Chief (Mrs) Calista Nkiru Adimachukwu (Mmilioma), National Women Leader, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, speaks on the regret, gains and expectations of Igbo people from President Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
What is your perspective on the Igbo question in Nigeria ?
The Igbo are the highest contributors to Nigerian independence compared to other regions. But it is sad to note that since independence in 1960, other regions have countered Igbo objectives. The Igbo have not been given the opportunity to taste solid leadership in Nigeria. Even after Nigeria got independence, Dr, Nnamdi Azikiwe, was made a ceremonial President whereas his NCNC and Awolowo’s AG were capable of forming a solid government and producing the Prime Minister. Azikiwe sacrificed that for the peaceful existence and unity of Nigeria.
Although Azikiwe had support from Awolowo, he reasoned that if the West and East teamed up against the North to form government, the nation may lose its equilibrium as the North might feel short-changed. Therefore, Azikiwe sacrificed that chance for the unity of Nigeria. In fact, the Igbo do not even want to talk about the circumstances surrounding the death of Major Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi. Even in the Fourth Republic, Dr Alex Ekwueme contributed immensely to the formation of the PDP, thinking that probably the Igbo might get the chance to control the central government.
The Igbo hoped that Ekwueme would be made the presidential candidate of the PDP, but there was gang-up by the military against the Igbo, and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became the presidential candidate of the PDP. Obasanjo’s candidacy was the continuation of the defeat of the Igbo because the northern oligarchy never wanted an Igbo man to be the President of Nigeria. Even before that episode, the Igbo voted for Chief M.K.O Abiola, but when it came to the time when an Igbo person needs votes from the West and the North both in primaries and main elections, the Igbo are usually disappointed.
The Igbo have sacrificed a lot for the political development of Nigeria even to the extent of supporting a northerner in the Second Republic and also giving Sir. Tafawa Belewa support to be Prime Minister in the First Republic. The Igbo have been disappointed time, without number whenever they needed support from other regions.
This is one of the reasons the Igbo want the Federal Government to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference in order to end the issue of junior and senior partners in the Nigerian project and also to neutralise any gang-up against the Igbo now and in the future. There is no doubt that the Igbo are disappointed because President Goodluck Jonathan lost the election. This is because the Igbo believed that since he was the one that instituted the National Confab and received the report, he would have been in a better position to implement it. Again, he showed the Igbo that he has their interest at heart. Because of him, the Igbo now have international airport and other developmental projects in the region. I believe he could have done more if he won re-election in 2015.
There are also other projects in the South-East which he started that are still unsung. The Igbos have no regrets voting for Jonathan and will do the same again if the need arises. Notably, in the 2011 presidential election, similar thing happen where the North-East and North-West voted massively for Gen. Buhari, and he lost in that election. However, those who voted for him then had no regret.
They repeated the same feat in 2015 and he won. The President did a lot to ensure that the 2015 elections went well and without violence. He should be commended for his efforts in the 2015 elections. All said and done, the Igbo will continue to hope that their contributions to national development will be remembered by all.
Some Igbo called for support for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari during his campaign and they said it was for the good of the Igbo. Do you think the government of Buhari will benefit the Igbos ?
I am aware that some individuals in the South-East called for Igbo support for Buhari prior to the 2015 elections. There was even a blame game against the Igbo for putting their eggs in one basket. It is too early to judge Buhari or know his mindset on Igbo’; however time will tell. Jonathan lost the election and Igbo still feel bad but we lost nothing because we gained the brotherhood of the South-South. When Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was alive, he visited the Alaafin of Oyo and the Ooni of Ife to extend handshake across the Niger. His action was misunderstood, but he explained that if there was an understanding between the South-East and South-West, it was the beginning of political wisdom.
He also explained that the personalities he went to visit in the West were the greater authorities he had to meet to forge a political understanding. However, after the Igbo had tried in the First Republic and other periods in the political history of Nigeria, they had a change of mind. The Igbo reasoned they had supported the North and the West in the past, and that partnership failed. The Igbo even reasoned that since Ojukwu’s idea of a handshake across the Niger did not work, a new political partnership was necessary. More recently, the South-South, South-East and South-West Assembly was formed aimed at securing support from these zones for Jonathan and also in case an Igbo man decides to contest the presidential election in future.
Meetings were held in Enugu, Asaba and some other places. Ekwueme, Chief ABC Nwosu, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and a host of others attended some of the meetings. Also Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s call for support for Jonathan was done after wide consultations from traditional rulers and important personalities. However, we will still enter into political understanding with the Middle-Belt and the core North after wide discussions. We will let everyone know the reasons the South-East will vie for President and expect wide support from other zones.
Nevertheless, after we try all these things and they fail, the solution lies in the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Confab. If there is any Igbo personality that is begging for recognition and position from the government of Buhari, that person is insulting the Igbo. What we expect from those people is for them to tell Gen. Muhammadu Buhari point blank to implement the report of the National Constitutional Conference of 2014.
You have emphasized the report of the National Conference. Do you think it remains the solution to the agitations of the Igbos?
Before the National Conference, slots were given to political parties. However APC did not send representatives and they made no contributions. All the geo-political zones sent delegates and appreciated that conference as well as saw its relevance. They finally came out with a masterpiece and powerful document on how Nigeria can live together peacefully. Till now, APC has said nothing about that conference and it remains suspicious. So if any person starts asking questions about the reasons the Igbo supported Jonathan, that person is not a student of history. Ndigbo supported Jonathan mainly because of that conference. Therefore any Igbo personality that meets Buhari should urge him to implement the report of the National Conference for equitable Nigeria. When the dust settles, Ohanaeze Ndigbo will go and meet Buhari with a powerful delegation to discuss a way forward and also about the report of the National Conference.
Do Igbo have any regret?
Yes, the Igbo have three regrets. The first is the non-implementation of the Aburi Accord. The second is that the Igbo have not gotten any meaningful gain after their foremost contributions to Nigeria’s independence. The third regret is that the East and West delayed Nigeria’s independence for the North to meet up with the pace of independence. It was because of this that Whitehall imposed federalism on Nigeria. Sadly, our sacrifice is not appreciated.
What are Ohanaeze Ndigbo doing about the ongoing IPOB crisis (struggle forBiafra).?
First of all, I would like to draw your attention to my interview in Vanguard of May 24, 2015 under the headline, ‘Igbo case on National Conference report for Buhari – Ohanaeze National Women Leader. Our regrets as a region in Nigeria’.
granted that interview before President Buhari was sworn-in on May 29, 2015. My reason for granting that interview was for him to know the position of Ndigbo for equitable union government.
When he assumed office and started making appointments, he was supposed to treat all Nigerians fairly according to the oath of office he took; so when he started making appointments, he sidetracked one of the major blocs that contributed more than any other region in Nigeria to give Nigeria the fastest independence. That was what provoked the youths to agitate for Biafra, because they feel that they don’t have any future in one Nigeria. I am again pleading with Mr President as a mother to immediately start the process of implementing the 2014 National Conference report for equitable Nigeria, where everyone would have a sense of belonging without fear or favour. I also use this opportunity to plead with Mr President to grant Nnamdi Kanu unconditional release because he has done nothing to warrant his continuous incarceration.
What is your take on the Patience Jonathan’s issue with EFCC?
I am not against President Buhari’s war against corruption through EFCC but, first of all, the war should be fought with sincerity in all ramifications. If left to me to advise, the President should start the anti-corruption crusade from members of his party to prove to the world that he is sincere in what he is doing, not only fighting the opposition. In my own humble opinion, it is a clear cut agenda to bulldoze the opposition.
As for Jonathan’s wife, I am not against the EFCC probing her but they should beam their search lights also in former first ladies from the North to prove to the world that they are not just out to fight Jonathan’s family who made sure that there was a peaceful transition to the present administration which was acclaimed world wide.
What is your view on current recession under the watch of the APC leading government?
When APC as a political party was campaigning to be voted into power, the leaders knew very well that the economy had a problem, so they came up with the ‘change agenda’, that if voted into power, they would restore the economy, that was the reason Nigerians voted for them.
When they assumed office, they started the blame game and that blame game has continued till today, pretending they didn’t know there was a problem before they took office, instead of doing the needful to restore the economy. Based on that, foreign investors started pulling out their money back to their countries and that is why we are in this present recession. But all hope is not lost because Nigeria have potentials to be great again even more than before within 10 years.
I remember that after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings of the Second World War in Japan, Japanese cut themselves out of the world for 20 years and looked inwardly on how to bounce back. Look at their economic position in the world affairs now. Nigeria’s case is a matter of 10 years, that is why I am pleading with Mr President to do the needful so that we can have a conducive environment to move the Nigerian economy forward.
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