Dr. Godson Chukwuma Ezenagu, former Anambra State Commissioner for Agriculture, and one-time chairman, Anambra State Housing Development Corporation, is today the President-General, Ndi-Igbo United Forum Worldwide. In this interview with Deputy Editor MIKE UBANI, Ezenagu explains the mission of the organization, and calls for unity among the disparate groups in Igboland so as to achieve rapid socio-economic, political development of the region.
What does this organization stand for?
We found out that a gap existed in the conduct and management of affairs in Igboland, and Ndi-Igbo United Forum came in to fill this gap. You have Ohanaeze, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization; you have Aka Ikenga, you have MASSOB, IPOP, etc. These organizations have not been able to put their acts together. You have friction here and there, and the result is that Ndigbo have continued to suffer marginalization and lack of progress in the socio-economic and political development of the zone. And you know that nature abhors vacuum, and that gave rise to the birth of Ndi-Igbo United Forum. We have come to fill the vacuum in the conduct and management of Igbo affairs.
Does that suggest that you have come to displace Ohanaeze?
No. We have not come to fight anybody. Rather, we have come to dialogue with the people and the different organizations in Igboland with a view to maintaining and enhancing, peace, unity and progress in Igboland. We are not going to be confrontational. We are going to cooperate with governments at all levels. What we are waving is an olive branch. We are preaching peace in Igboland; peace in Nigeria, togetherness, and inclusiveness. We are out to ensure the welfare of Ndigbo being the third most populous nation in this country. If you have anything to do with Ndigbo, don’t marginalize them because they have gotten a voice to speak for them.
So, what has this organization achieved so far?
This organization is a young one, though not a toddler. Besides preaching peace and unity in Igboland, we have found as unacceptable the extortion of electricity consumers by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) through the estimated billing system, and we are dealing with that matter. It is unfortunate and most worrisome that an indigent Igbo man or woman, or a low level worker, who perhaps earns less than thirty thousand naira monthly, is given between fifteen and twenty thousand naira electricity bill monthly by the EEDC. We looked at it and decided to protest against this extortion/exorbitant charge, and I think we are making good progress. We have had series of meetings with EEDC, and we have even decided to go to court if they fail to listen to our pleas to give consumers free pre-paid meter instead of using estimated billing to extort money from them. And where they are not able to provide the pre-paid meter, they should not charge exorbitant tariff. The EEDC now know that Ndigbo have a voice to speak for them. We keep advising the other Igbo groups who are fighting for one thing or the other to bury their hatchet, and come together to lift the Igbo nation to a higher ground.
Does that include Ohanaeze?
Yes. Even though the Chairman, Board of Trustees of this organization, Hon. Chinedu Mba, has congratulated Prof. George Obiozor, for emerging as the new president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yet he advised him to put his house in order; warned him to fly the Olive branch, and bring the other faction to his side so that we can speak with one voice. A situation where the governors of the South East are talking left and Ohanaeze is talking right, and IPOB stays at the centre cannot advance the cause of Ndigbo. So, one of our major objectives is to bring all the warring factions in Igboland together so that we can speak with one voice. That is our major pre-occupation, and that is what we want to achieve.
Can one say that Ndi-Igbo United Forum is a political organization?
Good. Ndi-Igbo United Forum is a non-political organization. If you are an APC member, we’ll welcome you; if you are PDP, you are welcome, if you are APGA or YPP, we’ll welcome you with open hands. This forum belongs to all Ndigbo. What we are trying to do is to pull ourselves together to achieve peace, unity and progress in Igboland. We want good governance for our people,
What is your message to those aspiring to take over the mantle of leadership from Governor Willie Obiano, of Anambra State during this year’s gubernatorial election in the state?
Our appeal to those vying for governorship position in Anambra state is that they should respect the will of the people. Anambra people say they want zoning of the governorship position. You know in the interest of equity and good conscience, the position of the governor should be rotated among the zones that make up the state. Having said this, we are not going to support any political party except when their governorship candidates emerge. At that time, we’ll sit down and look at the candidates to find out who among them will perform better in office. There and then, we can give that person our support. We are interested in who will rule Anambra best. The message we have for them is to go indoors, go into their conclaves, and choose the best candidates, and present them to the electorate. We’ll support any candidate be he from the PDP, APC, APGA, YPP whom we think will do well in government.
What is the position of Ndi-Igbo United Forum on the clamour for a Nigeria president of Igbo extraction in 2023?
We are saying that what concerns Ndigbo is paramount in our agenda. And we are looking at Nigeria as a project, as an enterprise, and Ndigbo has a share in that project. Nigeria is standing on a tripod. The Hausa/Fulani have ruled the country; the Yoruba have ruled this country, but Ndigbo have not ruled at all. We are asking that Ndigbo should be given a chance to produce the next president of the country under the principle of equity and natural justice. If you don’t use inclusiveness in what you are doing, you are not going anywhere. That is why you see restiveness all over the place. Boko Haram, IPOB is as a result of restiveness, banditry, kidnapping. Our leaders have not been ruling well; they have not been consulting well. Somebody is marginalizing some people somewhere. If you do not allow Ndigbo to provide the next president of the country, it’s like beating a child, and you ask the child not to cry. Of course, the child will cry, and when he does, you may not have rest. My advice to the political parties – PDP, APC, APGA YPP is that they should pick their presidential candidates from the South-East. They may zone it to the South, and when it come s to the South, the South will choose which zone will produce the president. I am sure the South will zone the presidency to the South-East since South-South has produced a president, and South-West too has produced a president. It’s only the South-East that is yet to produce the president of the country. I believe that for the sake of equity, justice and fairness, the next president of the country should come from the South-East geo-political zone.