OHANAEZE TOWN HALL MEETING AND NNIA NWODO’S RALLYING CALL.

The general outing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo which held at the Practicing Pitch of the National Stadium Surulere on Thursday 14th December 2017 was important. The meeting was advertised as A town hall meeting though, but was actually an open air, market Square kind of meeting. The sense in it I guess was to get more people to attend. And many did attend.

However, since the meeting came and passed, a lot of commentaries about the meeting and the speech by the President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo has been making the rounds. One thing, for sure is that most of the commentaries were elliptic and limited to the facts before the commentators. I was there from 11.45am till 4.50pm. And below I give my thoughts and opinions about it.

The speech was the high point of the event. And was delivered with flair and an eye on the historical import of what he was saying. He spoke in a mix of both Igbo Language and English for the press who may not be Igbo. *{Anyone who wants the full mp3 version of the speech can have it, if you are on Telegram just inbox me and I will send it to you}* I have heard Ike Ukehe speak many times, but this particular speech was quite animated and intense.

His thrust were in three parts. The mundane, which concerned the irritable matter of the crisis in Ohanaeze Lagos and the need to negotiate through the matter with calm and tolerance. The next, was an address to the Northern ruling extablishment arm of the Federal government, and the irony of its two faced policy of denial; he raised pertinent issues about restructuring and the position of Ndigbo in Nigeria. The third, was a rallying call to Ndigbo in Lagos to leverage on their numeric, investment and wealth advantages in Lagos to demand for their rights and to engineer the rebirth of ala Igbo. A fourth thrust was introduced, I guess not originally planned, but because some young IPOB members walked into the venue, raising placards demanding for the truth about Nnamdi Kanu and instead of allowing them to be molested or harassed, he stopped the security men from so doing saying *”No one should touch these boys, they are my children, even if I do not agree with them, they have a right to express their feelings.”*

“Outside the seven states where Igbos are aborigines, Lagos holds the largest concentration of Ndigbo anywhere else in the world. The population of Ndigbo in Lagos is more than that of many states.” This is the very reason why we are paying particular attention to what is happening here, he said.

The conflict within Ohanaeze Lagos was an eyesore he said. And having waded into it, we are pleading with every body in obedience to the decision of the Executive to sheath their swords, he said. It pays none of us to continue on this line and Lagos occupies such a high value for us that we must get it right, he said. He urged and reprimanded and instructed everyone about the core values of Ohanaeze. Above all he announced a blanket across board forgiveness for all those who toed a different line and all those who disobeyed Enugu’s directives. On the whole he reminded Ndigbo that getting their acts together would have a lot of positive impact on their business and lives here in Lagos and by extension Igbo land. A transition committee has been set up and they would work with all stake holders to ensure that a credible and successful election is conducted by the end of January 2018, he informed all those gathered.

Addressing the larger issues of contemporary Nigeria and its failure to deliver real political dividends took a better part of the 45 minutes or so speech. Nigeria needs to be restructured, he stated. There is no longer any evidence that we should remain the way we are. The Northern oligarchy has simply refused to provide us with any superior arguments as to why we should not restructure. The larger South, consisting of the Yorubas, the Igbos and the Various peoples of the South South have been talking and our positions are in sync with the larger groups of the middle belt. Our legislators are talking, our Governors are talking and that is good. *”For we have agreed that the best way to get things done is by restructuring the country. We cannot go on allowing a distorted federation, managed by a handful of people from the North to hold us down.”* *”Is it ironic that the Northern government of Nigeria speaks up for the granting of autonomy to Morroco, Palestinians, Qatarians and other Muslim people, yet it denies it to its own citizens?”*

The Constitution of Nigeria was not agreed upon. It was written by the army and Nigerians were not consulted. It was an imposition by the Army. This Northern dominated national assembly which is presiding over Nigeria today cannot restructure the country because they are more Northern members in numbers, he continued.

The South-East is under siege. We cannot be treated a second class citizens, and expect us to be silent.

What’s restructuring? The states become the federating units. They would have their police and judiciary. With restructuring, the federal government would not be involved, in Education, Health, environment, agriculture, oil and mineral resources. We need to go back to Pre 1960 constitution. With restructuring, people would control their resources. With that each state, retains 50% of its revenue and remit 50% to the federal government from where each state would get a share of the National disbursement from 30% that would be set aside. The remaining 20% funds will then be retained by the center for Immigration, Custom, federal bank for control currency and regulation, Aviation regulations, external Affairs, external defense. That’s summarily what we demand as restructuring. The federal government has no business being in control of Education. Today the quality of Education has fallen because of quota system. With restructuring, it would be bye bye quota system.

*”The young would continue to agitate as long as the cards are stacked against Ndigbo. I may disagree with their style or the content of their agitation, but they have a right to say their piece. I have made this clear both to the delegation of the EU that came to see me and the President of the country when we met alongside the Governors of the South-East. As long as Ndigbo are kept on the margins, our people would continue to agitate. No need pretending that things are okay, they are not. Ndigbo requires and demands for a total restructuring of the country and its governance system. However, I do not agree with the youths, who just came in now with their placards that Secession and violence would take us closer and faster to what seek. I saw enough violence during the war, where I lost my close friend on the trenches. We lost over 1.5 million people during the war and were completely decimated. Having gone through that trauma, and seeing its devastation upon us, I cannot and would not condone another war. I am pretty sure that most of these youths clamouring for war, haven’t even heard the sound of a gunshot nearby. Let me make it clear to everyone here, if today the South East is dragged into another war, I would oppose it I would become a saboteur.”*

The essential thing that faces Ndigbo today is to pursue restructuring with every thing they have, irrespective of the difficulties. Our future lies in how we work our way through this process. Let’s learn the lessons of Catalonia and its recently botched efforts. Nigeria as presently constituted is stacked against us. There is no autonomy or referendum in the constitution, hence the need for us to work with our Southern neighbors.

On the whole, it was a moving speech. A rally call in some Part and a call to action in others. I feel that those who have come to criticize the PG have not or did not hear the speech. He never shied away from calling it the way he saw it. On the other hand, many are condemning his coming to Lagos to make such important speech. I simply say Chai, Ndigbo, how can you ever be pleased? I have been part of the Ohanaeze movement from the inside since 2000 working as the PA to Justice Ezebuilo Ọzọbu. Alongside this I have participated in a lot of key moments in the shaping of the organisation. I worked as one of the research assistant to Umeadi, Mogboh and Eneh during the Oputa panel and in various other areas before taking up the job of the Administrative Secretary of Ndigbo Lagos. I gave this background for a reason, I at least know something about Ohanaeze. However, we’ve been accusing our past Ohanaeze leadership for being withdrawn and not proactive. Wondering why they are not visible where Ndigbo and their challenges emanate. Nnia Nwodo and his team have simply stepped in to address the problem and finally fill the gaps and we shout wolf. We must resolve to support our leaders. And in so doing provide them with sufficient support and guidance to help them. He never said he was against Biafra. He simply said another avoidable war should not Usher it in. He was right in coming to Lagos and his speech on the day echoed our yearnings and heartbeat.

Going forward, Ndigbo can be better in our planning and serving our community. The meeting was advertised wrongly and in a limited way. The meeting was logged in for 11am and in some messages 12 noon but it didn’t start until 3:45pm. We should really change that attitude. I add here that in all it was a good outing, but Lagos and it’s complexity requires a lot of wider independent consultations by the PG to tap into that vast pool of potentials and energy that he so frequently alluded to during his speech.

I have written this comment on the fly to address some of the comments here and to highlight the facts of speech and the specifics of meeting as I saw it.

Ùnu Kaa ni

©️ Ireke A Kalu Onuma

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