Orji Uzor Kalu: Of the new Igbo consciousness

by Orji Uzor Kalu


I do not need to write about the other bad roads in the zone, because it will be too heart-rending to do so. The truth remains that Igbo are systematically and serially marginalized in Nigeria. Forget the noise some shameless Igbo politicians make about federal presence in the zone. There is none at all.

Only a dreamer will not appreciate the renewed vigour with which Igbo build bridges and work together to reposition themselves in global affairs. The new consciousness, which gains momentum by the day, is being driven by the emerging realities in our national life. Time has passed when Igbo used to sit on the fence and wait for things to happen naturally. Even Igbo elite (who used to be passive about the struggle for Igbo emancipation) are in agreement that the time has come for us to be more creative, daring (if need be) and persuasive in working for the actualization of the Igbo Project.

I recall with deep sadness the many opportunities we had missed to assume our rightful place in the scheme of things in Nigeria. All of us were witnesses to history when Igbo were everywhere – controlling the economy, the bureaucracy and the foreign affairs of Nigeria. They were the driving force behind the struggle to win independence for Nigeria. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (the unforgettable patriot and Pan- African) played a pivotal role in the struggle, with all the zeal and courage he could muster. He returned from the United States, where he recorded numerous achievements in the academia and media, to join the fight for independence. He used his media outfit – West African Pilot – to give voice to the struggle and correct the bare-faced falsehoods the foreign media were dishing out to distort the facts.

Dr. Azikiwe had every chance to enthrone ethnicity and corner juicy positions and projects for his Igbo kinsmen, rather he chose to work for the emergence of one Nigeria built on justice and fair-play. He became the first Governor-General and first President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Despite these powerful and influential positions God entrusted on him, he was still humane, humble and hospitable. He did not exhibit the mawkishness, hawkishness, and haughtiness of today’s Nigerian political office holders.

He worked conscientiously to integrate other sections of the country into the mainstream and used his exalted office to promote the indivisibility of Nigeria. No wonder he worked cooperatively with the fabled Chief Obafemi Awolowo, indefatigable Sir Ahmadu Bello and the suave Chief Dennis Osadebey. Incidentally, the thrust of the effort to move Nigeria out of internal slavery and colonization rested upon their delicate shoulders. And they did not shy away from this onerous responsibility. They stood stoutly against any moves to frustrate the struggle for emancipation.

I have made this brief reference to the contributions of the Great Zik to Nigeria’s growth and development to drive home the point that Igbo have done so much for this country and deserve a better deal. Those opposed to Igbo becoming president, in any form, know that Igbo deserve better than they are getting.

The other day, the entire South East geopolitical zone was thrown into frenzy and huge celebrations, because the old Enugu Airport was remodelled and upgraded to an international status. It was a solemn event that has gone down in history as memorable. But let me ask: was there such jubilation when other airports in different parts of the country were commissioned? Why should the remodelling of the Enugu international Airport attract such an unprecedented media blitz? If you ask me (judging with all that Igbo have done for this country), they deserve a brand new five-star international airport. It can be built in Awka, Abakaliki or Umuahia. We need an airport of the standard and status of Aminu Kano, Port Harcourt or even Lagos.

I thank God that, at least, we have the Enugu and Owerri airports functional. Imagine what would have happened if both airports were not built at the time they did. I salute the courage of Dee Sam Mbakwe (then governor of Imo State), who (working in conjunction with other well-meaning Igbo), initiated the construction of the Owerri Cargo Airport. I salute the foresight of the Honourable Minister of Transport, Stella Oduah, for renovating and upgrading facilities at the airport. It is now a beautiful sight to behold. Nevertheless, we look forward to the day the airport will be upgraded to an international airport, considering the large passenger population the airport attracts annually.

To prove that Igbo have been serially marginalized, I conducted a tour sometime in 2009 to ascertain the state of roads in the South East geo-political zone. Those that read the report of my findings in this column at that time were jolted by the revelations. It was a report that opened our eyes and minds to the injustices being meted out to Igbo. None of the roads we visited passed the test for a quality road. They were either deplorable or completely impassable.

Now read this: between 2009 and now, nothing has changed. In fact, the roads are worse off now. I braved the Akokwa-Arondizuogu-Okigwe Road recently and almost fainted with shock. There was no single portion of this stretch of road that is fit to be called road. We were almost swimming in ponds formed in the road by the recent rains. Everywhere was decrepit, while a few buses managed to meander through the pools of water you find every 10 metres on the road. It was a horrifying experience. What about Umuahia-Ikot-Ekpene Road? Oh my God! Another deathtrap! Yes, deathtrap! That is what that road has turned into. Over 1000 vehicles were trapped on the road (at Ogbuebile) at the Abia end, last week. The traffic jam was caused by a bad spot on the road that caused a trailer to fall, with its content emptying into the road, blocking the single-lane road. It was chaotic. Interestingly, many of the trapped vehicles and passengers were either travelling to or returning from Akwa Ibom or Cross River State. Too many vehicles (including trailers and tankers) now use the road since the Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road has been in bad shape since God knows when. And the capacity of the road is being overstretched, causing massive damage at different spots on it.

There is some relief though as FERMA is doing some remedial work on the road. But how long will it last. If I can recall correctly, this is about the fourth time FERMA is carrying on such repairs on the road in the past 12 months. What the road needs actually is total rehabilitation to be handled by a reputable construction firm.

I do not need to write about the other bad roads in the zone, because it will be too heart-rending to do so. The truth remains that Igbo are systematically and serially marginalized in Nigeria. Forget the noise some shameless Igbo politicians make about federal presence in the zone. There is none at all.

I was in Texas recently to attend the World Igbo Congress. It was one outing I will cherish all my life; not because of the award they gave me, but because of the new Igbo awareness I witnessed there. I have been attending the Congress for years now; however, I have never seen the kind of enthusiasm exhibited at this year’s event before. It was a forum that allowed many Igbo to let go their emotions: They opened up their minds to one another as they charted a new future for themselves. The congress saw the need to build a united front to pursue our collective aspiration as a people.

Now the clincher: the congress endorsed the emergence of a person of Igbo extraction as the president of Nigeria in 2015.

As you can see, there is no much difference between the decisions reached by the Congress and the ideals Njiko Igbo (a Pan-Igbo social organisation) has been propagating. I have repeatedly enunciated and espoused the ideals and goals of Njiko Igbo in this column, hoping our people will see reason and key into it. There is no time better than now for Igbo to take their destiny in their own hands and work for their survival in our ever-changing world. What we need to do is to reach out to other ethnic nationalities to see how we can cooperate with them to further our cause. Zik did it and there is nothing wrong if we do the same again. It was painful that the alliance between Zik and Awo to liberate Nigeria from the shackles of neo-imperialism in 1983 did not materialize. Imagine what would have happened if it had worked. Zik, Awo, Waziri, and, in fact, all progressives found the quietness they needed at the cozy home of the then governor of Old Anambra State, Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, at Amaechi Awkunanaw, Enugu to discuss the future of Nigeria. For three days, they talked, negotiated and bantered to no avail. At the end of the day, they could not agree on a common presidential candidate. And so, they dispersed with regrets that they allowed minor differences to obscure their sense of reasoning. It was a good political strategy poorly executed. I wonder if such an opportunity would ever come again.

The mistake of the progressives not to sacrifice their personal interests and work together has left the country in its current state of crisis. If they had succeeded in working together as originally proposed by Zik, probably Nigeria would not have been where it is today. Between 2003 and now much water had passed under the proverbial bridge. How much water will pass through it before 2015 is in the bowels of guesswork.

As I once said at the Igbo Summit in Enugu on January 19, 2001, the presidency of Nigeria is not won on a platter. You have got to work for it; if possible grab it. There is an exception, where fate decides to be kind to you, as it did to our president, Goodluck Jonathan. I am confident that between now and 2015, Igbo will come up with a winning formula for the presidency, which in all respects is due them.

I am glad that Igbo in Diaspora are mobilizing with unremitting vigour to sensitize our people on the need to bury our differences and work as a people. Those who divide us use all kinds or tactics to achieve their wicked ends. One of which is money. What is money that anybody should sell his conscience and the future of his children? After all, Igbo can be counted among the richest in Nigeria and, even, Africa. So, why should anybody make a mockery of us using the same instrument we control?

Those underrating Igbo because of our seeming obtrusiveness and gullibility should wait for a surprise soon. The era of using Igbo as pawns on the political chessboard has given way to a more sophisticated and conscious generation of Igbo committed to their welfare and the defence of their collective heritage.

The time has passed when such idle insinuations as “Igbo like money”, “Igbo want power in order to declare Republic of Biafra” affected the psyche of Igbo. We are now more resolute than ever before to overcome all the obstacles our adversaries have placed in our path toward attaining greater prospects in our vision to reassert ourselves more pragmatically and forcefully in the nation’s political life.

We can no longer be intimidated by anyone; not even the weapons of coercion and attrition can stop our desire to regain our lost pride and work for the enthronement of a more egalitarian and progressive Nigeria.

It is important at this juncture to call on all Nigerians to think seriously about the option of President of Igbo extraction as the only functional solution to Nigeria’s continued division, insecurity and general backwardness. We have tested the other geopolitical zones, with the problems getting worse. Why not try the South East Zone and determine the difference? Those who think this call is preposterous should understand that Igbo are not just an ethnic group in Nigeria – but are reliable, hardworking, creative and globally connected, with a sizeable population and wealthy sons and daughters. They are also divinely positioned to take Nigeria to a new level of development.

Jokes apart, the time has come for Nigerians to look more dispassionately at our national life and see what can be done to bring it out of its misfortunes. Why should Nigeria be dogged by its developmental challenges? For how long are we going to grope in the dark before salvation comes?

Satan and all its agents are fighting hard to stop a president of Igbo extraction from emerging, because they are aware it is the only solution to Nigeria’s myriads of problems. This is not a laughing matter. It is very serious and should be taken seriously by all Nigerians.

Njiko Igbo is gradually and steadily spreading its tentacles across the world – reaching out to Igbo and their admirers and partners – to see how quickly we can actualize the vision for which it was founded. In carrying on our strategies we have opted for openness and transparency. Our ultimate goal is to place Nigeria on the global map by maximizing our potentialities for the well being of all Nigerians. We do not harbour any ulterior agenda nor do we promote primordial, ethnic sentiments. We have no axe to grind with anybody or groups. We do our thing with tact, diplomacy and patriotism.

We urge all Igbo – young and old, rich and poor, small and big – to stand firm for what is right and refuse to be counted among traitors and bootlickers. We must continue to conduct ourselves honourably, and with dignity –shunning all kinds of divisive tendencies. We are ready to make personal sacrifices to see that the new Igbo consciousness does not go the way of their precursor. Ours is different, because it is built on God, founded on trust and driven by the enterprising spirit for which Igbo have been known over the centuries.

We pray God to keep us alive to see the birth of a new Nigeria where greed will give way to altruism and backwardness to progress; where love will reign over hatred.

So, help us God!


Read this article in the Sun Newspapers


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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