(Being an address presented by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor, President General Ohaneze Ndi Igbo Worldwide at the occasion of the visit of his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari to Imo State on September 9th, 2021)
Mr. President your visit and presence today in Igboland and Owerri, Imo State in particular has more than political significance. In manner of symbolism, this visit has thrown light into the cloudiness and doubts surrounding the perception of the relations between your Government and Ndigbo.
Your presence reassures us that there is still reason for optimism for Nigeria and Nigerian unity.I feel very pleased in my capacity as President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and on behalf of the galaxy of Ndigbo leaders gathered here today, and the entire Igbo Nation, to welcome Your Excellency wholeheartedly to Igboland.
It is also our firm belief that this visit will mark the beginning of a new chapter of dialogue, cooperation and understanding between Ndigbo and your administration.
Mr. President, after all Nigeria has gone through in its nearly sixty years of chequered history of crises and continuity and the spectacular patriotic role of Ndigbo to ensure its unity and survival, the consistent perception that the Igbos are separatists and secessionists 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 Igbos, run away something is wrong there. Igbos are market people and travel adventurers.
Consequently, what defines the Igbo character is propensity for friendliness and harmonious peaceful coexistence and spirit of universalism of mankind. This is who we are. Our Igbo adage says “Ojemba Enwe Iro”, literally translated - A traveler makes no enemies.
Also another misconception of Ndigbo is that Igbos cannot speak with one voice, ironically that is another fallacy, there are more things that unite Ndigbo than divide them. But 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 secessionism 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.
Ndigbo are committed to Nigerian unity and there is news for those trying to push us out of Nigeria. Ndigbo in Nigeria are like fish in the ocean, no matter how rough the storm is, it cannot drive the fish out of the ocean.
Mr. President, it is in this context, that we see a new dawn in your distinguished presence in Igboland and believe that on your return to Abuja the significance and substance of this visit will form a new foundation of a platform for meaningful dialogue on critical issues of concern to the Igbo Nation.
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 South East 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. It is in this same vein that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, appeals to you, Mr. President, to see to the release of Igbo youths detained by various security agencies across the country.
Mr. President, we appreciate the infrastructural work being undertaken by the Federal Government in the South East such as the 2nd Niger bridge. It symbolizes the unity and bridge across the various regions of the country. However, the South East zone is in dire need of more infrastructure sponsored by the Federal Government amongst these are roads, bridges, railways and ports. It is the considered view of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, one that is also shared by the Igbo people that federal investments in these critical areas will revitalize the economy and will have the tangential effect of dousing the youth restiveness and unemployment in the zone.
In conclusion, Mr. President, nothing is more important to the Igbos in Nigeria today, more than the restoration of serious sense of belonging and the spirit of Nigeria’s founding fathers based on one nation, one destiny. And we believe this is possible through devolution of Power ensuring a sense of balance in our political system.