The apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has lamented that the people of the South-East are marginalised in Nigeria’s governance structure. This was in response to the remarks by the President Muhammadu Buhari during his one-day visit to Imo State, that the people of the South-East were enterprising and in charge of the country’s economy.
At a town hall meeting with Igbo leaders in Owerri, Buhari stated, “The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing them being in charge of either the infrastructure or the pharmaceutical industry.
“Therefore, it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man will consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria. The evidence is there for everyone to see that the Igbo are in charge of Nigeria’s economy.”
In his response, the Ohaneze spokesperson Chief Alex Ogbonnia noted that though the Igbo remained an entrepreneurial set of people, they were still neglected.
He stated, “The Igbo are marginalised in governance structure of this country; it is very clear and self-evident. There is no doubt about it and Buhari himself knows it. But what he said, which is true, is that everywhere you go in Nigeria, you are likely to find an Igbo man in one trade or managing buildings or things like that. So, that is true; but one must know that this is under self-enterprise.
“That is Igbo tenacity for survival and self- enterprise. It is entirely a different ball game. So, the marginalisation we are talking about is in governance structure; the injustice we are talking about is in governance structure.
“You cannot because they are an enterprising set of people deny them their fair share in the governance structure of this country.”
Earlier in Owerri during the President’s visit, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, said contrary to the claim in some quarters, Igbo people were not secessionists. Obiozor urged Buhari to ensure that Igbo youths being held in various detention facilities by security agents were released.
He said Ndigbo would continue to be part of Nigeria as long as there was justice in the country.
He said, “After all Nigeria has gone through in its nearly 60 years’ chequered history of crises and continuity, and the spectacular patriotic role of Ndigbo to ensure its unity and survival, the consistent perception that the Igbo are separatists and secessionist agitators is a historical fallacy.
“Indeed, if the truth must be told, Ndigbo are the most federating unit among all Nigerian citizens. Generally speaking, anywhere in Nigeria you don’t find the Igbo, run away; something is wrong there. Igbo are market people and travel adventurers.
“Consequently, what defines the Igbo character are the propensity for friendliness and harmonious peaceful coexistence and spirit of universalism of mankind. This is who we are. Our Igbo adage says, ‘Ojemba enweghi iro’, which literally translates to: ‘A traveller makes no enemy’.
“Also, another misconception of Ndigbo is that they cannot speak with one voice; ironically, that is another fallacy. The Igbo spirit defies conditions that are obstacles for the expression of their individual or group opinion. This sense of egalitarianism is what defines the Igbo system of governance based on liberal democracy and social justice.
“Mr President, in spite of all the threats of secession or separatism facing the country, there is no doubt that no secessionist element can succeed in Nigeria provided there is good governance based on equity, justice and fairness to all the citizens.”