Ekwueme: Ndigbo Need A New Political And Economic Framework – Ogilisi Igbo
By Theo Rays, Onitsha
The continued marginalization of Southeast geopolitical zone by present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the political and economic landscape in the Nigeria have continued to be a source of worry to Igbo leaders. In this interview, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka (Ogilisi Igbo) a member of Board of Trustees (BoT) of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and self acclaimed spiritual leader of the Igbo nation tells Ndigbo that it is time to workout a new political and economic framework inline with the legacies of late former Vice President Dr Alex Ekwueme. The framework according to him will not just put the Igbo nation in a stronger position to stand the test of time but also to overcome the challenges from the Nigeria scene.
The late Vice President Dr Alex Ekwueme was laid to rest last week and the Federal Government in a bid to immortalize him by renaming the Federal University established by former President Goodluck Jonathan at Ndufu Alike in Ebonyi State after him. Are you okay with that?
Yes, am okay with that, but we would have preferred that Federal Polytechnic Oko be renamed after him. Ahmedu Bello established University of Zaria and it was named after him. So there is nothing bad to rename Okopoly with the name of the man that brought it to existence. However renaming a Federal University after the Late former Vice President shows that the Federal Government is appreciative of his immense contributions to the development and growth of Nigeria. And like I said earlier, I’m okay with Alex Ekwueme University, Ndufu Alike, Ebony State.
To Ndigbo in particular it is post Ekwueme era, what are those legacies you would like Ndigbo to copy from the late former Vice President?
Considering the situation we the Igbo find ourselves, post Ekwueme era is a time of new political and economic frame work in Igbo land. Yes we need a new political and economic frame work inline with legacies of the late former Vice President. Looking at the life and time of Ekwueme there are many things we can copy from him because he was an embodiment of legacies and which we can copy to rejig and strengthen the political and economic landscape of the southeast geopolitical zone. If you listened to the sermon delivered by the Primate of Anglican Church Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh during the burial service, he described Ekwueme as a one man University considering his intimidating academic credentials, political wisdom and selflessness towards nation building. Oko also also described him as a community man who was very close to his native people despite his position as number two citizen in Nigeria. Primate. Oko pointed out that Ekwueme was as a role model to politicians in the area of think home and being closer to those who elected them into office.
On his part, former Foreign Affairs Minister and Ex Secretary General of Commonwealth of Nations, Chief Emeka Anyaoku described Ekwueme as different from typical Nigerian politicians who wasn’t corrupt nor condoned any act of corruption in the system. So as a University, Community man and a different politician there are lots of things to derive from Ekwueme and the most important among all of them are his life of simplicity, humility and think home philosophy. As an elected former Vice President, Ekwueme until his death had the honor as the Igbo man who has served at the highest political level among Ndigbo but he never moved with siren and convoy of uncountable cars and intimidating security guards. He was simple and humble, but unlike him, Senators, Ministers, Director Generals and even House of Representatives members move with siren and convoy of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) with large number of mobile policemen, for what?
Why should a Senator or a reps member come home to visit the people who elected him with a convoy of vehicles and a troop of security men?. What message are you trying send across? That those who elected you to represent you want to kill you or what? I cannot understand that. They should emulate Ekwueme’s life of simplicity and humility. Secondly, they should also emulate him in the area of think home philosophy. I am from Aguata, and I can tell you that as the Vice President Ekwueme was at home with Aguata people making his contributions to the development and progress of Oko and Aguata at the same time. As Vice President he saw that Aguata a densely populated council area doesn’t have a higher institution and so he brought a Federal Poly. Most of our Senators and Reps members don’t think home. They don’t even know what their people need neither do they make any effort to respond to the plight of the people who gave them mandate. That is most unfortunate because they are drawing us backwards.
We won’t tolerate that kind of Senators and Reps any longer. Come 2019 we are going to flush them out. We have to elect people who are simple and humble enough to listen to us, get closer to us and make meaningful contributions to the development and progress of Igbo land. We don’t want siren blowing Senators, we need service oriented Senators and Reps members. With the present bad condition we the Igbo find ourselves in Nigeria, we have to be serious and careful about the people we elect and send to represent us at Abuja. We can no longer afford to waste our seats at the Senate and House Reps in the hands of siren blowers. Look at the poor conditions of the Federal roads in the southeast and tell me the efforts being made by our senators and Reps toward getting the Federal roads fixed, no effort. During Jonathan administration we had a Southeast Senator as Chairman Senate Committee on Works and a Rep as chairman House Committee on Works but they did nothing about the Federal roads in the southeast because they were concerned about blowing siren. Enough is enough.
You also talked about economic frame work in line with Ekwueme legacies ,what do you mean by that?
Yes, when a Senator or a Minister or Reps attract project to Igbo land like Zik and Ekwueme attracted a University, Polytechnic, roads and other things it will boost the economy of the Igbo nation, but when they end up blowing siren and parading troops of security guards, they worth nothing to us, so the new economic framework calls for those who were elected or appointed to represent us at Abuja to think home and attract developmental projects back home. Les we forget virtually all the Federal roads in the southeast were constructed during Shagari and Ekwueme administration 1979-1983.
I can tell you that business will change and improve in the southeast if Onitsha Seaport is functional, business will improve in southeast if Enugu – Onitsha expressway is fixed, if Enugu – Port Harcourt road and other federal roads are fixed. Everyday they tell us they have made arrangements for the Federal roads in the southeast to be fixed. Under Ekwueme as Vice President Federal roads were built, but our successive representatives have consistently failed to do something positive about them and that is why they are in a dilapidated conditions for over 20 years. That poor representation at the highest level we must a stop to it.
Further more, let me use this opportunity to talk about other areas where we can extend the economic framework using the private sector. The private sector in the southeast is still under analog while it has gone digital in the southwest. In the southwest businesses have gone into digital platform and progressive trend as Public Liability Companies (PLC) but in the southeast business is still under analog as Me and Sons Nigeria Limited. Under Me and Sons Nigeria Limited business establishments crumble after the death of the founder but under PLC business goes on and on after the exit of the founder. Me and sons Nigeria Limited cannot boost nor sustain the economy but PLC can boost and sustain economic growth. This is a major problem in the private sector in Igbo land because we lose products and also massive job opportunities when a founder of a particular firm dies and the children fail to sustain the firm. We have seen the death of substantial business firms as large companies, Industries and factories in Igbo land because the children of the founders failed to sustain the firms after the exit of their fathers. So let me use this opportunity to call on Igbo business tycoon, merchants, industrialists and manufactures to push their businesses firms to PLC for sustenance as such will help boost the growth and sustenance of our economy. The survival of banking industry in Nigeria today is consequent upon transforming the capitalization of the banks into PLC so why can’t the Igbo businessmen join the bandwagon of transforming their firms into PLC.
You have been a champion of the youth, how would you assess impact on youth advocacy in recent time and What hope would express for the Igbo youth?
The progress of the Igbo youth lies on good governance on the side of the governors, quality representation on the side of the Senators, Ministers, Director Generals, Reps and others who have say at Abuja, philanthropy from wealthy businessmen, bringing investment home by Igbos in other parts of Nigeria and oversea countries and moving from Nigeria Limited to PLC. Governors should create job opportunities through establishment of functional skill acquisition centers and provision of accessible soft loans, expanded programs through agricultural initiatives like mechanized farming, through sports developments and through establishing something like mechanic village and lots more. There are many ways a sitting governor can provide jobs for the youth and the governor of Anambra State Chief Willie Obiano has been doing just that and I believe he will do more in his second missionary journey at the government house.
Like I said earlier, we need good representatives in Abuja who can attract projects good enough to aid youth with job opportunities. These Abuja representatives can also facilitate jobs through federal establishments like police, customs, immigration, army, civil service, departments, agencies and parastatals if they are interested in helping the youth help themselves, that is why we need credible hands as Senators and Reps not siren blowers. Furthermore, we can respond positively to the plight of the youth if our wealthy business men can endeavor to render philanthropic works through alms lending. Some of the Igbo big boys and billionaires build Church, make huge donation and pay huge amount of money as tithe to foreign pastors, but youth in their villages are jobless and hungry, you can imagine such thing. Again if the Igbo in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, America, London, China and the rest of them in various parts of the world can bring some of their investment back home to build farms, factories and industries the youth will get something doing. Not only that, if those making waves in the private sector can move their businesses from Nigeria Limited to PLC there shall be jobs for the youth. So the present and future of Igbo youth are bright if the governors and other categories of people I mentioned above live up to their billings.
Some people are of the opinion that APGA has to field a presidential candidate in 2019
It is too early to discus that. When we get to the bridge we shall know what to do and cross it.