The president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, has described as “a historical fallacy” the consistent perception that the Igbo are separatist and secessionist agitators.
He stated this at town hall meeting in Owerri, Imo State, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first working visit to the state since winning a second term in 2019.
“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,” Obiozor said.
He lamented that the southeast had been turned into a war zone adding that there was the need for order to be restored in that geo-political zone.
“Your Excellency, the most urgent and imperative need of Ndigbo today is security. The security of Ndigbo in Nigeria and beyond has become a compelling primary responsibility of serious concern for Ndigbo.
“Regrettably, our southeast zone has recently become a theatre of conflict, negating the peace-loving nature of our people. In this context Ohanaeze Ndigbo calls for the establishment of a zonal and state police apparatus to support and complement the existing federal security architecture,” he added.
Obiozor urged Buhari to ensure that Igbo youths being held in various detention facilities by security agents were released.
Besides, he said Ndigbo would continue to be part of Nigeria as long as there was justice in the country.
In his remarks, Buhari said he doubted that any Igbo man would consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria since, according to him, the Igbo are in charge of the economy and are found everywhere.
“The evidence is there for everyone to see that the Igbo are in charge of Nigeria’s economy.
“The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing the Igbos being in-charge of either infrastructure or pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
On security, he said: “If there is no security, there is nothing anyone can do no matter how much you try or the initiative you have. Security is number one priority and, then, the economy. When people feel secure they will mind their own business.”
The president said, though, fighting corruption in the country had become very sophisticated and difficult he would continue to strive to leave a lasting legacy of integrity and accountability in the governance.
“Nobody can accuse me of having companies or mansions anywhere in the country and I thank God that I try to keep myself as clean as possible, so that I cannot be taken hostage,” he added.
He urged the southeast leaders to sincerely educate their citizens on the need to hold their elected representatives accountable.
The president noted that no country could make meaningful progress without the development of infrastructure. He regretted the contributions of successive governments at the federal level to the decay of critical infrastructure in the country.
“I firmly believe that when you get infrastructure right, Nigerians will mind their own businesses,” he said, adding that as a group, Igbos stand to benefit more from the on-going development of infrastructure in the country because “they are more enterprising”.