Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, thursday in Enugu declared that Ndigbo would only support a presidential candidate with a clear programme on how to address the plethora of challenges facing the South-east zone.
The organisation’s President General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, who spoke with journalists on his arrival at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, after a trip to the United States of America, where he went to inaugurate the South Carolina chapter of Ohanaeze, said Ndigbo were not ready to repeat the mistakes of the past.
He said Ohanaeze was a non-political association, but it would advise Ndigbo to vote for a candidate of the political party that has the best programmes for Ndigbo in 2019.
Nwodo also expressed anger at the deplorable state of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, saying deliberate neglect of the airport, the only international airport in the zone, tallies with the obvious marginalisation of the people of South-east geopolitical zone in the socio-political and economic development of the country, particularly after the civil war that ended in 1970.
He said the visit to US provided the opportunity for him to interact with other Igbo organisations and business men and to intimate them about the recent South-east economic summit and the work of the Prof. Chuwkuma Soludo’s economic and political committee, which Ohanaeze inaugurated recently to articulate the roadmap for the socio-economic and political development of the South-east region.
The President General of Ohanaeze said Nigerians in US were enthusiastic to partner South-east governors for the development of the region especially in the area of digital technology, agriculture and power in order to create employment opportunities for the young ones and revive the moribund industries in the area.
“Ohanaeze is a non political organisation and the membership of Ohanaeze cuts across political lines. All Igbos are members of Ohanaeze from their town unions and they all exist in all the political partiers so I cannot be agent of any political party.
“What is important to Ohanaeze is that before the election, all the political parties must sell their manifesto to us so that we can advice Igbos appropriately as to who has protected our interest in their manifestoes. So the parties have not yet nominated their candidates; it is premature for me to begin to ask them what they have.
“When the candidates emerge, I will seek audience with them; first of all, I’ll want to know whoever becomes the next president of Nigeria, if he is not an Igbo man that he will not stay for more than one tenure and that the next president of Nigeria will come to Igbo thereafter. That is as the irreducible minimum for Ndigbo.
“Today, I lost my temper at the airport, because our people have an (international) airport that is not operational. I spoke to the President (Buhari) in Abakaliki about the state of Enugu Airport; the runway is in a despicable condition. The Ethiopian Airlines came to my house and complained to me with pictures. There were cracks on the runway, the new terminal building is abandoned, the one former President Goodluck Jonathan renovated is not like anything anybody did, part of the annexure close to it was carried away by hurricane, the one that is there is in very, bad condition. “The international arrival where we used today, it took us two hours to get our luggage. First the trucks that were going to bring them are in disuse, only one is working. Secondly, is the punishment our people are given in the airport Immigration takes bribe from them, Customs also takes bribe from them.
“There is nowhere in the world you have gone through an air transportation and you arrive in your place and the Customs will begin to ask you what you are carrying, because there is international agreement for carriage of goods. All dutiable goods are assessed at the point of shipment because they go through an xtray.
“But people carry personal effect and get to Enugu airport and they tell them to open their box to see what they are carrying, nobody does it in Lagos, nobody does it in Abuja, nobody does it in Kaduna, nobody does it in Kano. But it is done here. A boy called S. I. Jubril of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) was the one presiding over this rape of our people today and I chastised him.
“This kind of discriminatory treatment against Igbo people is very infuriating. The total neglect of our international airport in Enugu is shattering, I don’t know how any government can willfully neglect a complete geopolitical zone, this is the only international airport in the South east zone and the facilities there are moribund,” he lamented.
The Enugu State Chapter President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Hon. Alex Ogbonnaya, said they decided to organise the reception for Nwodo and his deputy as a mark of honour for a successful trip to the US, saying it was Igbo tradition that when a great man is returning home there will be a kind of jubilation and joy from the people.