Friday, March 26, 2010

Questions For Chinua Achebe: Out Of Africa

Photo by Michael Prince/NY Times

Interview by Deborah Solomon/New York Times

Since its publication in 1958, “Things Fall Apart,” the story of a Nigerian yam farmer who is unable to accept the changes wrought by British colonialism, has become the best-selling novel ever written by an African.

Well, I hear such exaggerated comments. I just leave them alone.

It’s a staple of American high-school English classes, and it has supposedly sold more than eight million copies.

That would be possible. I’m not grumbling; I have done well. But don’t imagine I’m a millionaire.

Things are again falling apart in Nigeria, which was in the news this month, when a predawn massacre occurred near Jos and all the world saw images of Christian villagers, many of them women and children, laid out in mass graves. Do you think the incident is related to the spread of Muslim extremism?

It is, but it is other things as well. My own explanation would be the failure of the authorities in Nigeria to address the issue. The nation cannot be trusted to use the machinery oflaw and order. And in that kind of situation, all kinds of people who are normally sort of put aside suddenly find an opening for evil.

What do you think of Nigeria’s acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, who just dissolved the cabinet?

He suddenly doesn’t seem to bring good luck. He is weak. A strong man in any position in Nigeria should be horrified by what happened in Jos. Shamed is what we should feel. We don’t seem to have any government. People don’t know where their president — before the present acting president — where he went or where he is.

You’re referring to President Umaru Yar’Adua, who left Nigeria in November for a three-month stay in Saudi Arabia.

Presidents do not go off on leave without telling the country.

As the son of a Christian missionary, were you aware of conflicts between Christians and Muslims when you were growing up?

No, they lived in another part, and so there was no reason for me growing up to know very much about Muslims. It was not an issue.

If you had the chance to say something to the so-called underwear bomber, the Nigerian man who tried to blow up a plane approaching Detroit on Christmas Day, what would it be?

I would say to him: “That is insane. Drop it. You cannot solve any problems by blowing up innocent people.”

As a professor at Brown University, in Providence, R.I., you yourself live in exile, as do many other Nigerian writers, including the playwright Wole Soyinka and the young novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

If you were in Nigeria and had cause to go to a hospital or to see a doctor, you would then immediately understand why so many people are abroad.

You’ve been wheelchair-bound since 1990, as a result of a car accident that left you paralyzed from the waist down.

Yes. I was in Nigeria when the accident happened. I was flown to England for treatment. They tried to put me together, then they recommended that I go to America for a follow-up, and that’s why I came to America.

How old are you now?

I’m approaching 80. I don’t care about age very much. I think back to the old people I knew when I was growing up, and they always seemed larger than life.

What do you consider the most important thing about yourself?

Oh, the most important thing about myself is that my life has been full of changes. Therefore, when I observe the world, I don’t expect to see it just like I was seeing the fellow who lives in the next room. There is this complexity which seems to me to be part of the meaning of existence and everything we value.

Are you still writing every day? What are you working on?

I’m working on this interview.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I went on hunger strike when Ben Bruce barred me from being shown on NTA –Onyeka Onwenu

Onyeka Onwenu, one of Nigeria’s most accomplished entertainment personalities. She speaks with CHUX OHAI about her new music album, her family, and her early beginning as a singer.
A Punch Interview

You have just recorded a new music album. Was it meant to announce to your fans that you are back to singing?

It was not really meant for anything, except that it was time for me to record again. I had all the songs bubbling in my head and I was able to enter the studio and come out with what I consider my best work ever. It has been over eleven yuears since I last put out a CD and this one was long overdue. My fans had been asking for it. So it was the perfect time for me to have done it. It wasn‘t done to prove anything.

What were you doing in the past eleven years?

I was doing live shows. I did some recording, too. I did some collaborative work with other artistes. I was into politics and I was running a business here at the Unity Centre. I wasn‘t just sitting somewhere idling away. But I just didn‘t go into the studio to record a song and I didn‘t feel encouraged to do so. We have had the issue of copyright dues and piracy and more. The situation was discouraging, I tell you. We have worked for years and still, nothing was coming. Someone will use your works and wouldn‘t pay you. I couldn‘t rationalise investing and having a recording and not making any money out of it.

Is it right to asssume that you had taken care of that matter before recording a new music album?

I have been working at it in conjunction and together with other artistes. We formed COSON, which is a collective society made up of 99 percent of the stakeholders. We are talking of organisations like PMRS, MORAG, and many others coming together from around the country and saying that we have had enough of the situation where advertising agencies, big companies, hotels, and others are using our music and when we go to collect copyright dues, they say they don‘t know who to pay to. We want to put a stop top that. What is happening all over the world is that to avoid situations like this, many countries are consolidating and having one collective society. Even those that used to have many, especially in the United Kingdom, are consolidating to have just one in order to avoid situations where there are always legal wranglings, as to who owns what and who should collect what. Let there be a resume of collection and distribution, a resume that has integrity and that you can check; not one person running a collective society and not telling the musicians how much he has collected over the years. The MCSN that is battling us has never been able to give an account. We are calling on the EFCC to investigate MCSN. One individual has made so much money and those of us that created and performed the songs have made nothing. He is building houses here left, right and centre. He is the life MD of his company and nobody can remove him by his constitution. He owns MCSN and he is running it for himself. But how much has he distributed to musicians and who has gained what? By the way, does he have a bank account? In COSON, you can walk in and look at the books. We account to the Nigeria Copyrght Commission. At the end of the year we will file our account with the NCC.

Who is this person in MCSN that you are fighting?

He is a gentleman called Mayo Ayilara. He is not a musician, but he has made a fortune out of what we do. MCSN in his pockets and he accounts to no one.

What exactly do you have against him?

We are asking him to let us look at his books. We want to know how many years that he has operated and how much he has paid out to musicians.

Are you doing this under the aegis of the Copyright Society of Nigeria?

We are just minding our business. We just want to provide that alternative of a collective society that is properly one. We are not going after anybody. But we shall invite the EFCC to look into our books and MCSN‘s books. I believe that at some point they will have to do that. Unfortunately some musicians have allowed themselves to be used. They know the truth, yet they have been writing falsehood because they have been paid off. That is the only reason that I can deduce.

Who do you have in mind?

We have a document that is signed because we have tried to bring everybody together in this society. We have tried to work with the . I used to be a director of MCSN. So I know what I am talking about. When I called for the books they wouldn‘t show me, they wouldn‘t hold meetings, and I left. I didn‘t want my name to be associated with anything that was unbecoming. Charles Oputa and I signed a letter, which said that nobody should deal with MCSN, since they wouldn‘t toe the line, they were not paying the musicians and they wouldn‘t want to work with the musicians. He signed the document. Now he turned around and was talking about something different. He took out an advert in a newspaper and I am sure he didn‘t pay for it from his pocket. He is too shrewd to do that. But it is an orchestrated campaign to fight COSON.

Let us go back to your music. Do you think that musicians of your generation are still relevant in the present dispensation?

The more, the better. Let us go out there and do our own thing. The thing about music, about the creative process, is that it never ends. In terms of creativity, the Lord hasn‘t even started. Where this album came from there is so much more. I have had hits and I have been blessed with the talent to be able to write a song that will come out as a hit. If I were in America I would be a billionnaire.

If you look around, you will observe that Nigerian music has assumed a different dimension and now has a different appeal. Do you think your kind of music stands a chance in the market as it is now?

I think in a few days, when my new album will be in the market, people will know what stuff it is made of. But I can tell you that, judging by the reactions we got during the press preview that we just had, Nigerians believe that I will give the to younger ones a good run for their money. Some of the guests said that it took a little for the album to come, but it was worth the waiting. Others said it was the best album that they had listened to in recent time. I give God the glory because I can‘t say that I was the one who wrote the songs. I can tell you that I am a vessel. The producers that I worked with in the studios will confirm this. Each time we were in the studios, ideas came pouring in. Mnay of the siongs were written inside the studio.

Who are the producers of the album?

They are Cobhams Asuquo, I.D. Kabasa, Wale Oni, Yomi Omidiran, and David Chukwumere.

Do you still sing love songs?

I sing love, I sing inspiration, I sing everything. They are all in the album.

Have you made any effort to adapt to the kind of music that people listen to these days?

I don‘t have to adapt to anything. I have to be myself, play my own music, and write the songs that God has given me.

Most people think that you are an intelligent, energetic and versatile woman. But they also think that you are one person who doesn‘t seem to put her fingers in one thing at a time. What do you say to this?

I put my finger in everything at a time. Over the years I learned that God gave me so many talents and I am very grateful to Him for this. When I realised that He had a purpose for it was that most of the things I find myself doing are the things that would require virtually all those talents that He gave me. When I went into politics, and I am still in politics; I discovered that I could bring my talent as a good communicator, a singer, a designer, a mother, an adminstratot, a writer, and as an actrss together in one spot and talk to the people about what is going on in this country and what we can do about it, and they will listen to me.

Why did you settle first for a career in music and show business?

You know that if you depend on one thing in this country, you will just die. If is not music that is putting food on my table, it will be the movies. If it is not the movies, then it will be an engagement as a master of ceremony in some social event or it will be running the Unity Centre, which is a multipurpose hall. I used to run a rehearsal studio. You have got to be able to have these ways of earning a living. I must go out there and work. I have both my immediate family and the extended family to take care of. I have huge responsibilities. Even people in my community are looking up to me. So I have to go out there and earn money in order to take care of, not just myself, but all the people around me. I don‘t live for myself. So I have no regrets nor apologies.

Are you saying that you are driven by your need for subsistence, rather than your passion for the arts, to do what you are doing?

I am driven by both of them. You have to be driven by both of them, otherwise your children would starve. Even prostitution is work. So I am driven by the need to earn money the honest way in order to put food on my table. But I am also driven by the passion to serve. The actual truth is that ove 80 percent of what you do is service. Maybe it is less than 20 percent that puts food on the table.

Why didn‘t you launch yourself into other things from the onset?

How would I have known? Music was the one that God put before me. He gave me an opportunity when Sunny Okosuns produced my first album. Music has laways been with me. Nobody that knew me when I was growing up would be surprised at what I am doing. But in my family, the standard is education. Before anything, you are expected to get a first and second degrees. Then if you want to work as a cook, the choice is yours. When I came back to this country and worked for the NTA, the opportunity presented itself.

What kind of family do you come from?

I come from a wonderful family. My father was Honourable Dickson Kalu Onwenu. He was a politician representing Port Harcourt in the federal house. At the same time, he was Principal of a secondary school in Port Harcourt. He served as a deputy Mayor and he was principal secretary of the Igbo State Union. He was a very charismatic man and Mbonu Ojike was his best friend. My father is from Arondizuogu, while my mother is from a well known family in Obosi. My grandmother, Margaret Nwokoye, was the first woman to build a one-storey house in Obosi. She was best friend to Alvan Ikoku. She was also a politician. My mother started as a school teacher, married my father, became a business woman and very often, my father would borrow from her and never pay back. Mine was family of integrity where not everythng goes. When I was growing up, if you came back to the house with a pencil that my mother did not buy, you would have to exlplain where you got it. The earliest experience I had in music was my mother taking me around to sing to raise money for charity homes. That was my first experience of performing. We were encouraged not to think about ourselves, but to carry everybody along. In other words, you have to help somebody else. You didn‘t go out to do anything that would bring down the family name because of money. We love money, but then it is not the priority. I learned to read the Holy Bible in Igbo becaue my grandmother would insist that you do. When we went back to Obosi, which was where we spent the holidays, you would go to church and read the Bible. At home in the morning we did Bible reading and prayers before we dispersed. I was loved by all.

Were you the first child of your parents?

No, I was the last child.but he died early. But I wasn‘t treated with kid gloves. My fatther was the one that loved me to distraction, but he died very early in my life. I was only five years when he died.

What is your relationship with your older siblings?

After my father died I was in trouble with my older siblings because I was his favourite. There was nothing that anybody could do about it. My family went through a very traumatic experience because of my father‘s death. Everybody deserted us. Even those he had trained and his political colleagues abandoned us. The only person that stood by us was Mrs. Nzimiro, she is now dead. Mrs. Nzimiro took my family in and loved us and helped to see us through life. I will never forget that woman. There were other people who stood by us. But the majority of the people abandoned us. At 36, my mother was left with five children and numerous otther cousins to raise. We would gather together and we would sing and pray. My mother didn‘t even know how she was going to pay school fees.

How did you pick up with your life after that trying period?

I can remember that there was a difference in my life. I could remember missing my Dad. Also I remember that no one explained about death to me. But I knew that my father was no longer around and that things were different. But I had the exmmple of my mothers‘s strength to go by. I knew that I had to be strong and do well in order to honour my father‘s name. So I grew up missing my dad, but having to be strong and knowing that I didn‘t have a choice except to succeed in life; that I couldn‘t fail or I would be letting down this man who gave me so much love. These were the things that pushed me.

I understand that you had a stint with the British Broadcasting Corporation

It was not a stint, really. What happened was that I did a documentary titled ‘Nigeria: a squandering of riches‘, which is still relevant. In that documentary, we talked about corruption; we talked about the Nger Delta when it wasn‘t politically correct. The things I said about the Niger Delta were the things that have happened. I am not happy about that. If voices like mine had been heard and those voices that spoke out before mine had listened to, the Niger Delta would not be what it is today and N igeria would not be what it is today.

When did you make the documentary film?

The film was shown in 1984. It was done in 1983 and then, the Buhari-Idiagbon military coup took place.The film was essentially a justification of why the event occurred. We were predicting that the situation was that bad. So we quickly brought it out to make it topical. It was shown in the UK to rave reviews and after much prodding from Idiagbon, it was shown in Nigeria. They removed part of it and it was shown a second time. The reason why some people didn‘t like it was because they said it was anti-North. But it was not. They said it was anti-North because all the people that criticised Nigeria were from the southern part of the country. But it was because the people that we had contacted to speak I didn‘t have the chance to speak because the coup happened. Some of them didn‘t want to speak anymore when we contacted them.

So you never worked with the BBC at any point in time?

I was not employed by the BBC. I worked with the United Nations before I came back to Nigeria.

In what capacity?

I worked with the United Nations for three and half years. I started as a tour guide. It wasn‘t a permament thing. About 400 of us were invited for the interview and twenty of us were employed. The job was highly contested. As a tour guide, you must speak two languages and you must know your onions. We were the first line of contact that the UN had with the public. We explained the fucntions of the organisation; we take you into the Security Council and tell you the issues going on there. Every morning we are briefed by UN officials on what is happening around the world. I did that for two years, then Kofi Annan, who was our boss, put my name down to go to Namibia as an electoral officer when the UN was negotiating with South Africa for Namibia‘s independence. One day, someone challenged me and said they couldn‘t be criticising Nigeria, while I was there and I would not say anything. So I quit my job and came back here. Many of my friends could not understand it, but I didn‘t look back. I quit.

If you look back now, how would you describe your experience at the United Nations?

It was incredible.

Why did you quit the UN job?

I quit because I wanted to come back to Nigeria and contribute my quota to the development of the country. I was having an argument with some Nigerians and my mentor, Ambassador Aminu Wali said to me‘Onyeka you can‘t talk. You live on the east side of New York and you work at the UN. You are paid and you take your six weeks vacation. You have a good life. Have you tried living in Nigeria, among your people, with your education and exposure and see what you can do to correct these things you are complaining about?‘ I was stunned. I couldn‘t say anything because he was right. And I take on challenges.

Were you attracted by anything in Nigeria?

I knew that I had to work in television, to begin with. First, I got posted on national youth service to NTA through my mentor.

What year was this?

It was in 1980.

So you actually presented programmes on NTA?

I read the news and we started Newsweek. I went to the ECOWAS countries to do reports for NTA.

At what point did you get into music?

Right after my national youth service year.

What was the attraction?

Nothing. I knew that was what I was going to do.

Did you make money from your albums?

I didn‘t make a kobo from any of my recordings. Not even from the ‘One Love‘ album. NTA used ‘Iyi Ogogo‘ to open and close their station for eight years, but they didn‘t pay me a kobo. They didn‘t even ask my permission. When I asked, they barred me from being shown on NTA and I went on hunger strike. They felt they were doing me a favour by using my music. Ben Bruce said ‘Don‘t touch that lady. I don‘t want to see her face, I don‘t want to hear her music on my station‘. And I said no, it wasn‘t his station, that NTA belonged to the nation. This was in 2000.

A woman like you must have had men milling around her and seeking her attention. Was this what happened in your case?

I don‘t find it important enough to even discuss. If they were, I wasn‘t even paying attention. My focus was on where I was going.

But you had a relationship at that time, didn‘t you?

I don‘t answer such questions.

At a point, you left music and people started seeing you in the movies. What led to this?

I think the person to blame is Zulu Okafor. He came and told me that he was shooting a film and that it was about abandoned children. He said he knew that I could handle it. He won‘t let me rest. So I decided to give in to him. It turned out to be a hit and people saw it and they persuaded me to do other films. Now I am on the side of film production. I am trying to raise money to do the ‘Omenuko‘ film, which is to really explore our tradition and the fact that Nigeria is a great country.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kidnapping Discouraged My Colleagues From Coming to Nigeria to Assist in My Free-Medical Healthcare Programme

Lagos — Dr. Anuma Kalu Ulu is a Nigerian born medical doctor based in New York, USA in this Interview with UDO ONYEKA, Ulu speaks on issues bordering on health care and why he set up a clinic in his community, where patients are treated free.


Let us know about your Foundation?

I set up the Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation in honor of my late father Mazi Kalu Ulu who was a philanthropist of utmost integrity. This foundation was set up in USA in March 25, 2009, to co-ordinate all my Philanthropic and humanitarian activities under an umbrella organization. Prior to that, since 2004 I have been coming back to Nigeria every year from December to February to offer free medical service to my community in Arochukwu Abia state. I set up the foundation to stream line activities of the Foundation.

What does this medical service entail?

It is all encompassing. What I do is that I buy medication and diagnostic equipments which I use in the clinic I have set up in my village to treat of kinds of diseases. I have set up a clinic. There was a health centre in my village that was sort of abandoned, I acquired it and I now make use of the clinic. I treat patients in the clinic on a daily basis.

I give them free consultation, free medication, free testing. If they are people that have cases that is beyond the clinic, we take such people to the General Hospital and we pay for the bill.

What do you think is the monetary cost of this project?

When I talk of cost it will be both direct and indirect. Direct in the sense of what spend in running the programme and indirect in the sense of what I sacrifice or lose by coming back home to do this. I know what I make a month as a medical doctor in the US. I work as an independent practitioner, I get paid when I work. If I add what I lose by leaving my job and what I spend, and I actually not only give medication, I give cash donation to many of the patience that indigent. I will put the expenses at a conservation $150, 000 every year. This is what should have been in my account every year if I wasn't doing this programme. And I have been doing this since 2004.

What motivated you to render this service to your people?

Like I mentioned earlier my late father Mazi Kalu Ulu taught me everything I know about philanthropy. He taught me to give to the less privileged. Apart from that I feel that I t is a good thing to assist someone that is in need. But family, because my elder brother Mr. Kalu Ulu, who served Abia state as Commissioner for Local Government was very selfless as a commissioner and he empowered so many people in my community. I might say I am towing the line of my father and elder brother.

I feel happy putting simile on the faces of people and I will continue it as long as God gives me the strength.

How do you see Health care service in Nigeria. What is your assessment of our health care facilities?

Medical services in Nigeria is very poor. And I tell you, a lot of us in Europe and America, I mean medical doctors, are aware of this. I have discussed with some of my friends over there and we all have agreed that something must be done. I might be the only one who has started it for now but I have a couple of colleagues who have the interest to come and change the medical practice here in Nigeria. But because of insecurity and lack of infrastructure some of them want some things to be fixed before the come back home.

However I want to tell you that the worst hospital in the US is better than the best hospital in Nigeria in terms of facilities and infrastructure.

Some of our best medical institutions. National hospital Abuja. I have been to couple of other highly rated medical centres in Nigeria and I know the facilities that are in those hospitals.

What do you think is the reason why the best brains in medical practice are leaving the shores of this country?
I will say it has much to do with job satisfaction and then adequate remuneration. Over there in developed world there are equipments and structure to practice your trade and at the end you are compensated adequately. I think the government should take a second look at the health sector and how to finance it effectively. There are the urgent need to 'put in more money into the health sector.

And I believe when we do the right thing there is hope. I have been speaking to a couple of my colleagues and infants all of us are burning in eagerness to come and change things for the better in the health sector. I must tell you a lot has changed in my community, since I began this free medi care services. Every year my people look forward to it and a lot of them their health conditions has improved.

Prior to this programme people have been dying of stroke, heart attack and so on, sudden death. But before now they were attribute these diseases to witchcrafts and so on. But with advent of this programme the traditional chief of my community told me that they used to a scribe these sudden deaths to local deities and I have actually come to enlighten them that most of the deaths could have been prevented through adequate healthcare.

Now the cases of stroke in village has nosedived unlike what was the case before I began the programme. There have not been any new incident of stoke in my community. This is a place where we have up to 10 to 15 cases for stroke every year. Their health condition has improved because they are very religious in taking their medication. I also provide them education about their condition. I have advised them to disregard myth and superstition and face science and people have taking it up and there has been good result. When I started in 2004 the incident of high blood pressure in my community was over than 90 per cent, but now it is less than 10 per cent.

But with the expansion of the programme into other communities I see the diseases that I used to see in my community when I started. Diseases such as Asthma, high blood pressure Ulcer and so on. And it is my intention to reduce this incidence to the barest minimum.

What is your vision for the Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation?

My foundation is called Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation and the website is or When you go on the website you go to the founder section you will see the goals of t he foundation were they are enumerated and these are the things I need to achieve.

Firstly my intention is to raise enough money to provide access road to my community.

We have a three kilometer untarred road that is impassable during the rainy season and I need to link it up to the main trunk. My intention is to see that this road it worked on. Then I intend to provide an endowment fund of at least N20 million for small and medium entrepreneurs where they can obtain soft loans and interest t free loans as a sort of financial empowerment. Also I want to provide scholarship for indigent students and for brilliant students that do not have anybody to cater for their education.

I am thinking of making sure that the clinic operators throughout the year. In this regard I will arrange for Youth Corp members who are doctors to be posted to the clinic for the primary assignment every year. Before then I will provide good accommodation, good allowance to act as an incentive for them. After which I bring surgical equipments and other hospital items to equip the health centre to hospital level so that they can do surgery and take care of my people free of charge.

What is the way forward for our health sector?

The way forward is multifaceted. There has to be socio-economic and political stability in Nigerian. When we have f these and then the head will be beyond reproach then things will begin to move normally. When people are given money to execute contracts like building of hospital and schools they will do it and then there has to be roads, passable roads to hospitals. There has to be good security because over there in the US when you are sick you can call the ambulance from your house and they will be there within five minutes even with police escort to take you to the hospital. If a policeman see you on the road and your injured it is his job to take you to the hospital, if he can not do it he will radio t he ambulance and they will be as quickly as possible. So all these things has to be in place . Also those of us who are physicians in desporal need to show more commitment and come back and try to give back to the country so that we can advance medical technology.

Also importantly government has to provide enabling environment for professionals in the health sector. And then when the environment has been created such as power, security then people outside the country will be willing to come back home to contribute their own quota to the development and growth of the health sector.

What about the news about kidnapping especially in the South east. Did the news discourage you from coming back home?

It affected my programme because last year I planned to come home with about 10 expatrite medical doctors. They wanted to come to Nigeria to assist in what I am dong in my community.

They gave me support, some of them even brought donations of clothings, medication. They were eager to join me in the trip to Nigeria. There were a couple of colleagues that wanted to come and we have already made arrangements. You know this age of internet and World Wide Web, they read about the kidnapping in Nigeria and especially the South east where I come from.

So at a stage they began to develop cold feet and that was why I didn't come back with any of them. That was how it affected me.

When I came back I used some local doctors but I believe when next I am coming back I will come with some of them.

Also importantly government has to provide enabling environment for professionals in the health sector. And then when the environment has been created such as power, security then people outside the country will be willing to come back home to contribute their own quota to the development and growth of the health sector.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rediscovering the UNN

By Emeka Nwosu/This Day/All Africa

Lagos — My recent trip to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), the great citadel of learning located within the ambience of a conclave of seven rolling hills was a good home coming of a sort, being the second time I was visiting the institution 26 years after graduation.

The previous trip was in 1996 during the funeral ceremonies of the founder of the University, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha and Great Zik of Africa. On that occasion, I was detailed by the Daily Times in my capacity as the Political Editor to cover the momentous event.

By that singular responsibility, I followed the funeral train from Lagos through Abuja and Nsukka to the Inosi Onira Retreat, Onitsha, the final resting place of the great African Nationalist.

By coincidence, my recent trip to Nsukka was as a result of another funeral involving the mother of Dr. Emeka Enejere, a renowned Political Operator, who incidentally was my lecturer in the Department of Political Science.

I took advantage of the funeral which was happening at Ibagwa Aka, on the outskirts of the University town, to undertake a first hand visit to my great alma mater.

To say the least, the picture that greeted me was not cheering enough. It is true that some major strides had been made over time to reposition the University infrastructure wise, the present state in which I found this great citadel of learning leaves much to be desired.

It would appear that after the exit of Professor Frank Ndili as the Vice Chancellor in 1985, whose tenure could be likened to the golden era in the history of the institution, the UNN has found itself in a state of arrested development. Except perhaps for some modest achievements that were reportedly recorded by the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Professor Chinedu Nebo, the degradation and degeneration in existing infrastructure remain very appalling.

Nevertheless, I can report that some key structures that were initiated by Ndili which defied succeeding administrations had been conclusively completed. My investigations revealed that the feat was recorded by Nebo. They include the Nnamdi Azikiwe Library, reputed as the largest in Africa, South of the Sahara; the Arts Theatre; Faculty Building for the Social Sciences etc.

Other areas where impressive achievements had been recorded are the sporting facilities on the campus. They include the famous Akanu Ibiam Sports Stadium, the Olympic size swimming pool and several training pitches etc.

Beyond these, it was observed that some serious decay had eaten deep into the University. It is sad and regrettable to note that 40 years after the Civil War, the vast landscape of the University is still dotted with abandoned structures including those that were destroyed during the Nigeria-Biafra War.

There is no reason on earth why structures that were conceived to enhance learning and research should still be allowed to remain in their derelict form 43 years after the end of the war, unless they are being preserved for succeeding generations as the physical evidence of the defeat of Ndigbo by the victorious Federal forces.

It saddens the heart to see the majestic Library Building within the Ziks Flats Hostels, Onuiyi Haven donated by the Great Zik of Africa along with the flats to the University still standing as a carcass more than 43 years after it was looted and destroyed by the invading federal troops.

We want to know from the University authorities why this is the case. For Christ sake, why can't that building be restored to its original status? Is there any legal instrument that imposed any restrictions on the restoration and rehabilitation of the structures destroyed in the University as a result of the unfortunate Civil War?

The popular Princess Alexandria Auditorium, which was the Centre of intellectual activism in the University before the War, suffered a similar fate. For ages, the roof of the building blown off during the war could not be replaced. It remained in that condition for a very long time.

We the alumni of this great citadel of learning that was conceived to restore the dignity of man cannot shy away from asking the necessary questions. Unless there is a legal instrument somewhere that ties the hands of the succeeding Governing Councils of the institution, the University authorities owe the UNN alumni movement and in deed Nigerians an explanation on why some of the infrastructure on campus have remained decadent.

I also wish to report that the entire Ziks Flats which at the moment house female students are in a state of disrepair. Until not long ago, the Ziks Flats were the abode of fresh male undergraduates coming into the University for the first time. That place, from what I saw, is no longer fit for human habitation.

The inhabiting students need to be evacuated from the area to make room for total reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Even, the several hostels that dot the campus are in vey bad shape. Those that cry for urgent attention are Akpabio Hall, Isa Kaita, Okeke, Okpara, Balewa and Mary Slessor.

I also observed with disgust that the Students' Union Building and the adjoining Multi Purpose Block initiated in 1982 are still standing at the heart of the campus as abandoned projects.

For those that graduated from the University several decades ago, they would be surprised to see that temporary wooden structures otherwise known as prefab buildings are still very much pronounced. For instance, the Medical Center still operates from makeshift structures in the name of prefab buildings. This certainly is not dignifying.

The current Governing Council of the University must initiate moves to apprehend the prevailing decay on campus. Excuses for non-performance will be unacceptable.

To the glory of God, an alumnus of the University, Dr. Sam Egwu, is the Federal Minister of Education. Admittedly, he holds a national position of trust; he also has a moral responsibility to his alma mater which is a federal institution.

As an institution crippled by the war, I am not away that the University has benefited from any Marshal Plan by the Federal Government to upgrade its facilities. A case can be made for the setting up of a Special Fund for the purpose of mitigating the lingering effects of the war damages.

Dr. Egwu, as a 'Great Lion', has a big role to play in this respect. It is my prayer that Go will give him the enabling grace to do so.

Nigeria: Hobbling Towards A Failed State

By Chiedu Uche/Daily Independent/All Africa

Our freedom fighters envisaged and dreamed of a country that would be the bastion of democracy in Africa, an ocean of peace and unity, and a land filled with economic prosperity. Sadly, almost fifty years after we became a sovereign and independent state, Nigeria is like a toddling baby in diapers. I know for sure that Awolowo, Azikiwe, Tafewa Balewa and other early nationalists would turn in their graves whenever the news broke that a political leader diverted public money into his private pocket.

Nigeria, the so called giant of Africa with a potential to be a great country, is bringing up the rear in economic and technological development among the comity of nations because of some factors, chiefly among them is ethnicity, religious intolerance and bumbling, incompetent and corrupt political leadership.

Nigerians are very conscious of their ethnic origins, and owe allegiance to their ethnic group. They place the interest of their ethnic groups above the interest of Nigeria. This attitude undermines the unity of Nigeria. The Nigerian civil war which claimed millions of lives was partly caused by ethnic hatred which existed among Nigerians, then. Now, Igbos living in the north have dropped their cultural names to assume non-igbo names in order to be absorbed in schools in the north. As ethnicity plays a crucial role in one's securing a Job or admission into schools, many Nigerians who were qualified to be given jobs or admissions into schools were by-passed. Using ethnicity as a bench mark or criterion for offering jobs or admissions to people means the dethronement of meritocracy and enthronement of mediocrity. And, today, Nigeria is the worse for it. Can Nigeria advance when very gifted people are denied opportunity for self-actualization?

Ethnicity as well as incessant religious crisis, especially in the north, militates against development. The north is now a hotbed of religious violence. Many Nigerians who lived and did businesses in the north are now derelicts in their villages because their shops and wares were burnt by rampaging Moslem marauders. Non-Muslims in the north cannot afford to sleep with their two-eyes closed. Can economic activities boom and thrive in a milieu of fear, uncertainty and violence?

Now, Jos has last its innocence; it is the metaphor for ethnic religious conflicts. The recurrence as well as the frequency of bloody violence in Jos is an indication of the state insecurity of lives and properties in the country. The police and other state security outfits, ineffective as ever, can't gather intelligence and forestall the visitation of violence on innocent people in Jos by murderous religious gangs.

The Nigerian police men and women who mount road locks on our roads and extort money from commercial bus drivers can't combat criminal activities in the country. Armed robbers who wield dangerous weapons operate unchallenged on our roads. And, political killings have assumed a dangerous dimension in the south-west of the country. Recently, a roving band of blood thirsty human vampires invaded a village in Benue state and killed some people.

Do we still have a government in Nigeria? Is anarchy not looming in the horizons given the frequency of eruption of violence in Jos and north in general, the recent killing in Benue state, and the unresolved killing of politicians and journalists in Nigeria?

This is not the best of times for Nigeria. The constitutional imbroglio created by the failure of President Umaru Musa Yar'adua to transmit a letter to the national assembling informing them of his trip to Saudi-Arabia for medical treatment has not been successfully settled. Are some people not insisting that the acting president Dr. Jonathan Goodluck be made the president, and Umaru Musa Yar'adua impeached? Uneasy calm is reigning in the country. We are experiencing the peace of the grave-yard.

The ship of state is rocking to and fro, and moving towards the precipice considering the happenings in Nigeria. I would like the acting president to utilize and seize the opportunity offered him to lead; he should steady the floundering ship of state, offer us quality leadership and douse the tension in the land.

We should not be deluded by what Hugo Grotious says: "Government comes and goes; but a state remains forever". But, have U.S.S.R, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia not disintegrated? Nigeria is reputed to have come out of every major political crisis not dismembered. But, the bible warns those who think that they're standing firm to be careful least they fall.

May God save Nigeria.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

55 Cheers for Greg Mbadiwe

By Innocent Kalu/Sun News Online

For a man who has broken loose from the shadow of his legendary father, the late Dr K.O. Mbadiwe, to stamp his own authority and set a self agenda for progressive engagement in a society where many are deficit in honour, Greg could be said to have done well for himself as he attains the age of 55. There was a mild controversy in 2004 when he was nominated to the National Reform Conference as the representative of the youth.

He had hit 50 already and people begun to ask whether life actually started at 50 or the proverbial 40. However his input into the conference left an indelible mark in the minds of Nigerians both old and young. In essence, he became the bridge between both divides. Ambassador Mbadiwe who is the current Chairman National Bureau of Statistics has traversed the world of diplomacy, corporate business politics and national politics, and came out better for it.

Indeed when President Yar’Adua appointed Mbadiwe, a lawyer, economist, diplomat, consummate businessman and astute administrator as the Statistics Board Chairman, he was expected to use his wealth of experience garnered over the years to breathe life into this all important department of government in line with Yar’Adua’s vision of evolving an enduring mechanism to plan for national growth.

A scion of Nigeria’s most flamboyant politician and wordsmith, late Dr. K.O Mbadiwe, Greg, born on March 12, 1955 was exposed early to the corporate world when he took charge of the flourishing family business in 1990. The Afro Properties and Investment Limited and Metropolitan Press Ltd were some of the businesses that dealt on real estate, printing, oil and gas. That was after he obtained a degree in Economics in 1978 from the State University of New York.

After his National Youth Service, he attended Buckingham University, England where he earned a law degree in 1982. Two years after he was called to the Nigerian Bar after graduating from the Nigerian law school in 1984. With 28 years experience as a lawyer, Mbadiwe has traversed the business world not only as a corporate player but management expert.

This invaluable experience came handy when as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Congo between 1999 and 2003, Mbadiwe initiated and executed trade pacts between Nigeria and his host country. Such pacts also benefited Nigerian youth who moved in their hundreds to the Congo to engage in various businesses. Most of them are still there as eloquent testimony to.

In 1996, he was elected the Assistant National Financial secretary of UNCP while in 1997 he became a founding member and signatory to PDP Formation (National) and co-founder in Imo State. A year later, he was appointed member, National convention, PDP electoral panel, Jos. Unfortunately, pettiness and political horse trading denied him the governorship of Imo State in 1999.

However he was not deterred as he plunged himself into the service of PDP. Even while as Ambassador to Congo, he was drafted home to assist in the re election of President Olusegun Obasanjo as the Director, Research, Planning and Strategy at Legacy House. He was later appointed a member of the National Reform Conference between 2004 and 2005.

Because of Ambassador Greg Mbadiwe’s unassailable integrity and transparent lifestyle, PDP has always relied on him for the execution of sensitive national assignments. Thus in 2006, he served as a member, PDP Screening Panel, North East for the Gubernatorial and Assembly primaries and also as the chairman, PDP Screening Panel, North West for the National Assembly elections. In all these assignments, he acquitted himself creditably.

That was also how he discharged his duties as a member, governing board of Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) between 2005 and 2006 and later as the Chairman of FRSC between 2006 and 2007. Impressed by his patriotic service, a grateful nation in 2006 bestowed on him the prestigious national honour of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR).

Ambassador Mbadiwe who speaks English and French, has also been awarded more than 20 chieftaincy titles across Nigeria while more than two dozen organizations have given him awards. He is currently a member of the Elders’ Council in Imo State after serving as Chairman, Independent Peace and Reconciliation Committee, Orlu Zone.
Married to a fellow lawyer, Alice with five boys and a girl to show for it, Ambassador Mbadiwe is the author of Nigerian Foreign Relations in the Obasanjo/Atiku years.

Mr Kalu is an Owerri -based Journalist

Re-Awakening Igbo Can Do Spirit

By Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu/Daily Champion/All Africa

Lagos — I am very happy today to be amongst you my brethren, my people, at this historic meeting. I am always happy to be with you but today I am very excited by the presence of our traditional rulers and governors - the custodians of cultural cum traditional power and custodians of political power in Igboland. May I commend the Chairman of the South East Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH Eze (Dr.) C. l. llomuanya, who convened this important meeting for his foresight, and the governors who have attended. May I also recommend that this type of meeting and exchange of ideas to constantly re-affirm Igbo interests in Nigeria, between the traditional rulers, governors and the elite of the South East should become an established norm and feature of Igbo political life.

Before I proceed, let me again thank the conveners for inviting me to give a key note address to this important meeting. May the Almighty God, the Creator of Ndigbo and all other peoples of this earth richly reward you. I will never be tired of reminding you, my beloved brothers and sisters, that we Ndigbo are a great race, richly endowed by the Almighty God, the Creator and the giver of all gifts. I believe that the enormous qualities which the Almighty God has endowed Ndigbo with, are not just for themselves alone but for the development of Nigeria. This is why Ndigbo are found all-over the country, contributing enormously to national development.

Lest we forget, Ndigbo constitute the largest homogenous ethnic population in Nigeria. Perhaps this is why, despite Igbo protests, important demographics such as ethnic group, religion and state of origin, are always eliminated from Nigeria's population counts. Even for a nation like Nigeria where the term "Federal Character" is enshrined in the Constitution. Howbeit, it is a well known fact that in every state in Nigeria outside Igbo land, Ndigbo always constitutes the second largest population next to the indigenous population.

Lest we also forget, Igbo economic investments outside their homeland greatly outstrip the economic investments of other ethnic groups outside their ethnic enclaves. Indeed in most communities in Nigeria, Ndigbo are at the fountainhead of development. This to me is unassailable evidence of the great faith which Ndigbo have in Nigeria nation. But is Nigeria a nation? I have this question for your deliberations.

Finally, lest we have forgotten also, Ndigbo were very active and at the forefront, in the struggle for Nigeria's independence and shed more blood than any other ethnic group in the struggle - the coal-mine massacre of Enugu, the Aba Women's riot etc. And Ndigbo have continued to shed the most blood in the ethnic, religious riots and other political disturbances that have become a feature of politically independent Nigeria as she strives to become a Nation.

Having outlined these pertinent facts, let me share with you my brethren, my concerns, worries and unhappiness over the current state of our beloved Igbo nation in Nigeria. You know me. I am not a person given to lamentations. I shall therefore not spend time lamenting how Ndigbo, an enormously gifted and courageous people with populations spread all over Nigeria have become, or seem to have become the weakest link in the Nigerian political chain. Naturally, I am sad and disturbed, that Ndigbo, despite who and what they are to Nigeria, are assigned minor responsibilities in the Nigerian enterprise. What makes me sadder is that, we, Ndigbo seem to accept these minor and irrelevant responsibilities, when by virtue of our population and spread, we should act as the adhesive force holding the Nigerian fabric together. And so I ask you my brethren, what are we afraid of in our God-given country, Nigeria? Especially when other ethnic groups less in population than Ndigbo are courageously asserting themselves, sometimes with impunity, in Nigeria with great success and throwing it in our face! This indeed makes me sad. I therefore say to Ndigbo that Nigeria belongs to all of us and we must not forget this fact.

I ask myself on a daily basis whether Ndigbo fully understand the cause, essence and import of the war, where we defended ourselves to the admiration of the world against a senseless pogrom.

I have therefore decided that my full story on that war shall be told this year, by me, in a book, so that future generations and all who like us and even those who do not like us, shall appreciate that Ndigbo are nation-builders not nation-wreckers, but that the strong Igbo moral sense, handed down to us by our ancestors, will always resent and rebel against injustice, inequity and mindless blood-letting.

Having said this, my message to Ndigbo through this important meeting is that we must march forward in Nigeria, without fear, but with a commitment to assert ourselves fully in the building of a Nigerian nation that works for all and not some of its citizens. Ndigbo must reject firmly any attempt to relegate them to subsidiary, politically irrelevant and minor roles and responsibilities in the exercise of building a modern Nigeria nation. And my desire and prayer remains that Ndigbo shall regain their political relevance in Nigeria without violence in my lifetime. Please God.

How shall Ndigbo regain their political relevance in Nigeria? We must first, clearly define the Igbo interest in Nigeria. The Igbo interest, to me, has always been to assert ourselves as a major, integral part of a Federal Nigerian nation, where every citizen, Ndigbo and others, can self-­actualize. The Igbo persona refuses to be relegated to the margins and we shall aspire to every position - political, economic and social, which our individual and group capabilities entitle us to, in a modern, prosperous and democratic federal Nigeria. This simply stated, is to me, my dear brothers and sisters, the Igbo interest in Nigeria and I submit this definition to this meeting to ponder, deliberate and amend as necessary. But whatever we do at this meeting, the affirmation of the Igbo Interest remains paramount.

Please permit me again, to mention briefly, two personal experiences of my life, which inform my strong position on Ndigbo and Nigeria. My Father, Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu lived in Lagos, invested in Lagos and contributed to the economic and political growth of Nigeria for which he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Enugu in 1956. He loved Nigeria and he was an Igbo man to the core and he raised me as such. My Uncle, Chief Felix Okonkwo, popularly known as "Okonkwo Kano" lived in Kano, invested in Kano and was a member of the Northern Legislative House. He loved Kano and he also was an Igbo man to the core. He brought me up to respect the North and Northerners. Why then must we, their children, do less for ourselves and for Nigeria? This is why I continue to say to Ndigbo, that we must march forward in Nigeria, without any fears whatsoever, because it is our God-­given country, doing what is right and proper, and protecting ourselves and our rights in Nigeria because we are bona fide citizens of Nigeria. I shall say no more.

What then must we do to regain political relevance and be in a position to defend our interest and rights in a new prosperous and great Federal Republic of Nigeria, where no man is oppressed? The first and perhaps the only thing we need to do at this present time, is to nurture and strengthen internal unity and cohesion in the Igbo nation.

Our republican nature and unbridled individualism needs to bow to the collective Igbo interest. In the past, before we became incrementally irrelevant in Nigeria, the Igbo State Union provided not just a potent force for development but provided impregnable support machinery for Igbo political interest in Igbo land and Nigeria.

I urge this meeting to consider seriously the re-establishment and strengthening of "AUTHORITY STRUCTURES AND SANCTION MECHANISMS" in Igbo land via which Igbo interest can be defended and protected. Any ethnic group not just Ndigbo, is akin to a mob and any strong-willed political misfit, with a lot of money, can drag the group into a wrong direction. I therefore plead with you my brethren, to give this important issue of "authority structures and sanction mechanisms" in Igbo land and leadership in Igbo land, your very serious thoughts.

As I conclude, let me mention three trends which in recent times have further weakened the Igbo nation and reduced our group potency as a political force in Nigeria. First is the relegation of visionary and strategic thinking to the background. In the past, our best political leaders have always been men of vision who were also strategic thinkers. These leaders were often not rich, and in any case they were never among the richest in Igbo land in terms of money. But they were courageous and our very best thinkers and political strategists.

The second trend is the lack of personal and group courage, especially the courage to assert ourselves and defend our rights, lives and properties in any and every where in Nigeria. Cowardice which was never a quality of our ancestors is now celebrated in Igbo land as "Sense". But today, I, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, exhort Ndigbo to be assertive and courageous in protecting their rights, lives and properties as bona fide citizens of Nigeria whilst respecting the rights of other citizens.

Finally, I say to you, my brothers and sisters that politics is not and can never be about self-neglect or self-negation, such that Ndigbo have become unwilling investors in Igbo land, citing myriads of reasons.

Sometimes I reflect and think that it may be our massive investments outside Igbo land which has emasculated us from asserting our citizenship rights as Nigerians fully because of our investments, which we seek to preserve through our meekness and tame responses to violations of our citizens' rights as Nigerians. I Pity, for a Man's soul is not a matter of properties and investments, but a matter of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust. Ndigbo must not lose their collective soul as a people.

As we ponder on how best to reverse these unwholesome trends among Ndigbo, let me in conclusion say to you, that we as a people have a bright future. I, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu see a bright future for Ndigbo in Nigeria because Ndigbo are a "can-do" people. And so, I maintain today that Ndigbo shall regain their appropriate political relevance in Nigeria in my Life time.

Excerpts from the key note address delivered by Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu at the meeting of South East Elders and Leaders in Owerri March 5, 2010.

Nd'Igbo - We Must Not Be Dead Before We Die

By Ikedi Ohakim/Daily Champion/All Africa

Lagos — It is 40 years since the end of the civil war. By October this year, Nigeria will be 50 years as an independent nation. Our people say agbacha oso, aguo mile. I believe, therefore, that this is the moment in our lives as a major nationality in this country when we must sit back, take stock and chart a new course for ourselves and a clear vision of where we must be in the next 50 years and in the next 100 years.

In doing this, I agree with earlier speakers that we must not dissipate energy in the singsong of the woes of yesterday. I say so because the people we lead expect to draw inspiration from us not the lamentations of marginalization. They expect us to show them how to deal with the present challenges and how to survive the next 50 years.

It is no longer news that the civil war set us back. Yes, it did. It reduced Igbo land to what Chinua Achebe called "a vast smouldering rubble". It is no longer news that many post-war administrative hurdles erected by Nigeria denied us fair share in a nation we built with our sweat, tears and blood. It is no longer news that the inequality foisted on us by our own country, created some loss of confidence, a defeatist mentality and a culture of mendicancy that allowed outsiders to impose leadership on our people.

Terrible things happened to us as a result of the civil war. We know all that. We can never forget that, even if we have forgiven those who wronged us. But the world must not remember us as a people who lost a war. Let the world remember us as a people who rebounded from a terrible war to become world beaters again. Let the world remember us as a people who surmounted prolonged oppression to take our place in the sun once more. My views about this are well known, from the World Igbo Congress in Michigan in 2007 to the Aka Ikenga lecture in Lagos in 2008.

The critical issue now is to examine our strength and weakness, our opportunities and the task ahead of us.

Everybody agrees that we must take our destiny in our own hands. The question is not whether we should, but how. In my view, what we need to do falls into two categories; those things we must do for ourselves. Are we doing them? Those things that must be done by our critical competitors. Do we have appropriate strategies to get them to do those things? Pursuing these twin objectives must invariably lead us to the determination of a long term goal for ourselves.

We stand on the threshold of a new era. Do we have the key to open the door for our people? As John Kennedy told Americans in Los Angeles, California on 15 July 1960, "The world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do". For us, Ndigbo, I make bold to say that we have dwelt for too long on the past glory of our forefathers. We have romanticized for too long our Republican and individualistic nature. We have for too long smacked our lips that the East was the fastest growing economy in the world.

But I urge you, brothers and sisters, to look hard at the reality of the present time. All the institutions our forefathers built, schools, hospitals, industries are mostly in ruins today. Our Republicanism and individualism have become mere excuses for selfishness, indiscipline, lack of cohesion, mendacity and crab (nshiko) mentality where everyone pulls everyone down. The East may have been the fastest growing economy in the ebullient days of the Okparas, but today, the South East is far behind in attracting investments even from our sons and daughters!

When everybody is speaking at the same time, what message are we sending to Nigeria? Can we send a message that is not confusing to Nigeria? Who speaks for us and when? Can we accurately define and identify credible leadership for our people? Can we clearly define the issues on which it is necessary for us to have consensus?

Ndi Nwem, is it not obvious even to a blind man that Nigeria is on the boil, with the omen of Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia prophesied for it? Is it not only a blind man who will not see the calamity hanging in the air? Is it not true that political insensitivity is threatening the peace secured in the Nigeria Delta with the Amnesty? There are political maneuverings going on around us that we must sit down, analyse and understand. We must therefore put our house in order in case of eventuality.

My dear brothers and sisters, many here will insist that we must continue to point fingers at Nigeria as a responsible for our woes. Yes, we need not look far to locate the source of our problem. But it cannot be true that all of our woes are externally induced. Let me ask a question, what will we do if external forces remain hell-bent on standing in our way? Can we not define a path of progress for ourselves? Onye ajuru oga'ju onwe ya?

My submission today is that we must start a process of defining a short term Igbo Renaissance Agenda for the next 50 years and a long term Agenda of where we must be in the next 100 years. We must stop dwelling on expediencies that serve a few selfish interests. I say "must" because there is no alternative for us. Let me correct that. The alternative is our extinction.

To get where we must be in the next 50 years and the next 100 years, there are steps we must begin to take today. First, we must return to our culture and the core values of Ndigbo to be one of our strategic facilitators in our march into the 21st century? Many will say we have done well for a people who lost a war. But as Jesse Jackson said, "we have proved that we can survive without each other. But we have not proved that we can win and make progress without each other. We must come together. We must forgive each other, redeem each other, regroup and move on". Whatever else we become must not override the fact that first and foremost we are Ndigbo.

The 21st century is going to be Information Technology and knowledge driven. In order to be competitive in this country and in the world, in the next 50 years, should we not begin today to produce world class human capital? Should we not begin now to assemble our engineers and scientists? We, all of us, must redeem our educational system. We must begin now to produce people worthy in character and learning, well grounded in our culture and values. It is in pursuit of this objective that we in Imo took the bold step, on 4 January this year, to return 44 secondary schools to the missionaries. We want the Churches to partner with government in redeeming the character of the next generation. That cannot be left to the lean resources of the state governments. The private sector, voluntary agencies and individuals must actively participate.

The next step is that we must make our society a safe and clean place to live and work. Security, especially under the present circumstances we find ourselves, must be everybody's concern. Many people say that to reduce crime, you must create jobs. That is true. But it is equally true that without security, investors who create jobs will not come. Even our own sons and daughters will be afraid to come home on short holidays. We must do everything possible, including taking extreme measures to improve security in Igboland, because experience has taught us that ultimately Igbo assets are safest in Igboland. We must mobilize our youths to protect their parents.

Another very important step we must take is to sanitize Igbo land of saboteurs. I completely agree with Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu when he spoke of "Authority structure and Sanction Mechanism". We must stop those adept at engineering loss of confidence in Igbo leadership and all those who are making it difficult for people to have confidence in their government. We must not blame our leaders alone. We must also blame those who plant injurious stories, smear the image and assassinate the characters of our people in public office. It is disgraceful that some of these smear campaigns are sponsored by those who themselves were in public office. We must uproot those poisonous fungi (ero agbara) among us and the renegades who talk before they think!

Our political behaviour must change. Every Igbo man or woman cannot be a leader at the same time. A society without hierarchy is doomed. We must put our Republicanism to work for us and not destroy us. We must put our best foot forward in everything we do. We must rid our politics of unserious characters so that when we speak the world cannot mistake the true voice of Ndigbo.

I have left many things unsaid here. The reason is that our people say adigh eme nka n'oma ahia. There are things I would prefer a core of dedicated Igbo elders, leaders and those who understand what is going on to sit in private to consider, strategise and give an action plan. Our people are getting tire of too much talk and little action.

Finally, Ndi Nwem, we must not leave Nigeria in doubt that this is our country. With our population, human and material resources, industry, and entrepreneurship, we have all it takes to be a major player in this country. Any action or individual we back receives a critical support in Nigeria. It will be a mistake for anybody to think that Nigeria can move forward without Ndigbo being a major fulcrum of that advancement. We do not need oil money, what we need is a level playing ground. We need a deregulated economy, we ask for True Federalism. Since we couldn't get common second Niger Bridge, since couldn't get an additional State and since we have all agreed on the equality of the six (6) Geopolitical Zones, why don't we for the sake of equity, share all Federal revenue using geopolitical formula?

Chief Ohakim Governor of Imo State, Nigeria presented this speech at Igbo Leaders Forum in Owerri recently.

Jos Massacres Follows A Pattern Of Unpunished Crimes

By Obi Nwakanma/The Orbit/Vanguard

Reflect on this irony: a young army captain helps to organize a military coup and supervises the liquidation of his commander-in-chief and the host governor, another senior military officer, of a region to which he was paying a state visit. The facts are bare: even in a military situation under a properly trained and disciplined military officer, a General must be accorded his full compliments even in death.

He is given the choice to fall on his own daggers or he is given a dignified exit given the circumstance. But neither General Ironsi nor his host Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi was given that option.

These two distinguished military officers were first beaten to a pulp; indeed severely and roundly humiliated by subalterns under the direction of this young captain before they dragged them off to some far-off location, on Iwo road, we are told, executed and buried in a shallow grave. Of course, the act does not stop there.

This horde of putschists go round all the military installations – the Army barracks – and drag their brother officers and men from their beds in the dead of night and execute them. The execution is methodical and cold. The only criterion for death was to be identified as an Eastern Nigerian officer, and particularly an Igbo officer, and you were marked.

This decimation of military officers of Eastern Nigerian origin did not end there. Perhaps if it did, there might have been some explanation that it was a purely military affair – soldiers killing off their rivals and contenders for power within the military system that had dawned upon Nigeria following another military coup, six months earlier, led by Emmanuel Ifeajuna and other mid-level officers, most of them identifiably Igbo. There might have been some validity in the later claim that the coup makers of July 29, 1966 were avenging the death of their brother officers from the north and their political leaders who had been killed in the January coup. But no, the bloodlust was not contained in the barracks.

It spilled into the streets, particularly in the northern streets, but also in the west of Nigeria, and a systematic elimination of the Easterner, particularly the Igbo was carried out to the letter from July through September, in waves that created the first massive case of internal displacement and movement in Nigeria and in West Africa in the post-colonial era. This cold, calculated killing of the Igbo –the first pogrom – was carefully planned, well-coordinated, and executed with the precision of a military plan.

It left no careful observer of the events, and subsequent historians of that era who have carefully examined the data in any doubt that the pogrom was a carefully planned and well coordinated operation – a selective annihilation or ethnic cleansing of particularly the Igbo in particularly the north of Nigeria. Internally displaced Easterners, particularly the majority Igbo population sought refuge in Eastern Nigeria. Perhaps because of the extended family system still intact in that period, a great refugee crisis was averted, and it possibly blunted the outcry and an international response to the situation.

Perhaps the “international community” simply wanted to let an armed horde settle the problem of the “uppity Igbo.” But long before the Rwandan genocide, a great wave of genocidal killings of the Igbo had taken place. The failure of the world community, led particularly by the great western powers in deference to Great Britain, the erstwhile colonial power and the United States, its ally, and in a policy of appeasement to the wider Muslim lobby led by Saudi Arabia whose connections to the Northern Nigerian Islamic community is through an old Ottoman link, to call the act by its proper name, genocide, foreclosed any consequence against the perpetrators of this act.

But the situation eventually blossomed to one of Africa’s most brutal conflicts following the secession of the Easterners when they felt the nation was no longer able to protect its citizens, thus declaring their own Republic of Biafra, resulting in the brutal civil war in which about three million died in the former Biafran enclave, mostly starved to death as a result of war policy. No one was forced to pay for these deaths. This has created a situation of impunity because no one was made to face the laws in these circumstances.

But to this day, contemporary reporters and analysts of the Nigerian crisis continually fail to connect the cyclic violence that erupts in Nigeria to a history of unpunished crimes most times financed and led by some of the most powerful figures of the community who seize the state and stay above the law. The law indeed is blind in Nigeria. Impunity pays. This cycle of violence and ethnic cleansing starting in 1945 in Jos, 1953 in Kano, in 1966, in 1978, down to the Akaluka beheading in Kano are the ancestral spirits of what has now become the Jos massacre of Christians by so-called Fulani Moslem pastoralists.

It follows the same pattern of unpunished crimes. These killings are also at the contradictory nexus of the nationality question; the indigene/settler conundrum. It is the conundrum which the Igbo have long exemplified in the Nigerian unconscious. They have been killed for daring to settle the nation called Nigeria. The perpetrators and financiers of these crimes understood that in Nigeria the crime of killing pays.

Oh yes, no one of significance has paid for killing. On the other hand people have been handsomely rewarded for acts of “heroic” murder. So, then, fast-forward to the year 2010, and that young captain who supervised the murder of his commander-in-chief, in a successful military operation also called a coup, becomes on that single account alone, a successful soldier.

He became a General before he turned forty and became Chief of the Nigerian Military. He has been lionized, and feted, and he even had a biography commissioned and farmed out to a hagiographer to tell a great heroic fib. He continues to be feted for supervising the liquidation of his commander-in-chief. His reward for that act led the nation to a civil war. And the terrible music plays on because in Nigeria the harsh law is only meted against the powerless. So will it be in this case of the massacres in Jos: there will be no justice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Zik Stopped Nigeria From Breaking Up In 1957 -- Ralph Uwechue

Interview/Sun News Publishing

As the president of Ohaneze Ndigbo what efforts are you making to unite Igbo in Rivers and Delta States some of who have openly denied their Igbo origin?

First of all it should be understood that these fractions who now deny the fact that they are Igbo did so only after the Civil War; take for instance the Ikwerre people and others fully identified with us during the pre civil war era but because the Igbo lost the civil war, a kind of stigma was smeared on them making a lot of people to start adjusting there names to sound less Igbo but this is natural. Notwithstanding it is important to note that those who say they are Igbo are more in number than those who deny their identity. To start with, I’m from Delta state, and 11 kings and 44 chiefs from Anioma came to identify with us at the last Igbo Day held in Owerri, so I feel that those who matter still identify with their true origin. So we must recognize the ethnic units as the foundation, the blocks that build our country

On the marginalization of the Igbo in Nigeria politics?

Even a blind political analyst will perceive the feelings that today, in the Nigeria polity, the Igbo, as a people, are being deliberately sidelined, especially in the sphere of political leadership of the country. No Igbo person is deemed good enough or trusted enough to be put at the helm of affairs, at the apex management position of Nigeria. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s pioneer titular head of state, took a shot at the real thing-the executive presidency, in 1979 and 1983. In spite of his nationally acknowledged role as the foremost crusader for our nation’s independence, he scored abysmally in both electoral tests. Dr. Alex Ekwueme fared no better, even as he teamed up with a scion of the northern oligarchy-Alhaji Shehu Shagari. In this fourth Republic, mention must be made of the efforts of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu the PPA presidential candidate, Prof. Patrick O. Utomi of ADC, Emmanuel Okereke of ALP, Godwin Nnaji of BNPP, Maxi Okwu of CPP, Sunny Okogwu of RPN, our reverend gentleman, Pastor Chris Okotie of Fresh Party Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu of APGA and the highly respected Arthur Nwankwo of PMP. Igbo has always stepped out to give the nation a multiple opportunity to choose from the pool and corrected what seem like a perfectly scripted design to marginalize them from the polity. The Shagari –Ekwueme joint ticket was designed to make Ekwueme the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) presidential candidate after the tenure of Shagari in 1987, a vision which the military never allowed to materialize.

Like today’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the NPN was the dominant party at the time. Securing its presidential candidate’s nomination was as good as clinching the presidential position. Dr. Ekwueme who was poised to replace Shagari in 1987, was eminently qualified and was favoured by Shagari himself for the presidential job ahead. He had to be stopped, hence, the coup of 31st December 1983, which traded in the remaining three years and nine months of Shagari’s second and final term, with all its democratic restrictions, for an eventual collective northern rule of some fourteen years of absolute power, under the successive military governments of Buhari, Babangida and Abacha. Alhaji Umaru Dikko, former Transport Minister in Shagari’s government said this much in an interview he gave in London, before his attempted kidnapping, on the presumed orders of an embarrassed and angry Buhari-Idiagbon administration. Subsequent revelations by former senior northern military officers have since confirmed Umaru Dikko’s candid assertion.

The 1983 coup denied Ndigbo, the largest ethnic group in Nigeria, their deserved right and chance of producing an executive president and constitutionally exercises their presidential right for eight-year period of two terms. This callous and contemptuous treatment meted out to my people is in clear and cruel contrast with the compassionate concession, massively supported by Ndigbo, given to the Yorubas in 1999 to make up for the presidential slot missed by their kinsman, Chief M.K.O Abiola.

But, Your Excellency Sir, some notable Igbo son’s and daughters have been given notable appointments in the past…? (Cuts in)

Sometimes, too much is being simplistically made of these occasional random appointments of talented Igbo technocrats to high profile positions, where demonstrable competence is usually required to tackle certain specific and difficult national tasks. What has been critically absent for years, and still missing today, is fair and effective Igbo participation in the national decision-making process, which is entirely political. Appointees, no matter how highly positioned, only implement decisions already packaged and handed down to them. They are hired and fired at will. Considering their manifest multi-faceted contribution to Nigeria’s political and economic development, Ndigbo deserve better than political crumbs from the master’s table.

At the current foundation laying stage of our national development, control of vital decision-making position and organs easily determines who gets what. If at this critical stage in our nation building enterprise, the Igbo continue to be excluded from such positions, in this case, by discernable design, then no matter how much they struggle, their political marginalization, with all its negative consequences will endure.

Sir, don’t you think that the Igbo political leaders are to be blamed, therefore, the need for the Igbo to first of all look inward before pointing fingers else where?

No doubt, the Igbo people themselves have their share of blame in this unsavoury saga, especially given the individualistic and blindly opportunistic attitude of some Igbo politicians, scrambling for crumbs of public office in total disregard of legitimate Igbo collective interest within the Nigeria family.
The perceived overall aggressiveness of the Igbo in social and business intercourse creates fright among their competitors who tend to gang up against them. However, the core problem for the Igbo today is clearly traceable to the immediate events that preceded the civil war, 1967-70. The military coup of January 1966 is central to it all. It created fear and distrust of the Igbo that are yet to be purged from the national political system. It is for this reason that I chose to base by presentation during the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Day 2009, at Owerri on, ‘Ndigbo: Nigeria’s Nation Builders’ in order to highlight the enormous contribution of Ndigbo to the building and sustenance of the Nigeria project. The aim is to help reassure ourselves, especially the young up-and-coming generation of Igbo that in spite of a few hitches, Ndigbo have, over the years, borne the brunt of the onerous task of nation building in Nigeria and have good cause to feel truly proud of their achievements in that regard.

Your Excellency, Sir, don’t you think that our Igbo founding fathers are to blame for our present predicament, Awo to me was wise, he wanted to build a great nation from sub-ethnic nationality, while Zik tried to build a great nation from the centre to the sub ethnic level, in the long run the Igbo are worse off for it?

It was not a mistake from my own point of view because even long before independence the Igbo political and economic role in Nigeria has been consistent in the pursuit of national unity and inter-ethnic cooperation. The average Igbo trader or business person loves to spread his or her tentacle far and wide that is why you see them in Lome, Cameroun, Accra and all round the globe.

Politically, under the leadership of the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbo played the role of bridge builders in the fledgling Nigeria nation. The great Zik of Africa, as he was fondly called, accepted the leadership of the legendary Yoruba political activist, Herbert Macaulay to form and direct the first truly significant national political party, National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NUNC). With respected nationalist Yoruba leaders like Dr. Ibiyinka Olorun-Nimbe, the first and only Mayor of Lagos, Sir Odeleye Fadahunsi, the first national vice-president of the NUNC and second indigenous Governor of Western Region, Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu, the lion of Ibadan politics, and others including Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief Mojeed Agbaje and Otumba T.O.S Benson, the then Igbo leadership forged a political alliance which cut across ethnic boundaries. Such was the extent of their success that Zik was poised, after the regional election of 1951, but for a last minute hitch, to become the premier of the Western Region, the home ground of the Yoruba nation. The party which he led, the NUNC and its allies won a majority of seats in the Western House of Assembly. In the Eastern Region, the Igbo-dominated NUNC, true to its pan-Nigeria orientation and commitment, elected as the first mayor of Enugu metropolis, Mallam Umoru Altini, a Muslim from Katsina.

Again, in 1957 when the British Colonial Government, under intense pressure from Southern politicians pressing for independence, attempted to uncouple the union between the North and South forged through Lord Lugard’s Amalgamation of 1914, with the offer of independence to the three Regions individually provided any two accepted the offer, a political crisis loomed large on the national horizon. The Northern Region, led by the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) took the position that the North was not ready for that level of political and economic independence. The Western Region, led by Chief Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) promptly, declared its readiness to accept the offer. It was the Igbo-led NUNC that held the balance. It was an issue that could make or break Nigeria if the three Regions chose to go their separate ways to independence.

The NUNC leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe took the stand that although the Eastern Region was ready to assume the responsibilities of Regional independence, its attainment without the North would lead, in his own words, to the ‘’Baalkanization of the Nigeria Nation’’ and conceivably a break-up of the country. The Eastern Region would rather suppress it’s appetite for independence and the obvious gains it would entail until the Northern Region was ready. That was how Nigeria Independence was delayed until 1960. In short, the Igbo-led Eastern Region would rather forgo the advancement of its own political economic interests than risk the break-up of Nigeria.

Had the Eastern Region opted for Independence at that time, the territory under its control would have comprised in today’s terms the following nine States with their enormous human and natural resources: Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Rivers state. It would also probably include Southern Cameroun with the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula. If not for Zik, by 1960, the three Regions would have become separate sovereign states and there would have been no question of Biafra’s attempted secession in 1967 from a non-existing Nigeria federation and the devastating civil war fought to stop it.
Similary, when Zik moved to the Federal scene as Governor-General and later titular President of Nigeria, the NUNC, under the leadership of Dr. Michael Okpara, of blessed memory, continued faithfully in his giant and indelible footsteps, the political bridge-building and nation building enterprise of the Igbo.

At independence, the Igbo-led NUNC shunned the attraction of being the senior partner in an East-West Alliance with Chief Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) and chose to team up instead as the junior partner, with Sir Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in order to consolidate the frail and insipid attachment of a wary and skeptical North to Southern Nigeria. At that time Chief Awolowo’s Yoruba dominated Action Group (AG) was viewed with considerable suspicion by the Hausa Fulani-led NPC for its ambition and role in the then Middle Belt, under Congress (UMBC). However, when the Yoruba Leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo was accused of treason and incarcerated in 1963, on charges which many Nigerians believed were trumped up to silence him politically, the Igbo leadership of NUNC switched side and came to his rescue.

Dr. Michael Okpara teamed up with Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro, the acting leader of the Action Group, to fight what the Igbo perceived as political injustice that could threaten the unity of Nigeria. They formed the United Peoples Grand Alliance (UPGA). The leadership, suspicious of NPC’s conceivable dark intentions, insisted that Chief Awolowo must be transferred from Kaduna to Calabar for his physical safety. The reason was that considering the overwhelming popularity of the Yoruba leader in the Western Region, the stability and unity of Nigeria could face jeopardy if something untoward happened to him. The Igbo were not ready for that risk. For them, the unity and stability of Nigeria was paramount.

Looking back, don’t you think the 1966 military coup led by Col. Nzeogwu was the greatest undoing of Ndigbo?

The 1966 coup was not an Igbo coup. The military intervention of January 1966, which was to a considerable degree a consequence of the persisting political turmoil in Western Nigeria, put an abrupt end to the political activities of the various parties. That coup, most regrettably, took the lives of many prominent national leaders both military and civilian. Behind the façade of general jubilation which greeted the January coup among the progressives in the country, particularly in the South, there was the ominous reality of an embittered North, the most powerful region in the Federation, whose overall representation in the army itself kept good pace with its political dominance in the country. Northern interest had suffered heavily both in the political and military spheres. Once it recovered from the shock, the North was bound to reassert itself in both domains.

This, it did brutally in July 1966, sweeping General Ironsi, who was murdered at Ibadan, out of power. Some 214 Igbo officers and men were reported killed across the nation in a wholesale massacre, which also took the life of Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, the popular Yoruba military governor of Western Region, an articulate Ironsi confidant, known to be a sympathizer of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Thus, the circumstances of the January event and the largely one-sided killing that marked the bloody aspect of that coup practically made such a vengeful situation inevitable. For the Northern political leadership, the January 1966 event was a plot conceived and hatched by the entire Igbo nation to seize political power in Nigeria.

Yet, the stark reality of that historic episode is that, as the British writer, Walter Schwartz put it succinctly in his classic book ‘Nigeria’ which appeared at the time, ‘’…the coup was Ibo led, but national in objective’’. Many prominent Igbo officers, starting with the head of the Army, General Aguiyi Ironsi to Col. Emeka Ojukwu, who was the commanding officer in Kano, were not involved. Indeed, Col. Arthur Unegbe, the Quarter-Master General, was killed in Lagos for refusing to cooperate with the coup makers, who came to him and demanded the keys to the armory.

This very act on the part of Col. Unegbe, a thorough-bred Igbo patriot, of giving his life for Nigeria and his absolute loyalty to the northern NPC controlled Balewa government, played a decisive role in bringing about the collapse of the coup in Lagos itself-the very seat of the Federal Government. Unable to secure the armory, the coup leaders were automatically denied control of the most important means- arms and ammunition of carrying out their plan in the supremely strategic Lagos area. It was, indeed, exactly this situation that gave a loyal General Ironsi his chance on that fateful night of 15th January. The troops he rallied at dawn to thwart the coup had the arms and ammunition to support him. Such was the extent of active and effective opposition mounted by high ranking Igbo officers to ensure the failure of the unfairly branded ‘Igbo coup’ of January 1966.

The putsch was aimed at dislodging those who held the levers of federal power and their allies in the Regions. Most unfortunately, in Lagos it took the lives of the NPC Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Balewa and his close confident, the Finance Minister from the Mid-West Region, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh of Zik’s NUNC party. In the Regions, the NPC Premier of North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was killed. So also was the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, an ally and protégé of the Balewa government and a bitter political enemy of opposition leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, then languishing in prison? Troops loyal to the plotters moved to Enugu, but the Eastern Region Premier Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara was speared because President Makarios of Cyprus, who had attended the Commonwealth prime ministers’ conference at Lagos was Okpara’s guest at Enugu.

In fact, informed rumuors at the time, had it that the young officers, with a clear patriotic national perspective, had in mind to release the Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, from detention and install him as the head of an interim government, pending a constitutional review and elections. Indeed, the renowned educationist and civil rights activist, Tai Solarin, came close to confirming that view in an interview he gave to a national daily a few years before his death. Nzeogwu himself, the widely acclaimed coup leader put the record this way in an interview he gave to the magazine ‘Africa And The World’ in May 1967, ‘’Our purpose was to change our country and make it a place we could be proud to call our home. Tribal considerations were completely out of our minds. But we had a set back in the execution’’ In other word, the intervention of this group of idealistic young officers, which included many Igbo, was to help build a better, united and prosperous Nigeria for all her citizens, totally regardless of ethnicity or other affiliations.

In relevant retrospect, the similarity between the Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu led coup of January 1966 and that led by Major Gideon Orkah in April 1990 against the government of General Ibrahim Babangida stands out in astonishing relief. Both coups were carried out by young and idealistic middle-ranking officers; intent on transforming what they sincerely believed was a rotten Nigeria society. Neither coup was prompted or supported by senior officers of their respective ethnic groups. But there is a painful difference in their socio-political aftermath. Nzeogwu’s coup was branded an ‘Igbo’ coup, for which the entire Ndigbo must pay a heavy and recurrent political price. Orkah’s coup was not seen as a ‘Tiv’ coup and justly so, and has no perceivable penalizing political price tag for the Tiv ethnic group.

For this clearly discriminatory attitude towards Ndigbo, and in sharp contrast with the concession given to the Yorubas over the M.K.O Abiola case, it is only right to assert that our beloved co-citizens of Nigeria owe the Igbo Nation unreserved fraternal apology for visiting an unjust and sustained capital political punishment on the entire Igbo nation, vis-à-vis their constitutional right to exercise power as president of our country. This is a fundamental right already too long denied, for which the entire Ndigbo as one united and indivisible family, no matter their individual political affiliations, must come together to fight.

Are you still nursing a political ambition?

Certainly not

What are your reasons?

I have tried it twice and have seen what has happened

What happened?

The political elites are not ready to get people who they cannot manipulate

Your answer gives credence to the opinion that the political elites always look for some one they can easily remote control to hand over power to.
In what ways were you asked to compromise that made you relinquish your ambition of becoming president?

I was part of PDP and the process was on… and they all can testify that if there is one person who can not compromise his principles Uweche is the one. All the presidential aspirants paid a fee of 5 million and 10 thousand naira, we were all paraded that day and I remember one Mrs. Jubril who was begging for us to be allowed to address the people at the convention but they refused. Obasanjo personally and alone chose Yar’Adua from among us at the nomination level and there was no contest

But there was this rumour that you people were settled heavily to step down for Yar’Adua, is that not part of compromise?

It was certainly not Uweche, I was not settled and I don’t need to be settled either. They didn’t even apologize to us, and as for our financial losses, I didn’t get back my 5 million and I don’t think anybody did, and as far as I am concerned that nomination at Eagle Square was a personal thing by Obasanjo, he singlehandedly picked Yar’Adua. This is the truth, I can tell you more, in 1993 I contested for presidency under Humphrey Nwosu’s Option A4, and I was the SDP flag bearer for Delta state, Abiola was for Ogun state while Atiku was for Adamawa, we were only 30 who could be president but we decided to zone it to Southwest and Northeast that was how Abiola and Kingibe emerged. That election was perfect because one had to win first at the ward level, then the local government level, in Delta state where only one third of the population are Igbo I got 81 percent of the total vote cast; so if we could have a perfect election as far back as 93 what stops us from repeating it not to talk of improving on it. The last general elections were adulterated starting from the nomination of candidates at the party level. This is what I mean by manipulation.

Will there be Igbo President by 2011?

Well I don’t know yet how many Igbo people are interested in the presidency but the important thing is that we as Ohaneze want to see the rotation of power in a fair manner. Igbo have not had their fair share of power at the apex level

As one who served under President Obasanjo who some section of Igbo believe did not favour them, did you at any time find your self being instruct to work against the interest of Ndigbo in order to please the ex-president?

Obasanjo had Igbo in his cabinet outside myself, people like Okonjo Iweala, Soludo and others, so I feel that this idea of Obasanjo hating the Igbo could be a personal view of individuals. I don’t personally believe that Obasanjo singled out the Igbo to hate them, he may have had clashes with some Igbo but there are also Igbo who are his friends. As a matter of fact, I think Obasanjo’s regime favoured the Igbo in terms of appointment the way no regime have done in recent time. We can not single out one or two isolated cases and try to judge him from that.

What is your relationship with people like Chief Joe Irukwu who no longer identify with Ohaneze, what are you doing about this?

The issue of Joe Irukwu and his colleagues was that after the expiration of their tenure which according to Ohaneze’s constitution ought to be two years, Joe Irukwu and co demanded for another two years, and a committee headed by Iwuanyanwu supported this move but Ikedife vehemently withstood this, at the end Irukwu gave way though we had a kind of parallel administrations but the Southeastern governors stood for Ikedife who completed his tenure and handed over to me, and on the day of my installation Irukwu sent me a congratulatory message. You see people support Ohaneze in the way they deem fit, but I would want to see Ohaneze metamorphose into a more popular organization where the common people both show interest and contribute to her welfare. Presently, we are coming forward with a platform where people can make donations and their names and funds would be properly recorded and we’ll also issue receipts so as to be as transparent as possible. When this is achieved we’ll be able to achieve any project without financial constraints.

One of my pet projects is to build a multi national hospital in Igboland; it has been proved that 80% of what is spent by those travelling abroad for medical care is spent on transportation and hotel bills so I intend reducing the much talked about brain drain of our medical practitioners by encouraging our brothers who are rated very high in international standards to retire in Nigeria so when that hospital is built they will come with very high standards which our local medical doctors working in the hospital would be encouraged to maintain, when this is done we expect that one can spent just 20 percent of what is spent in America and get exactly the same treatment. If President Yar’Adua shuttles to Saudi Arabia for medical treatments what stops people from shuttling to Nigeria from other parts of the globe, this is what I wanted to do as Nigeria’s President but since I’m not, let me do it for those who have asked me to be their leader

How do you intend giving birth to such a gigantic dream without the y basic infrastructure in the country?

We are sure that this infrastructural decay would not continue for ever, look at me in my hometown today, I believe that when more and more knowledgeable people come home and start asking questions, things would change. For me what matters is determination and the project is as good as accomplished, things will come to a level where the governors would become afraid of the people and start working for them. In this house for instance, I have my generators which I use most of the time, I spend between 8 to 12 thousand naira daily on diesel, I was told that if I bought my own transformer I would be able to tap direct from the high tension wire so I bought one that cost me over 3.7 million but it is just there lying dormant; this would not remain forever, since I’ve been away in Britain and Abuja and just spend one or two weekends here it didn’t matter but I can’t afford certain things now so we’ll mount pressure on people to do something

During Ikedife’s regime we learnt that Ohaneze sat and urged the southeasterners not to vote for PDP, so now you’re talking of building Ohaneze are we going to witness the emergence of a body that dictates who become who in the Igbo community?

Not at all, Ohaneze is a cultural organization, I told you earlier that we received the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), but I told them that we do not agree with their idea. PDP has their own idea just like every other party but that is not Ohaneze’s interest, we are rather concerned about fielding the best candidates in the Igbo community. We would give our advises but they wouldn’t be partisan.

The well manicured flowers covering over 100meters before the main building makes the environment to look inviting, the Africa House, with a 2,000 capacity multi-purpose hall at Ogwasi-Uku has excellence clearly imprinted all over. The hall was structured in such a way that a visitor will not realize that over 2,000 other visitors are gathering at the same building unless you are informed of their presence.

It was a beautiful morning, over a cup of coffee when HIS EXCELLENCY CHIEF (AMB.) RALPH UWECHUE(OFR) Ogwuluzame of Ogwashi-Uku, Author, Publisher, two-time presidential aspirant under SDP in 1993 and PDP in 2007, and the President of the apex body of all Igbo socio-cultural associations, Ohaneze Ndigbo, sat defending and making case for the Igbo interest with Peter Agba Kalu. Probably, this is his hottest interview in recent times

You are seen in the international circle more as an activist because of your Pan Africanist crusade than a politician, can you please define the basis of your activism and the extent of achievement you’ve recorded?

As far as I’m concerned, I’m a pan Africanist, I believe very strongly in African Unity and cooperation this is why I named this house Africa House, my book on reflection on the Nigeria Biafra war is dedicated to the true and thoughtful African not to my wife or any other person.

So, I’m a very confident African, I’m an Nkrumaist, I’ve been since school days and I still am; so my vision is that Africa should come together and promote their religious interest and develop their economy, when we join hands to do something it would be better done than if we had done it as individuals. We talk about economic development and unemployment, what nonsense? For every mouth there is to feed, God has provided two hands to do the feeding; Japanese did not invent cars or Koreans, what is a car? Piece of metal, iron and plastic cut to certain specifications and put together no more no, less; so if you and I sit here and import everything we want, we are giving employment to people in air-conditioned factories in Europe or elsewhere at the expense of our graduates who are unemployed, so we need a government with vision that knows what the masses need. As great as America is, she exports only 6 percent of her products, the rest are consumed locally. Nigeria is not just any country it is the leading Black Country in the whole world.