The ongoing tussle between organizations that would mount the leadership role to represent the collective Igbo interests have continued to spell trouble for the people of the south east origin. In the interview below with Prof Elo Amucheazi, he takes charge at the need to dismantle the Ohaneze Ndigbo as a representative body for the Igbos. Prof. Elo Amucheazi was responsible for drafting the present Ohaneze Ndigbo constitution.
May we know about the Igbo Leaders of Thought; is the group working closely with Ohaneze Ndigbo
We’ve come a long way, the Igbo leaders of thought, circumstances brought us into existence, our people have this saying that an elder can’t stand by and watch a she goat deliver while tattered, Igbo Leaders of Thought or any Leaders of Thought, is a permanent feature of any society, particularly, an egalitarian society like Ndigbo. It was our group under Okpara that set up the roadmap which made Okpara’s administration what it was and we all look forward to monumental achievements of the Okpara administration. During the civil war, many of you were not yet born, you had leaders of thought again helping Ojukwu. Right now in most states, you have Elders Forum, you see, these are extra-legal bodies, extra-legal establishments, not legislative bodies, you know how people are recruited into the legislature. These are people with wisdom, experience who have spent so many years on earth. Leaders of Thought have done tremendous work in respect of this
National Conference, it’s a very critical juncture, we are in this country. 100 years of existence of what you call Nigeria. Fortunately, we have this young man on the saddle as the president of this country, despite the pressure, he deemed it necessary to set up a national conference and I think he’s done very well. We than Prof Nwabueze, how he did it, we don’t know. It was Nwabueze who influenced the setting up of the conference; no doubt, some other people may have contributed, but Nwabueze remains one of the foremost constitutional lawyers on earth. As you very well know, when you talk about constitutions, its Nwabueze, he’s got about 30 books on constitutions. He’s been involved in constitutions of some African countries; invited, Sudan South-African and over 15 countries of the world. So, he was able to convince the president that this is the appropriate time for a conference. Off course, we have not got the kind of conference we wanted
because when you talk about marginalisation, it is Ndigbo who talk about marginalisation. It’s the Yorubas who complain that they are no longer in control of the economy of this country; it’s the North-west who said they are loosing political control, I mean after all, they are born to rule and you want to challenge them. So you can see groups not handicapped, physically challenged students, not interest groups, we are saying, when the British buccaneers government came in here, it was these people they got to negotiate, signed treaties and al that. That’s why we thought that this is the appropriate time for these groups to come together, Jonathan has taken a very important step and am almost sure that the conference will probably through its own dynamics, still help us achieve what we want. Am sure many of you know how revolution is organised, it is not the leaders of a revolution that ultimately benefit from it, you can start a course and along
the line, some people will take over. We’ve achieved a lot; there is this thing that we often say that when a lizard falls from the iroko tree and people fail to acknowledge it, it will tell you that it must congratulate itself. It’s the Elders Forum that really has sensitised, created awareness about the conference, not only here but in the country. It was our sustained agitation that made Jonathan to force Okuroumu to review his initial recommendation and representation was no longer based on federal constituencies but on stakeholders; it was part of our position and we’ve prepared roadmap which we approved today. We are going to make it available to Ndigbo and Nigerians. I won’t disclose but we are trying to find a way in which we are going to have effective representation at the conference. If we mobilise our people to go to the conference, by God’s Grace, we are going to achieve something, after all, what is the challenge; to restructure
this country into balanced federation or better still, true federalism and we may achieve that. So, we thank you for what you have done for us.
Are you concerned about the division in Igbo land leading to the emergence of your group which clearly do not seem to be on the same page with Ohaneze Ndigbo
People have asked me about Ohaneze, please, I don’t think its time for us to waste energy and time; we have not sopped people from collecting $20, 000 or $10,000. Those who think about their position for political and self-regarding interest, they should know that we are for the service of Ndigbo. Look at what Uwazurike was saying today in the papers, he decried the problem of Ohaneze. As a matter of fact, as I was the chairman of the committee that produced the constitution that Ohaneze is supposed to be operating today and we have most of the members of the committee with us in the Igbo Leaders of Thought. Its is my constitution, approved by Ohaneze and we know the contents of the constitution but people have ignored that constitution and are doing whatever they like because off course, what do they want, political and economic interest. That’s why the case is in court. Some of them keep claiming that there’s no case in court but Onyenso is here
to attest to the fact that he waent to court and the case is still there. On what basis do we have this executive, which constitution, is it the Amecheazi constitution or do they have another one. Even the committee headed by Ndi Obi set up by the south-east governors, Uche Chukwumerije, Irukwu, Bishop Chukwuma was there, Prof Obiora Ike and they all gave them six months to disband and ensure that genuine election is conducted but they are still parading themselves as a legitimate Ohaneze. Do they really understand what Ohaneze means, in an egalitarian society, what you have is the moral authority. Can they even mobilise Ndigbo, they can’t even mobilise their kinsmen. Where are the elite in Igbo land? Opportunity we have been trying to build up Ohaneze. If in fact the constitution is followed, the situation could have been different, and what has happened is that they have really emasculated Ohaneze. You see the Ikenga Express, who owns. Are you sure
you don’t have some people who collected cheques, $20,000 or so. If you want to know how N1.2 billion was spent, we can give you the details at Diamond bank. They should stop denying. But as I said, this is not for us, we are elders, we are serious people, I mean they keep saying it, talking to young ones and asking what they want that these old people have nothing to offer and all that. They have bastardised Ohaneze. We are appealing to everybody to come together, lets get out of this problem. I’m happy we have come today and we have approved the executive summary of what we approved as position of Ndigbo, we’ll make it available to every person. Our names are not there. Igbo leaders of Thought, we are not funded, but because of our belief in the struggle, we make individual contributions for the interest of the Igbo nation. We are concerned about Ndigbo. Having produced this, we are now concerned with the mapping our strategies to ensure that
Igbo presence is effectively felt at the conference, whether you come group A or B is immaterial. I’m sure in Abuja, a lot of people will rally round to support our people. I can assure you that very distinguished Ndigbo are likely to go to Abuja and they are relating with us.
We want to face the conference and make sure our people make the best of it, we are ones who are down in Nigeria, and it is only a conference of this nature that will bring about a kind of equity, justice that is required. There’s no unbalanced federation in the world that works, we have seen Soviet Union come and go because the Russians were dominating it, we have seen Yugoslavia come and go because some people were dominating it and so will it be with any federation in which some people think that the others will serve them while enjoy all the benefits, it doesn’t work. As fair as things are in United Kingdom, Scotland is going to referendum this year to determine whether they will continue to be part of UK after 350 years, that’s the essence of a federation. Federation simply connotes that any of the federating units will be free to get out once they are dissatisfied with the federation or with the way things are done. The person at the centre
must treat everybody fairly but when you say this federation is indivisible, indissoluble then the man at the centre will do whatever pleases him. That’s why we are talking about right to self-determination as guaranteed in the United Nations charter and African Unions Charter, anywhere you don’t have it, watch it, the federation is bound to hit the rock and Nigeria doesn’t have it. The existing constitution is an imprisonment of the people who feel cheated in the federation. When we talk about unbalanced federation, we are talking about a federation where one group takes everything or makes a decision whereas others come to the table as onlookers. We don’t want Nigeria to his the rock but to survive the test of time
In view of the reactions coming across the country where people have expressed reservation about the modalities released by the federal government, do you think anything meaningful will come out of the conference
I think so. I’ve told you how revolutions come about and I’m a political scientist. The dynamics of the system will determine its outcome, we are hopeful something meaningful will come out of the conference, certainly
May we know the details of the executive summary you have come up with
We are going to publish it, we want true federalism, with the zones constituting federating units, every other thing will follow after wards. When you have true federalism, sharing of powers will be much easy. You find devolution of power and decentralisation of power, devolution between the centre and the federating units, decentralisation around the chief executive whether at the centre or at the states; it doesn’t have to be as powerful as it is now. All those things in the exclusive list will be whittled down and go to concurrent list in any case, in a federation, the area of concentration for the centre should naturally be on foreign policy, monetary and fiscal policy, defence, customs, that’s all. Federal government has no business in primary health care, primary education. They can set standard, even university education, but they don’t get involved in all these things, that’s the problem, when you have a unitary system of government but
keep calling it a federation. In the United States, if oil is found in your backyard, you get a share, the local government gets a share, the state gets and the centre; its all programmed and royalties are paid to the people concerned. In 1963, we had an ideal constitution, drawn by our people, not the one imposed by the military. Everybody is still talking about it, we want to go back to real balanced federation of six federating units
The Igariwey-led Ohaneze last week set up a committee headed by Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo to harmonise the views of all the interest groups, what do you have to say about that
Nwodo was here yesterday with us too. Did you see how the Yorubas did their own, they collectively set up a committee, if people are not piety and are not involved in complex, but I can tell you that won’t be a problem, ultimately Ndigbo will have a good representation at the conference; we will go with a united front ultimately
When you talk about Ndigbo, my worry is that this group may not have a hand in appointing delegates because if you look at the modalities, it talked about socio-cultural organisations, 15 persons will be appointed by Ohaneze
You are wrong. Are they going to appoint in Anambra. They can’s stay in Enugu and appoint in Ebonyi. The governors of each state have a number of people to appoint, we have elder statesmen, retired military and police officers. 15 from Ohaneze mean nothing really. I want you to separate by a wild margin, Igbo interest from Igbo representation, we are here as leaders of thought to articulate those areas of critical Igbo interest that the conference must address, with that done, its not the primary interest of anybody here as to who represents us. Anybody who represents us must project what we have asked him/her to say. Even if 15 people are nominated, it is so infinitesimal.
20th is the last day fro groups to present their delegates for the conference and up till now, nobody has been appointed
You do not understand us, we are not appointing anybody, we are leaders of thought. I think, you people must understand we are basically a think-tank. We think out idea, circulates it to the people. That’s why Nwodo is here with us, we think out idea, you cannot fault. If something is right, it remains right, no matter what anybody thinks. We are printing our work in thousands and will be shared to everybody both Ndigbo and Nigerians at large, we shall also be there at the conference marketing these ideas, we are not bothered about being delegate or not. Nigeria as it is now is about sharing. Efforts are even being made to recruit people from here but many may not be interested in going there.