Prince Emeka Udodeme is the Chairman Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Anambra State chapter. In this interview with ECHEZONA OKAFOR, he speaks on rising insecurity in Nigeria and the South-East in particular; marginalization of Ndigbo and the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State, among other issues
How do you think government should handle the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State in the face of rising insecurity in the South-East as well as threats from pro-Biafra agitators?
Stakeholders in the South-East geopolitical zone and beyond are convoking meetings geared towards solving the problem of insecurity. So, I believe that in a very short time, issue of insecurity would be addressed. By the grace of God, the Anambra election will be conducted without hitches. That election will come and go. November 6 is still months away from now, so I believe there will be a way out before then.
Governors of states in Southern Nigeria recently held a meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital, where they took a stand against open grazing. What is the position of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on this issue?
What Ohanaeze is saying is very simple; that the action of the Southern governors is commendable. So, Ohanaeze commends the governors of 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. Ndigbo have been pushed to the wall and the reactions are coming. In as much as Ohanaeze will never support violence or taking up arms against fellow citizens or killing of security operatives; the truth is that the people have been pushed to the wall. Talking about appointments and a lot of other things, the Igbo people have been offended. Now, the Southern governors are talking about convocation of a national conference, restructuring of the country and ban on open grazing. In this 21st century, we won’t be practicing open grazing; 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 South-East is also happening in the South-West. Southern governors have come together to condemn it; to say enough is enough and Ohanaeze is in support of them.
What is the position of Ohanaeze on the spate of insecurity in the country, particularly the South-East?
There’s insecurity everywhere in the country; from the North to the South-West, South-East and the Middle Belt. So, what we are 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 animals and destruction of property. It has never happened before as it is in the present government of Muhammadu Buhari yet members of his party 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 one of the security meetings held in Aso Rock, where they discussed insecurity in the South-East, the presidency shaved the hair of the South-East 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 South- East, but there was no South-East person in the meeting. By the way, who briefed them there was problem in the South-East? Who can tell it better than the people of the South-East 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 over the reasons behind the recent destruction of lives and property in South- East 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 south eastern states. Ohanaeze will cease 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 Ndigbo will come back if the people should apply diplomacy. Southern governors have called for the convocation of a national conference and restructuring. Immediately these are achieved, all other things will be addressed.
What is the kind of person you would want to succeed Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State?
Since the administration of Dr. Chris 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 a successor, who will do better than what the present government has done. So, what I will tell Anambra electorate is to shun money politics. I’m telling them not to mortgage their future because money. They should not collect money at the polling booths to cast their votes. Anybody sharing money to get votes is not coming to offer good governance; but to get his money back. Again, I want the politicians to play the game according to the rules. They should shun violence; our youths must not be used for violence. If politicians want violence, let them use their children. They can’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.
As you emphasize electing a good successor to Governor Obiano, what is your advice for politicians and political parties planning to impose certain persons on their members 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 itself. So, I will advise politicians and political parties to conduct credible primaries as Anambra electorate will go for political parties with good candidates. The parties should allow their delegates to select their flag bearers; not imposition. An imposed candidate is always unelectable. I will recall what happened in 2017, when the All Progressive Congress (APC) conducted its 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 seen 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 the wall and they will react, and the reaction will be felt in the main election. So, Ohanaeze is urging all party leaders in Anambra to respect the wishes of their delegates and members.
We are hearing about OIhanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide as well as Ohanaeze General Assembly.
Are there factions in Ohanaeze Ndigbo? We don’t have factions in Ohanaeze Ndigbo. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo ably led by Prof. George Obiozor is very comfortable at the Ohanaeze national office in 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. The people answering Ohanaeze; can they hold any meeting of Ohanaeze Ndigbo? Will people listen to them? There is no other known Ohanaeze Ndigbo except that led by Prof. Obiozor.