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Owerri confab: Ohaneze urges Ndigbo to invest in South–East

It was more like a socio-cultural cum political carnival as traditional and political leaders, as well as other sons and daughters of Igbo land, South-East…

It was more like a socio-cultural cum political carnival as traditional and political leaders, as well as other sons and daughters of Igbo land, South-East of Nigeria, trooped to the International Conference Centre (ICC), Owerri, the capital of Imo State. During the conference, held last week Thursday, it was agreed that the people’s spirit of determination, courage and achievement be rekindled at all cost.
According to participants, “The Igbo must rise to their former position of prominence and influence in Nigeria. They should invest massively in the development of the South-East, thus taking their destiny in their own hands.’’
They said there was the need to work vigorously for a better today and a more prosperous future for the generations yet unborn. This was the dominant feature of the forum titled, “Ndigbo and the State of the Nation: Prospects and Challenges,” the first ever convened by the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo under the leadership of Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey, the president-general, in conjunction with the South-East governors. It was the fallout of the reconciliation of the various Ohaneze factions by the Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha recently. Among the dignitaries that graced the occasion were Professor Anya o. Anya, who was the guest speaker, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retired); Commodore Allison Madueke (retired); the founder of Diamond Bank, Dr. Paschal Dozie; the former governor of Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, and the host, Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Although some people commended Okorocha and the leadership of Ohaneze for the reconciliation, others were of the view that Igariwey and his team should keep the socio-cultural organisation completely out of politics. Some of the participants were also suspicious of the reconciliation efforts of Governor Okorocha, saying it could be a ploy to launder his image for 2019 presidential election.
“Recall that Okorocha is building a befitting secretariat for Ohaneze in Enugu. I hope it is not a Greek gift,’’ said a notable politician who did not want to be named.’’
Addressing the huge crowd, Governor Okorocha said: “A nation or people faced with extreme danger like Ndigbo should seek the wisest cause of action instead of dwelling on sentiments and complaints. We must act quickly. There’s no better time for us to unite than now. No amount of complaints against the marginalisation of Ndigbo will bring succour to our children. We should rather rise and take our rightful position and sing a new song.’’
He advised the Igbo not to allow themselves to be remembered as militants, saying, “Many ethnic groups use militancy to attract attention to themselves. But that is not the way of Ndigbo. The Igbo are unique, so let us sing a different song from the songs of war and problems. This is because the more we complain, the more the world is not listening to us. The time has come for us to look inwards because a rejected person does not reject himself.
“At what point and time can we speak of politics, and at what point can we speak as Ndigbo? Let politics not divide us.’’
Speaking earlier, Chief Igariwey said, “I want us to emphasise our strong sides: We are very daring people. We have made more gains than losses. Our strength is in the fact that as individuals we are great achievers, and we hope that when we direct our strength we will be able to address the problems of our people.
 “We are going to bring hope to our people. Our people will no longer cry; we can solve our problems. There is nothing we put our minds to that we cannot achieve.”
He said the Igbo contributed about 30 per cent of the development of Lagos and 40 per cent to the building and development of Abuja. “If we redirect our energies we can build Abuja in Igbo land; we can also build Lagos in Igbo land. That is our new direction.
“We will not let anybody put us down. We will rise to the occasion to solve our problems. Hope has come. That is the message we are bringing,” Igariwey told the gathering.
The chairman of the occasion, Chief Jim Nwobodo, described the ceremony as self-rediscovering for Ndigbo. “What we are doing now is to rediscover ourselves. When you are rejected you must not reject yourself. We have to rediscover ourselves. We have come out to demonstrate that Ndigbo are among the owners of Nigeria. Everywhere you go in Nigeria, Ndigbo are there. Even in America, the presidential candidate, Mr. Donald Trump said that Ndigbo should leave America. He said the Igbo should go because they have a lot in their land. Truly, Ndigbo have lot in their land. When the late Dr Michael Okpara was the premier of Eastern Region, he used palm oil and palm kernel to develop the region. We should be proud of what we have. What we want now is to build in Igboland those things we have invested in other parts of Nigeria and the world,” he said.
In his speech titled, “Preparing to Rebuild Ala-Igbo for the New Nigeria of the 21st Century,” the guest speaker of the occasion, Prof Anya, traced the history of Igbo people from 968 AD and likened them to the Chinese and the ancient Israelites.
 Quoting a Chinese-American culture he said, “Ndigbo are one of the three global tribes; the other two are the Jews and the Chinese. They are all unique people but not lovable.” 
“We have come together here because there is a snake in the thatched roof, literally meaning that there is danger (agwo di n’akirika). We have come here because our people say it is when the flood threatens to overtake us that we begin to look for the tall men among us. This is such a time to help our people chart a new course in this very dangerous time.
“We are assailed by uncertainties, doubt and fear. It is not surprising that in this insipient climate of doubts and uncertainties, we could lose our focus; we could lose confidence in ourselves.
“We are among the earliest inhabitants of this part of Africa, the Niger area. Archeological findings reveal that we have been in this area, perhaps for the past 5,000 years. It is noteworthy that eastern Nigeria was the fastest growing and industrialising economy in the world.” He insisted that the redemption and rebuilding of Igbo land would not come from outside but among the people.
He continued, “The noisy, boisterous and unstrategic approach to national discourse has not served us well, so we need a change of mindset. Moreover, we need to remember that we cannot be loved by all, but we can earn the respect of our compatriots.
“We are an outgoing people and we need not change our outlook. We need to build goodwill, both within and outside the country, even as we rebuild our home-base as a desirable and livable environment. Our morally boisterous spirit may often need a dose of discipline, and only the elders can dispense it in a fair and just manner.”
For Dr. George Obiozor, “Whether we like it or not, any nation that disregards ideas can never go well. Ideas run nations. Just recently, some of our leaders discovered that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. But the reality is that after so many years, in spite of all efforts, the unity of Nigeria has not been guaranteed. At best, it has been an aspiration, not achievement. Isn’t that true?”
Throughout the history of this country, no generation of Nigerian leaders, civilian or military, has created an atmosphere of credibility to ensure Nigeria’s claim to political future as one nation. None of the Nigerian political groups, including the elite, was able to evolve a unifying national ideology that other people accepted. What has been constant is ethnic nationalism, which is not about to disappear; it will not disappear, certainly, not in Nigeria.
“The era of government by intimidation and coercive integration is over. The leadership of this country must recognise that no matter their pretences, no group can dominate this country again. As a matter of fact, as long as there is injustice, there will be no unity.”

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