And our mutual and collective  responsibilities are sacred and must be  respected. Consequently, all actions or  utterances that put Ndigbo in ‘’present and imminent danger’’ or ‘’harm’s way’’ must be  avoided.
We must also understand what Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu meant by “the bones shall rise’’ He didn’t mean conflict, violence and war.  Definitely the bones have arisen re-incarnated or  resurrected but in Ojukwu’s idea the mission is  creative and constructive. Ndigbo are builders  and not nation wreckers/destroyers.
Ojukwu meant the return of the “’Can do” spirit of Ndigbo that turns ‘’difficulties into dividends” and obstacles into opportunities. Therefore in this  context and in the spirit of the times and  collective interest of Ndigbo, I appeal to our son  Nnamdi Kanu,‘’ act well your part for there your  honour lies.”

CONCLUSION
Ndigbo , believe me , we can have our people fairly unitedagain , not really as Igbo state union days , but somehow closer . Many things unite us but we  have given few things that divide us priority. That  is our main problem and that can also change. But we must also once again ‘’invent’’ a well-defined common cause andacommon sense of direction.  Therefore, there are huge tasks ahead of us and  work that must be done urgently. We therefore  call on all Igbo Diasporansto joinhands with us to  bring about the accelerated development of  Alaigbo. Principally, the goal of this  administration is aggregating our individual  successes into common action that will lead to a  collective success. Nothing unites a people more  quickly than prospects for success and with a  well-known Igbo spirit, this seemingly difficult task can be done. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘’it looks impossible until it is done ‘’. May I once again  state categorically that my dream type of  leadership is leadership/manager model using  the most and available efficient persons and  instruments to achieve IGBO COLLECTIVELY  DEFINED OBJECTIVES.
I believe this can be done with diplomatic Dexterity, Decency, Candor and Decorum. Our position should therefore begin with efforts to effectively re-integrate NDIGBO into Nigerian  political process effectively, significantly and  relevantly. This requires a serious diplomacy and  not confrontation or conflicts. Diplomacy’s great  asset is to teach how to make your enemy your  friend for specific objective. In fact, in politics and  Diplomacy, it is the identity of interest that are  the surest of bonds between state and individuals in critical circumstances and moments as we are  now. Nigeria needs Re-alignment, Restructuring, Renegotiation, Decentralization or Devolution of power, choosethe one you like. It must be done to  save Nigeria and we are ready to navigate the  Igbo destiny through this precarious time of  uncertainty, doubt, and general insecurity.
And what actually is the irreducible minimum  demand of Ndigbo in Nigeria?
Generally, to me, the demand is for Justice, Equity and Fairness. That is what we wish to achieve by RESTRUCTURING the Nigeria Political system, by bringing governance to a level playing field to all its citizens. And back to the country bequeathed  to us by our Founding Fathers ‘’where tribes and  tongues may differ but in brotherhood we stand.”

Certainly, it is time for us to change the narratives of the perennial and precarious  debates on the future of Ndigbo in Nigeria. In the present trying moments may we truly have  a spirit of purpose, and nationalism that a  common love for our freedom may override  whatever other issues that do divide us. That a  sense of mission may grow in all our hearts and  we leave here today as a nation and people who  care for each other and another regardless of all  their differences. We must be reminded that a  team does not win championship if the players  have different agenda. Definitely we are united in  grief and our history.
Ours is a righteous cause. Those who oppose us must reconsider their positions for unlike some of them, we do not seek to dominate, control or  humiliate our fellow citizens or fellow humanity.
Instead, we seek and must at all times seek a  world where justice and fairness for all prevail,  charity to all and malice towards none. The Igbo  struggle justice and equity in Nigeria has been  long and torturously agonizing, but there is light  at the end of the tunnel. With our new narratives  of courage without rancor, wisdom without  arrogance and intelligence with humility, we will  engage our fellow Nigerians with offers they  cannot resist, and situations that will  compellingly encourage them taking right actions  for the right reasons.
Finally, may I assure NDIGBO that I accept as an obligation their decision to elect me the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo World  Wide as a challenge and a responsibility that must  by the grace of GOD be pursued with dedication  and devotion. A Challenge that I must confront triumphantly with honour and dignity and a sense  of mission. Do I add, so help me God.

 

Prof Obiozor is the new President General of Ohanaeze

 

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