OHANEZE NDIGBO CHIEFTAINS LAMENT AS LATE NZEWI GOES HOME
Ohaneze Lagos spokesman, Okafor, and president, Akubueze
It was a moment of mourning and lamentation. Everyone wore a sad face. Every voice was filled with anger, frustration and disappointment, following the federal and state governments' obvious failure to tackle the security challenges in the South-east, which is now growing with every passing hour. Everyone feared that, with a cloud of fear, hanging over the region's skyline, prominent Igbo sons and daughters have been condemned to a life in exile. They were worried that no meaningful development would take place with a regime of uncertainty, hanging in the air like a fog.
The occasion was a wake-keep in honour of the late Chief John Chukwuka Nzewi, the Apunanwu Nnewi and patron of Ohaneze Ndigbo in Lagos. His home on plot 63, Oriola Street, Alapere, Lagos, is a palace. Only wealthy ones like him can afford it but in the past days, the building had been wearing a mournful look because its owner is no more.
Chief Nzewi, 59, a business mogul was allegedly kidnapped in Ihiala, Anambra State. His family, Daily Sun learnt, paid a N30 million ransom, which his abductors demanded. But guess what they got afterwards: his corpse. Chief Nzewi, who will be buried on May 23, was also the immediate past president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Lagos. That was part of the reason many streamed into his residence to pay him their respects. It was also a gathering of his associates, friends and kinsmen.
No fewer than 5,000 men, women and youths were there to see him off to eternity. Among them were Eze Hycient Ohazuruike, the Eze Ndigbo in Lagos, Chief Oliver Akubueze, President, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Lagos; Dr Sylva Ebigwei, President Ika Ikenga and Nnamdi Nwaigwe, President, Association of Ndigbo in Commerce. Various cultural dance troops too came to entertain guests. The mourners and sympathisers all filled the decease's court, and spread out into the adjoining streets. The chief mourner, Mrs. Nzewi, clad in black attire, sat forlorn in a sofa surrounded by closed ones. A wry smile stood on her lips as she stared into space, apparently wondering what life would be without Chief Nzewi, her husband of many years.
It was also an occasion to bemoan the wave of kidnapping - a strange whirlwind sweeping through Igboland. It was also time to reflect on its damaging implication on the life the people. The issues became a source of worry, having been thrown up by the death of Chief Nzewi.'Chief Nzewi was a victim of the rising insecurity problems in the South East, particularly in Anambra State,' declared Louis Ikemefuna Okafor, the Director of Publicity of Ohaneze Ndigbo Lagos and in Diaspora. 'He was kidnapped, after a N30 million ransom was paid to free him.
Yet his abductors went ahead to kill him.'This is one death too many. Chief Nzewi was the immediate past president of Ohaneze Ndigbo in Lagos. We are therefore challenging the Inspector General of Police, Mr. M D Abubakar and the governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi to buckle up and ensure that his killers are arrested and prosecuted. Anambra State has suddenly become unsecured; people can't travel home anymore. We can't continue like this.'
Speaking in the same vein, Chris Egwilo, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Igbo liaison officer in the government of Lagos State, challenged Governor Obi to rise from his slumber. He lamented that Ndigbo couldn't travel home anymore for fear of being kidnapped, describing its implication on Igbo life as 'an abomination.' He said: 'We challenge Okwute (Peter Obi) to wake up from his slumber. We can't go home anymore for fear of being kidnapped. The other day, an Osumeyi man was kidnapped and his wife went to pay a ransom for his release. They collected the money, released the man but held his wife until more money was paid to free her. Our kinsmen are now giving out their daughters in marriage in foreign land for fear of being kidnapped. This is an abomination.'
Recalling how he beats the kidnapping trap in Anambra State, an associate of late Chief Nzewi, Chief Damian Okoye told Daily Sun: 'I don't move around in Anambra State without armed mobile policemen or even soldiers. I go with no fewer than seven security personnel each time. I'm the president-general of Nanka Development Union. So I don't move around just like that. That gives you a picture of the security situation in Anambra State at the moment. I was to accompany Chief Nzewi on that fateful day, but something changed our earlier plans. The story could have been different if we were together.' He warned every prominent indigene of Anambra State to always provide for their own security each time they travelled home.
In his reaction, Mr. Fabian Onwughalu, the legal adviser of Ohaneze Ndigbo Lagos said the trend in Anambra State had thrown up enormous challenges which would slow down the pace of development in the state. He called on the state legislature to enact enabling laws to check it. 'The state is now highly prone to insecurity and it is obvious. The fact that government can't provide security means that the elite class, the wealthy men who support development initiatives in the state are being chased away.
There won't be investors anymore as they are now being scared away. Some Chinese came to Nnewi the other time to invest in a multi million naira business, but some of them were kidnapped. So they had to run away. Now some members of the elite can't attend burials, wedding ceremonies and other functions in the state. Some of these events are now being held outside Igboland. This is an abomination. Besides, people are now afraid of even building houses of their own. Once you start, these boys will come and pick you up. Those who manage to go home now wear rags just to disguise themselves. It is too bad.
'Let members of Anambra State legislature rise up to this challenge. Let the legislators come up with enabling laws to check this vice. Let the governor too sit up and empower the security agencies to fight this evil.'
While expressing sadness over the development, Chief Leo Okafor, former Ohaneze Nidgbo, Lagos president who handed over to Chief Nzewi said: 'I'm using this opportunity to call on the chief security officers in Igboland - the governors - I don't know whether they are enjoying the unfolding scenario. It is unfortunate that most prominent Igbo sons and daughters are running away from their native land for fear of their lives. Now nobody goes home again. It was because Chief Nzewi was Igbo to the core that he ventured home and was killed. We are telling our governors, enough is enough,' Okafor, one-time chairman of Alaba International Market, Lagos said.
Another ex-president of Ohaneze Lagos, Chief John Uche also expressed anguish over the problem in the South East. He said: 'My heart is bleeding. People who are carrying the Igbo cause are being cut down. It is painful – very painful. I'm so sad. If we don't fight this evil now, I don't know what the future will look like in Igboland. Here in Lagos, we are farming, but unfortunately we can go home to enjoy our harvest and to see our loved ones. This kidnapping stuff is alien to us. We just must look for a solution to it. And the time is now.'
Ohaneze Ndigbo Lagos youth leader, Prince Alex Ezeobi, aka Biafra expressed pain at the way and manner Chief Nzewi was kidnapped and then murdered by the people he loved. He described kidnapping as 'strange in Igboland.' He then challenged the youths in the region to shun the path of vices and embrace meaningful and dignified means of livelihood. 'Those who have bad intentions for their brothers and sisters should perish the idea henceforth,' he pleaded.
President of Aka Ikenga, Dr. Ebigwei described the late Chief Nzewi as 'a hardworking, forthright and focused man. He was the focal point in our drive to unite Ndigbo in Lagos.
We have had cause to work together many times.' He said with his loss, a big vacuum has been created in the ranks of Ndigbo in Lagos. Ohaneze president, Chief Akabueze told Daily Sun that the deceased was 'our grand patron. He belonged to the highest advisory body of Ohaneze in Lagos. He was my predecessor. 'Following his death, we have suffered inestimable losses. He was like an iroko tree; he was a very big coverage and protection of some sort to all of us. We will give him a befitting burial and then strategise to see how to plug the hole his exit has created. But we shall miss him,' he concluded.