NDIGBO AND RESTRUCTURING
On Friday, 6th March, 2020, while delivering the March 2020 Nkata Umu Ibe Distinguished Lecture series at the Enugu Sports Club, Chief Emeka Etiaba averred that having genuine political leaders was a solution to the problems of Ndigbo in Nigeria, not Restructuring.
That elicited a robust discourse with some canvassing for Restructuring as the solution while others supported the lecturer in positing that having genuine political leaders in Ala-Igbo was more important than any form of constitutional amendment since the same set of leaders would still run the show, regardless of the structure adopted.
However, Restructuring, in its broad sense accommodates both opinions above.
From available definitions, it can be deduced that Restructuring in its broad or holistic form goes beyond constitutional review and altering the system of Governance.
Restructuring can be summed up as “change in structure, whether at the national, regional or even local level, so to enable a political system to run more effectively”
As such, the Igbo meaning of Restructuring is Nhazighari Usoro Ochichi.
Today, Ndigbo, more than any other group in Nigeria need restructuring. Yes, so many things need to be restructured in Ala-Igbo; our internal politics and group cohesion, mentorship and leadership succession, our morality and belief systems, etc.
Firstly, Restructuring at the National level is necessary. There is need for devolution of powers from Abuja to the federating units. In the interest of equity and economy of scales, the federating units, as canvassed by Ndigbo and other like minded Nigerians should be the geo-political zones.
The issue of the reluctance of Ebonyi and to some extent Enugu to accept zones/regions as federating units is one that can be dealt with, if approached with sincerity by Ndigbo. Yes, instead of continually complaining about said marginalization by Ndi Anambra, why can’t Ebonyi and Enugu align together and woo other South East States to counterbalance Anambra based on “Equality of States”. After all, under the present structure with states as federating units, geo-political zones are still quasi-structures where regional politics must be played. For instance, Governor Dave Umahi could not have become Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum without the blessing of his brother Governors. Also, one of the proposed constitutional amendments by the National Assembly is the recognition of the 6 zonal structure by the constitution.
If against all odds that sails through, will Ebonyi rather join the Middle Belt or the South South instead of evolving means of co-existing with her Igbo brothers regardless of past experience? More importantly, a Regional Restructuring will enhance Regional Integration which was kick started by SENEC and is now being driven by SEREDEC. With that, Nigercem can explore the limestone deposits in Nkalagu, Ebonyi State as well as neighbouring Amechi-Idodo, Enugu State.
Secondly, and even more pressing is the Restructuring of Igbo internal politics. “Ihe a na-eme Igbo ebuka mana ihe Igbo na-eme onwe ha ka njo”. How much accrues to the five South East states monthly? If a third of that is judiciously utilized by our Governors, Ala-Igbo would become Japan. Today, the Governors manage both their funds and the funds accruing to the Local Governments, whether elected or appointed, what level of development have we witnessed at the 3rd tier of Government in Ala-Igbo?
Thirdly is Leadership Succession/Mentorship. On his return from the then Gold Coast in the 40’s, Zik tarried before starting his political mission until the 5 Argonauts returned from the US, where following his footsteps, they went for higher education. They were Mbonu Ojike, K.O. Mbadiwe, Nwafor Orizu, Okechukwu Ikejiani and Nwankwo Chukwuemeka. Zik was their mentor and with them, he embarked on the mission of taking Ndigbo from “the bush to the highway of greatness”. Drs. Michael Okpara and Akanu Ibiam were also great mentors. Today, the present Igbo leaders do not realize that it is compulsory to mentor the generation coming behind them in the interest of the corporate existence of Ndigbo. The statement often made by the elders, “the younger generation does not want to be mentored” is not an excuse. Across generations, we have very patriotic Ndigbo and we also have terrible characters. The patriotic elders should fish out the patriotic leaders of the next generation for mentorship and grooming.
Fourthly is the Restoration of Igbo value System. This is an aspect where a national emergency must be declared. Things have fallen apart with Igbo ethos and morality. Today, onye kpu igu ka ewu na-eso has replaced aguu nwere nchekwube anaghi egbu egbu. Nobody has the patience for delayed gratification. This has led to a bastardization of our traditional and religious institutions with active connivance of like minded elders. Today, Get Rich Quick Syndrome has led Ndigbo into drug trafficking, ritual killing, 419, etc. Also, Igbo girls constitute the highest number of prostitutes in Nigeria, Edo girls only take the lead on the international scene. Any doubting Thomas should go out at night in Abuja or Lagos and do his/her own census.
Religious Intolerance has become the norm in our land since our church leaders today have discarded the Igbo maxim, “Onye na nke ya”. Before now, the Traditionalists were persecuting the Christians. Today, the reverse is the case. Also, there is so much friction between Catholics and Protestants, especially in Anambra State. “Uzu amaghi akpu ogele lee egbe anya n’odu”. We need to emulate our Yoruba brothers in terms of religious harmony. The Catholics, Protestants, traditionalists and even Igbo Muslims all have a right to their religious freedoms.
Today, Ozubulu is not known for the Udojis but for Bishop Ozubulu (High Chief Alloysius Ikegwuonu), the man who “picked money” in South Africa. He is so idolized by both the Igwe Ozubulu and the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi as an “illustrious son” that he is a member of the Igwe’s cabinet. Also, St. Alloysius Catholic Church, Ozubulu which was the scene of a drug war that claimed several innocent lives, including his father’s was singlehandedly built by him. If Bishop Ozubulu had wanted a Papal Knighthood, it would have been “dashed” to him.
Nnewi, their next door neighbours seem to be doing things differently. Nnewi is known for the Innosons, the Coscharis, the Ibetos, the Louis Carters, etc. The Ozubulu/Nnewi analogy says it all. Every Igbo patriot should ask him/herself, “What is my town known for?” Is it industry or vice? Certainly, no nation attains sustainable development through Get Rich Quick Scams or crime. If not, Pablo Escobar would have remained in charge in Colombia or Italy would have been the most powerful nation on earth courtesy of the Italian mafia.
According to Ikeogu Dr Arthur Nwankwo, “I’m not concerned about what happens in Lagos and Abuja, am more concerned about how we control our space”. Many Igbo elites are “urban guerrillas”. Their influence is limited to the cities, be it Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Onitsha, etc.
To disprove this assertion, every Igbo patriot should carry out an exercise in his own hometown. Firstly, make a list of the patriots in your town, those who are genuinely committed to societal advancement. The church, town union and traditional institutions i.e. the Igweship institution, the Nze n’Ozo, the Age grade, etc. are vital in this exercise. From that, also make a list for your Local Government. You shall be surprised to discover that “the good ones are greater in number than the bad ones, except that the bad guys are very noisy and vociferous”.
Secondly, have a database for your town. What is the population of your town? Establish the following statistics; population of graduates, secondary school graduates, unemployed youths, etc.
Thirdly, analyze your town’s security situation. Where are the trouble spots? Who are the bad guys? What is the population of “foreigners” in your town? How effective is your town’s vigilante and what can you do to help them? What is your town’s landmass and how safe are your forests? A well-organized vigilante, going on periodic patrol of your forests will make so much difference. While awaiting the inevitable commencement of Igbo Amotekun by the South East Governors in April as pledged by Governor Dave Umahi, you can do the much you can in your community.
Finally, start a mentorship program in your community/LGA in liaison with other concerned patriots. Also, think of how to constructively engage the bad guys in sincere dialogue. Some of them can be salvaged through that while the community and the security agencies deal with the recalcitrant ones accordingly.
Restructuring of the mind and restoration of Igbo ethos is a sine qua non for a successful political Restructuring of Ala-Igbo. Without that, Ndigbo under a Restructured Nigeria or even Biafra shall destroy themselves.
Ultimately, Restructuring is a win win situation for Ndigbo, whether it is Restructuring at the national, regional, local or even individual level.
Mazi Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji, MNSE
Executive Director, Centre for the Advancement of Literacy & Leadership (CALL),
Publisher, hoo!haa!! Online Newspaper
/ Former National Chairman, Ohaneze Youth Wing