Prince Emeka Udodeme is the President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Anambra State.
In this interview, he looks at the spate of insecurity in the country, and Southeast in particular; marginalization of the Igbo in the politics of Nigeria; Anambra governorship election, among other issues.
How do you think Anambra could prosecute the November 6 governorship election in the face of insecurity, as well as threats from pro-Biafra campaigners?
There are security meetings going ongoing here and there. Stakeholders in the region and beyond are convoking meetings geared towards solving the problem of insecurity. I believe that in a very short time, issue of insecurity will be addressed. By the grace of God, Anambra election will be conducted without hitches. That election must come and go. November 6 is still months away; before then, there’ll be a way out.
Governors of the Southern Nigeria recently held a meeting in Asaba, where they took a stand against open grazing. What is the position of Ohanaeze on that issue?
What Ohanaeze is saying is very simple; that the action of the Southern governors is commendable. Ohanaeze commends the governors of the Southern Nigeria over their stand on open grazing, among other resolutions. For the first time, they are coming together as a body to take this kind of decision. This coming together is a milestone. It shows that they are now very serious with the state of affairs in Southern Nigeria, as well as issues affecting the people. When you push a people to the wall, with time, they will react. The Igbo have been pushed to the wall, and the reactions are coming. Inasmuch as Ohanaeze will never support violence or taking up arms against fellow citizens or killing of security operatives; but this people have been pushed to the wall. Talking about appointments, and a lot of other things, Igbo people have been offended. Now, the Southern governors are talking about convocation of national conference, restructuring of the country, and ban on open grazing. In this 21st Century, we won’t be practicing open grazing; no, it must be condemned. The entire governors in Southern Nigeria have said it with one voice. That is to say that what is happening in the Southeast is also happening in the Southwest. Southern governors have come together to condemn it; to say enough is enough. Ohanaeze is in support of them.
What is Ohanaeze’s position on the present spate of insecurity in the country, and the Southeast in particular?
There’s insecurity everywhere in the country – from the North to the Southwest, Southeast, and the Middle Belt, everywhere. So, what we’re saying in Ohanaeze, as the mouth piece of Ndigbo, is that we want Mr President to come out and say something about the situation in the country. He should also tell Nigerians the level of preparation of his government in addressing the situation. The situation is very bad. Nigerians have never witnessed such problem as this – killing people like fouls, and destroying property. It has never happened before as it is in the present government of Muhammadu Buhari; yet, his party members are still proud of what they call the achievements of the administration. It is very unfortunate. The country is about to collapse, yet, the party in power is still talking about contesting and winning the 2023 presidential election. At the latest security meeting held in Aso Rock where they discussed insecurity in the Southeast, the presidency shaved the heads of the Southeast people in their absence; because, no single Igbo person was present in that meeting. They held a meeting and took a decision on how to send troops to the Southeast, but there was no Southeast person in the meeting. By the way, who briefed them there was problem in the Southeast. Who can tell it better than the people of the Southeast themselves?
These are problems with Nigeria. Appointments are lopsided; one section of the country takes over every position, and other sections are left to do what? The present leadership has pushed Igbo people to the wall. Expectedly, they will react. Until this anomaly is addressed, people will continue to react. One must be surprised the reasons behind recent destruction of lives and property in the Southeast Nigeria. Sincerely speaking, Igbo people are not known for violence. This is the first time, since after the war that such violence is happening in the Southeast states. Ohanaeze will seize this opportunity to advise Igbo youths to shun violence, as the region is not known for violence. It is our belief that all the things they denied Igbo people shall come back if the people should apply diplomacy. Southern governors have called for convocation of national conference and restructuring. Immediately these are achieved, all other things will be addressed.
Anambra election is by the corner; what kind of governor would you wish for the state?
Since the administration of Ngige to the present administration of Willie Obiano, Anambra had continued to make progress at different sectors of the economy. It is evident that Obiano’s government has done a lot. Our earnest prayer is that Anambra will get Obiano’s successor, who will do better than what the present government has done. What I’m telling Anambra electorate is to shun money politics. I’m telling them not to mortgage their future for money. They should not collect money at the polling unit to cast their votes. Anybody sharing money to get vote is not coming to offer good governance; but to get his money back. Then, again, I want the politicians to play the game according to the rule. We have Electoral Act. They should shun violence. Our youths must not be used for violence. If politicians want violence, let them use their children. They won’t keep their children at home, and expect to waste other people’s children. Whoever that accepts money to vote is not a good person. A citizen that wants development of his state or country will always go for a politician with the best manifesto. So, I will advise Anambra electorate to elect the man with the best manifesto, and who must be seen to be sincere to take Anambra to a higher pedestal.
What’s your advice for politicians and political parties still planning to impose candidates on their parties as flag bearers?
If any political party picks anybody against the wishes of the party faithful, the electorate will dump the party and go for political parties with good candidates. Any party that handpicks or selects a bad flag bearer has succeeded in destroying the party. I will advise politicians and political parties to conduct credible primaries; if not, the Anambra electorate will go for political parties with good candidates. Political parties should allow their delegates to select their flag bearers; not imposition. An imposed candidate is always unelectable. I could recall what happened in 2017, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) conducted their governorship primary election in Anambra, which produced Tony Nwoye as the party’s flag bearer. The election was one of the freest and fairest primary elections I’ve known because all efforts to upturn that victory did not succeed. So, if a political party picks its flag bearer against the wishes of party members, it is pushing the party faithful to the wall, and they will react, and the reaction will be felt in the main election. Ohanaeze is urging all party leaders in Anambra to respect the wishes of their delegates and party people.
We’re hearing about Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, as well as Ohanaeze General Assembly. Do you have factions in Ohanaeze?
We do not have factions in Ohanaeze Ndigbo. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo ably led by Amb. Prof. George Obiozor, is very comfortable at the Ohanaeze National office at Park Lane, GRA, Enugu. So, if there is any parallel Ohanaeze group, it should have come there to settle or drag the office with us. No other groups have attempted coming there. So, I don’t understand what you mean by factions. The way you are now, you could come out and start telling people that you are Ohanaeze. Nobody will say you’re not Ohanaeze. You can name your son anything, and it will be his name. But the people answering Ohanaeze, could they hold any meeting of Ohanaeze Ndigbo? Could people listen to them? There is no other known Ohanaeze Ndigbo, except that led by Amb. Prof. Obiozor.