Laide Raheem, Abeokuta In compliance with the directive of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, on Tuesday, embarked on a peaceful protest. The protest was to condemn the killing of two priests and 17 parishioners in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Leading scores of Catholic faithful during the protest…
IF it takes the visionless drivers to crash the vehicle, it indubitably takes men with vision to navigate today’s Nigerian unstable and rough socio-political terrain. The vision was personified in men and women who crafted the road map for the ultimate survival of the Igbo in today’s Nigeria. The vision inherent in the “Ohanaeze Road Map” articulated by the Ohanaeze Transition and Caretaker Committee on April 29, 2006 could have made a significant difference in the status the Igbo in today’s Nigerian body polity. I will come back to the 2006 Ohanaeze Road Map later.
Sadly, in today’s Nigerian socio-political environment, the condition of the Igbo is grimmer than ever, especially with every passing day regardless of gleam of hope some people may have. Despite this unfortunate and dismal condition of the Igbo in Nigeria, a condition predicated on systematic and institutionalized marginalization coupled with hatred of the ethnic group, there are some people, particularly from the Igbo race, who either do not have a deep understanding of the plight of the Igbo race or are blindfolded by their venal behavior. In either case, it is troubling, especially when those thought to be precocious and well-versed in Nigerian political history demonstrate profound inability to discern the concealed dreadful treatment of the Igbo.
Additionally, and depressing of course, the uncanny tendency to react instead of being proactive has held the Igbo back, a condition exacerbated by lack of a central force devoid of a cohesive agenda. In some cases, the Igbo are frozen to inaction because their second-guessing mode that has characterized their modus operandi is always activated. Sad still is the perennial internal conflict that has plagued the Ohanaeze, which has hampered its ability to execute its 2006 Road Map. A road map that would have transformed inertia and lethargy into constructive action; a road map anchored by a toil for equity, justice, security, and fairness that would have yielded the desired results by now for the Igbo in particular and Nigeria in general.
Regarding the Igbo unity, the “Ohanaeze Road Map” articulated by the Ohanaeze Transition and Caretaker Committee on April 29, 2006 clearly stated, “Ohanaeze calls upon Ndigbo wherever they may be in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to come together for self-help and mutual support through their town unions, churches, professional bodies, traders’ associations and cultural organizations. Ohanaeze is the federation throughout the nation of all these groups. It is not an alternative government or a political party. Its objectives are supportive of the aims of government and it is not hostile to national integration.
Ohanaeze is simply Igbo people doing what they have always done for their own welfare, organizing themselves to help the needy, mobilizing to make sure that what needs to be done in the community gets done. The western world is only beginning now to realize that a mobilized civil society is fundamental to good governance, that governments become lazy and dictatorial if the people do not keep steady watch. Gradually in the last few years, it has been recognized that community self-help and a steady pressure on the machinery of government help to keep the democratic spirit alive. In Igbo communities, however, this understanding is traditional.
Every town development union, every traders’ association, every club, and every church is a part of Ohanaeze. Through these societies, every Igbo man or woman is a member of Ohanaeze. The churches town development officials, traditional rulers, and the leaders of different associations and churches have work to do to ensure that this all-embracing conception of Igbo unity is realized in practice.”
On Igbo Development town unions, the “2006 Ohanaeze Road Map” made it clear that, “It should be clear that in accordance with Article 5 of the Ohanaeze Constitution, Igbo Community Development Unions will henceforth be the grassroots organs of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. State Governments and Local Government Councils should therefore enact legislation to empower them appropriately and to give them the resources to carry out their enhanced duties. The need to recreate our town unions as veritable instruments for sustainable growth and development is long overdue.”
For the Ohanaeze leadership, the “Ohanaeze Road Map” enunciated the guiding principles for the administration and leadership of the apex organization when it said, “The Ohanaeze Constitution does not give the leadership of Ndigbo to one person. Articles 6 and 10 (v) provide for collegiate leadership in which all members of Ime-Obi which includes present and past governors, legislators, ministers, traditional rulers, industrialists, judges, bishops, business men and professionals, share the leadership. The idea is to create a typical Igbo democracy in which there is discussion and consensus on all important matters. Ohanaeze invites all designated members of Ime-Obi and the entire Igbo elite to wake up to the duty of taking collegiate control of the content and wearing of the life we all share.”
On Igbo politics, the “2006 Ohanaeze Road Map” said the following: “Igbo Politics must change. It has become well known nation-wide for factionalization and extra-zonal sponsorship. Everybody, no matter how eminent is in the game for private gain. Even the electorate expects to be paid for its votes. It is time for our elders and civil society leaders to realize that while they rest on the sidelines afraid of taking the risks involved in leadership, some irresponsible ruffians jumped in to fill the gap. Recent events have, however, shown that it is only when politics is based upon community programmes and values, when the electorate gives its mandate freely to trusted leaders to carry out agreed development programmes that democratic processes become transparent and governance itself becomes responsible. The presiding role of Afenifere in the South West and the ACF in the North is instructive. We need once again to take communal control of our politics, to empower our cultural institutions, to re-invent Ohanaeze as a council of trusted elders. From now on, we must trust in our own internal strength to keep our politics and politicians in line.”
“The true leaders of the people have a duty to make sure that those whom we choose to contest for political offices are men and women of tested character, persons who are worthy of our trust because they had been leaders in lower ranks of civil society and were not corrupted by the power they exercised. Probity in the new politics will depend upon the right things being done by both the electorate and by the elected. The two things go hand in hand.
Moreover, Ndigbo must learn to stand together in politics. We have served Nigeria for [more than] 45 years as supporters, deputies, cheer leaders and the henchmen of Presidents chosen by other zones. In the 1st and 2nd Republics, we seconded the North in its exercise of exclusive power.
During the military era, we were lieutenants of supreme commanders from other zones. Since 1999, we have been bag carriers for a president from South West in a party which we did so much as to create. We cannot go like this indefinitely. The restructuring of the politics will create firm ground upon which improvements in the community, in educational standards, public security, health services, public sanitation etc will be based.”
If I may ask, what has become of the vision inherent in the “Ohanaeze Road Map” articulated by the Ohanaeze Transition and Caretaker Committee on April 29, 2006? I’m terribly disappointed that none of the principles articulated in the road map has been fully implemented. Do we know how to follow through and be consistent with agreed objectives? Why is Ohanaeze still having problems?