Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 22 May 2018 | 1,878 times
Pan-Igbo sociocultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by its president, Chief Nnia Nwodo, on Monday reiterated its stand for restructuring Nigeria describing the country's constitution as a dead document.
The summit which was held at the Ekwueme Square in Awka despite threats by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB to disrupt it was held under tight security with people entering the square thoroughly screened.
Speaking at the event, the Ohanaeze President said Nigeria’s constitution needed to be reviewed because it is dead.
He described the country’s constitution as one authored and bequeathed to the country by the military saying that it is not capable of administering the country.
According to him, all arms of Ohanaeze accepted the recommendations by the various committees that drafted the stand of Ndigbo on restructuring, adding that Nigeria needed a constitution.
However, when he took the stage some members of IPOB who managed to enter the venue protested the restructuring of the country, insisting that only a referendum was acceptable.
They later filed out in protest, destroying some of the summit materials given to them.
Though the event was shunned by south-east governors, except for the host governor, Chief Willie Obiano who was present at the event, the attendance to the summit was impressive as members of the group from the southeastern states of the country and beyond were in attendance.
In his address, the Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano said the summit which was more of a family gathering was aimed at strengthening the ties that bind people of Igbo extraction to fellow Nigerians in this big federation.
He said there was no better time for the conversation than now, regretting that in the past 58 years, Ndigbo have worked tirelessly with fellow Nigerians to lay the foundations for a better federation and a more perfect union.
His words, "We have made the most sacrifices and more often than not, also paid the supreme price for the unity of this country.
“But we have made these sacrifices in the belief that in the contemporary history of mankind, the road to nationhood is often paved with the blood of patriots. Indeed, Ndigbo have paid the price for Nigeria’s greatness. We paid in blood. We paid in full.
“The future summons us to a brighter dawn! And we must walk in the shadows of our fathers. Yes, our fathers played a major role in Nigeria’s long road to independence. And today, we have gathered to dream a balanced federation into existence for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“I have combed the pages of history and our contemporary times. And I boldly declare that I did not find a perfect human society anywhere. Every nation on earth is a work in progress. Citizens of both advanced and developing countries continue to ask their countries hard questions that will lead them to a better federation, a better nation and a better society. Nigeria cannot be an exception to this rule. So, we must ask Nigeria hard questions too!”
“The pertinent question on everyone’s mind today is ‘what kind of country do Nigerians want Nigeria to be?”
According to him, the question stands as what will determine Nigeria’s promise; Nigeria’s future and Nigeria’s greatness, and happiness.
He added: “Different ethnic groups and geopolitical zones have made bold efforts to ask this question in recent times and that Ndigbo were using the opportunity of the summit to ask.
“As governor of Anambra State, I was born and raised in Nigeria and I have lived in Nigeria for the better part of my life. I have lived the Nigerian dream and felt Nigeria’s heartbreaks.
“I know what my people want from Nigeria and the question we must ask of Nigeria. We must ask what every forward-looking people want from any socio-political arrangement - life, liberty and a chance to raise happy families.
“We must ask for a just, fair and equitable federation where every citizen is guaranteed the freedom to be the best they can be and to aspire to the highest position in the land regardless of their tribe, culture or religion. And this is what Nigeria in its present structure, has not given to us!
“We have answered the call of history. And hopefully, history will be kind to us. If our fathers invested their youthful hopes and the power of their intellect in the Nigeria of their time, we have invested our wealth, our enterprise and our emotion in remaking Nigeria.
“Indeed, no other ethnic group has as much emotional investment in the Nigerian project as Ndigbo. And now, we have been called upon to re-imagine Nigeria. We welcome this challenge with both hands. For if we rose from the ruins of the civil war to rebuild Eastern Nigeria in record time, there should be no doubt about what Ndigbo can bring to the table in a fair, just and equitable Nigeria.”
In his speech, Chairman of the summit, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, observed that in the life of any nation, there should be a time to pause and reflect into the past, reflect on the present and peep into the future.
He noted that though Igbo had a great past and great people that championed Nigeria’s Independence, they have not been fairly treated in Nigeria.
He regretted that things were no longer the way it is desired even though the future of the Igbo is great.
“Today, things are no longer the way we want them. In as much as I believe that the future of the Igbo is great, there are some concerns. In 1966, Igbo didn’t know about the coup, but they were slaughtered in the civil war that lasted 30 months.
“Today, the killings are taking place in Benue State and it may be others in future. People talk about Fulani herdsmen, but we have Fulani people in government, as senators, as ministers and traditional rulers, yet the killings have continued.
“The federal government of Nigeria should be grateful to Ohaneze Ndigbo for coming up with the programme for the restructuring of the country for the benefit of all. When Abuja was being created, we were told that there would be no issue of indigene but it is rearing its head and nobody is doing anything about it,” Nwodo stated.
Speaking on behalf of members of the National Assembly, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said members would do all within their power to ensure that the restructuring of the country was taken seriously in the National Assembly.
On his part, the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu condemned the label IPOB as a terrorist group asking that it be immediately rescinded.
He said: “The day is a historic day in Nigeria, and the National Assembly would continue to network with other members in other parts of the country as no zone can effectively champion the restructuring campaign alone.
“Restructuring is to the benefit of all, and no zone can truly claim to be the biggest beneficiaries of the restructuring campaign, as doing so would be a win-win situation for all zones of the country.”
Former Central Bank Governor, Charles Soludo, in his speech listed a national conversation, new constitution, convocation of a constituent assembly, six-year tenure for the president and vice presidents from the geopolitical zones with the VPs holding key ministries, rotation of the president among the geopolitical zones as the stand of the Igbo people.
He also called for the scrapping of local government system, creation of additional state for the South East before considering the creation of more states in the country, among other demands describing it as part of the position of the Igbo.
In a sermon during the interdenominational service that preceded the summit, Professor Ben Osisioma, an Anglican preacher, regretted that Igbo were always the victims during every crisis in Nigeria since 1953 to date, adding that perhaps it was because Igbo had relegated God to the background.
He said: “The Igbo man needs God and some people are arguing that perhaps the church had failed in directing the people. The Igbo man is resourceful, intelligent and hard work but all that appear to be in the past. Before the civil war, Igbo controlled most of the sectors of the economy.
“During the war, Igbo people were ingenious and dared the armies of Britain, Russia and Nigeria. We refined oil during the wartime and today, Nigeria cannot refine oil at peacetime.
“There is one problem Igbo have and that is when people want to sabotage Igbo, they use Igbo people to do it. Whether we are restructuring or not, Igbo people must close ranks and work together.”
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