One of the frontline contenders for the the office of president-general (PG) of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide in next Sunday’s election, Dr. Chris Asoluka, has disclosed how he would handle the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, if elected.
In this interview with Daily Sun, Dr. Asoluka highlighted his plans to reposition the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization.
What will be your first priority as Ohanaeze PG?
In as much as I applaud the current leadership’s visibility and outspokenness, the other side of the coin, which is the task of institutionalization of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, in line with its constitutional targets, must be accorded priority for true ownership of the association, funding and effectiveness.
Our team will take back Ohanaeze to the grassroots, build bridges with the young and womenfolk and link up with the diaspora energy and resources. Ohanaeze, which has been accepted as the apex socio-cultural group in Igboland, must rise squarely to rebuild trust and renew our people’s hope and confidence in ourselves. Thus, Ohanaeze will speak for every Igbo man and woman, canvass and negotiate to secure our collective interests. However, the truth is, if you must speak for me, you need to know my feelings, thoughts and fears before you do so. Therefore, our institutionalizing process of Ohanaeze is to generate inclusiveness and feedback system. We need to make it worldwide to be seen by every Igbo person as an institution to be respected, loved and cherished. That was how Igbo State Union was run and managed. With a strong institution in place, our people will willingly participate in it and support its activities.
The race is getting hot and, like in Nigeria’s politics, godfatherism plays prominent roles in winning elections. In this instance, who is your godfather?
Definitely, I have nobody but God Almighty as the source of my motivation and the decider of my fate. I have never been drafted by any “godfather” being regarded as those forces who sponsor and/or determine the outcome of electoral processes or who are behind my decision to contest for any position. To the contrary, I have been regarded by many as being independent-minded and difficult to be controlled or manipulated.
However, my response to three compelling questions has always guided and motivated my decisions regarding offering myself for service. They include, first: Do I possess the skill set for the tasks/job description of the position? If it is answered in the affirmative, I submit myself for scrutiny and validation of what I always define as a critical core or mass of people, including my family, whose objectivity and altruism I don’t doubt. Finally and the most crucial is the test in our Lord Jesus Christ’s parable of the talents, as narrated in Matthew 25:14-30.It symbolizes some sort of moral or spiritual burden on one’s conscience or the legal duty of care to your neighbour.
Recall how our Lord’s rebuke of that seemingly cautious and “wise” man who buried his talents in order to avoid losing the talents, thus avoiding responsibility. It is this critical test that is uppermost and constitutes the major consideration, determination and motivation for my decision. What if it’s my destined role or duty to act but, out of my selfishness, fear of taking risk or staying in my comfort zone, I fail to rise to the challenge? And the situation worsens to the point of no return, how would I account to God of the “talents”, opportunities and His abiding grace? I would rather pray and offer myself and fail than do nothing.
For the office of PG of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, I will say that my desire to serve is prompted by any “god father” but the fact that there is a lot of work to be done in Igboland, including the necessity for gender/youth inclusion, security of life and property, development of AlaIgbo. There is indeed an overriding need to complement other efforts to reduce poverty in the land, unemployment and the likes. As a resourceful problem-solver and tested team leader, I will gather men and women of goodwill who are desirous to see a positive change in Igboland. And, together, we shall make it great again.
Since the Igbo claim to be marginalized, how are you going to fight this?
I accept the fact that, in Nigeria, there is infrastructure deficit, including seeming lopsidedness in its distribution. I also acknowledge the failure of federal character/representation, appointments and opportunities. To resolve some of these issues will entail a multi-pronged approach hinged on networks, negotiations, advocacy and, at times, agitation. We will reach out to our political leaders of all shades, mount robust advocacy and/or credible agitation, you know the latter could entail forms of reprisal, including use of unified economic, demographic and spiritual endowment of Ndigbo when rebuffed.
Rest assured that we shall engage the government of the day and create ways of making our voice heard, and heard loud and clear. But we must be strategic in our engagements, it will always be determined by our group interests.
IPOB is like a tsetse fly perching on Nigeria’s ‘real man’. What will be your relationship with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB?
As president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, I will act as a father figure to all and sundry. I will keep up discussion with every Igbo group, listen to them, hear them out, and make suggestions, where necessary. But we shall neither discuss in fear nor fear to discuss.
As a father, I am expected to love each of our children without being selective or biased. Recall that even the Holy Bible makes room for the prodigal son (Luke, 15:11-32), not to mention engaging deserving groups and people.
Insecurity has been the major concern of Ndigbo. What will you do to reassure your people that they are safe?
Be informed that every soul matters; more so that if it is an Igbo man murdered unjustly, anywhere, it’s a no-no that shall not be tolerated. We will neither tolerate the abuse and discrimination of our brothers and sisters on our soil nor allow our people suffer from hostility, intimidation, etcetera. We shall work with the existing security networks towards producing a tight security architecture, which shall be acceptable to everyone.
Between restructuring of Nigeria and a President of Igbo extraction, where will you stand?
We will, if elected, pursue both restructuring and quest for presidency. Restructuring will enhance good governance and improved service delivery to Nigerians in every part of the country, better management of natural resources via devolution of powers and so on. Our position on restructuring is for the benefit of every Nigerian. The democratic system we are running is becoming too costly, wasteful and without adequate accountability, transparency and responsiveness. Paradoxically, concentration of power has further promoted parochial interests and it needs total unbundling, especially at the centre. So, if you ask me, we are championing restructuring for the benefit of every Nigerian. Coming to presidency, the Igbo have a right to be reassured as being truly reintegrated after the civil war that ended more than 50 years ago. It’s a soothing balm that ensures total healing when they don’t only aspire to the highest position but are positively encouraged to present a President for all Nigerians. Indeed that gesture was promoted just nine years after the war when Dr. Alex Ekwueme became Vice-President. What is holding back full integration? What (or who) is stopping the Igbo from becoming President of Nigeria for more than 50 years since the war ended? Or was there a secret and silent agreement to impose a “glass ceiling” on Ndigbo, barring them from the office of Nigeria’s President? We need to be given a sense of belonging. I bow and plead “Biko, Ejo, Don Allah”! It will prove to the world that Nigeria belongs to all of us. It will heal the wounds of the Nigerian civil war. It will be a blessing to Nigeria. Therefore, both restructuring and Igbo presidency have distinct and complementary roles to play in making Nigeria work for the good of all.
Do you think South-East governors are doing enough to protect the interest of the Igbo?
I feel the world is sliding each day into anarchy and insecurity is everywhere. It is, therefore, incumbent on leaders to seek and provide solutions. I believe we need to establish our own regional security outfit, be it to enhance mutual protection by combining the advantages of localism, force consolidation and active intelligence gathering and rapid response as the need arises. There is, therefore, the need to consolidate the measures via passage of such laws that may proscribe certain conflict/crime-prone activities such as open grazing. As the primary purpose of government is the welfare and security of lives, I am aware the South-East governors initiated a South East Security Committee. I am also aware that Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) submitted a draft bill on banning open grazing in the various state Houses of Assembly in the South-East. The South-East governors should, as a matter of urgency, expedite action on these. If elected as president-general, given my legislative experience, my team will engage the critical stakeholders in these areas. I believe that, with proper communication channels, we can achieve these two tasks as low-hanging fruits to provide adequate security for our people.
What is your position on the Eastern Security Network recently formed by IPOB?
Nature abhors a vacuum. The Eastern Security Network formed by IPOB is a product of a vacuum. However, we need to understand some things. The South-West introduced Amotekun as a joint security outfit owned by the South-West. The various state governments gave it legal backing. With that, no one will accuse the South-West of running an illegal security outfit. Coming back to your question, I don’t think it is too late to hold discussions with all stakeholders. We need to discuss with an open mind. In all, we must forestall anything that will lead to loss of lives, especially the precious lives of our youths. It is our duty as elders to ensure peace and security in our land. We must not shy away from these responsibilities.
What will be your relationship with affiliate organizations in Ohanaeze?
My leadership style arises from shared vision, trust, consultative but decisive empathy and support, all based on teamwork and cooperation. I will give Ndigbo an all-inclusive Ohananeze Ndigbo. In rebuilding Igboland, which, by extension, challenges others to do the same for the good of the nation, all hands must be on deck.
In Nigeria, every new administration has always jettisoned the programmes of its predecessor. Against this background, what are you going to do with the Alaigbo Stabilization Fund introduced by the outgoing president-general?
The Alaigbo Stabilization Fund initiated and approved by the outgoing president-general is an interesting development that stands on two legs. It’s a social manifesto as contained in the Ndigbo Development Foundation to tackle socioeconomic priority of Alaigbo and, secondly, the Alaigbo Investment Company, which will be purely an investment initiative that will exploit economic opportunities as well as catalyze rapid economic development of Igboland. To say the least, these efforts, including the SENEC and SEREDEC, are timely and very important. My team would streamline them, and we shall hit the ground running. Let me reassure you that my strength is in team building and implementation.
What are the key areas you will concentrate on and what new things are you bringing to the organization?
Our tenure, if granted, will first and foremost institutionalize Ohanaeze Ndigbo. We need a strong, independent, viable and vibrant Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide and not a strong president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. After that, we shall take it back to the grassroots, the Igbo people from their town unions to the apex leadership. This was the way Igbo State Union gained the authority and goodwill of Ndigbo. Our people need to own and embrace Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Next, as our environment is stabilized and made safer, we shall vigorously pursue the Akuruo Ulo (Think Home) initiative. The Think Home philosophy will help in the proposed Alaigbo Stabilization Fund and other initiatives for rapid development of Igboland. My economic dream for AlaIgbo is to make a massive Nnewi/Aba regional hub for West and Central Africa within the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) framework. With the inflow and targeted investment from the diaspora and friends, it is an opportunity we cannot afford to let go.
I have also talked about the championing of restructuring and President of Igbo extraction. We shall ensure the security of life and property of Ndigbo wherever they are living. Indeed, it will be work, work, and work. The call to be a president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide is a call for selfless service.
What will be the place of youths in your leadership?
The youths will play a critical role in our tenure. We shall engage them in discussion and explain our mission and workings. We need to fast-track investment inflows, entrepreneurship and leapfrog to emerging ICT such as artificial intelligence (AI), computer programming and similar competencies that would prepare them for international service provision. Indeed they need to understand and embrace the sincerity of Ohanaeze Ndigbo as a caring father who can be trusted. Once we understand ourselves, hope is rekindled and nothing can stop us in attaining greater heights for our people. Synergy is key; we will only provide a strong platform with extensive networks and networking dexterity.