An Ohanaeze Ndigbo chieftain and Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, has tackled the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nworgu, who last week said that every Igbo adult like the youths support the agitation for Biafra because of the continued marginalization of Ndigbo in the country, which has worsened under President Muhammadu Buhari.
But Okechukwu, who was the former spokesman for All Progressives Congress (APC) in South-East before he was appointed the DG of VON, said that the leadership of Ohanaeze which Nworgu was secretary general should be blamed for the marginalization of the Igbo as the former President Goodluck Jonathan presidency they supported failed to develop Igbo land.
He, therefore, called on Nworgu to apologise to the Igbo for the marginalization of the people instead of criticizing President Buhari unfairly.
In this exclusive interview with CHIDI NNADI in Enugu, Okechukwu also spoke on the Igbo agitation for Biafra, saying that the majority of the Igbo still cherish their acceptability in Nigeria. Excerpt:
Ohaneze Ndigbo through its Secretary General, Dr. Joe Nworgu last week said that Igbo adults are unhappy just like the youths who are agitating for Biafra because of the continued marginalization of Ndigbo which has exacerbated under Buhari, as an Igbo adult and member of Ohaneze do you agree with him?
For the avoidance of doubt, from my brief analysis of the actions of Dr Joe Nworgu, my in-law and big brother, in particular, he should apologize to Ndigbo for not only sustaining the marginalization of Ndigbo, but reaping from it. Did he harvest the plumb and eminent position held in Ohanaeze, either to fix federal roads: Arochukwu – Umuahia, Umuahia – Uyo-Calabar, Port Harcourt – Enugu, Enugu- Onitsha roads etc. May I ask, is it possible that Dr Nworgu and co after voting for Jonathan in 2011 and Ndigbo collectively did not benefit from the action as our roads and infrastructure collapsed; called for votes for Jonathan again in 2015, and canvassed heavily, to the extent of accusing Buhari of going to Islamise Nigeria, without stomach infrastructure; what was their agenda?
But are you not happy that President Goodluck Jonathan did not marginalise Ndigbo?
As a social democrat, one will always thank God when our prosperity is enhanced, for life in abundance has always been my prayers for humanity, talk less of my people. My take is that selfishness breeds discontent and hunger. And hungry people listen more to propaganda of hate, with little patience to know where and how the hunger started. Therefore, our marginalization, despair and despondency were reinforced during these days of plenty as few Igbo became millionaires while the majority became poorer and unwittingly prepared to absorb the story of marginalization.
As a member of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, how will you rate the Chief Gary Igariwey and Dr Joe Nworgu tenure as they leave office in January?
Chief Gary Igariwey and Dr Joe Nworgu regime as President General and Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo respectively like every regime in every clime or organisation has its merits and demerits. On the merit side, they had harmonious relationship with both states and federal governments, especially that of former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife. It was during their tenure that Ndigbo were in the mainstream like the days when the Great Zik chartered the trajectory of Igbo politics, except that the benefits went to only the few appointed.
To be exact, we then had a Secretary to Government of the Federation in the person of Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, in the person of Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, in the persons of distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and co; respectively. We had then ministers of power in the persons of Profs Barth Nnaji and Chinedu Nebo, chairman of works in both houses of the National Assembly and uncountable perquisites. It was a glorious era; however, the generality of Ndigbo did not benefit commensurately as critical infrastructure in Igbo land collapsed and investment exited out of the region, leading to gross unemployment, hunger, despair and regrettably increased agitation for Biafra.
As their tenure runs out in January, what are the options?
My own position is that Ohanaeze Ndigbo should elect a new leadership that will emulate the political tactics of the Great Zik, not one that preaches hate, alienates Ndigbo from the psych of other ethnic nationalities. Otherwise how can Nworgu brand President Muhammadu Buhari as an Igbo hater? Let me with the available space erase some of his heinous propaganda of Buhari, a man who on November 7, wrote to Ohanaeze Ndigbo, seeking for dialogue on the way forward. I delivered the letter to Nworgu and because of his predetermined deal with Jonathan, he never even acknowledged the letter, nor was a dialogue held with Buhari, against my advice that they should draw a checklist of Ndigbo and hand over to Jonathan and Buhari, from which they will make a decision on our behalf.
Let’s return to Buhari being anti-Igbo, how would explain Dr Nworgu’s claim that Buhari humiliated Ekwueme after the military coup of 1984 by committing him to prison while he treated Alhaji Shehu Shagari with kid’s gloves?
I’m happy that our elder statesman, former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, the Ide of Ndigbo is alive and can state the true position. Contrary to the propaganda of ethnic merchants, Ide was given all the candour required of an elder statesman. The current Emir of Gwandu, then Major Jokolo led the team which arrested him and he took care of Ide, as against the hate message of Dr Nworgu. This made Ekwueme to date to maintain a cordial relationship with Jokolo to the extent that Ide attended his coronation at Gwandu.
Okay, Nworgu also said that Buhari marginalized the South-East in the execution of PTF projects when he was at the head of the agency, was this not bad?
My dear brother, I don’t want to talk much about this because our representative on the board of PTF, Prof Chimere Ikoku of blessed memory is no more there to state how the PTF mapped out all the general hospitals, five boreholes each for all the local government areas, major townships and highways and made sure each was awarded in phases. What happened was that while most states in the North mobilized serious contractors like Julius Berger, PW, the Umuahia -Arochukwu road, the first to be awarded in the East was awarded to a local contractor that couldn’t meet PTF model of first finished first paid. This was applicable to the boreholes, all the general hospitals were uniformly equipped, some towns had 40 kilometers and some 60 kilometers of township roads constructed. Enugu’s was neatly done at Achalla Layout. It is a matter of major contest that PTF did more roads than the 16 years of PDP regime; 1999-2015.
If you say that Buhari treated Ndigbo fairly at PTF, what about the claim that he made the first 32 appointments of his present regime with the Igbo shut out, making Dr Nworgu to say that some of the appointments some of you got are mere statutory appointments that must come, don’t you think that these are enough for anybody to say that the president hates the Igbo?
My answer is that in fullness of time Buhari will impact more on Ndigbo and Nigeria in general than those who shared money to individuals in the midst of plenty. Buhari’s handicap is paucity of fund, militancy in the Niger Delta and general insecurity in the land.
The question at the end of the day will be are Ndigbo better of when we had Senator Anyim Pius Anyim as Secretary to Government of the Federation, and Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Finance Minister and Coordinator of the Economy and co or when we have Dr Okechukwu Enelama as Trade and Investment Minister and Dr Geoffrey Onyeama as Minister of Foreign Affairs and co?
How would you assess the general clamour for Biafra by Igbo agitators, who had claimed that nothing has changed from what the Igbo saw that made them to try to secede in the 1960s, we have seen the killings of the agitators with some of their leaders held in prison custody even when the courts have ordered their release, don’t you think that all these are what are sustaining the agitation for Biafra?
To be frank with you I have had discussions across the board on the issue of Biafra, up to the level of World Igbo Congress at New Jersey in 2004 and Dallas in 2012, all in the United States of America. And my understanding is that majority of the agitators want Biafra via democratic means. To be honest, if it is through democratic means we should not forget that there seems to be divergence of opinion as reflected on how Enugu and Ebonyi states voted against region in 1996 Abacha and 2014 Jonathan Constitutional conferences.
The truth is bitter, but one must say it. The majority of the Igbo cherish our acceptability in Nigeria as showcased by our huge investment in other regions and the fact that we won two Federal House seats in Lagos, therefore, are not too keen for secession.
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