THE perennial demand for enthroning a re-structured Nigeria and the recognition of the inalienable rights of the people to seek for self-determination, dominated the discussions by Igbo leaders at the World Igbo Congress, (WIC), Summit recently held in Enugu.
Among the Igbo leaders and intelligentsia at the Congress, were the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, the Leader of the South East Caucus in the Senate, Enyinaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia State), the WIC chairman Joe Nze Eto, the president of Alaigbo Foundation Prof. T. Uzodinma Nwala.
While most speakers flayed the All Progressive Congress (APC) led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the worsening condition of the Igbo in Nigeria, Ekweremadu in his speech noted that the allegation of Igbo disunity has been exaggerated and taken to ridiculous levels.
Ekweremadu urged Ndigbo not to allow themselves to be provoked into resorting to an armed struggle, as an option besides sustaining peaceful agitation for equity and justice in the country. He blamed propagandists who were merely dwelling on the disunity to further keep Ndigbo rudderless and divided. For him therefore, the minimum “Ndigbo demands from Nigeria is a restructuring of the federation so that every component part can substantially harness its resources.”
According to him: “We must never relent until the needful is done. So far, there has not been any violent engagement by Ndigbo and this peaceful struggle for a better deal within the Nigerian commonwealth should be sustained.
“On the flipside, the rights of Ndigbo to peaceful and democratic engagement must be respected. Those who try to muffle and subdue democratic engagements by citizens are only playing into the hands of anarchists.”
He further faulted those who were agitating for violence: “The minimum demand is a restructure of the federation so that every component part of it can substantially harness its resources, cut its coat according to its cloth, and develop at its own speed. Instructively, the ill-fated Aburi Accord was about restructuring, even if it is not exactly as we want it today. But it was breached and discarded, plunging the nation into an avoidable fratricidal war. Yet, 50 years after, the need and call for restructuring and return to a true federal state have only persisted. Although the call initially fell on deaf ears, it is heartwarming that the right quarters are beginning to listen and the call is gathering traction daily, even from hitherto improbable quarters.
“No matter the intimidation, harassment, and marginalisation of our people, we must never be provoked into an armed struggle. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. But we must consistently continue to say a loud, ‘No!, until we get to the promised land of an equitable and just society.”
The stunted development in the South East however caught his attention as he urged Ndigbo to “keep their eyes on the ball, invest homewards,” while insisting that the task of developing Igbo land is primarily the responsibility, of every Igbo person, essentially because “the benefits from a developed and economically viable Igbo land is to their primary benefit.”
Obi, who like most other speakers signed up with the clamour for a restructured Nigeria, tasked Ndigbo to identify their leaders. He said: “I believe in restructure of Nigeria but we as Ndigbo emphasis in investing in our future more that political demands. We should invest in education, knowledge, because the future of the world is knowledge economy.
“Are we going to die talking about yesterday? We should show love and care for ourselves. We should encourage local investment. Position and power is not all that matter. Ndigbo must not stop where Nigeria dropped us.”
Abaribe, who noted that there is no section of the 1999 Constitution that gives room for a referendum, urged the agitators for self-determination to exploit the opportunity presented by the on-going constitutional amendment in the National Assembly to promote inclusion of a referendum clause in the constitution. He noted that more than ever before, Ndigbo deserve unity today.
The Chairman of the WIC summit, Joe Nze Eto, noted that “there is overwhelming recognizable evidence that the Buhari administration is still asserting the spoils of war on south Eastern states.”
He said that the WIC condemns the recent invasion by security agents on Ekweremadu’s guest house in Abuja, warning that nobody has the authority to harass any Igbo leader, particularly the DSP.
The leader of Lower Niger Congress, Mazi Tony Nnadi, noted that there was no short cut to getting things right in the country and if the drfit, continued, it will not augur well for anyone. Noting that, “it is either we fix Nigeria now or everybody will stay in his own house,” Nnadi claimed that the Igbo question in 1966 remained the Eastern Nigeria question, the Biafra question and still remains the same question in the present Nigeria.