OWERRI 2010: WHAT'S NEW
Today, Monday, the 27th September, the high and low of Igboland are expected to converge at Owerri to, according to the organizers of the Igbo Stakeholders Conference 2010, to set 'a new agenda for Ndigbo'. When I received the invitation from my very hard-working and selfless friend, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu, I knew that something transparent must be in the offing, because he could never be involved in anything that would short-change Ndigbo. Yet, I still harboured some misgivings and instantly started to query if somebody is not, once again, taking Ndigbo through another 419-like rigmarole, because that was my sad perception of the last one that I attended at Enugu on August 16.
The fallibility of the Enugu confab was underscored by the fact that the communiquÃ© of the forum was distributed to the media even before the opening prayers were said. Sadly, it turned out that people who would have commanded trust connived with some serial political swindlers to rally Ndigbo from all walks of life to legitimize what was a well-orchestrated charade to 'adopt' President Jonathan as the preferred candidate of Ndigbo in the 2011 elections, without preconditions. So dramatic were the antics of the Mbazulike Amechi-led clique that it was 'adopting' a man who had not yet signified his intention to run, neither had his party, the PDP finally ruled on the zoning policy. On a personal level, the swindle had a sad personal angle for me.
A week to the August 16 event, a consummate Abuja-based intellectual, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, had invited me and four other fellow Igbo intellectuals, based in different parts of the country to answer a clarion call to work as a think tank to produce a well-reasoned Igbo positions that would form the basis of the discourse at the Enugu confab. Abandoning everything else, we locked in ourselves for five gruelling days and racked our brains to their limit in order to produce what was acknowledged as a blueprint that would stand its own,anywhere in the world.
It was so acknowledged by the organizers of the forum who had commissioned the working paper in the first place. In it, we had suggested five options which would form the basis for a considered and informed Igbo stand, on the short and long term basis, in the unfolding political scenario in the country. For the avoidance of doubt, the think tank had suggested that either (a) President Jonathan should be supported - if he declared - on the condition that he meets up with defined items of the key issues that are at the heart of every man, woman and child, or that (b) Ndigbo should support the zoning principle that would produce a consensus Northern candidate in the PDP, if and only if he picks an Igbo vice president and covenants to back Ndigbo for presidency in 2015, or that (c) Ndigbo should support a well-qualified Igbo son or daughter to contest from the PDP, or (d) back an Igbo candidate from another party with a large Igbo following or finally, (e) back a Northerner from another party.
It was our expectation these positions should be subjected to vigorous debates and afford our people the opportunity to make a principled choice. However, the forum turned out to be a huge swindle, in that a communiquÃ© turned out to be an abridged copy of the speech of Chief Mbazulike Amechi, the chairman of the occasion, as well as the undisguised front for the pro-Jonathan paymaster for the occasion, alleged to be a Bayelsa senator. To underscore the dubious and intellectual barrenness of the forum, not one of the handpicked speakers made even as much as a passing reference to the working paper which was deliberately not distributed early enough at the occasion, as a ploy to ensure that none would have the time to study and digest it.
Rather than make the occasion a debate on the present and future of Igbo people, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and others harangued the bewildered audience with distorted historical fakery. For instance, it was a huge shame that Ndigbo should be told to fall down and apologize to the South-South for imaginary sins that Ndigbo were said to have committed against them. In a desperate tour de force, Amechi, who was most probably not qualified to be in the rooms where such issues were being discussed at the time, tried to convince Ndigbo how Ndigbo had dealt a dirty sleight of the hand on their South-South neighbours when Ndigbo allegedly yanked off one of them from his exalted office as the premier of Eastern Nigeria and replaced with an Igbo person, to wit, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
I wish I had the space to explain to honest seekers of truth that the despicable lie that Amechi, Iwuanyanwu and Ezeife told in order to justify their act, had absolutely no basis in reality, but suffice me to demand: how come that Prof Eyo Ita, who was claimed to have been removed because he was non-Igbo, got to his position in the first place, not being Igbo. It suffices for me to say, here and now, that the fate of the leader of the government business was as a result of an internal crisis in the NCNC, which resulted in the dumping of some seven other Igbo ministers, denigrated and referred to at the time as 'sit-tight' ministers who lost out with their faction leader, Dr. Eyo.
Furthermore, it was even a greater surprise that Dr. Ezeife, with all the respect that is reserved for him, should be speaking from both sides of his mouth, so soon after appending his signature, along with 25 other fellow prominent Igbo leaders, to a document which was also signed by 64 Northern leaders from their three zones, on Project 2015. I shook my head and wondered how he could repudiate a solemn document he had signed in full glare of the public, a mere week earlier, at the Yar'Adua Centre in Abuja.
I have still not got over the betrayal at Enugu especially at the thought that a band of political swindlers could have used the brain and time of well-meaning fellow Igbo men and women for their dubious political aggrandisement. I want to put it on public record that Barrister Ugo Agballa, who I hear, is a smart and ambitious lawyer-turned politician and his partner in the organization of the Enugu forum, Mr. Azuka Okwuosa, who had contracted our team to prepare the marvellous document must realize that no amount of legalese would permanently absolve or acquit them from the huge debt and apology which they owe us.
On the contrary, today's summit in Owerri is coming at a time when the political climate has become clearer with the Jonathan declaration as well as at a time when the options for Ndigbo have become clearer and unambiguous. Moreover, today's confab is being hosted by people with a track record for speaking out forcefully for and in defence of what they believe in and who are not afraid of being challenged by superior arguments. There is, therefore, no doubt that today promises to be a refreshingly different kettle of fish from the Enugu show of shame.
Another reason why I wish that Ndigbo should throng the Imo Concorde Hotel venue in their numbers is that a new dimension has just been introduced into the political arena, with the reported entrance into the fray of a very credible, smart and competent Igbo candidate. The reported entry of Professor Pat Okechukwu Utomi into the presidential contest should be a big game-changer that should provide for Ndigbo an opportunity to re-arrange the pieces on their political chessboard. This refreshing game-changing situation has been brought about by the fact that it would be hard to find a better person than this candidate of Igbo stock, from among the other members of the presidential league.
The fact that he brings along all the qualities and factors that Nigerians have been yearning for: paradigm shift, knowledge, capability, and much more, should compel Ndigbo redefine the focus of Owerri 2010.
All roads should lead to Owerri. I will be there.