NINTH President General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, 65, a lawyer, economist, and former minister, was in Lagos, last Thursday, to address Ndigbo in the state on restructuring and why they must unite, end their differences and hold credible Ohanaeze election in the state.
ON why he visited and addressed Ndigbo in Lagos.
Out of the 36 states of Nigeria apart from the seven states where Igbo are aborigines, there is no state that has more Igbo population than Lagos. The size of the Igbo in Lagos is more than the population of some states. Igbo in Lagos are hard working. Igbo investments in Lagos State are more than Igbo investment in the entire Igbo Nation. Igbo’s contribution to the economy of Lagos is not less than 40 percent of the internally generated revenue of the state. Our exposure in Lagos is huge but not commensurate with the attention we are getting in Lagos. There are no fewer than four million Igbo in Lagos but there is no Igbo in the Lagos executive council. They destroy Igbo shops and business centres without inviting them for discussion. They forcefully relocate Igbo businesses even when they did not violate the law. What is bad is bad. Nigeria’s constitution guarantees every citizen right to free citizenship wherever you live. Will Lagos be different? The problems Igbo are having in Lagos Ohanaeze are giving us sleepless nights in Enugu. That is why I am here to plead with Igbo in Lagos: forgive and forget your bitterness and reconcile. With unity, Igbo will get their dues in Lagos. Ohanaeze leadership has no candidate in the fresh Ohanaeze election in Lagos. The previous election held without following the directives of Ohanaeze National Executive Committee, NEC, remains null and void. The fresh election will include all aspirants, new aspirants and those who took part in the first election. Igbo in Lagos must select a credible, truthful and well to do candidate to lead them. I will monitor and ensure a transparent election.
On agitation for Biafra and Igbo youths criticising Ohanaeze leaders of killing Biafra and Biafrans
Nobody should touch these youths because they re my children. Whether I agree with them or not, they have a right to express themselves. When I was their age I was in the trench of Biafra fighting. I am not sure that anyone of them has heard the sound of a gun. I lost my best friend, who was with me in the trench; a mortar caught him in the chest and he died instantly. Anybody at my age who does not speak the truth is not doing himself any good. Ohanaeze does not support war; we support restructuring, which will allow the federating units in Nigeria to take charge of their affairs. Our young men must learn; we know better than them and they must learn to listen to us. In order to get a pride of place for every Nigerian, we must ask ourselves how do we do it. If we go back to the trenches to fight, we are doing a disservice to this nation; we are doing a disservice to our children. More than half a million Igbo died in the war.
One and half million starved to death. There was a blockade of Biafra during the war. If four planes were bringing relief materials to Biafra, only one landed. After the war another one million, children of two to three years became orphans with nobody to take care of them. Many of them were scattered all over the world, suffering. I am alive today because of the grace of God. I could have died on the war front like my best friend, the son of Hon. BC Ugwu. My late friend and I were from privileged backgrounds and attended the best schools both at home and abroad but we went to war. You cannot be an adult and not fight the war during my youth. I don’t want that to happen to these young ones. With jaw-jaw instead of war, we can address the problems of the country. Why I am recalling these is, anybody who plans to bring another war on Igbo land, I, John Nnia Nwodo, will be a saboteur. Look at the states fighting for independence across the world and how they are doing it. Catalonia (in Spain) went for a referendum organised by a regional government. How can you organise a referendum in a country (Nigeria) where you don’t have regions? But even at that, with 87 percent ‘yes’ for independence for Catalonia at the referendum, the European Union opposed it and the Spanish Government went after Catalonia regional leaders. You cannot get self-determination and referendum in Nigeria unless through the legislature, which is dominated by those opposed to it. The Federal Government supports self-determination in Morocco (Western Sahara) but not in Nigeria. To get self-determination and referendum without the National Assembly, you have to use the African Union and get the resolution of the United Nations. To get UN resolution for self-determination in former colonies, you must get the backing of the former colonial masters. The British High Commissioner in Nigeria is against it and the UN must defer to the UK since we were British colony That is why Ohanaeze wants the restructuring of Nigeria. Let everyone support the restructuring of the country. South-East under siege, Igbo youths agitation in order We are being treated like defeated people in Nigeria.
The South-East is under siege. I understand why our youths are angry. In the 2018 budget proposal, for example, the South-East has the least allocation for capital projects, which means we are regarded as second-class citizens. The cry of the Igbo youths is good because it shows that they are angry but I disagree with their strategy. Let us support restructuring. With the restructuring, Anambra, for example, will have state police and take care of its security arrangements without waiting for the Federal Government. The states will control their resources, keep 50 percent of their revenue, and contribute 50 percent to the centre, which is further shared among all tiers of government. The Federal Government will use its share to handle functions like immigration, customs, central banking regulations and aviation regulation, external affairs, and external defence. The Federal Government will not be involved with health, education, environment, oil and mineral resources. That was how it was before and after independence. The Federal Government has no business with education. In the past the regions handled education. In our days, we had foreigners as classmates in Nigeria. Our universities were among the best in the world. The quality of education was very high. Our graduates were accepted and could get jobs in any part of the world. But today, the quality of education is down because of quota system. This problem will be addressed with restructuring. When oil was discovered at Oloibiri in the late 50s, it belonged to the Eastern Nigeria Government, and my father, Chief John Nnia Nwodo (Snr.), had the privilege of commissioning the first oil well as the minister of Industry of Eastern Nigeria. Then, we were practising true federalism. We are no longer practising federalism but call ourselves Federal Republic of Nigeria. Why Nigeria must be restructured The military wrote the 1999 Constitution. Justice Niki Tobi led the committee that wrote the constitution. As the Chief Spokesman of the government, I did not participate in the making of the constitution. It is the constitution that gave rise to the National Assembly. So the National Assembly cannot give us a new constitution. The 1999 constitution was drafted by the military. There was no constituent assembly; there was no referendum. Nobody in this country voted for this constitution. It was an imposition by a military government. So, the constitution is not authoctonous, that is it was not brought by the people. We have asked for a conference of all the peoples of Nigeria. We have started a meeting of Southern Leaders Forum constituting of the South East as represented by Ohanaeze, South West as represented by Afenifere, and South-South as represented the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). We have reached a resolution that we want restructuring and the Middle Belt of Nigeria has joined us. Last week, Northern senators issued a rejoinder to our position on restructuring, saying that we are heating up the polity but they did not address the points we raised.
On Igbo taking their destinies into their hands
During the recent quit notice to Igbo living in the North by Arewa youths, the Ohanaeze compiled a register of Igbo living in the North. In the register, there are 11.6 million Igbo in Northern Nigeria. We will generate the same register for Igbo living in Lagos. If half of the Igbo adults pay a monthly contribution of N100, we will build any infrastructure we want. That was how Catalonia started.