IN furtherance of their search for a common position on burning issues in the polity and in readiness for the proposed National Conference, Igbo leaders from all divides are to meet in Enugu on December 12.
The meeting is a follow up to the one held last Thursday and is to articulate common positions for the South-East geo-political zone .
Vanguard gathered that issues and questions raised at the parley, included restructuring, fiscal federalism and devolution of power, what should be the federating units-states or geo-political zones? What should be the system of government, presidential or parliamentary? Should we have regional or state police?
Hinting about the December 12 meeting, an Igbo leader, who attended last week’s parley said the leaders do not want the South-East to be short-changed in a
new Nigeria that will emerge from the confab.
“The Igbo want a restructured Nigeria where there is equity, justice, fairness and a level playing field for all the citizens to excel. We want a Nigeria where every citizen irrespective of tongue, religious and political affiliation will be proud to call his country and be ready to defend to defend,” the Igbo leader said.
Chaired by the Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, prominent Igbo leaders at the meeting, included Professor Ben Nwabueze (SAN), Mrs. Uche Azikiwe, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Senator Anyim Ude, Chief Dozie Ikedife, Professor Elochukwu Amucheazi, Chief Nduka Eya, Archbishop Anthony Obinna, Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa, Senator Offia Nwali and Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd).
Also present were Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Senator Ben Obi, Dr. Aja Wachukwu, Professor Michael Echeruo, Professor Felix Oragwu, Lolo Kate Ezeofor, Prince Emeka Onyesoh, Mrs. Maria Okwor and Evang. Elliot Uko. That meeting could easily pass for the best attended gathering of who is who in Igbo land in recent times.
Commentators expressed satisfaction with the leaders’ effort to draft an acceptable Igbo position for the Confab, saying failure to do so might lead to a situation where politicians send their aides to the confab, and sandwich their individual political ambition as the Igbo agenda at the expense of group interests.
Professor Amucheazu said the fact that Nwabueze, 83, agreed to direct the deliberations is a sign that the outcome will be the best for Ndigbo and Nigeria.
Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu said the Confab is a very serious matter and should not be left to politicians, adding that he is confident that this great opportunity to remodel Nigeria truthfully will succeed. He also thanked Nwabueze for finally yielding to pressures to serve his people and his country.
Professor Nwabueze, who spoke with newsmen after the closed-door meeting, said the essence of the parley was to articulate a common position for Ndigbo during the conference.
“We are the Igbo Leaders of Thought, we are here in Enugu to articulate our position, Igbo position, that we are going to adopt at the National Conference. We’ve set up the planning committee which will plan the whole thing; it’s going to be a process that will not end at this one meeting. We also have a fund raising committee, the other committee is the outreach committee that will take our position and go and discuss with other groups, ethnic groups,” he said.
Prof. Nwabueze is the chairman of the planning committee with Prof. Mike Echerue as his deputy and Elochukwu Amucheazi (secretary). Fund raising is under the chairmanship of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Achebe.
Speaking on the move, Agbakoba reportedly said that what the Igbo leaders were doing was part of on-going meetings by other groups in the country, and urged Nigerians to utilise the historic opportunity to further discuss a way forward for Nigeria.
He admitted that Nigerians have been deceived in the past by previous regimes that dumped the outcome of such conferences but noted that Nigerians are wiser and would try to plug the loopholes.
“What President Goodluck Jonathan has done is important in the context of understating world history, even though he has been criticised because of the timing, and even though, we prefer Sovereign National Conference, but we have not generated the energy for that. National conferences have been taking place across the millennia.
Whenever an opportunity presents itself for discussion, we must jump at it. What has happened today is a continuation of what’s going on across the country.
“Leaders of thought are meeting and articulating the best things to discuss; people want devolution of power, we don’t want this Naira federalism where states go to Abuja every month to collect money.
Our people must work for the money… Whether it is Ohaneze, Arewa, or OPC, or Afenifere, we can see that people are suffering. We don’t need to ethnicise this. This is a massive issue about how since 1914 when the missionaries came here coupled with the traders, took our land and money, enslaved us and handed us over to the independence fighters who did not conclude the arrangements properly.
“There was a compromise among Zik, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello. This is the first time, we have another opportunity to have a look at what’s going on. We should elevate the issues.”
Agbakoba said the only major challenge to the conference is possible clash between President Jonathan and the National Assembly, which has also been working on the review of the constitution.
“There will be a conflict between President Jonathan and the National Assembly, which has already started a dialogue, so they are not comfortable with that. Why is Jonathan doing dialogue when they (National Assembly) are the ones saddled with the responsibility, some of them are already saying”.
However, Agbakoba urged Nigerians including the executive and legislature to put the interest of the nation first and allow the people’s will to prevail above selfish, clannish or class interests.