Igbo leadership’s gone sour – Ezeocha.

By admin on 29/11/2014

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Bright Ezeocha, President of Igbo Youths Congress (IYC), a militant group that has been on the vanguard of Igbo resurgence, in this interview with Factnewsonline spoke on different issues across the country. He spoke on the arrest and detention of Benjamin Onwuka, the leader of Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) and his colleagues; the struggle for 2015 – specifically on politics of Imo State; and other sundry issues.

 

Can we start from your interaction with Amnesty International (AI) lawyers in London? How was it?

That was about an Igbo son, Ben Onwuka, the leader of Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) who was detained by Nigerian government for up to four months without trial

 

What was it about?

Honestly speaking, after his arrest; after the brouhaha in Enugu State, I never knew that guy was still in detention, not until I visited amnesty office in London. They were asking me about this man and I never knew that they were still holding him captive without trial; I even thought they had released him or that they were still going to court.

Then I asked myself a question, is this supposed to be a democratic government? Is this a civilized society? Are we living in a civilized society? Are we learning anything from the past? This was how they killed Mohammed Yusuf, leader of Boko Haram, and this is what led to the Boko Haram killings we have today. I was surprised that after many months his arrest and detention, this man was still languishing in captivity without trial.

 

There were people like you who were not happy about the development, especially as it has to do with your fellow Igbo people drumming support for Jonathan. How did you feel about it?

And those so-called Igbo leaders, I don’t know what they discuss with Jonathan each time they meet with him. Do they think the ordinary people on the streets are fools? They could not ask for this man’s freedom. They could not even ask for proper trial. It took the intervention of Amnesty International and their lawyers to secure a trial for the man comeOctober 27, to appear in court. It took the strong hands of Amnesty International to force it down their throat for the man to be brought to court. (The first arraignment did not hold after all because Nigerian government stayed away from the court).

Is it not high time we ask ourselves some pertinent questions? What led us to where we are today? Is it not the high-handedness of those in authority – those who think that they can detain people indefinitely without trial?

I am worried that in a civilized world, there is a country that is still behaving like this; that in this 21st century people can be arrested and detained without trial for months. What image are we projecting to the outside world about ourselves?

 

Do you think Nigeria’s leaders care about their country’s image?

In fact, when they were asking me this and we were discussing it, some Europeans there were just laughing.

 

Yes, they should be laughing at you, perhaps they know that is how your people behave, that they do not care about their people; they chase shadows?

No, they were laughing because they were surprised that in a civilized world; in a 21 century world, somebody could be arrested 72 hours after he was not arraigned before a competent court of jurisdiction and has not even appeared before any judge. It is very unfortunate.

 

Now, let us talk a little bit of politics: As the country is getting prepared for another general election, what is your observation?

I am worried as we begin to prepare for the 2015 election. I am worried because I was thinking that at this point in time, Ndi-Igbo should be bargaining with Jonathan or even other ethnic groups on what is in if for us. But it seems that we have lost focus. Those that I have assumed to be leaders of Ndi-Igbo have shown that they are not even worthy of leadership.

Imagine, as I listened to the slogan of those who said they were Igbo leaders as they campaigned for Jonathan when they were going for the Enugu rally. They were saying that Goodluck Jonathan gave us Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ada anyi nwanyi, as minister of finance. They were also saying that Anyim (Pius Anyim) Secretary to the government, was given to them by Jonathan; this one and that one; and they kept naming political appointees as dividends of democracy.

They consider that as development, as achievement, and as dividends of democracy for Ndi-Igbo. I asked myself whether this people understood what they were talking about. Where goes the so-called federal character – because it does not matter who is the President of Nigeria, Ndi-Igbo must have their slot.

So no matter who ascends the presidency today – whether Igbo friend or enemy - Ndi-Igbo must have their slot. So what is the big deal that Jonathan gave ministerial appointment to his friends? How does that translate to achievement for Ndi-Igbo? So when you count Jonathan’s achievements, you don’t attribute appointments to achievements, those are not achievements.

That you made Ihejirika Chief of Army Staff and disgraced him out of the office is not an achievement. Go and look at the history of Nigeria chief of Army Staff since after the civil war, has any army chief been sacked? Ihejirika was sacked and whatever prompted that I don’t know.

The thing is that if we must develop Igbo land, we must do away with these people that parade themselves as Igbo leaders – Ndi-Igbo Lagos, Igbo this, Igbo that, we must begin to ask questions. We should not just go and vote because Mr A said we should go and vote! Because they are all positioning themselves now for appointments; they are lining up their families, their children, their wives and friends for political patronage; for political gains; not for Ndi-Igbo.

Imagine that I was talking to one of the so-called leaders, telling him that Ndi-Igbo needed a seaport, to make sure that importation of goods and services were made easier for our people, and he told me that I should not be thinking of such things at this point in time, that there is Port Harcourt seaport, and that Akwa Ibom is building a deep seaport. That what we should do now is to align with them. Then I asked myself what manner of leaders are these?

Can you imagine that a people that thrive in trade and commerce do not have a seaport and somebody is telling me that we should align with others. What manner of leaders would you call them? We have been shouting about this seaport long before Akwa Ibom started thinking of seaport.

I have even gone further to ask myself, the so-called Enugu International Airport, how international is it? Have we become such a laughing stock of a nation that people toy around with us and get away with it? Today Enugu is made and international airport, tomorrow it is down-graded. Tomorrow again, Jonathan will organise another ground breaking event for second Niger bridge and our people will dress and go and dance for him. Then I ask myself, those our people who call themselves Igbo leaders who seat with Jonathan every day and discuss, what do they talk about?

I am not against Jonathan, I am not saying Ndi-Igbo should not vote for him, I am saying let us forget this issue of my next door neighbour. If my next door neighbour cannot give me what I want and my far-door neighbour can give it to me, why should I not align with him?

 

The way you are speaking now, they will soon begin to accuse you of campaigning for Buhari?

I am not campaigning for Buhari and I am not campaigning for Atiku, I am speaking about something that is hurting me. Even those people have their own questions to answer. Before Jonathan came they handled position through which they could be fair to Ndi-Igbo, what did they do? They were not fair to Ndigbo.

Before Atiku can ask us to vote for him, he will first of all tell us what happened to Abuja Stadium contract. How did he spend our money? He must clear that issue. When they were privatising Nigerian enterprising he should tell us what happened. His master, Obasanjo told us that he single-handedly bought all those things. He must tell us how he made the money. We are not fools, it is like we have short memory in this country that people can come around and play on our intelligence.

Again, Buhari that I have always looked as a man that is principled, and a man that I have always respected, when he was first going for the presidency, he chose Senator Ben Obi as his running mate. I was thinking that his motivation was to redress the injustice against Ndi-Igbo that he wanted to give them the opportunity to get to the presidency which has been denied them for long. That was my thinking and I worked with him then, only for the next time for the man to turn around pick a Yoruba man, not minding that Yoruba just finished eight years. He did not mind that it was just like saying that the Presidency can rotate between the North and the Yoruba, and that other part of Nigeria should go to hell.

I was thinking then that if what prompted him to use Ben Obi in the first place was to address the injustice against Ndigbo, what made him to change his mind, has that injustice been addressed?

 

What would be the position of your group, Igbo Youth Congress (IYC) on who to support for 2015?

As of now we have not made up our minds on who to support.

 

Will it not be too late when you eventually make up your mind?

We are still waiting for others that will still be interested in running for the Presidency. We want all interested persons to clearly and openly declare their interests. I want them to first come out with their manifestoes, then we will start negotiation. If my enemy can give me what I want, I will go with him.

 

Even if that thing he is giving to you is a Greek gift?

We have to x-ray every gift, but of course I am not talking of physical gifts, I am talking of blueprint to develop Igbo land.

 

I know, that too can also be a Greek gift?

We are talking of serious plans. Many of us do not see how bad the Igbo nation has become. Go to Alaba and see our graduates roaming around the market and doing nothing. If you take the statistics of the number of people struggling to leave this country, and the statistics of the number of Nigerians in foreign jails, you will see that we have the highest number. And their people are not even helping matters – they are busy fighting, quarreling, and doing all manners of wicked things against themselves.

 

 

 

 

So what is your reaction to the kind of politics being played in Nigeria today?

First of all I have to start from the South-east, Imo State in particular. I have always been of the opinion that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Let me just look first at Imo politics. We have three Senatorial zones in Imo State, namely Orlu, Okigwe, and Owerri zone. I happen to come from Orlu zone, the largest local government in the zone because we have 12 local governments. Owerri has nine, and Okigwe has six.

Now in this present democratic dispensation, Orlu has had its own share – Achike Udenwa took their share for them. Then after Udenwa, Ohakim took the position for Okigwe. But very unfortunately Ohakim was very arrogant, and he could not manage success. He saw himself as a demi-god and went as far as fighting the Church.

At the end of the day, the people showed him that nobody can be bigger than the people. And at that point in time the people of the state needed somebody to push Ikedi Ohakim away, and there came Rochas Okorocha, whom they do not know or understand. But a person that many of us felt could salvage the situation. He thought he would be the messiah that we never had, and then he was elected.

He was elected to come and rescue Imo; he was elected to deliver Imo from Ikedi Ohakim stronghold. Now Owelle (Okorocha) will now go down in history as the person Imo used to remove somebody they did not want. Now, it is time that Owelle allows other zones to taste power.

 

That should be easy now, after all he promised to run for one term?

Yes, he told Imo people that he is going to govern for just one term, but that is not the only thing. It is not the right thing for any Orlu person to aspire to govern the state at this time.

 

So what are you advocating?

What I am advocating is that Owelle should gently forget about 2015. I am not here to judge his government or to condemn his government or to judge him, but what I am standing and saying here is let there be justice, equity and fairness. Orlu people have had their turn; Okigwe people have had their turn and failed. Now, they should allow an Owerri man or woman to take over the reins of leadership in 2015. That is what is just; that is what is fair; and that is equity.

At independence we as Igbo people were majority, but today we have been systematically consigned to the position of minority and still many people are not bothered. Just as the way we are thinking that it is our right to become President of Nigeria tomorrow. When we formed the action alliance, we used this slogan for Owelle, now if we are seeking this justice and equity in Nigeria, why can’t we first give it to ourselves in the South-east states. That is what I stand on.

 

But you don’t need to ask the Governor to do that, Imo State people always know how to vote out who they do not want. Will it be different this time?

Yes, Imo State has always been blessed with the zeal of voting out non-performing governors, but they have not been able to articulate to choose those that will deliver for them. Interestingly, that is also the problem we have in the entire Igbo land.

 

There is this other issue you feel strongly about?

Yes, now I want to comment on the issue of free education in Imo State, and I want to commend the governor Owelle Rochas, to have given Ndi-Imo free education. But then I want to use this medium to ask him what the N20, 000 that all the tertiary institution students pay to the bank to access forms for his free education mean? Does that not automatically mean that all the students are paying N20, 000 as school fees? But if they are not paying N20, 000 as school fees, then where are the N20, 000 going to, and what is it for?s

He has to explain because it is either that he is shortchanging the people, or he is shortchanging the state. It is either he is using one hand to give free education for the people and is using the other hand to collect fees for education.

This is one issue he must clear. This issue of N20, 000, which when they collect the form they give the cheque, which they said they are using to process. What are they using N20, 000 to process. May be he is not aware; I want to believe that he is not aware. But if he is aware, then it is fraudulent.

So, he should explain to us what that N20, 000 is meant for. Is it just a case of giving with the right hand and collecting with the left hand? The Governor should let us understand the full policy as it regards education free education in Imo State.

 

Posted on November, 29 2014

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