We want referendum on outcome of National Conference – Ohanaeze - INTERVIEW
Tiamiyu Saheed Oluwatosin
The President of Anambra State chapter of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Chris Eluemunoh in this chat with JOE CHUKINDI said the outcome of the planned national conference must be subjected to a referendum to be nationally accepted.
The President is set to convene a national conference, an organisation like yours would make an appearance and representation there, What are those things that represent the interest of the Igbos which you would table?
The President did not make a promise, the President has actualized his promise. He has done a lot of things to show that he is very interested in the national conference. First of all, I have to commend him for taking such a bold step. What Igbos are saying for now is that after 100 years of amalgamation, we need to talk, amalgamation was imposed on nations that make up Nigeria today. It was not voluntary, therefore after 100 years of amalgamation, we need to sit down and talk on how to move the country forward, we are interested in the unity of this country, nobody wants to break up Nigeria, but what the Igbos are saying is that there must be equity and fairness in the administration of this country.
Number one, there has to be an equal state representation in the country. Right now the Igbos have five states and the rest of the country has six, one region in the North has seven, so it’s not fair. These are some of the things we need to balance. Igbo is a major nation in Nigeria that cannot be maginalised. The distribution of wealth in the country has to be discussed, there has to be equitable distribution of wealth in Nigeria. Some Igbo states are involved in oil producing, Anambra State has especially joined the oil producing states, so you cannot say we are not part of the production of resources in this country, we are, the major principal act in this country therefore, we need to talk and straighten up things. That’s what the Igbos are saying, because Ohanaeze is the apex body, there are so many units of Igbo organisation that are affiliated to Ohanaeze, Ohanaeze is the rallying point.
Last two weeks, all organizations representing Igbo interest rallied in Enugu under the aegis of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and presented their position, and you know these positions has to be articulated so that we can go there with one voice; so a committee chaired by Ex-Governor of Enugu state, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodoo has been mandated to articulate these positions and present one point of interest to Ohanaeze within the next 2 weeks or so.
This is a very good move to come out with one voice; are you confident that eventually when the confab convenes, the East as a region will speak with one voice and if they don’t, what do you think those areas of differences may be and what will be your solution for them to speak with one voice?
Thank you very much, I appreciate that, those who are not interested in the unity of the Igbos are the ones who are always playing so low or negative in a matter like this and we don’t have confidence in them. I don’t see why you cannot affiliate yourself or stand with the rest of the Igbos under the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. These are the people who are trading with the Igbos, at any given opportunity they have, they want to trade with the Igbos and we are saying no to these people. Some of them are old enough that they should go and rest, we have very young and intelligent constitutional lawyers today in the Igbo nation that we don’t have to rely on old people to come and represent us, we have sharp and intelligent Professors in Igbo land today. So there is a limit to everything, you cannot continue to impose yourself on the Igbo nation as if we are not trained people who are intelligent enough to take over from you, so when somebody is saying adopt the minority report and leave majority report, then something must be wrong, there is a minority report in the committee setup by the President but you cannot adopt minority report and reject a majority report, obviously in a democracy majority carries the vote. The Igbos cannot be an exception, majority of organizations that are working under the umbrella of Ohanaeze Ndigbo are greater and more than few individuals who are fighting for selfish aims and reasons we cannot understand, so we are going to the confab with one voice and nobody can change it. We know what we want and nobody can change it. The Igbos know that this confab is very very important to us, therefore we are not playing with it.
The SGF has released modalities for the confab, perhaps in terms of representation but more critically what would you still like to say that the conference committee must put in place to ensure that whatever the outcome will be implementable?
It is not enough to go for a confab and at the end of the day, the outcome is not implementable. This is the fear a lot of people are having; but there is Igbo adage that the feces do not produce odour when it is in the tummy, it is only when you bring it out. Let us go to the confab, one step at a time and at the end of the day they will make a recommendation to the presidency. We want a referendum on the decisions of the confab and if that referendum is acceptable to Nigerian People then that’s it. You don’t need to push it to national assembly or whatever. First thing first, let’s go to the confab and talk because some people are using excuses. It is like going to the court with technicalities, you don’t look at the subject matter and you want to use technicalities to win the case. We don’t want technicalities to defeat or interfere with the confab, let us go there first and begin to talk, at the end of the day, we move to the second step on how the decisions of the confab will be recognised or implemented.
Talking on technicality, some people believe it is part of the strategies of Mr president to advance plans for his reelection in 2015, does Ohanaeze share this view?
At all, we don’t share such views. The conference has nothing to do with his ambition. If anything, it is going to work against him because I know that some parts of the country are not interested in this confab and they may not support him because of this confab. But any reasonable mind knows that the President has good intentions for this country by allowing this confab to take place. The confab has nothing to do with his political ambition. Meanwhile, he has not even told anybody that he is running in 2015, but even if he is running what about it! He is still working within the limit of his tenure, he is still working within the office of his power, his inherent powers to set up the confab and that’s exactly what he has done. Whether he is running in 2015 or not is neither here nor there.
You highlighted the fact that some interests notably the APC are not interested in this conference, Will this affect the outcome of the confab?
The question is who is APC? That is the question. First of all I understand that Afenifere has denounced that, Afenifere is going ahead with the confab so I don’t know who APC is, Afenifere that is the apex body of the Yoruba have said they are interested in the confab, I understand that they even disowned the statement Tinubu made and said they are not part of it. Few days ago, South-East, South-West, South-South met in Asaba, Delta State, on this confab issue and agreed on how best to go about it; South-West was represented, South-East was represented, South-South was represented. So, who is APC? APC is playing a game of chance as far as I am concerned, APC is nothing, it is a political party and they cannot influence anybody, will APC influence South-South, will they influence South-East, North-West or North-East?
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