In the words of Chief Godson Ezenagu a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Anambra State and current National President of a pro Igbo group, Igbo Unity Forum (IUF), the development that can bring hope and comfort to Nigerians is not far-fetched. And that is restructuring of the country or zoning the office of the President to the Southeast geopolitical zone.
In this Interview Chief Ezenagu tells The Oracle Today Correspondent, Theo Rays, that immediate Restructuring of Nigeria will go a along way to address the challenges facing every part of the country. He also spoke on the aims and objectives of IUF, agitation for Biafra among other things.
Let’s start with IUF. What is the scope goal of the organization?
The scope of IUF is the Southeast geopolitical zone otherwise called Igboland and Igbo speaking states like Delta and Rivers. So our scope covers seven states as recognized by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo which includes the Five States in Southeast zone plus Delta and Rivers States respectively. More so we have membership that spread across board because we have branches in Lagos, Abuja and two foreign branches in United Kingdom and United State. Our aims and objectives bother on the welfare of the Ndigbo in Nigeria. We want to make sure that no Igbo man or Igbo people are cheated in the scheme of national welfare of the association or entity called Nigeria.
What would you say that IUF has achieved since its inception?
Yeah, we came on board about four years ago, that was when we registered with CAC, but we started active operations last year after putting down the structures with quality membership made up like minds. We have dealt with one major issue of interest in Igboland and that is the issue of electricity supply. We did our investigations and found out that the Distribution Company is cheating out people so much and took it up to challenge the cheating situation. We have epileptic rate of poor power supply in Igboland and yet the Distribution Company impose excessive billing to consumers. We challenged the poor supply and excessive billing of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC). We found out that the estimated bill they give to the consumers don’t tally with the poor power supply. The bills they give consumers are far higher than the supply. In most cases, they give bill for 24hours supply when the supply didn’t even go beyond 3hours. You get the point, so we dared the Distribution company. We waged peaceful demonstration in the entire States in Southeast zone asking EEDC who is in charge electricity supply in the zone to address the issue. Along the line the National Electricity Regulatory Company (NERC) heard our voice and invited us for a meeting with EEDC top officials. At the meeting EEDC was told to give us attention and address the issues we raised but up till this moment nothing has changed but we still have not gone to bed, we are ready to go further, so IUF is working hard towards achieving our set goal.
Are you comfortable with the rate at which pro-Igbo groups are springing up in the country?
Let me first for all correct the impression that lack of unity is the bane of Ndigbo. Ndigbo are strongly united in some sense. Take for instance in 2019 Ndigbo came together and spoke with one voice that we are supporting the candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during the presidential election because promised to Restructure Nigeria in line with our interest and consequently Ndigbo all round Nigeria voted for PDP. Is that not unity and speaking with one voice.
The issue of several pro Igbo group springing up is a reflection of higher political awareness. I will say that it is good on one hand and bad on the other hand. Good because the more the merrier and bad because too many hands spoil the cook. The more the merrier. One is that it is natural that it has to be so. Two is that things are bad and a lot of people are worried and are ready to do something to get the situation changed for the better. So people are reaching out to like minds, to discuss, to plan and do something towards change. I think this is obvious reason behind the floating of groups. However, it is obvious that some of these groups are not likely to stand the test of time, some will die down because it takes men of integrity and skillful leadership qualities to build and run organizations successfully. And again it takes a lot of money to build and run an organization. Many are called but few are chosen. I foresee that in the long run we should have one or two or three outstanding groups that would make an indelible mark in the sand of time in championing the cause of Ndigbo and that is where IUF is going.
At the moment Ndigbo are looking after three things as alternatives to address the challenges facing them in Nigeria. The alternatives include; Restructuring, quest for Igbo man to be President in 2023 and lastly agitation for the restoration of Biafra. Which one does your group believe in?
Well the issue of the change facing Ndigbo in Nigeria is like a child that was beating and the child is crying to register his pain, so the child is not organized at that point. That’s the situation we find ourselves as Ndigbo in Nigeria now and everybody is trying to register his or her pain. There is clamor, quest and agitation but a proper look at it demands that Nigeria is long overdue for Restructuring. When the country is Restructured every zone will go back and face its own challenges and deal with those challenges in its own way rather than relying on the decisions from Abuja. Nigeria is too large to concentrate the decision making authority in Abuja, that is what we are saying. Let us Restructure the country and reduce the supreme authority from one center to the zones so that people at the zonal level can take far reaching decisions on issues that affect their lives at the right time. Restructuring is outstanding among all the alternatives.
I am sure that an average Igbo man wants to have a bigger field like Nigeria to play in and what is important to him is a sense of belonging to the system, give him the appointments he deserves as a leading tribe or zone in Nigeria, accord him a favorable projects from the seat of power and let him have good roads, power supply affordable foreign exchange rates and affordable prices of goods in the market and he is ready to support the government. But Nigeria has completely failed to give Ndigbo good attention in all facet of his interest as above listed. We don’t have a sense of belonging. No Igbo man is considered good enough to be appointed as a service chief. Not even as head of Custom or Immigration or Prison Service. You can imagine that. The atmosphere of business is very harsh for him, no road, no light and prices of goods so high, so the poor condition of Ndigbo in Nigeria is well understood and people are reacting according to their feelings. Those who are agitating to separate from Nigeria have lost hope in the country because Ndigbo have been denied their fair share of the national cake and what they are asking for has become part of the system. It has come to stay and Ndigbo might decide to go for it and you can’t rule it out.
On the other issue of Igbo Presidency, well it is part of the process towards finding lasting solution. Many believe that giving an Igbo man opportunity to occupy the Presidency will go a long way to conform Nigerians. And if you look at it, Ndigbo have more National interest in Nigeria more than other tribes in the country. They are everywhere doing their businesses in the country. Ndigbo is second largest population in every town and in every State in Nigeria and come to think of it, we have a lot of competent people that can lead Nigeria as President and Commander in Chief. From the look of things, Nigeria may not get at the height of development it deserved without Igbo man taking up the mantle of leadership because we are more nationalistic and even more competent in term of human capital needed to run Nigeria. During the first Republic Zik was talking about one Nigeria with interest of the nation at the center ahead of other interest but Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello were talking about regional interest, you can see that Ndigbo are more Nigerians than others in the Nigeria setting. So it is good that an Igbo man is given the chance to lead Nigeria. Right now notable Stakeholders in all parts of the country including elder statesmen who are age long nationalists are in support of the Igbo Presidency in 2023. Whichever way you look at it, Ndigbo deserve to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023 and I can assure you that Nigerians will be comfortable with that.
What is your take on the ongoing debate about zoning in Anambra State ahead of the 2021 governorship election in the State?
Zoning has come to stay but unfortunately it is not embedded in the constitution. Our constitution is quite different from what is obtainable in the United States where they keep on overhauling and amending their constitution to meet the demand of the time. In Nigeria it takes more than three years for the National Assembly to affect a particular amendment in the constitution. In the absent of constitutional power behind zoning, it is like a gentleman agreement. In Anambra it is believed that all the three zones have produced the governor and taking it back to the southern zone where it started would stabilize the clamor and the equation of zoning. However some people are saying that the best candidate has to be chosen by competence not zoning. Ndi Anambra is very interested in a good candidate who can solve their problems.
Are you saying that the issue of candidate should come first ahead of the party or zoning?
The issue of zoning depends of the internal decision of the political parties. The parties have to use their internal mechanisms to present candidates for Ndi Anambra to chose. So both the issue of zoning and candidate are in the hands of parties and until the parties present their candidates the people cannot make their choice. So let s wait till the time when the political parties will produce their candidates.