By Tony Edike
ENUGU-IGBO leaders held a crucial meeting on the proposed National dialogue in Enugu yesterday where they emphasized the need for the South East to harmonize their position on various national issues and present same to the confab.
The participants at the meeting convened under the aegis of South East Peoples Development Association, SEPDA, also expressed optimism that the conference would afford the Igbo the opportunity to make legitimate demands that would bring to an end the lomg marginalisation of the zone in the affairs of the country.
One of the major vexing issues which they intend to canvass at the conference is the creation of an additional state in the South East, which has been top on the agitation by Ndigbo for quite a long time.
Present at the meeting held at Modotel Hotel, Enugu were Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Enwo Igariwey, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Mrs Uche Azikiwe, Dr Nkemka Jombo-Ofor, Igwe Prof Sam Ukpabi, Prof Joe Irukwu and Obi Gibson Nwosu, Eze-Uzu Awka.
Others were Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, Prof Uzodimma Nwala, Dr Mbazulike Amaechi, Igwe Aja Nwachukwu, Dr. Philip Atanmuo, Sen Offia Nwali, Chief Simon Okeke, Chief Chekwas Okorie and Chief Ken Emechebe among others.
Speaking at the meeting, former Minister of Education, Dr Sam Egwu said the forum was aimed at building an Igbo consensus on various issues that would come up at the forthcoming National Dialogue.
He said that it would be wrong for Ndigbo to appear before the conference without a consensus on the issues they intend to pursue, stressing that everything possible should be done to ensure that the Igbo race benefit maximally from the dialogue.
“For our voice to be well heard we must first of all build a consensus. Igbo should not allow their differences to jeopardize our collective interest. It has also become pertinent to draw a political roadmap for Igbos in 2015 and beyond. We must ask ourselves basic questions – if the South East will not produce the president in 2015, when will they do that?” Egwu said.
Also speaking, Ohanaeze President General, Chief Igariwey said the umbrella Igbo organization is already working with various Igbo groups to ensure unity among the race before moving to the confab.
“The issue at hand is very pertinent and requires inputs of all the stakeholders. We need to arrive at a consensus so that those representing the Igbo will speak based on the positions agreed upon by our people,” he said.
But in his contribution, the national Chairman of the newly registered United Progressive Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie expressed fears that the desire by Ndigbo to get an additional state might not be realised at the conference.
Giving reasons why it has not been possible for the people of the South East to have the additional state,
Okorie said it was neither Ndigbo nor the National Assembly that made it difficult to create additional states but purely the military that bequeathed power to civilian democracy.
Chief Okorie said that it was easier for a Carmel to pass the eye of a needle than for a new state to be created owing to the 1999 constitution that was yet to be reviewed.
According to Okorie unless the 1999 constitution bequeathed to Nigerians by the military administration is altered, there is no way anybody can create additional state in Nigeria.
He said: “Our not getting additional state is the conspiracy of the military junta headed by Abdulsalam Abubakar that handed down the 1999 Constitution.
“Under the provision of the constitution, it will take the proverbial Carmel to pass through the eye of a needle before state or states are created..
“You need to go and look at those provisions. They are extremely difficult to meet and it was deliberately put like that. During the Constitutional Conference in 2005, that’s why I didn’t bother myself with state creation but I insist on making the six zones, federating units.
“If the six zones become federating units that’s equality: whether you have ten states in one zone or three states in one zone does not make much difference. That’s the practical approach to it.”
On the possibility of an Igboman becoming the president of Nigeria come 2015 or in the near future, Okorie was of the view that the only political party that gives an Igboman the opportunity to aspire for the exalted office of the president is his own political party, the UPP.
He maintained that other political parties do not have it in their agenda to give the Igboman the opportunity to become the next president of Nigeria.
“Is there the possibility that APC will make any Igboman presidential candidate in 2015 or later? The answer is No. Is there the possibility that PDP will make any Igboman presidential candidate in 2015 or later. The answer is No,” he said.
“What this implies is that we must support and embrace the only political party which has again passed a resolution by its national executive committee, EXCO, zoning presidential slot to the South East geopolitical zone. That political party is the one I have also founded with the collaboration of some patriotic Nigerians – the United Progressive Party, UPP, with the head of the tiger as its symbol,” he added.