Lagos not Igboland, we’re visitors —Iwuanyanwu



Lagos not Igboland


By Dickson Omobola

President General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, is in Lagos for a three-day visit during which he will meet with Igbo leaders and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to address issues affecting Igbo in the economic capital of the country.

In an interview after one of the engagements with Igbo leaders in Ikoyi, on Wednesday, he spoke on issues around his emergence as Ohanaeze leader, his agenda for Igbo, the blowing wind of insecurity in the South-East and how the Federal Government can arrest it among others.

On issues surrounding his election as
Ohanaeze leader

Some months ago I was elected leader of all Igbo, which is the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Frankly speaking, at over 80 years, it was a very difficult thing for me to accept, although I saw that my people were very passionate about having me serve them. All the leaders came to me expressing their support and confidence in me. All the five governors of the South-East also came to me saying they were with me.

All the seven presidents of Ohanaeze in the various states – Rivers, Delta, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi came too. All these made me realise that I had no choice. It is my belief that any gift possessed by an individual is from God. Therefore, if your people call you to serve them at any time and you fail, you are not fair to God the creator who has given you the gift.

Opposition from his nuclear family

My wife and children didn’t want me to accept it. However, I had to convince them. Some said I would die, but I told them that if I die at 80 it is not too early.

First official tour of South-West

Where am I today? I am on my first official tour to South-West Nigeria. I have come to meet Igbo in the South-West. I met the elders last night (Tuesday) in what we call Ime-obi, which is where we meet in Igbo culture to make far-reaching decisions. We had a meeting in the house of one of our elders, Cmdr. Ebitu Ukiwe, retd. It was a very successful meeting.

As I arrived at the airport, my people gave me a wonderful reception. All the Ezes and town union presidents lined up. I have just finished a meeting with the Ezes because we have a system that demands that we organise ourselves wherever we are. Every success that Igbo have achieved over the years is because we have the capacity to come together at a short notice. The town union is part of our structure,
The people I have met here today are very important people in the lives of Igbo. Wherever I go, I meet with these people, and they whisper the condition of things to me. I am here essentially on my first official tour to South-West and I have been very well-received. I am very happy because my people have shown a lot of trust and confidence in me. I have made up my mind and I pray to God Almighty to give me the capacity to serve them and to help me so that I do not fall below their expectations.

What are your plans for the Igbo?

I have studied the map of Igboland and I have carried out a very comprehensive study on agriculture, our mineral resources or natural endowment and intellectual capacity. Based on these things, I am quite convinced that we have a lot of prospects. I am bent on transforming Igboland; I believe that by the plan that I am making, I will transform agriculture, the industrial base and commerce because our people are trade-inclined, which is a major part of our wealth.

Without fear of contradictions, when you talk about Gross Domestic Product, GDP, in Nigeria today, I think Igbo contribute more to the GDP than any other group because we are there in every local government. There is no local government in Nigeria today where you won’t see Igbo. Wherever they are, they carry out their businesses which could be trading in one commodity or the other, even farming. Whatever they do, they pay taxes, build houses and live peacefully with the people there. I believe they are doing well for Nigeria.

We are very proud that our people are contributing positively to Nigeria. Many patriotic Nigerians appreciate it.

There is a lack of clarity on the President of Ohanaeze in Lagos State. Is Chief Sunday Ossai the president?

We have our constitution. Professor George Obiozor was the chairman before he died. Ambassador Okey Emuchay is the Secretary General. They handed over Sunday Ossai to me as the President of Lagos branch without informing me of any dispute. The report I had was that the former man, Solomon, who I don’t know and I have never met, had completed his four-year tenure. This man, because he probably believes that some powerful people are going to support him, wants to destabilise Ohanaeze. This is the impression that I get from people. I want to make it clear that the former President General of Ohanaeze handed over Sunday Ossai to me as the President of Lagos branch.

We have had a very unfortunate experience recently. Out of personal interest, some people are doing everything to undermine Ohanaeze, which is the hope of Igbo. It is our hope of development and unity. You see a small boy jump up to say he is the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. The Secretary General is Okey Emuchay, who has served Nigeria in various capacities. He is a man with impeccable academic credentials and civil service credentials. Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo cannot just pick anyone as its Secretary General. For Publicity Secretary, you have Dr Alex Ogbonnia. All these scoundrels who mislead the public should be reported to the police for fraud.

Are the Ezes in Lagos recognised?

The concept is part of Igbo culture. Igbo have always believed in leadership. We believe that if you don’t come together with a leader, the problems of life cannot be fought. The problems could arise from humans, society and the economy. What has saved Igbo wherever they live either in Nigeria or outside is that wherever they go they come together. It has helped us in many areas. As President General, the Ezes are part of the people who have supported me and they have confidence in me. Their position is unchallengeable because we need their leadership, we need their position.

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