Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural body, has criticized the marginalization of the people of the South-East in Nigeria’s governance structure.
Alex Ogbonnia, a spokesman for Ohanaeze, said in a conversation with one of our correspondents on Thursday that the fact that the Igbo were dispersed across Nigeria and prospered in business should not be a cause for the current regime to deny them a place in the country’s governing system.
He was responding to President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that the people of the South-East were enterprising and in charge of the country’s economy while on a one-day visit to Imo State.
“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”, Buhari said at a town hall gathering with Igbo leaders in Owerri.
“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 reaction, Ogbonnia stated that, despite the fact that the Igbo people remained entrepreneurial, they were still ignored.
He stated, “The Igbo are marginalised in the 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 the governance structure; the injustice we are talking about is in the governance structure”.
“You cannot because they are an enterprising set of people deny them their fair share in the governance structure of this country”.
Earlier during the President’s visit to Owerri, Prof George Obiozor, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, remarked that, contrary to popular belief, the Igbo people are not secessionists.
Obiozor urged Buhari to ensure the release of Igbo youngsters detained by security agents in various detention centres.
He stated that Ndigbo would remain a part of Nigeria as long as the country remained free of injustice.
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 the universalism of mankind; this is who we are”.
He quoted an Igbo adage that 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 to 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”.
While addressing the President, he stated that, 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.