In Defence Of Ndigbo, By Lauretta Onochie
Many Nigerians have watched with tongue in cheek as the group known as Ohaneze Ndigbo has paraded itself as the group with the interest of Ndigbo. For starters, let us look at the meaning of Ohaneze Ndigbo. Oha means the ordinary people. Eze means King or in this case, Elites. The phrase Oha na Eze Ndigbo as an organisation would mean an association that is for all Igbo people, irrespective of whether they are elites or ordinary Ndigbo or their social status.
But what we have seen in Ohaneze is an organisation that is far from representing the interests of the ordinary Igbo people. The ‘Oha’ have been completely relegated to the background. For many years, children of school age would be seen at various markets in Eastern Nigerian learning how to use calculators and shunning formal education. Their main ambition, or should I say the life plan for such children by their parents is a life in one of those dingy market stalls, with 10,000 power generating sets and no ventilation. Did Ohaneze care? No! It did not occur to them that they could mobilise the Oha in each market to invest in one massive generator that can serve everyone. Like this, they would breathe in clean air and live longer. But why should they do anything in the interest of the Oha? They are the ordinary hard-working commoners! Their own children are in some of the best schools across the world acquiring sound education that will position them to continue as the elites, the Ezes, over the down trodden Ordinary Ndigbo, the ‘Oha’
Around the end of April, 2013, we all woke up to find the remains of scores of Igbo youth floating on Ezu River. Their crime? They had a peaceful demonstration at Onitsha calling for the actualisation of the defunct state of Biafra. Although I am vehemently opposed to the reason for their protest, they did not deserve to be summarily executed and dumped in the Ezu river. It would make a cheery read if Ohaneze Ndigbo can tell Nigerians how much pressure it mounted on the government of Pres. Jonathan to try to bring to justice those who killed such number of Igbo and Nigerian youth.
Nigerians are waiting.
In the twilight of the Jonathan administration, it was the same Ohaneze that connived with that government to dupe Ndigbo, promising what other Nigerians saw as desperate hoodwinking of Ndigbo to win unmerited votes. Ohaneze Ndigbo stood with President Jonathan as he lied, wilfully, that the second Niger Bridge would be a reality. Some of us raised the alarm that they were playing on the intelligence of the Oha but Mr. Ifeanyi Uba, armed with sacks of Jonathanian loot, rampaged through the South East, where most things are for cash and carry. Consequently, our warnings fell on deaf ears and today, an organisation that has mud in its face, an organisation that misled it’s people, an organisation that serves only its elites, is rearing its ugly head, shamelessly pretending to be speaking for Ndigbo.
President Buhari has been painstakingly putting a cabinet of men and women of integrity together. Nigerians are certain that this ministerial cabinet will not include the same people that misled and benefitted from the Jonathan administration. Ohaneze are now calling on Ndigbo to reject ministerial positions under Pres. Buhari. It’s a case of, “Since we have completely lost relevance, no other Igbo people should emerge as leaders.” Who are these people? What do they want for The Oha, the ordinary Ndigbo? On one hand they cried, “Lopsided appointment and marginalisation”, on the other, they canvass for the rejection of appointments from the Buhari administration.
They are spreading the same venom across their ranks. It’s interesting that the youth wing of the elite organisation went after Barr. Festus Keyamo, calling him “a desperate political sycophant who sees insulting the Ndigbo as the fastest way to get the attention of Buhari for consideration for a political appointment.” Coming from a confused youth wing of Ohaneze, who can take such myopic ridicule seriously? The anti-Nigeria stance of Ohaneze Ndigbo is not lost on other Nigerians.
Ordinary Igbo families are comfortable living in all parts of Nigeria. They know that Nigeria is the only nation they have. The civil war has been over decades ago. Even the late Igbo leader, Dim Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, founded a political party and fully participated in the political and electoral processes of our nation. The divisive nature of the utterances of Ohaneze are nothing but self-serving. It’s all about them and nothing to do with Ndigbo in general.
I dare say to Ohaneze Ndigbo, “You do not speak for Ndigbo”. You speak for yourselves. NOI Polls, an outfit run by the immediate past Minister for Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, published that 92% of the sample polled from the South East are very happy with the Nigeria of today. Ndigbo are also a reasonable nation. They are not the ones crying “Lopsidedness” when they know that no laws have been breeched and that there are more appointments coming that will favour every part of the nation. Most importantly, they also know that with the new Sheriff in town, every appointee will serve all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic origins.
Ohaneze Ndigbo, a self interest organisation may have represented Ndigbo in the long distant past but in recent years, they have not been representing the interests of the ordinary Nigerians of the Igbo stock. It’s time to close shop and allow a Pan-Igbo organisation that has the interest of Ndigbo to emerge. The current Ohaneze is a trading organisation that sells hatred, religious bigotry and ethnic bias, wares, Nigerians rejected by electing President Buhari.
We were witnesses when this organisation was speaking from both sides of its mouth, depending on who paid them last, before the last election. It’s either they deliberately misled their people or they were too focused on the proceeds from selling their people that they did not read the bold handwriting on the wall. The good news is that the government of Pres. Buhari is a people-centred government that will act in the best interests of all Nigerians irrespective of whether they voted for him or not.
Many years ago, the Late father of Anioma people Delta State and icon, Late Chief Dennis Osadebey, saw the self-centredness and the rot in this organisation and hurriedly left, rightly taking shelter in his own Anioma ethnic identity. Today, there are still Nigerian patriots like the fierce Festus Keyamo who smell, from afar, the mischief this organisation continues to create in their region and elsewhere. So they have sent their elites sons to insult a Nigerian role model. If Festus Keyamo declared the truth because he seeks public office, which he merits, anyway, it would still be a long way better and more patriotic than barking at the leadership of this nation for food. Well, this is not President Jonathan’s administration where people were paid for being unreasonable. If Festus Keyamo must apologise to Ohaneze Ndigbo, Ohaneze must first, apologise to Ndigbo for misrepresenting them all these years.
Henceforth, regional organisations that do not represent the interests of their people will have all Nigerians to contend with. Nigerians have found their voice and will no longer tolerate a sect of elites who carry on as if they own their geo political zones. The South East belongs to the ordinary Nigerians of Igbo stock. Nigerians will support them to call their elites to order if their voice fail them. The South East is part and parcel of Nigeria. All Nigerians have a right to speak up on what goes on there, the same way Ndigbo are free to speak on issues in other regions.
Finally, leading up to the last elections, Ohaneze could not read the handwriting on the wall for the simple fact that the body only thinks in terms of Dollars. And they were suffocated with it so they happily misinformed their people and turned them away from the “Change” direction the whole nation was headed. It was in Delta State that an ex governor told some Deltans to go and seek help from the person they voted for. That is PDP spirit. Thank God President Muhammadu Buhari is not cut from the same fabric as Ex-Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. He is the President of Nigeria, not the president of those who voted for him. He will make appointments to cover the states across the nation. The best part of this is that the appointees will serve all Nigerians and not only where they come from.
Ohaneze, old or young, men or youth, must change their modus operandi. They must focus within to find ways of properly representing Ndigbo in general. They must start showing interest in issues that interest the Oha. Otherwise, there will be more Festus Keyamos and this could lead to the demise of the near moribund elitist organ. Welcome to Nigeria, a new Nigeria where there is no more free money.