Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro is the President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide (OYC).
He also belongs to many Socio-Political and Cultural Organisations without any Political affiliations, especially the Nigeria Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Forum where he deputised Yerima Shettima (the National Chairman of Ethnic Nationalities Youth Groups and doubles as President Arewa Consultative Youth Forum) as Deputy National Chairman. He is also the spokesman of Coalition of Southern Groups (an amalgamation of all Southern Ethnic Nationalities Youth Groups and civil society groups).
In this sit down with Lanre News reporter, Rasheed Opeyemi, the Igbo Youth leader discussed the Biafra agitation; why Igbos hate Obafemi Awolowo; the feud among factions of Igbo groups; among other national issues.
Which is the right name of the group: Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide or Ohanaeze Youths Congress?
The Apex Igbo Youth Leadership is known as Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide. It is the umbrella body with 59 affiliated groups, with the mandate to defend the collective interests and rights of Igbo Youths across the globe, and uphold the norms, and cultural heritage of Igbo Nation.
Tell us more about this group. Why is it founded?
Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide was founded by Igbo leadership led by former President General Of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, late Justice Eze Ozobu, in the year 2000.
Barr Emejulu Okpala Ukwu, was the pioneer leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo popular organs before the emergence of Late Nnamdi Nwokocha (Former Rangers/Green Eagles Footballer) as the National Chairman and Comrade Chuks Ibegbu as Secretary General.
There was a transitional leadership during Late Dr Dozie Ikedife as President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo, where Mazi Bismarck Oji was interim President before there was the first Democratically Elected Government in 2014 that produced me as the President General and Mazi Okwu Nnabuike as Secretary General.
In 2018 at Abakiliki Ebonyi National Convention, we were returned again for another tenure.
Is your group advocating for Biafra Republic or 2023 Igbo Presidency?
As the Apex Igbo Youth Leadership, OYC, support legitimately any Struggle that upholds the advancement and protects the welfare of all Igbo Youths, and we operate within the ambit of the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We are championing the 2023 Igbo presidency project through clear practical steps and persuasive negotiations with all ethnic nationalities Youth Groups across Nigeria.
Even though we recognised the circumstances surrounding the rise of the Biafra agitation which is self-determination anchored on non-violent activities based on the issues that had continuously abused and raped the fundamental rights of Igbos in Nigeria.
But we believe that 2023 Igbo Presidency Project will put an end to Biafra agitation.
If you are being made to choose one, which would you have preferred? Biafra or Igbo Presidency?
2023 Igbo Presidency Project is the most equitable project that will cement the unity of Nigeria.
As one country, Igbos investments are huge outside Igboland which shows that Igbos had demonstrated their fate in one Nigeria.
Igbos are scattered all over the 774 Local Government Areas in the country.
Igbos investments and properties alone in 19 Northern States were valued at N22 trillion.
We considered the fate of Igbos and believed that Nigerians should support the Igbo in 2023 to avert possible split and breakup.
Why do you think some Igbos want Biafra?
The name Biafra excites Igbos, especially the Younger Generation of Igbos that was Born after 1970 when the war had ended.
But to those that saw the 1967 Ahiara Declaration of Biafra State by then Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, will always be cautious and avoid any possible repeat of the sad experiences of Biafra Civil war again.
After the civil war ended Dim Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu was pardoned and returned home from exile.
He contested for President under APGA in 2003 and 2007 to provide assurances that he believed in one Nigeria.
In one of his historic interviews; “he acknowledged that Biafra is now, a thing of the mind”.
For the youths, the consequences of regrettable policies that had frustrated Igbo Traders and businessmen in Nigeria especially in Lagos, the education quota system, non-implementation of federal character in distributions of wealth and appointments.
Those obnoxious policies and perceived injustice anchored on Tribalism and Nepotism, and the collapse of meritocracy and Competitiveness in Nigeria fuelled the recent rise of quest for Biafra independence and until Nigeria corrects herself through devolution of powers and respect for regionalism, and support 2023 Igbo Presidency Project.
Our fears of possible catastrophic conflict arising from post-2023 election if Igbos are denied the chance to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, is better avoided than witnessed.
What is the main grouse of Igbos against the present Federal Government administration?
Sincerely, Igbos ferociously feel that APC had been Unfair in terms of equitable distributions of political offices.
But the Current system had always excluded Igbos in subtle major political appointments and projects.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promises in 2015 are yet to be fully realised especially the revamp of Enugu Coal Mine, but with the harmonious relationship between Southeast Governors and President Muhammadu Buhari, there have been infrastructural developmental strides in the Southeast.
We expect more, especially the Eastern railway lines should be commenced immediately to connect all the state capitals and commercial cities for increased economic development in the Southeast.
What is your take on the sit-at-home protest organised by IPOB members in the South?
The sit-at-home protest organised by IPOB members in the South had been successful over the years.
But the decision to support the Oduduwa Republic was a political scam to derail 2023 Igbo Presidency Project.
IPOB should have learnt from Dim Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu’s regrets with Yoruba’s hero, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s betrayal on non-declaration of the purported Oduduwa Republic in 1967 when Ojukwu released him from Calabar prisons.
We felt they should learn from history.
Nigeria on October 1st clocked 60 (Diamond Jubilee), what is your evaluation of a the country? Your wish for the nation?
Nigeria’s 60th Year Independence Day Anniversary celebrations on 1st October 2020, didn’t excite Nigerians.
The country had been ravaged by insecurity challenges, recessions, unemployment and dwindling wages amongst inflations.
Political leaders are not patriotic to give quality leadership to Nigerians, there are compromised standards, but all hopes are not lost.
Nigeria’s greatness lies on right leadership and we believe that Igbo entrepreneurial vigour and spirit will surely rejig and leapfrog Nigeria to triumph as the Giant of Africa.
How would you rate the president’s speech [full text HERE] What are the things you disagree and agree with in the speech?
President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech was a crucial step to appease disgruntled Nigerians over the recent hike in fuel prices.
But definitely, the speech did not go down well with Nigerians, as Nigerians viewed President Muhammadu Buhari’s comparisons with petroleum prices in Nigeria with other countries’ prices as uncalled for but there was a need to make our refineries functional again.
There have been reports that people advocating for Biafra are Igbos from the non-oil producing areas. Some people claimed Igbos from places like Enugu are not interested in Biafra, how true is this?
Biafra agitation flourish mostly areas where there are
Markets Unions presence are formidable in Commercial Cities like Onitsha, Aba, Port Harcourt and Owerri, so mostly Enugu and Ebonyi Markets Unions are not formidable.
But currently, the activities of herdsmen had activated the community-based youths to use Biafra agitation as a mechanism for preventing the destruction of farmland and rampant killings of murderous extremists/herdsmen.
There are some news reports of Ohanaeze Ndigbo group disowning your group. Why is this? Please shed more light on the development?
OYC had decided not to get involved with the Leadership tussles and crisis between different factions in Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
The crisis started when few circles of elders persuaded and financially induced the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to become political and abandoned the status quo of socio-cultural organisations in 2019 General Election to support PDP Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
We the youths after roundtable dialogue with the elders insisted that since there was no Igbo contender in APC and PDP at the 2019 Presidential Election, that the best options were for Igbos to be neutral.
One faction was greatly induced by PDP, mobilised through a former Igbo Governor to endorse Atiku Abubakar at Nike Hotel Enugu on the day President Muhammadu Buhari was commissioning Zik Project with governors.
Another faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo quickly went to Aso Rock and endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid as a countermeasure.
Both factions suspended each other and by the virtue of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Constitution, both factions seized to exist as they had deviated from the status quo as Apex Igbo Socio-cultural Organisations, not Igbo Socio-political Organisation.
So, the Southeast Governors Forum exhibited maturity in the face of Igbo leadership crisis before you know it, a third Faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo emerged as “Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly” registered in CAC, which certificate was withdrawn, since there was leadership vacuum in Igboland, and nature abhours vacuum.
OYC independently with Ohanaeze Ndigbo Elders Council took over from the warring factions of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, so one of the factions got supported by a Governor who hailed from the same locality with the ousted President, gave them unfettered access to Government House Press Crew and their main job was to cause confusion especially ranting against President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
OYC vocals on issues affecting Ndigbo was quickly dismissed by one of the unpopular faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, but we quickly consulted with Governors and Elders who advised Us to abide by Igbo norms and values never to engage an elder in the open even when there’s evidence of adult delinquencies be clouding their sense of reasoning, so we ignored them and carried out our collective responsibilities to Ndigbo.
OYC was duly elected by Igbo Youths from 7 speaking Igbo States with affiliated groups.
We were never appointed by any of the warring factions. We are only accountable to Igbo youths.
15. One of the allegations by Ohanaeze Ndigbo group was that your group is sponsored by some elements among other condemnations. What will you like to say about this?
It’s laughable that we are being sponsored by some elements, We pay our monthly dues and we make sure that no external forces hijacked the youths like the warring factions of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Some time ago, your group claimed it was in consultation with some Northern stakeholders to discuss the 2023 presidency tickets, what is the progress like so far?
We had successfully established links between Northern Youths led Arewa Consultative Youth Forum and Coalition of Northern Groups.
Automatically, there are hopes from the Southwest Groups and definitely, we have a harmonious relationship with Niger delta Youths.
These activities had yielded desired expectations as many opinion leaders and elders statesmen from North, West and Niger Delta had identified themselves with the 2023 Igbo Presidency project.
What is your comment on Nnamdi Kanu?
Nnamdi Kanu is one of the prominent Igbo sons, fighting on the side of Biafra agitation through his organisation IPOB with Comrade Uche Madu of MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike of Biafra independence movement. We only know that self-determination is a global struggle.
Why is he leading his revolution movement from abroad?
Nnamdi Kanu’s dual Citizenship permits him to reside either in Nigeria and UK, so where that suits him it’s ok for him. Moreover, you know about his court issues in Nigeria.
Is it true that the President in Aso Rock is not Muhammadu Buhari but a Jubril from Sudan, just as alleged by IPOB members?
President Muhammadu Buhari is from Daura, Kastina State and stays in Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
Nigeria is too sophisticated for a lesser country like Sudan to impersonate a President of over 300 million Nigerians.
I am Certain that President Muhammadu Buhari I met in 2003 in the company of late Chuba Okadigbo, who was his running mate in ANPP, could still remember me and called me by name at the Palace of Hrm Eze Isaac Ikonne in Aba, Abia State in 2019 during APC campaign shows that he is still President Muhammadu Buhari I know in 2003.
Your group condemned the new alliance between the advocates of Oduduwa republic and Biafra. You said what Awolowo did to the Igbo people can never be forgotten. What exactly is Awolowo’s offence?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a widely accepted Yoruba leader. He was Jailed in 1964, at Calabar Prisons at the province of Old Eastern Region.
He had a deal with then Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to release him from detention, with promises of the declaration of purported Oduduwa Republic and Biafra Republic simultaneously.
Unfortunately, Awolowo betrayed Ojukwu and fought against his friend from the side of Nigeria.
Chief Awolowo’s Economic Policies dealt decisive blows on Biafrans between 1967-1970.
His Economic policies like change of Currency and Starvation measures brought untold miseries with kwashiorkor that led over the death of 2 million Biafrans especially children and women.
As that wasn’t enough, after the war, he made it compulsory for every Igbo to be given 20 pounds irrespective of the millions you have in the bank.
But definitely, Awolowo’s betrayal strengthened the enthusiasm and vigour of Igbo and Igbo cities were rebuilt immediately after the war.
If Ojukwu had been alive today, would you have joined his call for Biafra Republic? What are the things you would have wanted him to do differently to be successful in the war?
Dim Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu entrance in Political Movement with APGA ended his dreams on Biafra.
Definitely, never again will Igbos want any war again. The only thing I would have wanted him to do is the establishment of collective economic developmental strides that will guarantee the future of Igbo businessmen as Gov Okezie Ikpeazu is building Enyimba Economic City.
Now, let us talk about this present administration. On a scale of 1-10, rate this government’s performance generally. State your reason(s).
I will rate this government 5/10, from Igbo point of view, because we have supported PDP for 21 years.
With big appointments, from Senate Presidents, Secretary to Government of Federation, Super Ministerial Positions, IGP, Chief of Army Staff but there was no visible evidence of infrastructural developmental strides, Second Niger Bridge was an audio project, but Igbo never voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019.
However, with the harmonious relationship between Southeast Governors and Buhari, there are upgraded International Airport with night landing facilities, second Niger Bridge is on as well as many other Road Construction work.
Also, on a scale of 1-10, rate how good this government has treated Igbo people. State your reason(s)
OYC commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s Government for though Igbos rejected him twice in 2015 and 2019, he had been fair enough to Igbos in infrastructural developmental strides in the Southeast Region.
Even though Igbos are still dissatisfied with some of the political antecedents, I rate his government 5/10.
If you are opportune to advise President Buhari, what are the things you would have told him to do differently?
If I am opportune to advise President Muhammadu Buhari on issues, I would urge him to sack all Service Chiefs from the North and replace them with the Southerners, because there is a school of thought that only Southerners as Service Chiefs will end insurgency in the North.
The following questions are sort of personal. You may decide not to answer them:
i. Why do you think most Igbos leave their states to South West areas to start their businesses?
Mostly because of unsavoury opposition from the victors against the vanquished (Biafrans) after 1970.
The closures of Calabar Ports and Ph Ports in favour of Apapa and Tin can Island Ports attracted Igbo businessmen who are involved in export and import business. And Southwest became safe haven for Igbos to re-establish themselves as merchants of Africa.
ii. It is believed that Igbo people bride price is too expensive, that is why some men borrow loans to marry and others unable to. Is this true? If yes, any amendment you would recommend, or you are okay with it?
Igbos are proud people, and cultural diversity is different in many clans in Southeast. It is not true that bride price is expensive in the Southeast.
Most individuals tend to impress their families and inlaws that they are capable to take care of their spouses.
iii. Why are the Igbos always in the new for land dispute? Is it that available lands in the region is too small to go round? Because you barely hear of such dispute in the North for instance.
It’s strange to think there are land disputes in Igboland, but definitely, you don’t expect one to keep a blind eye when his inheritance comes into dispute.
iv. If Nigeria is to break up today, which region do you think would suffer most?
We don’t pray for Nigeria’s break up, because North will surely suffer for it in terms of insecurity challenges over there. And Biafrans too, because of Igbo Investments and properties in the North and Southwest might be at risk “abandoned properties again”.
If Ijaws accept to be part of Biafra, there might be unprecedented development and progress in Biafra land.
v. Why do Igbo men prefer marrying someone from their region, while tribes like Yoruba are comfortable marrying Igbos. Can you marry someone from another tribe?
Greatest human assets in Nigeria are the Igbo Women, both at home and professionally, Igbo women are the jewels anyone can have in their homes.
Any other thing you will like us to know and we didn’t ask?
OYC wishes to warn The Leadership of PDP over the alleged abolishment of zoning formula enshrined in the Party, hopefully, that will guarantee 2023 Igbo Presidency.
With the comments credited to the National Chairman, Uche Secondus, Igbo Presidency had been murdered and defections loom.
PDP will lose in 2023 elections and will remain in opposition as any ploy to betray Igbos’ after milking their votes for 21 years will surely bring catastrophic consequences for PDP.
Igbo Youths will make sure that in 2021 Anambra state elections, PDP will definitely lose.
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