They Can Speak With One Voice

Recently, Chief John Nwodo, President-General of the Apex Igbo Cultural Organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, addressed the Anambra State House of Assembly concerning the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB leader’s alleged call to Ndigbo to boycott the Anambra State Governorship elections slated for November. He said: “News that reached us in the past few days that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, has declared that there will be no election in Anambra in November is shocking and disturbing. I hereby countermand that declaration as President General of Ohaneze. Whereas Ohaneze understands the marginalization and unfair treatment of Igbo which have given rise to self-determination movements in Igboland, leaders of these movements must not arrogate to themselves the supreme leadership of Igboland. Statements of the kind credited to Nnamdi Kanu are provocative, misleading and unproductive. Why should Anambra people be denied the opportunity to choose their own leader? Why should any of us who is not from Anambra, no matter how highly placed, descend to the arena and dictate for Anambra people when to vote, whether to vote or who to vote for? Anambra, nay Igbo, are still part and parcel of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Yes, we are not happy with our treatment in Nigeria. Yes, some of us want Biafra. Yes, some of us prefer a restructured Federal Republic of Nigeria. But the fact remains that we are still part and parcel of the present Federal Republic of Nigeria, bound by its laws, no matter how repressive or unjust. Our approach to reforms of our laws even if it leads to

self-determination or restructuring must be lawful. We must convince other Nigerians of our point of view, we must strive to make others share our convictions. Our language must be civil, respectful and lead to consensus building. We must resist any attempt to turn division amongst us, as to which way we must go, become a source of altercations between us. As we speak, very many of our people living in Northern Nigeria are in complete awe and consternation regarding how safe they will be after October 1st. Other Northerners living amongst us are also worried. The Inspector General of Police has taken public notice of Nnamdi’s comments, which may amount to inviting a possible invasion of Anambra by the Nigeria Police, increasing the already existing siege on our people, which may lead to daily extortion on our highways. All these developments have arisen out of unguarded utterances. I find no venue more suited for the statements I make here. Every constituent part of Anambra is represented here. I believe that the honourable members here are competent enough to carry the Ohaneze message to every nook and cranny of Anambra State.”

Nwodo explained further that Ohaneze leadership would visit other Houses of Assembly in Igbo-speaking states, to acquaint them on the stand of the Ohaneze on issues concerning the people. He expressed happiness with the peace that exists in Anambra State and the steady progress being made over the years, noting that the November election could only improve and not retard the progress.

This swipe of the President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo on the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, for allegedly ordering a boycott of the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State raises very important issues.

The position of the Igbo in the entire Nigerian experiment should be very straight forward. The Igbo are the ones being hounded for agitating for the break-up of the Nigerian nation. But the Igbo also know that they are the ones for whom the unity of Nigeria means so much. They are the ones who have made and who keep making the most enormous sacrifices to keep Nigeria together. They are the ones who have invested their money and skills in the development of Nigerian villages, towns and cities other than their own. And these facts are incontrovertible.

For the Igbo, being truly Nigerian means that ethnic chauvinism has to be expunged from the national dictionary. It means that any Nigerian child born in any part of Nigeria has legitimacy of citizenship of his or her place of birth. It means that any citizen of Nigeria can live, work and help develop any village, town or city in Nigeria where he feels comfortable to live in, without being constantly harassed and reminded by those who claim to own the land that he is a foreigner in his own country.

It means that Nigerians have to realize and accept that they are Nigerians first, before they can see themselves as Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. It will possibly mean the death of tribal leadership. So, from what the constitution of the country specifies, the Igbo are saying that either they are truly Nigerian or they are not. And if they are not, they should be allowed to go!

In this struggle for self determination, no one can conveniently deny the role the IPOB leadership has played in bringing the plight of the Igbo into international limelight. The organisation of our young people agitating for self determination across nations has made the plight and demand of the Igbo more globally appreciated than in those days we fought the secessionist war in the late 60s. That is also important. In one of my articles titled “The Agility of Youths and Wisdom of Old Age”, I made it clear that in this struggle the Igbo will need both the agility of their youths and the wisdom of their elders to pull through. And no one should be seen to lose face, if we must create the impression to the world that we not only know what is good for us, but also that we are together in this struggle.

Most Igbo know that what we need is not a breakaway. Kanu knows that too. And we also know that the authorities in Nigeria will not easily concede to hold either a plebiscite or a referendum to enable Nigerians determine how they want to live together unless they are put under immense pressure like some of us threatening to break up. Kanu knows that as well. And I think the leadership of Ohaneze should have known that this is all politics. The leadership should have known that the Igbo are only asking for a fairer deal, and that such a treatment will not easily come from the feudal lords in the North because the taste of power is never relinquished without a fight.

It is not just enough to keep wishing or even crying for a plebiscite or a referendum to decide how Nigerians want to live together as one big, populous and massively endowed country. Something has to be done to diffuse the

enormous economic grip a few families in the country, mostly in the North have over the majority, which amounts to taking the country to ransom. And that something is to dangle alternatives before the Nigerian authorities: it is either you restructure the country or we go our separate ways. Beyond that, I think the Igbo know the hard facts that count.

One fact that must be associated with the success of the May 30 sit-home order throughout Igboland is that people obeyed because they did not want their shops attacked and looted by hoodlums if they opened them up on that day. So, in a sense, the success may have motivated Kanu to convince himself that one more step would give the Federal government the “reasonable force” they need to cave into the demands of both the extrovert agitators and the silent ones. His mistake was that he failed to consult the elders. That mistake should have been mildly corrected by Ohaneze privately calling him to order to rescind the call. If he refused, then the leadership would be right to approach the representatives of the people with a stop order on Kanu. But I am not sure this was the case.

The impression being created now is that Igbo youth leadership is at crossroads with Igbo elders. God forbid. Igbo is Igbo. Whether they come from Anambra or from Imo, from Abia or Ebonyi, from Enugu, Port Harcourt or Asaba, Igbo is Igbo. So, I suggest the IPOB leadership visits Ohaneze leadership to map out a clear vision of what is best for the Igbo in a united Nigeria, hold a press conference and issue a communiqué together to put things right for the Igbo.

This little controversy must not be allowed to create the impression to the world that the Igbo are divided if we know what is good for us. The need for this invigorated sense of unity becomes more poignant when we consider the fact that the National Chairman of the ruling APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has just distanced himself from any pre-election promise to restructure the country in its present context. Oyegun is quoted as saying that the APC promise to devolve more powers to the states and to adopt the principles of true federalism did not tantamount restructuring. And clearly, his position pits the party he chairs directly against the council of state governors which is visibly encouraging and supporting the agitation for a restructuring of the Nigerian nation. What else should the Igbo be told about mending their fence so that they can speak with one voice?

· Mr Asinugo is a London-based journalist and publisher of Imo State

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SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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