Igbo not interested in breaking Nigeria – Ohanaeze

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, speaks with Olumide Olusegun about the organization’s stance on separation, the Fulani controversy, the alleged plot to unseat President Bola Tinubu in 2027, and the recent threats against the association’s president, among other issues.

It was reported that a group known as the Ohanaeze Reconciliation Committee is planning to remove President Bola Tinubu in 2027 but your organisation has debunked it. Does it mean that your organisation does not recognise the group and what is your take on their decision?
We are aware of the Ohanaeze Reconciliation Committee. It is a committee. Whatever they do will be submitted to the leadership of our organisation. We are not bound to accept whatever recommendation or report they give. The leadership of Ohanaeze is not under any obligation to accept a report from a committee or to reject it. As far as I know, whatever they have has not been submitted to the leadership of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Their terms of reference as a committee is to reconcile the various elements and groups among the Igbo. To develop a concrete relationship across the Niger, the South-South, the Middle-East, and the North. They are supposed to commence action and when they finish, they report back to us.



For a committee that is an arm of your organisation, is it not worrisome that they are saying they will oust President Bola Tinubu in 2027 when the national leadership of your organisation is not aware of such a decision?
As I said, they have not submitted their report. If they are saying that, they are on their own. It is only when they submit their report that we will be able to know the one they will adopt, accept, or reject. Meanwhile, we are not aware of what they are saying.

During the 2023 electioneering period, the Ohanaeze Nndigbo worldwide alongside Pa Ayo Adebajo of the Afenifere was in support of the calls for an Igbo President. It appears this stand has been shelved since the emergence of President Tinubu.
How does it appear that way?

What makes it appear that we have shelved our stands? We supported Peter Obi because of the zoning formula that has been entrenched in Nigerian politics. Remember the first cycle was Olusegun Obasanjo from the Southwest, then to the North when Yara-Adua became President, and when it came back to the South, it was South-South and it went Bank to the North, it was Buhari and coming back to the South, we said it was the turn of the Southeast. Above that, Obi presented a very attractive and very credible credential. And despite that credible credential, it was a turn of the Southeast and that was why we stood strongly to support him. And then they went to the Supreme Court, and when it gave they announced their ruling, of course, we didn’t have any option but to support Bola Tinubu.

What is the expectation in 2027?
Until we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it. We can’t take a position now. The political parties have not even determined their candidate. When it’s time we will take a position. And of course, whatever position we are going to take, it’s not I as the National Publicity Secretary that will make that decision. It is above one person. It is always the National Executive Committee do comes together to make decisions.

Ikwerre people in River State have disassociated themselves from the Igbo and this led to controversy. What is your position on the matter?  
We are aware that the people of Ikwerre have various cultures as the Igbo. In fact, in the past, they had the Igbo union but shortly after the war, the people of Rivers were no longer as they were before the war. We know that they are Igbo. Their names, ways of life and everything points to the fact that they are Igbo. But when they now deny that they are not Igbo, it becomes strange. But we are very sure that eventually, they will retrace their steps.  For me, it is not very difficult. It is very clear, that they are Igbo. When they continue to deny, we just leave them. Maybe in the future, they will realise that this is true.

Aside from Ikwerre, are there more communities in Rivers State that are Igbos?
Yes, there are many of them. I can’t name them all but I’m sure there are many. When you talk about the origin of the River, originally Port Harcourt was Igbo. There’s no doubt that the people of Ikwerre Igbo and other people who were living in Port Harcourt went to court before the war. It was ruled that Port Harcourt belonged to the Ikwerre people. There was a judgment on that. With that, a lot of Igbo people were established in Port Harcourt. I know that all these strange behaviours and double standards started after the war. I want to be clear to all Nigerians that no matter the pretension, it will be clear later and eventually they will relocate.

What do you think is the reason why they are disassociating themselves from the Igbo?

I am not in a position to prove why they are doing it. They know better, I don’t know why.
Some are saying it is because they don’t want to belong to the Biafra if perhaps the decision comes that Igbo should have its nation. How true is that?
I am just hearing it. I cannot confirm because I am not the person who is perpetrating this story. So, I don’t know if that is true or false.

What is your reaction to viral audio alleging plans by Ndigbo to apologise to the Fulani community over the 1966 coup in Nigeria?

That one is very clear also. There was a retreat and we had a committee, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo committee. They had their terms of reference. They came out with a communique and they ended the meeting. Many Igbo indigene were present and the communique was issued from where where person got his story, we don’t know. The leadership of the organisation has also made it known that there were no discussions like that. Somebody fabricated the story, it developed wings and it began to fly all over, and they collected like truth. And of course, it has been said, that when falsehood when repeated several may look like truth. And that is what is happening there with that. It’s not true. But this allegation is not new to some of us who have been in Ohanaeze for a long time. I remember when Nnia Nwodo was there, they said that he made the remarks which were directed to the Fulani and because of that, they burnt his house. John Obiozor was there, he made some remarks and they said it was an apology to the Fulani, and they burnt his house. This time around they came with a similar story about Fulani. So these are things we have to contend and currently, people are beginning to realise the truth, so that time of using falsehood as a weapon to destroy organisations. There is no iota of truth in it. I am the image maker of Ohanaeze and there was nothing like that. And the communique of the retreat was shared viral and I am sure you received it. So I wonder where the person got the report of begging the Fulani community.

Why do you think somebody would want to share such a falsehood with such a noble organization as Ohanaeze Ndigbo?  
Naturally, you will sometimes see such things but their reason for doing such is best known to them. Maybe it was because somebody was not happy with the leadership or maybe somebody had an organisation with a particular plan. It happens, it is not new to us. We also know that the truth will always prevail.

The President General of Ohanaeze, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, recently said all Igbo governors were calling for IPoB leader Nnamdi Kanu to be released from custody. What informed this decision after several years?
It is not new. The report is all over. Whether it is governors making the calls or not. We have been asking for the release of Nnamdi Kanu for a while.

But why do you think the Federal Government is finding it difficult to release him?

The question would be better answered by Buhari. He has had a running battle with the former president while in office. And also, you don’t ask why somebody would detain his enemy with his power. Everybody is aware that they are not the best of friends. So it is not difficult to know why Buhari detained Nnamdi Kanu. Tinubu just came, and we are very confident that his approach must be different from that of Buhari.

The calls for the separation of the Igbo people from Nigeria have been there for a long time. What is the current position of the Nndigbo general?

The Ndigbo generals are interested in one Nigeria and in a federalist relationship where each person should have authority over their revenue and expenditure profile. That has been the position of the Igbo from the beginning. We are not interested in separating from Nigeria. We have always told our youths that we are one Nigeria. The difference is that we should have authority over our mineral resources, revenue, and expenditure profile. And also grow at our own pace because we discovered that before the war, we had one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. That is the position of the Igbos. For people who are talking about separation and Biafra, the basis of their agitation is the marginalisation and alienation from the centers of power. Do you remember when they appointed service chiefs and none of them were? There was some other appointment of substance that didn’t get to the Igbo, that was sufficient to raise the agitation among the youth. Our youth are saying that instead of this thing to continue, let us go. But the elders are saying, Nigeria should have a change of approach and attitude to these things. We believe that with a coalition of the West, the Middle Belt, and the South-South, we will better achieve results of restructuring the country so that we will have true federalism. The Igbo position is one of Nigeria’s under what they call true federalism. If you go through the Igbo General Assembly, right from 1949, I remember Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe made a remark and that is where we stand up till now.
Does this in any way suggest that the Nndigbo worldwide is not in support of the position of the IPOB?
Not all of them we are not in support of. What they are saying is that instead of them taking indignity, Nigeria should break up where the Igbo will find their way. Everybody is in support of that philosophy. We are hoping that it (marginalisation) will stop, but if it continues, everybody is thinking that way. That is IPOB. It is also a general philosophy and it is not only the Igbo, but the Yoruba, Middle Belt, and South-South. Instead of the suffocation continuing they would rather take a bow and leave. Not until the Yoruba became the president, it was the same philosophy everywhere. It is not just the IPOB. Even you would not prefer to stay in a place where they would continue to suffocate you.

The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, has raised an alarm alleging that some Igbo people are out to destroy him despite being one of their own. Why is this so?

It is natural. Was it not Jews that killed Jesus Christ? It is like that all over the world. The American President that was shot, was it not the Americans that shot him? It is not strange.

What steps have been taken to ensure this issue does not end in the loss of lives?
The point is that I am very sure of the fact that good will always overwhelm evil. Good people are more important in society than bad people. So, as we go on, humanity in us will continue to improve on our relationship with the leadership. That’s the reality. Eventually, we will come to terms with the need for us to have a stronger Ohanaeze and also to assist the leadership to achieve more for the Igbo. I am sure things will improve because bad things do not last.

President Bola Tinubu will be one year in office on May 29. How would you describe his performance since his emergence?
Ohanaeze will hold a meeting very soon where they will take a position on his one year in office.

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