Igbo: Charting The Way Forward


Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues




October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



LUNARPAGES.COM and IPOWERWEB.COM - Despicable WebHosts - Read My Story





Igbo: Charting The Way Forward




Olayinka Oyebode



culled from PUNCH, June 28, 2006


The politics of the South-East people navigated towards a clearer destination on June 16, 2006 in Owerri, the Imo State capital, when prominent sons and daughters of the geo-political zone made another concerted effort at charting a pathway towards realising their collective political aspirations. Although heralded by low media publicity, the Igbo Political Summit with the theme, “Ndigbo, the future and the Presidency 2007,” succeeded in making some clear statements about the position of the Igbo ahead of the 2007 general elections. This could be deduced from the manner speakers at the one-day summit made their submissions with passion.

Prior to the summit, the thinking in some quarters was that the forum was essentially to take a stand on the 2007 presidency and possibly showcase all the aspirants from the zone, with a view to assessing their weaknesses and strength. Whereas, the summit did make some statements regarding the 2007 presidential election and the desire of the Igbo to produce the next president, it also succeeded in using the proverbial one stone to kill three other birds.

Perhaps, the Igbo leaders reckoned that the pursuit of the zone’s desire to produce the next president could not be done successfully without making certain clarifications on some other issues that are of great significance to Ndigbo as a people, especially if they are to be taken serious. Conversely in arriving at a conclusion on the 2007 presidency, the summit also clarified its stand on such issues as the truncated third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo; the lingering leadership crisis in Ohanaeze, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Ndigbo; and attaining the desire for the Igbo to speak with one voice. Interestingly, while it took hours of brilliant and passionate submissions by speakers that included Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and retired Supreme Court Justice, Chukwudifu Oputa, before the summit could take a definite stand on the issue of 2007 presidency and the need for a united voice for Ndigbo, it took the masses in attendance at the summit less than five minutes to determine the position of Ndigbo on the third term agenda as well as the people’s stand on the crisis in Ohanaeze.

The host Governor, Chief Achike Udenwa, set the tone for the day’s discussion when he declared in his opening address that the summit would provide the much-needed ambience for Ndigbo to re-examine themselves and evolve credible strategies to make a strong case for one of them to become the country’s president in 2007. According to Udenwa, “The task is no doubt daunting, but equally achievable. It will require cooperation, consultations and consensus building among Ndigbo and with other geo-political zones. We need to throw up credible candidates and stand behind the most credible of them all. We must support our own sons and seek the support of other zones for this ambition to be realised.”

The governor noted the fact that the South-East was one of the original tripod upon which the foundation of modern Nigeria was built, “it is therefore only proper that the South-East is conceded the presidency in 2007, the same way the South-West benefited from it.” He added that equity and fairness demanded that the geo-political zone be allowed to produce Obasanjo’s successor since the two others, the North and the South-West had produced the president.

The candour with which Ojukwu addressed the summit created some measure of jocose excitement within the conference hall of the Concorde Hotel, venue of the summit. The Ikemba, who addressed the gathering in Igbo language, later had his speech read by a one time Information Minister, Nnia Nwodo. Ojukwu said in the speech, “Where we are today is that the people of the old eastern region have woken up to their long years of pains and neglect to the extent that not only Nigeria but the world is talking about the injustice meted out to them by various governments, past, present. So I am happy that we mean business now and are determined to regain our rightful place in God’s world.”

Ojukwu, however, noted that the summit was not the first of such effort at galvanising the Igbo people to take their rightful place. He also said that the gathering was not a guarantee that the project would be a fait accompli. He said nevertheless, it was important to raise the consciousness of the people.

The ex-biafran leader dismissed insinuations in some quarters that the civil war remained an albatross on the Ndigbo’s quest for the presidency, adding that there was nothing to regret in the war. He said, “It was not a war of succession. There was genocide and we fought a war of survival and we were not defeated. We fought a war for a place in Nigeria and to survive. We went to war to keep the Igbo one.”

Other speakers included Oputa; a former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe; Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu; former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim. They dwelled on the need for the zone to produce the next president.

The summit’s communiqué, which was jointly signed by Ojukwu and Oputa, stated as follows:

•To continue to uphold the unity of Nigeria as one nation on the basis of equality of all its constituent peoples and on the basis of justice and equity

•That Ndigbo will strive for total unity and total commitment to our age-old philosophy of Igwebuike. It was also firmly resolved that all who betray the present struggle for an Igbo person to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall stand permanently dishonoured in the entire Igboland and shall die unwept, unmourned and unsung.

•That Ndigbo being honourable people shall honour the agreements reached with other groups. Accordingly, the summit re-affirmed that ‘given the fact that the other zones have dominated the highest office in the land since independence, the South-East or the South-South shall produce the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2007. This demand is based on justice, equity, fairness, good conscience and historical antecedents.

•That any Igbo who is positioning for vice-president position is not only on his own but also stands condemned in Igboland. This is because for Ndigbo, there shall be no compromise whatsoever on the attainment of the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in year 2007.

•That Ndigbo believe in good governance. Consequently the summit resolved that come 2007, federal elections, only credible and competent persons with proven track records shall be elected to occupy political offices in Igboland namely: state governors, members of the national and state assemblies and local government chairmen and councillors.

•That we insist on the immediate creation of an additional state in the South-East zone of Nigeria as recommended by the National Political Reform Conference.

•That the summit re-affirmed the belief of Ndigbo in true federalism. To this end the summit urges that six geo-political zones with equality of states be enshrined in the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

•The summit insists that Imo and Abia States be included in the Niger Coastal states. We deplore and will resist excision of Igbo states from institutions designed for the benefit of oil producing states no matter by whatever name the institutions are designed.

•That after excessive spilling of Igbo blood in the past, specially the most recent arising from a cartoon in far away Denmark, Ndigbo warn seriously that enough is enough and they will react instantly to wanton shedding of Igbo blood anywhere in Nigeria and will organise to protect Ndigbo wherever they choose to live and do business in Nigeria.

•That an implementation committee be set up to effect these decisions.

While the summit officially endorsed the issue of unity and the importance of an Igbo man becoming the next president of the country, the zone’s pronouncement on the truncated third term came in form of a melodrama. Ironically, the people’s voice was a departure from the acclaimed position of the zone’s wise men during the zonal public hearing on the constitutional amendment and during the debate in the National Assembly.

Whereas some of the South-East governors and members of the National Assembly supported the tenure elongation of President Obasanjo, the reaction of the people of the zone to the issue during the summit showed clearly that those who supported the truncated agenda might have done so without the approval of the people on whose behalf they claimed to have spoken. The summit had progressed without any direct reference to the third term issue, until Nwodo mounted the podium to read Ojukwu’s address. The former minister who also echoed Ojukwu’s position that some saboteurs could be out to frustrate the current efforts the same way past efforts were sabotaged.

Nwodo had scarcely finished his speech before the attention of the audience shifted to the duo of Senators Arthur Nzeribe and Ifeanyi Araraume on the high table. The two senators who were pro-third term became uncomfortable, especially as appeared slighted by Nwodo’s comment. But the audience, apparently in appreciation of Nwodo’s boldness at stirring the issue of third term, started to boo and jeer at Nzeribe and Araraume. The development compelled the duo to storm out of the auditorium. But the audience comprising mainly women shouted “holy Ghost fire” repeatedly and made uncomplimentary gestures towards the two lawmakers as they left the venue.

It was the turn of the President-General of Ohanaeze, Prof. Joe Irukwu, to address the gathering. But again, the people felt it was time a position was taken on the factional crisis that had rendered the group impotent for a while. Irukwu was prevented from speaking despite the intervention of Udenwa.

Anyim, one of the facilitators of the summit, was opposed to the reaction of the people to the pro-third term Igbo indigenes. Anyim said that it was time Nigerians put the third term issue behind them in order to build a better society. Specifically, Anyim said that the South-East needed to carry all its sons and daughters along in the quest for the presidency in 2007.

A major minus for the one-day summit was the absence of most serving public office holders. Udenwa was the only governor at the summit. No Minister of Igbo extraction attended, while only three of the 15 senators from the zone were in attendance. This is in spite of the listing of two of them - Uche Chukwumerije and Joy Emordi - as major speakers.

While some observers blamed the poor pre-summit publicity for the low turn out, others saw it as a sign of division within the ranks of the South-East leadership. In fact, the absence of the governors was seen as a public exhibition of the unhealthy rivalry that exists among them

But Udenwa feels that the absence of the public office holders did not in any way diminish the summit. He believes that the absence showed that there was no government agenda in the entire show, adding, “The lack of strong presence of any government makes the summit more credible.”

The presence of prominent presidential aspirants, including Prof. Pat Utomi and Chief Rochas Okorochas, added colour to the summit, just as did the campaign posters of the Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Kalu, and Udenwa.




horizontal rule

© 1999 - 2006 Segun Toyin Dawodu. All rights reserved. All unauthorized copying or adaptation of any content of this site will be liable to  legal recourse.

Contact:   webmaster@dawodu.com

Segun Toyin Dawodu, P. O. BOX 710080, HERNDON, VA  20171-0080, USA.

This page was last updated on 10/27/07.