Kaduna-based legal practitioner and the president, Ohaneze Ndigbo in the 19 Northern States/FCT, Barr. Augustine Amaechi has said it will be unfair to deny Ndigbo the presidency in 2023 just because of the existence of Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB). He also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts
You once said that a president of Igbo extraction will address Nigeria’s dwindling economy. Are you saying this because you are an Igbo man?
No! I am saying this from experience and the reality on ground. Ndigbo have succeeded economically in Nigeria. After the war, some of them came to the north and other parts of the country with nothing and succeeded. Look! God created man with certain talents.The Igbo man is gifted with economic prowess. He succeeds in his family, community, among others.
I want to take you back to the building of the present Cargo Airport in the present day Imo state, which was built through the efforts of the people of the state and not by the federal government. So they are talented in terms of economic management and I am sincerely of the opinion that they will do well in managing Nigeria’s wobbling economy and restore it to the path of growth and not borrowing all the time.
You are aware that Ndigbo are highly divided, even at the Ohaneze level. A typical example is Abuja, the nation’s capital, where you have two opposing Ohaneze Ndigbo executives and we have two opposing Ndieze Igbo both in the northern Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Do you think that they can achieve presidency with factionalised groups here and there?
They don’t need to all be in one boat to achieve the presidency. They need to come together for certain issues. It isn’t necessary for Ndigbo to agree on every issue. You know that they are in different political parties and that is the beauty of democracy.
But I can assure you that at the point of selection of the presidency of the Igbo extraction of this country, Ndigbo will come together. At the point the political parties have selected, it is their duties, not necessarily Ndigbo that should select the flag bearers of their parties. For example, if each of the parties selects an Igbo man as its flag bearer, you will see unity. Ndigbo are republican in nature and shouldn’t speak in one voice. Are Yorubas speaking in one voice? When Obasanjo came out to contest, didn’t Olu Falae come out? The Hausa, are they speaking one voice? Tell me any president that emanated from the north that was not challenged from the north? I can assure you that the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo under Prof. George Obiozor, will play his role and get everything harmonised.
Are you talking about Ndigbo in the south-south or those in the Benue?
I am talking about Ndigbo Worldwide. We are going to be united at the point of selecting an Igbo as presidential candidates by parties. You are going to see a massive unity of Ndigbo, ever seen before. I don’t see the essence of Ndigbo speaking with one voice in all issues. We need different views and expect leaders like Prof. George Obiozor to call them together and harmonise the views. I am convinced that with knowledge of diplomacy, experience and interest, we are going to achieve this.
Politicians from other tribes like Hausa-Fulani say that existence of IPOB in the area will hinder the dream of producing a president from Igbo land. What is your view?
That there are IPOB or MOSSOB in Igbo land is not an excuse to deny the tribe the right to produce a president from that area. Did the existence of Boko Haram in the north deny them presidency? The way we do our thing as Ndigbo is that, when there is a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, we call the agitators to order and that is what I expect the present government to do. If there are disturbances, from a particular stock, from the Fulani extraction, and the president of Nigeria is a Fulani and I haven’t heard him calling them to order, inviting them to a meeting to ask them why they have been disturbing, or will understand what to do better for them to stop, being involved mainly in kidnapping. He is in a position to know their psychology, problem and he will be able to solve them. I am still saying that a president of Igbo extraction will be able to find out why those boys are agitating and will say , look! I want justice and why are you agitating.
I still say it, Ndigbo are better in Nigeria. The reason is this. We need a larger market. We travel a lot. That place alone can’t enter all of us. We are better in a united Nigeria, but that doesn’t mean that we shall take every form of bashing or denials quietly without speaking out as if we are nobody.
Most politicians suggest Igbo people of South East. What is your view?
Absolutely, they are correct. Let us agree the fact that we are in one Nigeria and there should be equity, justice and fairness. The stronger party shouldn’t swallow the weaker one. You give the one the opportunity to fail. If the current president of Nigeria wasn’t allowed to rule Nigeria, people would be regretting that had it been that Buhari was allowed to rule Nigeria, Nigeria would have been better. Now the whole world has seen if he had succeeded or not. Give Ndigbo four years and after that and they didn’t do well, then you change and that is the beauty of democracy. I am telling you that Nigerians will marvel at the achievements of an Igbo man as a president after four years.
According to you, Ndigbo are better economic managers, but most of you are still investing heavily outside Igbo land, contrary to the advice of Ojukwu when he was alive. As one of them, can you react to this?
His advice was, while investing outside Igbo land, remember home. Translated into Igbo: “Oje mba chetakwa ulo.” His advice was very good and in summary, it means that while investing, establishing, remember to have either your head office at home, but you can have branches elsewhere; you remember your family, village, community, among others.
What will be your advice for Mr President in his administration?
He is an experienced man who fought for Nigeria’s unity. He should carry all along in his appointment. Constitutionally, the ministerial appointment went round, but that is not where his power stopped. He should spread other appointments to other Nigerians, because he is a president for all.
What exactly is the way forward for Ohaneze Ndigbo in the North/FCT?
We should be united, focused devoid of opposition and bickering. Those who should step aside when their time is over should do so and I can assure you when the time comes for me to have a successor, I will do so, without insisting that the person must be anointed by me.
A leader of Ohaneze Nd’Igbo in the 19 Northern States/FCT should be a rich man, because we aren’t given any subvention from anybody. As a president of Ohaneze, I have never gone to any governor to beg for money. If I am summoned in Enugu tonight, by the next morning, I am in Enugu. You don’t need to be the richest man in the world, but you should be able to fend for yourself and cater for the immediate need of the association. You shouldn’t beg the governor who has a lot at hand. You should be a little bit capable of steering the ship of the association.
What is the next plan for the association?
The next plan is to: move forward; unite Ndigbo in the north, by having a regular meeting; organise cultural events and football club to unite Ndigbo in the north; look at our problems in the north and find a way of solving them; also remember home as advised by Ojukwu. In Abuja, the former governor of Imo state, Achike Udenwa urges Ndigbo in the north to unite under the umbrella of Ohaneze, irrespective of their association. Unite under Ohaneze Ndigbo in the 19 Northern States/ FCT.
If fully united, we can decide to fund a project in the east. You can’t leave everything to the government. There are things you should do for your village, community and local government.
Assume that each of about 11million Ndigbo in the north can pay N100 per month as monthly dues, imagine how much we can realise in 10 months time and we might decide to sponsor a project in the east. Standing under different canopies won’t help us. We need to come together to unite Ndigbo in the north, so as to achieve a common objective. If my stepping aside can achieve this, I can do that
In the north where you are in charge, there are two opposing: Ndieze in the 19 Northern states;
Ohaneze Ndigbo in FCT, among others. Can you tell us your efforts to unite them?
When the military banned Igbo Union (IU), Ohaneze started in 1976, as a socio – cultural organisation. In line with its constitution, Ohaneze was formed in some states of the north and I was able to unite them into one umbrella.Before then, due to the ban of IU, Ndigbo in the north started welfare association, but during the time of Nwodo as PG of Ohaneze, we gathered all the leaders of the association in Abuja and made them understand the reason why they should come under one umbrella as Ohaneze, which they did. This will fully be implemented now that Obiozor is the PG. The leader of the other group is Nwogu and after the harmonization, in order to promote unity, I am willing to step aside for anyone who wants to lead Ohaneze in the 19 Northern States/ FCT. In Abuja, there are not only two factions of Ohaneze, but also Ndieze equally. What are you doing to address this?
In our meeting in Abuja, Ohaneze wasn’t devided, because it was under Nwodozi. At the end of his administration, people felt that there be an election. At the end, the people conducted election and Barr. Arua emerged as the president, while Nwodozi sees himself as a president who hasn’t handed over. So we have set up a committee headed by Chief Ebele and advised him to invite Nwodozi, so as to settle the matter amicably. This is expected in an organization and with God we shall settle the matter. I respect Nwodozi as a respected member of Ohaneze, but I want him to know that Abuja has conducted election and the present leader is Barr. Arua.
On Ndieze in Abuja and Ndieze in the 19 Northern States/FCT, we know that there are some ripples; call it division and this is a case of the minority airing their views, majority having their way. This emanated from leadership when our respected Eze Ndigbo in FCT, HRH Nwosu Ibe was the overall leader of Ndieze and Ezeigbo in Kano decided to form his own group. So we are aware of it and we are finding a way to settle it. This is inevitable in an organization and as leaders, the onus is at us to settle it, which we are doing.
Though insecurity is all over the country, but it is very alarming in the north, what plan do you have for the safety of Ndigbo in the area?
Very interesting question, but insecurity isn’t restricted to the north. It is all over the country. My advice to my people is that they attend Igbo meetings and go to their various houses when they close. Let everybody be security – conscious and avoid leaving in an isolated area, you relocate if so.
I call on the governent to liaise with the people. Let the local government organise the indigenes into vigilante group, with the help of the state government and of course the regular security outfit, like the police. If the local and state governments play their roles, the thing will be easier for the one man called the president, who is in a secluded area called Ask Rock and it will be unfair for him to send the Army to defend your village. So we should all help.
Having said that, the governors are not really helpful in explaining what they do with their security votes. Are they helping the vigilante groups, the police, the village? What is difficult in bringing CCTV in strategic places so as to be able to catch those who burn police stations in the states and do other similar vices and show them to the whole world. While I hail Ndigbo in the north for having not been partaking in the causes of insecurity in the north, I urge Nigerians to be helpful by giving useful information to the police.
Don’t you think that banning of open gazing by the southern governors will result into increase in the price of meat?
It won’t and ranching should be applied. Let the herders embrace ranching, because it is a private business. Let the government encourage them by giving them loans and lands for ranching. Let them embrace education; moving cows from one state to the other; from one bush to the other is not only out of the way, but also dangerous. Former President Goodluck Jonathan built schools for the Almajiri in the north. Why they abandon the schools defeats my imagination.