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Uzodinma, Presidential visit and Igbo solidarity


We give God Almighty all thanks and glory that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, came and departed Imo State safely on Thursday 9th September 2021 without incidents.

When that unfortunate sit-at-home order to boycott his visit was issued by the Nnamdi Kanu led Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, I saw it as an affront on the aspirations of Ndigbo. Such order would have undermined us socially, economically and politically in the long run. It also violates and negates the Igbo value of not rejecting one’s visitor.

In Igbo culture if a man visits you, you must give him the opportunity to state his reason for visiting. You don’t warn him not to come to your house. You must first welcome him after which he can then open up to you on why he came. So, the sit-at-home call, as long as Ndigbo were concerned, was unfortunate, useless and of no consequence. Imo is part of Alaigbo that makes up the Nigerian federation. None can stop the president from visiting any part of his constituency. I thank Imolites and residents of Imo for supporting Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma in successfully hosting our president.

A general trained in strategic thinking, President Buhari understands the motive behind an action. He understood the risk taken by Igbos who left the safety of their homes to welcome him. He also appreciated those not able to leave their homes on account of threats of violence against their persons. The president understands when a person does something voluntarily and when such a person acts under duress. He understands that Imo people never obeyed the IPOB order; they only remained indoors not to be targeted. But statistically, empirical evidence shows that a greater percentage of Igbos are very happy that he came.

Before the 2019 elections, I promised President Buhari that Ndigbo will give him more votes than we did in 2015. It turned out just as I promised. He got his statutory 25% votes from Igboland. He owes Ndigbo a “thank you” and I think that is why he came to Imo State, the Heartland of the Igbo nation, and used the opportunity to commission some projects. So, we thank Uzodinma for making it possible for him to come.

He got it right this time, Uzodinma must be commended for bringing a visitor whose tight schedule must be appreciated. There are presidents whose programmes made it impossible for them to visit the 36 states throughout their tenures. So we salute Uzodinma’s courage and vision; just as we salute Igbo clergy and leaders for coming out to receive our August visitor.

Our Expectations

The presidential visit accorded Ndigbo the opportunity to thank the president for some ongoing projects, namely, the Second Niger Bridge, which we believe would be completed before 29th May 2023. The Port Harcourt-Enugu and Enugu-Onitsha Expressways, also under massive rehabilitation. All practical steps must be taken to urgently complete the Owerri-Port Harcourt federal road.

Uzodinma must take all practical steps in consulting the presidency for the dualisation of the Owerri-Aba Expressway; the volume of traffic on it is massive and dangerous. We wish to see the take-off of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway modernization programme as promised by the president. Modernisation means that this project should be standard gauge as obtains in the South West and North West; rather than the proposed narrow gauge.

We deserve to have a bite of the cherry. I call on the president to consider Ndigbo and their neighbours when siting institutions that command the structures of violence. The Federal Government established the Nigerian Army University in Biu, Borno State, in the North East; Nigerian Air Force University, Kawo, Kaduna State, in the North West. and the Police University, Wudil, Kano State, in the North West. We would highly appreciate it if President Buhari can convert the Nigerian Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom, in the South South, into the Nigerian Navy University. Such university would be in the Igbo interests.

Some may ask why an institution in Oron that is outside Igboland. My answer is that the South East, not Igboland, is landlocked. What is in Oron will be of benefit to Ndigbo; just like what is in Igboland will also be of immense benefit to our brothers and sisters in the South South.

Regulated Grazing as Solution

On 11th May 2021, seventeen governors making up the Southern Governors Forum, SGF, met in Asaba, Delta State, and outlawed open grazing as the last resort in curbing the intractable farmer/herder crisis. Predictably, the northern leadership ominously warned that if Fulani herders were prohibited from grazing their cattle in the south, it could respond by also banning spare parts sellers and other southerners from their open markets. As an Igbo leader, I needed no crystal ball gazer to tell me that Ndigbo who are predominantly traders would be the real victim if this tit-for-tat diplomacy is allowed wings. I had to intervene.

Subsequently, on 13th June 2021, I published a middle-course solution contained in the treatise titled, “Ndigbo, Restructuring and Open Grazing.” In this paper I advanced a novel concept called “regulated grazing” capable of accommodating sedentary farmers and pastoralists in a symbiotic arrangement. Serious minds in search of permanent peace in rural Nigeria hailed this paper. Then, on 26th August 2021, Uzodinma announced he had embraced regulated grazing; which saw farmers and herders living in peace in Imo having signed before him a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, to that effect.

Certain commentators do not understand regulated grazing so let me explain. Under this arrangement local and state governments will provide specific enclosed grounds for herders to grow grass and feed their stock; like they provide grounds for motor parks, cemeteries, modern markets, etc. It will generate revenue for the state while catering for the socio-economic wellbeing of the people. Instead of having cows stray into farms and create avoidable crisis, regulated grazing will see herders rearing their animals in one or multiple places regulated by the state/local governments. The Federal Government has no hand in it.

Regulated grazing is the panacea for the perennial herder/farmer conflict without which our people will war without end. It’s like amnesty in a crisis situation. What else can guarantee peace? The only alternative to amnesty is war. It is either regulated grazing or the outright war that comes with open grazing. Southerners have also warned against ranching, RUGA or any arrangement where the Federal Government takes indigenous lands for the benefit of Fulani herders. So regulated grazing is the best option.

I endorse Uzodinma. He saw the merit in my regulated grazing concept and went for it even though we’re not on the same page. I salute his courage. There is no law stipulating that the majority must be right. The SGF banned open grazing; which I also support. But they never banned the hitherto unknown regulated grazing. So we must distinguish the two. Uzodinma is against open grazing. What he adopted and implemented is regulated grazing. So he is not against the SGF.

I call upon other Southern governors, local government chairmen, traditional rulers, the intelligentsia, women and youth leaders, etc, to also study my document on regulated grazing while appreciating the mischief it stands to heal. Every law addresses a problem. Any law that does not address a mischief creates one. Regulated grazing should be legislated into law to halt a seemingly intractable problem. I do not speak for Uzodinma as I am not his Commissioner for Information or Media Assistant. All I’m saying is that he got it right on regulated grazing and must be applauded.

Uzodinma’s Governorship

Having served in the Upper Red Chambers as senator, contested the gubernatorial election, fought his election battle all the way to the Supreme Court where he was declared governor of Imo State, Uzodinma is a Man of Destiny. What opportunity, then, does his administration offer Imo people?

It offers us the opportunity to accept and work with him as he is not the first governor to emerge through judicial arbitration. Comrade Adam Aliyu Oshiomole became the Edo State governor on 12th November 2008 courtesy of a court judgement. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko became the Ondo State governor on 24th February 2009 courtesy of a court judgement. Governors Douye Diri of Bayelsa State, Kayode John Fayemi of Ekiti State, Ogbemi Rauf Arigbesola of Osun State, Peter Obi of Anambra State, Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara State and Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State all became governors through court judgements. So Uzodinma’s victory through the court is not the first time.

Ndigbo must not nurse continuous grudge against Uzodinma. We must see his victory as just and meritorious. The alternative is for us to wait till 2024 when we can replace or reelect him at the polls, if he offers himself as gubernatorial candidate. But in the interim, the question we must grapple with is whether he is serving well. The answer is yes. Given the projects he executed and the fact that he was able to bring the president to commission them, he has achieved a milestone. The president is a serious man. He would not have come at all if there were no completed projects for him to commission.

Read Also: 2023: Why Igbos can’t produce Nigeria’s president – Ogunlewe

What else does Uzodinma offer Imo people? He offers us hope that there can be a viable bridge between Ndigbo and the center. This will translate to the siting of Federal projects in Imo. There is hope that Imo’s place is guaranteed in the scheme of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. The party is likely to retain power in 2023 and we cannot afford to be in the opposition for another eight years. Uzodinma and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State are likely to win us concessions from the APC if we continue to embrace it.

Igbo Fragmentation

Attack on Igbo political/traditional/intellectual/business leaders by Igbos and their associations can only lead to one result-fragmentation of Igbo solidarity. This weakens us and strengthens our detractors. When a leader openly abuses a governor, like the statement credited to an Igbo leader who said that Uzodinma’s trips to Abuja were a ruse, such careless talks injure Igbo unity.

Ndigbo must discourage a situation where every socio-cultural group, be it Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Igbo Delegates Assembly, Alaigbo Development Foundation, Aka Ikenga, Igbo Diasporan Council, Nzukor Ndi Okiwu, etc, is used to fight Igbo leaders in business and power. Igbo organisations must be employed to defend our people rather than destroy them. In short, these bodies should be used to analyze policies and advance solutions.

It is fundamentally wrong for Igbo associations to turn themselves into political parties and remove the man in power. They were not set up, in the first place, to seek for election but protect the interests of those advancing the Igbo agenda in and out of Nigeria. They are to consult, investigate, improve upon and protect the interests of Igbo people while functioning independent of political parties.

They have no mandate making it difficult for the president to visit any part of Igboland. So it is very wrong for an Igbo organization decreeing that the president should not come to Imo State. Such is ultra vires. The impression is sent to the outside world that Ndigbo are against the president and such is not in our interests in the short run, long run and very long run.

You can’t say that you love your brother in daytime only to start quarreling him at night. Today, Governors Umahi and Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike of Rivers State wash their dirty linens before the full glare of Nigerians. Worse, none is calling them to order. Umahi is an illustrious Igbo son. Wike is an illustrious Igbo son. Umahi left the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for the APC. Wike is in PDP and vowed to take Umahi to court and declare his seat vacant. But in the past, other PDP governors have decamped to APC even though Wike never threatened having their seats declared vacant.

Two Igbo governors at each other’s throats because of ephemeral political parties that can be disbanded by the external forces that floated them is frightening. We would rather see Wike and Umahi sacrifice their parties for greater Igbo interests. Why do Igbos over-quarrel? We don’t know when to quarrel in the open. We don’t know when to meet secretly and agree.

Look at Umahi’s Abakaliki here. Three hours’ drive away is Wike’s Ikwerreland. If Wike is endangered today, he won’t run south to the Atlantic Ocean but north to the Igbo hinterland. Likewise, if Umahi is running for dear life he won’t look north to Tivland but south to the same Igbo hinterland.

When federal troops invaded Nsukka, Enugu and Abakaliki during the war, Igbos living there headed south to the Igbo hinterland. When Ikwerreland was invaded, Ikwerres also fled to the same heartland for safety. At the end of the day, the entire Igbo race ended up at Orlu and Owerri when the war ended. Umahi and Wike will meet in Owerri come war or peace. That is natural. Owerri is where everybody stopped to hands up. If war happens again as a result of Kanu’s excesses, that’s where we’ll still stop to hands up.

Do you see the solidarity Yorubas are giving Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu since the latter took ill? Even Yoruba governors said to be quarreling have put aside their differences to pay him a solidarity visit in London. But if it was in Igboland none would visit you and the animosity carried all the way to the man’s graveside. Ndigbo said that one’s anger against a brother is never felt in the bone marrow. But today, the Igbo man’s anger against his own brother permeates right into his marrow. Why do Igbos over-quarrel?

Igbo Solidarity

Firstly, Ndigbo and their organisations must desist from diminishing their business and political leaders through unwarranted attacks. There are beneficiaries behind such attacks and the question must be asked about their true identities and motives. Between 1999-2003 in-fighting among Igbo senators saw the impeachment and removal of four Igbos who served as Senate President, for instance. The animosity generated by that disgraceful incident continues to haunt us today.

Secondly, Ndigbo cannot be respecting their leaders while the latter are in the forefront pushing anti-Igbo agenda. Igbo governors must eschew corruption, the number one killer of every civilisation

Thirdly, Igbo governors must spread the dividends of democracy to all without regard to party affiliations or sub-tribal sentiments. Skewed approach to governance heightens tensions. But when Igbos are treated equally, they unite to confront external forces.

Fourthly, we must make Igbo sons and daughters commissioners in states other than their states of origin. Such creative approach will encourage Igbos to see Igboland as their common patrimony. Nothing fosters solidarity, even at the family level, like bringing brothers and sisters together to sit in one place, eat and discuss together. Credit must be given to former Governor Amaechi for appointing Chuma Chinye, a non-indigene, as his Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. Same credit goes to sitting Rivers Governor Wike for making Emeka Onowu, another non-indigene, his Commissioner for Special Duties.

Non-indigenous commissioners play the role of ambassadors while explaining the policies of the states they serve in to their people back home. For instance, if the Imo State government appoints an Igbo from Anambra as commissioner and the appointee goes to Nnewi or Onitsha to present a paper on the industrialization policies of Imo State, Anambra industrialists are likely to listen to him than when another Imo commissioner from Ikeduru makes the same presentation.

Karl Marx said that theories have been in existence for thousands of years before Marxism. Everything needed to be said had been said exception action. Everybody had sympathy for the material condition of the weak and vulnerable under capitalism yet the evil system still remained intact. Theories never solved a problem. What was needed to bring about change was social action.

Likewise, in Igbo solidarity. No amount of theories or conferences can bring about it till our governors practicalise it in concrete terms: Our sons and daughters must pay the same fees in state polytechnics and universities. Igbos from other states should be given employment like what Amaechi and Wike did in Rivers. If you have evidence of tax payment, Amaechi would allow you apply and be recruited into the Rivers civil service. That was how non-indigenes became teachers and medical professionals, all because of the social action of one man. We must give kudos to Amaechi and Wike for their progressive social actions that greatly improved Igbo unity and solidarity.

Igbos are in the civil service of Lagos State. But back home they are not allowed to work in the civil services of other Igbo states. If Igbo governors can discriminate against non-indigenous Igbos, then what do you expect non-Igbo governors to do? They’ll simply kill those Igbos in their payrolls with the sledge hammer. We spend too much time theorizing on Igbo unity. But Igbo solidarity is an action thing. Our governors must stop preaching and take practical steps to enforce it.

Fifthly, Igbos must constitute themselves into watchdogs to ensure that the right things are done during election. Democracy triumphs only in an enlightened society. The intelligentsia, professionals, clergy, etc, must be interested in what goes on so that by 2023 those governors with poor performance are voted out. To sustain Igbo unity, we must ensure that elections are violent free for us to elect the right kind of governors and legislators we desire. We harm ourselves destroying our Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, while refusing to participate in voters’ registration exercise. We must ensure that the greater percentage of Igbos freely exercise their franchise.

We pay scant attention when it comes to local government elections but that is a costly mistake as the chairman has a lot of influence in the siting of clinics, health centers, cemeteries, markets, primary schools, feeder roads, food production, security, water, drainages, parks and conflict resolution. Election into this crucial third tier is important but we neglect it. The obsession is gubernatorial election. None cares what happens at the local government level. What stops a retired principal from contesting councillorship election? Why does he think councillorship is too small a political office?

Sixthly, I endorse all steps taken by the Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops on Peace and Conflict Resolution aimed at resolving the Ohanaeze crisis. I will accept the verdict that comes out the arbitration process handled by this eminent and highly revered body. Igboland is over 75% Christians. We cannot confront our Archbishops and Bishops. It is in our interests today and tomorrow to accept their decision. Their Lordships are preaching equity within Igbo unity.

And finally, Uzodinma must take practical steps to ensure that there is unity of purpose among Igbos in APC. Amaechi, Ogbonnaya Onu, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Ngige, Orji Uzoh Kalu, Osita Okechukwu, Prince Paul Ikonne, etc, must make demands on the center for Ndigbo. We cannot make demands from the outside. It is only when we are insiders that we can make demand on the presidency, National Assembly, NASS, and APC. We are now in the ruling APC. Ask and it will be given you.

Igbo Presidency

Ndigbo must build formidable bridges with the South West, North West and North East to actualize Igbo presidency. In addition, we must reach out to President Buhari, leader of the North West; Asiwaju Bola Armed Tinubu, leader of the South West; Nigerian Senate President Ahmed Lawan, leader of the North East; House of Reps Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy Senate President Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, leader of APC South South, etc. We must persuade and convince them on why it is important for them to concede the 2023 presidency to the Igbo on the grounds of equity and fairness.

Caveat: It must be understood that Ndigbo and Alaigbo are beyond the South East. They include, but not limited to, Igbos in Benue, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Delta States. Our political leaders must take steps to explain this to the world. What we are asking for is a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction and not South East extraction. Our flag bearer could come from Igbo community in any of the above listed states spanning the South South, South East and North Central. In the infinite mercy of God, whoever is favoured will be supported by the entire Igbo race.

Ndigbo Respect Buhari and Asiwaju

Not long ago, an unknown Chika Temple purporting to speak for Ohanaeze insulted President Buhari and Asiwaju as sick men unfit to hold the Office of the President of the Federal Republic. Ohanaeze and Ndigbo roundly condemn his outburst and indiscretion as it was completely uncalled for and must be seen to be at variance with the highest esteem Ndigbo have for the two statesmen.

Ndigbo have values and norms. In the Igbo world view when a man is sick, you stand in solidarity with him till he recovers. You pray to God Almighty to heal him. You appeal to the ancestors and gods of the land to heal him. You don’t make uncomplimentary statement about a sick man. Show empathy.

Uncomplimentary statement against the sick is ungodly. It is like an adult attacking a child of seven who is helpless to defend himself. You don’t. Whatever a child does, he is presumed to lack the capacity to take action. You don’t attack a child, sick person or blind man who puts his life in the hands of doctors and nurses to save him. That is ungentlemanly.

Asiwaju is the leader of the Yoruba race. He is a strong character as leader of the APC. How could any sane person make jest of him? How could any Igbo make a statement capable of disparaging the reputation of a sitting president who is clearly sympathetic to the Igbo cause? For the record, President Buhari offered the South East a sixth state. We failed to actualize this offer due mainly to our own internal contradictions rather than the fault of the president.

Temple is not a member of the Ohanaeze executive. I can authoritatively say that. He’s also not a member of Ohanaeze. I don’t know who recruited him. I don’t know where he’s coming from. I don’t know his mission. He belongs to the faceless group in Igboland I call fifth columnist and our worst internal enemies.

I call upon the entire Yoruba nation, friends and lovers of Asiwaju to jettison whatever this Temple said and accept the Igbo fraternal message for the quick recovery of their leader. Temple is a misfit and completely inconsequential insulting a sick man. He does not know the implications of his own utterances.

Can the Igbo be an island unto themselves or live in isolation? The answer is no. What is our landmass and population size? Who are our neighbours? Can we actualize Igbo presidency without Asiwaju’s support? The answer is no. So I call on Nigerians to jettison whatever this character calling himself Temple said. I don’t know him. I talk authoritatively as the custodian of the documents of Ohanaeze until eight months ago.

Temple is not a registered member of Ohanaeze and must be ignored. I challenge him to show his membership card and evidence that he pays his N100 monthly dues. I challenge him to show where he paid his last dues. Temple works for the enemies of Ndigbo and his insults were aimed at pitting the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba against Ndigbo. This would further isolate us. Enemies of Ndigbo sponsored him to write what he wrote to diminish the Igbo interests.

I want to say it for the world to hear: Asiwaju will come back alive and healthy. He has the right to aspire for the presidency of this country. It is the right of Nigerians to reject or accept him at the polls. Nobody can stop him; just as nobody can stop any Nigerian from contesting unless such a person is legally declared bankrupt, mentally disabled or a convict. If you’re not statutorily encumbered by the Nigerian constitution and other enabling laws, you can run under the electoral act. Our humble plea is for Nigerians to, out of the abundance of their good hearts, zone the presidency to the Igbo in 2023.

Improbable Possibilities/Conclusion

The Tuesday 8th September 2021 alleged killing of Reverend Emeka Merenu, an Anglican Priest of St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Ihitte Ukwa, in the Orsu LGA of Imo State, by enforcers of the sit-at-home order issued by IPOB, marks the tipping point. Reverend Merenu’s only sin was protecting his students writing their mandatory National Examination Council, NECO, examinations. His murder is not only unacceptable to Ndigbo but to all men of good conscience.

The snowball effects of this persistent anti-Igbo order are not lost on all: One, it is now very clear that the weekly boycott is a violent campaign meant to heat up Imo and get Uzodinma out of power. Two, IPOB does Igbo children life-long damage stopping them from writing the examinations. Some may have to repeat classes while the unlucky ones, especially girls, will drop out of school if their parents/guardians are too poor to reregister them. Three, the real story IPOB is telling regional and sub-regional bodies by its own action is that Igboland is limited to the five states of the South East; being its theatre of war. And four, IPOB forgets that its limited definition of Igboland is not only a landlocked Igboland but a labelled Igboland, profiled Igboland and isolated Igboland.

Boycotts weaken the Igbo economy. With one sit-at-home every Monday, it means that Igbos will lose 52 business days in a year. Bearing in mind that we don’t trade on Sundays, it simply means Ndigbo will lose 104 business days in a year if 52 days are time by 2. What all these mean is that the IPOB, by its own conducts and actions, is stampeding Ndigbo into avoidable poverty. The United Nations, UN, defines genocide to also include when you leave a people unharmed but completely decimate and destroy their source of living.

The IPOB must remember that the international community is a biased audience that has very little sympathy for the oppressed. It aligns with the oppressor. With Lord Frederick Lugard’s handover note clearly against the Igbo, the world has very little sympathy for us. I issue this warning as IPOB sympathisers are sold the dummy that “the international community” would intervene in a conflict between “Biafra” and “Nigeria.” Did the international community save Tutsi children form Hutu militias during the 1994 Rwanda genocide? The answer is no.

World over, insignificant percentage has sympathy for the endangered and vanquished. The majority is always on the side of the powerful victor. None gives the weak the requisite time to state his case. None listens to him. In every conflict the world has sympathy for the victorious army. Our people must understand that the world will never listen to IPOB but Nigeria. Even at that, you may have a good case only to lose it at the level of presentation because you’re not organized.

Finally, war is a lucrative enterprise. Certain Igbo politicians could be sponsoring these boycotts as a necessary step to being invited to Aso Rock for negotiation. Tears, sorrow, blood and breakdown of law and order will guarantee them audience before the powers that be. The greater percentage of Ndigbo must rise up against these merchants of blood who want political relevance over the dead bodies of their people.

Kanu does not even understand what’s going on. At the end of the day, he won’t be relevant. When the chips were down, how many Ijaw boys that fought in the creeks were called to Aso Rock for negotiation? None. It was their leaders who never lost loved ones that made billions out of the Ijaw struggle while poor Ijaws who actually took up arms were forgotten or given peanuts.

Dimm Uche Okwukwu is factional Deputy President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. Phone: 080 8660 1111.

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