It was a day to remember for the apex Igbo socio- cultural organization in Nigeria, Ohaneze Ndigbo. All who is who within the Igbo community were on ground to grace the recent Igbo Day celebration in Abuja.
It was also an opportunity for the chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Abuja chapter, Mr. Odozi Nwa Odozi to make case for the plight of Igbo in the nation’s capital, as well as those living in other parts of the country. He maintained that the position of Igbo cannot be written off from Nigeria’s socio-political sphere and added that they were resurging amidst oppressions from the Federal Government.
The event was full of glitz and a moment for an outpouring of love among the Igbo. It was a gathering of the creme da la creme, as both the big and small, business moguls, traditional rulers, captains of industries, among others were in attendance.
Prominent among them are the Igbo political forum, Igbo Community Assembly, Council of Traditional Rulers and people from the five states that make up the South-East. They all hoisted their banners in their cannopies and danced round, with every place filled with different varieties of foods. The rich Igbo cultural masquerades thrilled the people at the old parade ground.
Odozi told Daily Sun that the unity of Ndigbo is undoubtable, noting that Igbo had made significant contributions to the nation’s socio-cutural and political growth:
“The message I have for Ndigbo in this programme is derived from the theme of this year’s programme which means ‘Igbo Ugwuanyidanda.’ It shows the industrious nature of Ndigbo, the relentlessness of Igbo people and never say-die spirit of an Igbo man. It is the same spirit that made it possible for the Igbo man to rise up from abject nothingness after the civil war, where we are today in the Nigerian state.
“The state that made us to resurge from where they kept us, where they seized everything that Igbo men had and gave them nothing and through the virtue of hard work and consistency and honesty has made them bounced back to the position of prominence in Nigerian political economy.
“The position of Ndigbo is at the middle course, because in as much as the Nigerian state still oppresses us, we keep rising up. The Igbo man is a never die person and we believe that by the grace of God we, will surmount it.”
Taking off from the short address of the Chairman which was intermittently followed with applause, Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, who was the special guest, urged the Igbo to key into the vision of the incumbent administration. He argued that there was no need seeking a revival of the Biafra when the country is big enough to accommodate all tribes.
Part of his speech reads: “May I thank Ohaneze Ndigbo Federal Capital Territory Chapter for considering my humble self for this tough task of looking into our travails, triumphs and possibly making projections for the future in this colloquium.
“In looking into the future, one assumes that we all know our travails, triumphs, challenges and our opportunities, for the timeless Igbo adage goes this way, “if you don’t know where and when the rain started beating you, it may be difficult to stop it”.
“Hence in projecting our future one must also point out that the greatest challenge we face as a people is the scanty patience in taking the time to genuinely review the genuine progress we made since after the civil war. It’s all lamentation and wailing, as if there are no gains made. As Catholic Christian Choir admonished us, we must count our blessings and name them one by one, so as to know whether our country is dear to us or not. We lament hunger, abject poverty, joblessness and herdsmen killings as if these fault lines are exclusive clothes designed for Ndigbo.
“In the midst of this uncertainty Ndigbo wittingly and unwittingly seem to align with our sister ethnic nationalities in the trapped scenario of the national malaise dubbed Clan Motivated Mentality (CMM). One is compelled to appeal to my brothers and sisters and indeed all Nigerians to resist this ignoble temptation of thinking that the best can only be found in our clan.
“CMM is a national malaise more dangerous than any other dysfunctional concept, for it breeds corruption, stifles growth, simulates uncertainty, stokes hate and distrust between and among ethnic nationalities. The distrust bred by CMM can be located in the false belief by many Nigerians that champions, better citizens, talented men, more transparent or honest people are their exclusive preserve, entrenched by Almighty God in their clan; while rogues, the deplorables and imbeciles are the metaphor of other ethnic nationalities. This has no bearing to hard reality, as Almighty God in His infinite goodness distributes goodies according to His wishes and never discriminates.
“One is making this profound appeal based on many factors, among which is that Ndigbo actually are Ojemba Ewilo (the traveller has no enemy); we are the second ethnic nationality in population after the original indigenes of Lagos, Kano, and 23 other states of the federation.
“Therefore, the scenario shows that if it is good for Nigeria we stand to be one of the greatest beneficiaries. To be candid and if truth is our banner, we are one of the groups that should work and pray fervently for more prosperous and progressive Nigeria; instead of agitation for secession.
“The agitation for Biafra sounds as a good music, much fun and furry as if it is the only route to Eldorado. This is false as some of us who lived in the defunct Biafra enclave can narrate. The question one had always posed is can Biafra be achieved via democracy or by force? Most people one had discussed with had always told me it will be achieved via peaceful means, which in other words means democracy.
“I recall during World Igbo Congress (WIC) in New Jersey in 2004 in the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari and in Dallas, papers were presented to the effect that the United Nations (UN) is processing the application of Ndigbo for an independent Biafra. This is over a decade and the germane question remains at what stage is our application? Is there record in the UN which suites our case? If there is none, the option is home made democratic process. Only very few are advocating force, and unfortunately, visible obstacles seem to taint the acclaimed democratic process.
“The agitators will vehemently disagree with me, call for my head and even query the existence of obstacles to the actualisation of Biafra under democracy or force. However, at 61 years on earth it will be a great disservice to our ancestors, Ndigbo and my dear countrymen, for me to swim in muddled waters and stand truth on its head, because one wants to be hailed and idolized. China and India with over one billion people each have shown that our large population is not a disadvantage and United States of America has shown that our diversity is not a disadvantage. What are we talking about?
“If we must tell ourselves the truth, the greatest obstacle to the actualisation of Biafra, was glaringly demonstrated by successive national conferences, the Abacha Conference and Jonathan Conference, in each of the two conferences the issue of region was voted against by Enugu and Ebonyi states. The Jonathan Conference of 2014, for instance was made up of pro-Biafra elements whom a lot had assumed will support regionalism as a prelude to secession. Other states like Ogun, Lagos, Bayelsa, Cross River and majority of Northern states rejected regionalism. To cap it all the Jonathan Conference recommended the creation of over 50 states.
Permit me to briefly use Eke my town as a case study, to demonstrate that if Eke is a Federal Republic, the fault lines presently existing in the town could have made the efforts of Biafra agitators- sweat, blood and tears useless. For Eke is more divided than Nigeria today.
The Eke example
“Eke in Enugu State is a town of about 100,000 indigenes, home and abroad. According to history, the town is made up of five sons of same mother and father making up the five villages – Amankwo, Oma, Ogui, Enugueke, Amofia –99 percent Catholics and one Waawa dialect of the Igbo language.
“Eke is the second son of Oshie Anugwu, born at present Nsude, who as the first son, lived in the ancestral home, while Eke migrated North, in our present location. Eke’s survival depended largely on the defense cover provided by Nsude and sons of Neke their only sister. This made Nsude, Eke and Neke’s progenitors to institute a covenant of not hurting or marrying each other, a covenant, which subsists till date. That is why the oral history has it that Eke met a lot of hostilities from neighbouring communities – Okopogho, Oghe, Ebe, Egede, Ngwo and other territorial expansionists on arrival. Thank God we survived till date.
“The survival of Eke was consolidated with the appointment of Okwuluoha 1, Onyeama Onwusi Nkata as the Paramount ruler of Waawa clan. Wikipedia said the Waawa clan of Northern Igboland, also referred to as Ndi Waawa, Wawa People, are a unique sub-group of the Igbo people in Enugu State, Nigeria, consisting of several communities. Most notable among these is Agbaja and Ngwo, which consists of peoples between the wooded lands of Awka (capital of Anambra State) to the rocky valleys of Enugu (capital of Enugu State).
“Agbaja is made up of communities in present-day Ngwo clan, Udi, Ezeagu, Igbo-Etiti, Oji River, greater Awgu, and Enugu East local government areas. Other notable parts of Waawaland are Nkanu, Nsukka, Abia (not be confused with people from Abia State), Nike, and other communities in Enugu State, who all speak a unique dialect of Igbo Language called Waawa. The Waawa are most notably associated with Chief Onyeama of Eke, who was the paramount ruler of Agbaja in the early 20th Century.”
“Chief Onyeama was appointed Warrant Chief in 1910, elevated to Paramount Chief in 1917, and recognised by the British Colonial Government as Okwoloha of Agbaja in July 1925.
“One of his greatest accomplishments was the co-signing of the first lease of Enugu Coal belt. He represented the Waawa clan on 19 November, 1915; which sign-posted the birth of Enugu as Coal City. The second lease of sale he signed was on 22 March, 1917. He travelled to England in April 1924, on the invitation of King of England for British Empire Exhibition and died in 1933.
“After a brief regency, his son Michael, Ohwuloha II was crowned and he reigned until 1998, when he died. In between Okwuloha 1 & 2, agitation for autonomy reared its head as Oma village started under the able leadership of some prominent sons like Chief Tom Ndiolo of blessed memory. He vehemently questioned the authority of Igwe Michael Onyeama.
“It is no wonder that with Chief Onyeama and his son’s demise, those negative human frailties of greed and its grandson corruption, jealousy, hate, stereo-types and prejudice exploded and descended on Eke. Only ethnicism and religious bigotry were exempted because the power mongers have neither ethnic nor religious card to play.
“But whereas ethnicity and religion have no hand in the fault lines which held Eke down; natural rivalry and human greed were at the center stage. The second son and second most prominent village, in the present rankings, Oma, started agitating for rotation of the Igwe (King) of Eke. Oma ended up with support from other villages except Amankwo tocrown Igwe Chinwendu Onuoha, Eze Oha 1 of Eke in 2000.
“The town was split down the line, with some backing the natural rotation agitation of Oma people for the Igweship, while some held on to the dictum of dynastic rule. The rest they say is history, but all efforts made to reconcile the warring factions in the past decade failed as the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court, which nearly marred this noble event today.
“Consequently, as hard working, enterprising and talented people, who invested in all parts of the country and beyond, our paradigm has to shift. It is on record that Ndigbo invested heavily in all parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Gabon, Central Africa Republic, South Africa and we are one of the successful minorities in the United States of America. This being the case the agitators must sample the opinion of our people, home and abroad, especially the itinerant Igbo Alawuotus (everywhere is home) over Biafra, if their agitation is for collective benefit.
“One is sure that most Ndigbo will call for ceasefire, especially when we are aware that the zoning convention of rotation of president between North and South offers the South East the greatest opportunity of producing Nigeria president of Igbo extraction. This golden opportunity will end the issue of marginalization, will gazette the true republican nature of Ndigbo and return us to the mainstream of Nigeria.
“The doubting Thomas will doubt this projection, but it is real and anchored on the truism that in the public domain is the law with its legal teeth and the convention with its moral weight, mostly unwritten. This thesis projects that in 2023 when President Muhammadu Buhari, by God’s grace completes his two-term tenure, it will be the turn of the South.
“At this juncture, Ndigbo relying on equity and justice will make a good case, persuade and lobby Nigerians, in particular our South West and South South brothers and sisters to support us, since they both had served eight and five years respectively in this 4th Republic. For no one ethnic group can win the presidency of this great country alone.
“In sum, my dear brothers and sisters, this project will best be consolidated if Ndigbo, call the Biafra agitators to order, rethink, and visibly support Buhari in constructing a prosperous and progressive Nigeria. Let’s begin the foundation today and let beware of clan motivated mentality.”
To Mr. Otugo Ezeh: “We are the custodians of Igbo cutural heritage in Ohaneze Ndigbo. Igbo Day celebration is a programme we hold every year by Igbo people. It is a great day that we have gathered here to celebrate our rich culture and tradition and I am proud to be an Igbo man and without Ndigbo, there is no Nigeria.
“Parents should endeavour to teach their children Igbo language, right from their kitchen so that it will go a long way in building our rich cultural heritage. Without Igbo, there is no nation called Nigeria.”
Disclosing what Igbo Day celebration means to him, the President-General of Imo community and managing director, Ignobis Hotels, Mr. Ike Obasi said: “Igbo Day celebration is a great one. We expected it to be great because last year we said that this year’s one will be great and it is indeed great. So we are thankful to God. The unity of Ndigbo must continue and they should go ahead with all the good things they are doing. I pray that next year will be greater than this.
“Igbo’s unity has been on for life and it is said whatever is good you act to make it better. So Igbo should try and make it a better one mostly in this era of political dispensation. Our unity is not only for us to gather here and drink. Our unity should extend to that which makes us the Igbo so that we will have a better understanding. We should join our faiths together so that we will be able to represent Ndi igbo.”
Buhari’s memorable evening with creative youths
By JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE
President Muhammadu Buhari will be 74 later in the year. He is not, by any standard, a young man. He attested to this himself many times when he said he would have preferred that he became the President when he was younger.
Despite his age however, Buhari is embracing the youth. He showed his youthful side last Thursday evening. Not that he reduced his age. Far from it. The President became a youth at heart when he engaged youths from the creative industry, he mixed and flowed with them easily.
It was an evening that made up of art exhibition, conversation with the youths and the public presentation of a book, “Buhari: A New Beginning.” It is a pictorial publication of Buhari as presidential candidiate, a president, a father and grandfather, husband, a farmer, with world leaders at international fora among others. The author is the President’s personal photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo.
The exhibition featured 24 pictures of the President by Omoboriowo and 24 artworks by other Nigerian artists. The event had an interesting component. That was interactive session, tagged “The Conversation, Creative youths as drivers of the change agenda” it was moderated by a popular actress, Joke Silva.
Panelists included a musician and music producer, Cobhams Asuquo; a photographer cum musician, TY Bello; an artist, Adenrele Sonariwo; an entrepreneur, Adaora Mbelu-Dania; an actor, Ishaq Sidi Ishaq; a fashion designer, Lanre Dan Silva Ajayi and a writer, Wana Udobang known as Wanawana.
They took turns highlighting the contributions of creative industry to socio-cultural and economic development as well as challenges facing the sector.
They all engaged the President on ways to encourage the youth and make the creative industry more productive.
Select youth to discuss the creative industry, the challengers, successes, the way forward and how to harness resources together to assist the government. Silva said the evening was not all about celebrating the youths but also engaging them in discuss.
She said despite the fact the Nigerian youth are making progress in arts and entertainment, fashion, fine arts, dance, photography, theater, uniting Africa more than African Union, the industry was facing a lot of challenges especially piracy.
Mbelu-Dania said the conversation was perfect timing as the country focuses on diversification. She said the creative industry is to create the content, commercialize content and add economic value to content, adding that it was one sector the government could earn billions of dollars if properly harnessed.
She called for capacity building, intellectual property protection and data collection, adding that it was time to transition from creating content to adding value. Music has been one thing that unifies us. It helps to create a common identify. It has also been a good form to promote supporting a project:
“Is time to use challenges as stepping stones, is time for research development on music technology, time to treat entertainment as we treat oil. Is a viable contributor to the economy.”
Ishaq stressed the need for Nigeria to give priority to the film industry. He said that Nigeria’s film industry has been rated second in the world. He said about 300 youths are employed on each film.
He described the film industry as a unifier, image-maker, problem solver specially at recession. He listed the challenges to include lack of enabling environment to work, infrastructure like exhibition theaters where movies will be premiered, training, calling on government to subdue piracy if it cannot be eradicated.
Silva-Ajayi identified poor electricity supply and inadequate infrastructure as some of the challenges frustrating the development of the nation’s fashion sub-sector. She lamented that despite being a designer, she can only produce for 30 per cent.
She said the youths have been pushing on because of their passion: “But for how long will passion drive these entrepreneurs in the country? To produce for masses and globally we need power, infrastructural support, we need fashion council, structure incentives to improve quality and compete the globally. Beyond the gliz and glam we need it to translate to money into our pockets.”
Bello said pictures speak more than a thousand words. She said Nigeria was ripe for photography education: “We need to give kids skills that they can perform on the world stage. We are forming army of photographers because is time to tell our stories and to do so we have to be educated”.
Udobang said writing is about gatekeeping, preserving history, it helps to export the Nigerian stories to the world because of the internet:
“We still lack innovations. We need fellowships, scholarships, reporting grants because people who work independently tell stories others are not telling. The industry is experiencing brain drain because they go out to train.”
Asuquo spoke on the unifying strength of music amongst Nigerians. Shonarewo identified the enormous potentials of the visual arts in addressing unemployment and ensuring wealth creation.
Buhari promised the youths that his administration will improve funding of creative industry in the 2017 budget in order to boost employment opportunities. He said the improved allocation will provide the requisite infrastructure for rapid transformation of the creative industry in the country.
He said the fund would be channelled through the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. He said steps would be taken by his administration to tackle the menace of piracy across the country and other challenges facing the country.
The President called on the youths to partner with the administration in its efforts to diversify the economy and ensure a corrupt-free society. He told them that Nigeria is a fantastic country, endowed with human and material resources.
Buhari also told the youths how a study undertaken by the administration revealed that the oil marketers were committing fraud on at least one third (about 25 per cent of foreign exchange) of what they were importing into the country:
“The youth must watch our elite, the condition we found ourselves, it is unpatriotic for anybody to pretend that economically we have a problem. We have gone into the farms, I congratulate some of the governors and by the grace of God by the end of this government we will be exporting rice and grains. So all the money alleged to have been used to import will be available to sustain development.
“I assure you that we will set the ball rolling in terms of security, industrialization, manufacturing and food security. I said it years ago and I still mean it, we have no other country than Nigeria, we will stay here and salvage it together.”
Recession catches up with Abuja IDPs, orphanages
From Magnus Eze, Adanna Nnamani & Abigail Anosike
At this period of hike in the prices of food items and other consumables coupled with the general suffering in the country, one can only but imagine the fate of the less privileged whose means of survival depends on the benevolence of others.
It was with this motive that Daily Sun set out on the nation’s 56th Independence Day to find out how the needy particularly inmates of orphanage homes and Internally Displaced Persons in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) fared this period.
At the Gwosa IDP Camp, in Durumi Area 1, as at 5pm, only two groups had visited them. They were staff and students of Greenice International Schools, Lokogoma and the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Gbazango, Kubwa branch, who donated assorted food items and consumables to the inmates.
The story was not actually different at the Kuchungoro camp, off Airport Road, though the inmate received more visitors. Some proprietors, management and caregivers at some of the orphanages and IDP camps blamed their current plight on the on-going economic hardship in the country.
Secretary, IDPs Camp in Kuchungoro, Mr. Enoch Yohana, said: “I so much believe that Nigeria is partially independent. It is a challenge for us to celebrate Nigeria at 56 in a camp instead of our homes. We celebrated Nigeria at 50 in a camp and today Nigeria is 56 and yet the crisis is still on and we are still here.
“IDPs do not have access to school, access to health care, and even access to vote. In the last election we were denied right to vote because we were not in our state of origins. Now we are suffering because we are not represented. No body to speak for us.”
He lamented Nigerian refugees in Cameroon and other countries were treated much better than IDPs in the country, calling for better treatment because they were not responsible for their plight:
“Now they are trying to rebuild our homes while the minds of the IDPs are not liberated. They are not in school. The driving force of the Boko Haram is illiteracy. So who are those people that will live in these houses they are building without committing violence?
“We are tired of waiting on the government so we the IDPs have set up a production group of people who make shoes, clothes, soap, cream and many more. All we need is enough money to register the company because I don’t think there would be special consideration for us. We want to contribute to Nigeria rising again”.
His counterpart at the Durumi camp, Mr. Bala Yusuf, had a more pathetic tale as he said assistance has ceased coming their way including medical outreach, which used to come from the Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). He disclosed that the last time inmates enjoyed medical attention was in July when one unnamed NGO brought medical services to them.
A caregiver at the Mother Theresa Orphanage Home, Gwarimpa sang the same song: “Support from people these days has reduced drastically. People no longer visit us as much as they used to some years back and even when they do, they don’t come with as much items as they used to. People hardly have these days and it is only when you have that you can give.”
Executive Administrator, Abuja Children’s Home Karu, Mr. Joseph Daniel, said: “Things are very tough for us now. We have never experienced such a period of lack as we do now. Some of the children fall sick and there is no money to take them to the hospital.”
He lamented over the inability of the home to meet up with payment of salaries of workers, the children’s school fees and other basic amenities. He called on the government to make free or subsidize such facilities as health care, education, electricity and water for orphanage homes:
“If the government can provide health care, education, water and electricity free of charge for us or make us pay less than others for them, things would be much easier for us.”
The case was somehow different for the Orphanage run by the wife of the Archbishop of Dominion Chapel International Churches. When Daily Sun visited the Apo home, the inmates were said to have been taken to the church headquarters where the proprietor organised Independence Day party for them.
However, there was some merriment at the Durumi IDP Camp as the seemingly hungry inmates danced and played with students from Greenice schools before they were eventually served meal and showered with some other gift items. A birthday cake was also cut for one the pupils of the school.