S’East Summit: Ohaneze Defies IPOB, Insists on Restructuring

  •  Says no better time to restructure Nigeria than now

David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka

Ohaneze Ndigbo, the pan Igbo sociocultural organisation of the South-east and Igbo speaking parts of the South-south Monday defied threats by the Igbo secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to hold its summit on the campaign to restructure Nigeria.

The proscribed IPOB had threatened to disrupt the event if it held, saying that its interest was not the restructuring of Nigeria but the conduct of a referendum for the freedom of Biafra.

But Ohaneze Ndigbo Monday held its summit, calling on the federal government to quickly restructure the country before the general election to ensure its progress and development.

Though the event was shunned by South-east governors, save for the host governor, Chief Willie Obiano, it was richly attended by members of the group from the South-eastern states of the country and beyond.

Addressing the summit, Chief Obiano who welcomed the participants on behalf of the people of Anambra State said: “We have come together today as a family, to strengthen the ties that bind us to fellow Nigerians in this big federation. Indeed, there is probably no better time for this conversation than now.”

Obiano regretted 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, and have made the most sacrifices and more often than not, also paid the supreme price for the unity of this country.

He said: “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!”

Obiano said the pertinent question on everyone’s mind today is ‘what kind of country do Nigerians want Nigeria to be?’

He said that was the question that will determine Nigeria’s promise; Nigeria’s future and Nigeria’s greatness, and happily, different ethnic groups and geo-political zones have made bold efforts to ask this question in recent times and that Ndigbo were using the opportunity of the summit to ask hers.

The President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Nnia Nwodo, who spoke at the summit, described Nigeria’s constitution as a dead document, which needed to be reviewed.

He described the country’s constitution as one authored and bequeathed to the country by the military and not capable of administering the country equitably.

Speakers after speakers including Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the South-west delegation to the summit and Air Commodore Dan Suleiman who led the North-central delegates and others took turns to condemn the current structure of the country.

The South-east caucus at the National Assembly including serving members of the House of Representatives, Senate and the speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly moved a motion on the restructuring of the country, which was overwhelmingly accepted by all.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who spoke on behalf of the members of the National Assembly, said the members would do all within their power to ensure that the restructuring of the country was taken seriously in the National Assembly.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, during his address condemned the caption of terrorist group on IPOB, asking that it be immediately rescinded.

Ekwerwmadu joined all to support the restructuring of Nigeria, saying that the day was a historic day in Nigeria, and that the National Aseembly would continue to network with other members in other parts of the country as no zone can effectively champion the restructuring campaign alone.

He said restructuring is to the benefit of all, and that no zone can truly claim to be the biggest beneficiary of the restructuring campaign, as doing so would be a win-win situation for all zones of the country.

Meanwhile, a mild drama occurred when Dr Nwodo took the stage to address the crowd. Some members of IPOB who stole into the venue protested on the mention of restructuring of the country, insisting that only a referendum was acceptable. The group later filed out in protest, destroying some of the summit materials given to them.

The Leader of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark, who spoke at the event, condemned their action, while also enjoining them to embrace the quest for restructuring as it was the only way they could achieve their aim of equality in Nigeria.