Agha Ibiam writes that former governor of Abia State and Coordinator Njiko Igbo, Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu’s visit to London to deliver a speech during an event organised by Enugu State Diaspora in the United Kingdom might have been riveting if the buzz wasn’t that his primary audience was British parliamentarians
The title of his speech, “The Historical Plight and Precarious Future of Igbo People in Nigeria,” was meant to be a declaration that the Igbo have more than a marginal stake in the Nigerian polity. It was thus a fitting title, particularly given that the organisers were his kith and kin. But it seemed there was an obsession with the idea of giving the event a global feel, hence the choice of venue - the British House of Commons.
But this fixation was taken to some ludicrous height when it emerged the organizers had probably created the impression that the former governor would be speaking to members of the British Parliament. That was not the case as the House was still on recess, given that the lecture was held a day after the burial of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who died on April 8.
Buoyed, perhaps by that assurance, Kalu’s speech was printed a 16-page colour booklet on which the words were boldly written: “A Speech Delivered by Kalu to the British House of Commons.”
The lecture held in the 80-capacity Jubilee Room in the Parliament building attracted two MPs nonetheless: Mr Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee and Mr Ivan Lewis, Shadow Secretary of State for International Affairs. The latter, ironically, stole the limelight as the audience seemed more interested in Labour’s welfare programme for the immigrant community, rather than dwell on issues Kalu’s speech had highlighted. It was a somewhat disconcerting sight as series of questions were directed at Lewis and not to the man whose lecture had apparently drawn the audience.
The event organised by Dr. Joe Ukemenam was designed to promote capacity building, access to funding, examine the way forward for the Diaspora and, also, to serve as a platform for the formal inauguration of Enugu Diaspora in the United Kingdom. It was also put together to promote development opportunities in Enugu State for investors.
Quoting veteran American diplomat, Henry Kissinger, Kalu said: “The Igbos are the wandering Jews of West Africa… gifted, aggressive, Westernized; at best envied and resented, but mostly despised by the mass of their neighbours in the federation.”
Kalu, the coordinator of Njiko Igbo, spoke about the discrimination against the Igbo which he said has culminated in a situation where they bear the brunt of everyone else’s anger and frustration.
He reeled out examples of inequalities that exist in the polity, for instance, creation of states, local government areas, federal constituencies and senatorial zones. “The implications of this calculated fraud against my people are so massive and go entirely untold, which include unequal allocation of resources, unequal voice at the federal executive council among others,” he said.
According to him, these structural disparities are constitutionally-entrenched, thus their grave implications for Ndigbo are beyond the primary questions of the inequity and marginalisation.
Kalu observed that an Igbo indigene has occupied the presidency or premiership or head of government of Nigeria for just six months and 13 days in the nearly 53 years of Nigeria’s independence.
“The presidency of the Nigerian nation has not eluded the Igbo by accident or by act of divinity, but by human design and it is through human pressure that we can attain it. Njiko Ndigbo is the catalyst and conduit for our collective action. We trust that you recognize, as we do, that power concedes nothing without demand,” Kalu insist.
He maintained that Njiko Igbo is an organisation dedicated to the struggle for the rise of a citizen of Igbo extraction to the presidency in 2015.
Kalu used the opportunity to urge the British government to increase funding for special projects that benefit the underprivileged in Nigeria and Africa in general. But this request drew a comment from Lewis which, more or less, is typical response of the West with regard to wealth management in Africa - Nigeria’s leaders have not been prudent in managing the country’s resources. That is a euphemism for corruption.
Kalu noted that the proposed legislation to reduce aid on health, education and infrastructure is untenable given the huge funds committed to war conflict zones such as Mali. Nigeria, he said, needs increased funding towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This intervention he maintained will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor countries, and help make the world a better place for “all of us and our children”.
Indeed, the lecture offered the former governor another moment in the sun; yet you just have to wonder how it benefits his political ambition given that the prospects of his London audience voting in 2015 is anything but positive