The apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has lamented that the people of the South-East are marginalised in Nigeria’s governance structure.
Ohanaeze’s spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, who said this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, noted that the fact that the Igbo were scattered all over Nigeria and were successful in business should not be a reason for the current regime to deny them their share in the governance structure of the country.
He spoke in response to the remarks by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who was on a one-day visit to Imo State, that the people of the South-East were enterprising and in charge of the country’s economy.
At a town hall meeting with Igbo leaders in Owerri, Buhari stated, “The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing them being in charge of either the infrastructure or the pharmaceutical industry.
“Therefore, it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man will consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria. The evidence is there for everyone to see that the Igbo are in charge of Nigeria’s economy.”
In his response, Ogbonnia noted that though the Igbo remained an entrepreneurial set of people, they were still neglected.
He stated, “The Igbo are marginalised in governance structure of this country; it is very clear and self-evident. There is no doubt about it and Buhari himself knows it. But what he said, which is true, is that everywhere you go in Nigeria, you are likely to find an Igbo man in one trade or managing buildings or things like that. So, that is true; but one must know that this is under self-enterprise.
“That is Igbo tenacity for survival and self- enterprise. It is entirely a different ball game. So, the marginalisation we are talking about is in governance structure; the injustice we are talking about is in governance structure.
“You cannot because they are an enterprising set of people deny them their fair share in the governance structure of this country.”
Igbo not secessionists, says Obiozor
Earlier in Owerri during the President’s visit, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, said contrary to the claim in some quarters, Igbo people were not secessionists.
Obiozor urged Buhari to ensure that Igbo youths being held in various detention facilities by security agents were released.
He said Ndigbo would continue to be part of Nigeria as long as there was justice in the country.
He said, “After all Nigeria has gone through in its nearly 60 years’ chequered history of crises and continuity, and the spectacular patriotic role of Ndigbo to ensure its unity and survival, the consistent perception that the Igbo are separatists and secessionist agitators is a historical fallacy.
“Indeed, if the truth must be told, Ndigbo are the most federating unit among all Nigerian citizens. Generally speaking, anywhere in Nigeria you don’t find the Igbo, run away; something is wrong there. Igbo are market people and travel adventurers.
“Consequently, what defines the Igbo character are the propensity for friendliness and harmonious peaceful coexistence and spirit of universalism of mankind. This is who we are. Our Igbo adage says, ‘Ojemba enweghi iro’, which literally translates to: ‘A traveller makes no enemy’.
“Also, another misconception of Ndigbo is that they cannot speak with one voice; ironically, that is another fallacy. The Igbo spirit defies conditions that are obstacles for the expression of their individual or group opinion. This sense of egalitarianism is what defines the Igbo system of governance based on liberal democracy and social justice.
“Mr President, in spite of all the threats of secession or separatism facing the country, there is no doubt that no secessionist element can succeed in Nigeria provided there is good governance based on equity, justice and fairness to all the citizens.”
Igbo leaders in Owerri to welcome Buhari
Meanwhile, the cream of the Igbo leadership converged on Owerri to join Governor Hope Uzodimma to welcome the President.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State and the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, were physically present, while the other governors in the South-East were represented as Buhari inaugurated four strategic projects executed by the Uzodimma administration.
The President, who arrived in Owerri to a rousing reception, said he was impressed with the quality of jobs executed by the Uzodimma administration.
Among the projects inaugurated by the President were the Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze Road, the Ballon underground tunnel to check flooding in Owerri and the Egbeada Bypass Road.
Church attendant shot, activities paralysed in Anambra
In Anambra State, the visit of President Buhari to Imo State had ripple consequences as there were pockets of violence in some parts of the state by the enforcers of the Indigenous People of Biafra’s sit-at-home order.
In Oba, Idemili South Local Government Area of the state, gunmen were said to have shot dead an occupant of a vehicle, who was returning from a church service.
In a viral video, a voice was heard warning people who defied the IPOB order to have a rethink or be ready to face the consequences.
A trader at the Onitsha Main Market told one of our correspondents on the telephone that he complied with the order because of the fear of attack.
“IPOB has instilled fear in everybody, not only in Anambra, but the entire South-East,” he stated.
Commercial activities in the state were crippled as a result of the compliance with the sit-at-home order by the IPOB to register their disapproval of the President’s visit to the South-East.
Though IPOB later denied ordering the sit-at-home, socio-economic activities in the state were halted.
Banks, shops, markets, motor parks, government establishments and allied institutions were shut down.
At Agulu in the Anaocha Local Government Area of the state, a commercial motorcycle was set ablaze for operating.
In a video that when viral, a voice was heard telling people to learn from the incident.
The speaker, who spoke in Igbo, said, “When we ask people to stay at home in their own interest, they will continue to disobey our order.
“Those of you, who doubt us and try to test our will, should learn from this incident. We have burnt this motorcycle and chased away those old women, who came to the market to sell rubbish.”
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Ikenga Tochukwu, said he was only aware of the violent attack at Oko in the Orumba North Local Government Area of the state.
Owerri deserted, civil servants abscond from work
However, Owerri, the Imo State capital, was a shadow of its former self on Thursday as Buhari visited the state.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the situation in the town, observed that banks, schools, markets and malls were shut.
The state secretariat complex located at New Owerri was a ghost town as civil servants absented themselves from work.
While the city was militarised, Ikenegbu, Mbari, Douglas, the Imo State University junction, Control Post, Wethedral Road, Warehouse junction and others were empty.
The PUNCH noticed security operatives patrolling the town in Armoured Personnel Carriers.
Shops, filling stations, markets shut down in Ebonyi
Also, in Ebonyi State, economic activities were paralysed as shops, markets, filling stations and other business premises were shut down in Abakaliki, the state capital.
The PUNCH observed that gates of bank branches in different locations in the town were under lock and key.
Okorocha, Kalu, others absent
Meanwhile, former governors of Imo and Abia states, Senator Rochas Okorocha and Orji Kalu, were prominent chieftains of the All Progressives Congress in the South-East, who were absent during the President’s visit to Imo State.
Speaking on his absence from the event, Okorocha said the incumbent governor, Uzodimma, did not invite him to the occasion.
Okorocha’s media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo, said Uzodimma and the state government were playing politics of hate, vendetta and intolerance.
Onwuemeodo stated that it was unfortunate that Uzodimma choose to ignore Okorocha when it was the former governor, who brought the APC to South-East and Imo State in particular.