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Governor Obiano challenges Igbo in Diaspora to think home

WIC 2016: harps on rediscovery of the legendary ‘Igbo spirit’ and a marshal development plan 

From Chuks Collins, Awka

The Anambra state governor, Chief Willie Obiano has challenged all Igbos in the diaspora on taking development and expertise back to their local homeland.

In his keynote address at the just concluded 22nd edition of the World Igbo Congress meeting in New York, United States of America(USA), the Anambra governor minced no words in declaring that, “Igboland can be Great Again!”, that’s with a collective resolve to change drastically the way we do things.

Taking a studied appraisal down memory lane of where we all started, the governor insisted that “the Igbo spirit is indestructible and can never die!”, hence must be rediscovered in the interest of our people and future generations coming after us.

According to a release by his media aide, Kingsley Ezekwelu, the governor commended the conveners of the meeting for their doggedness which has resulted in the recent admission of the World Igbo Congress into the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Hear him, “…before I go on, I wish to quickly observe that I stand in the shadow of all the great sons and daughters of Igboland who have stood here before me to address this greatest gathering of Ndigbo under one roof in the Diaspora. Ladies and gentlemen, I stand in the shadows of the great Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the venerable Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, Dr.Chuba Okadigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and so many other icons of the Igbo nation that have shaped conversations in this gathering in the past. 

“My predecessors, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Dr Chris Ngige and Chief Peter Obi, attended the WIC meetings, showing how seriously the government and people of Anambra State have always taken issues concerning Ndigbo.

“… I must also thank the conveners of this Congress for showing a great deal of foresight in the choice of the theme of this year’s event. Kanyi mezie Alaigbo strongly resonates with our efforts in the past two years to rebuild Anambra State. I am happy to realize that the concerns of the 2016 Annual Congress are exactly our concerns in Anambra State. Things like “protecting our homestead, stopping the conversion of our home into a ‘conquered territory’ and preserving our heritage.” In Anambra State, we go a step further to show concerns about preserving our collective memory.”

He expressed happiness that since the inauguration of the World Igbo Congress in Houston 22 years ago, Ndigbo have gradually been waking up to the imperatives of unity and brotherhood in what he saw as “a raging sea of bigotry and threatening territorial expansionism. 

“It is indeed a great achievement and a thing of pride to every Igbo man and woman. I dare say that in the years ahead, our struggle for a place on God’s green earth will be even more demanding. So, we need more strategic approaches like this one for the survival of Ndigbo into the next millennium.

“… whenever I contemplate the place of the Igbo in our fast changing world, my pride in the Igbo nation is rekindled; whenever I remember the scientific and technological exploits that shook the world from 1967 to 1970, my heart glows with pride. And whenever I realize the enormity of Igbo contributions to modern thought and knowledge, I feel more confident in the future of our people.”

Gov Obiano described the Igbo story as “a narrative in courage. A great epic that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. The story of a people who rose vigorously from the rubble of genocide and extinction to assert their membership of the human race in the 21st century with so much brilliance, so much promise! It is a story that I am immensely proud of.

“Umunne m, our story is awesome indeed. It stretches from what we know of the wise and rare kings of ancient Nri in Anambra state to the Aro and the Long Juju in today’s Abia State. A common thread connects it to fabled personages like King Jaja of Opobo through Olaudah Equiano down to the Igbo Landing at Dunbar Creek in Georgia on the continental shelf of the United States of America.

“….we are the people who rose from the ruins of a brutal civil war to give the Secretary of State Distinguished Public Service Lecture on Geometric Reasoning and Military and Civilian Applications here in the US. We are the people who woke up from the cruel threats of extinction and genocide to produce a medical doctor who has become the first person in the world to discover and publish findings in traumatic encephalopathy in American football players. 

” We are the people whose creative genius flowered abroad after being rejected at home leading to the invention of HopStop which Apple acquired for a heavy sum of money. We are those men and women whose pursuit of excellence has caught the attention of America and the rest of the world, with one of us becoming the President of the World Conference of Mechanotronics. We are smart, gifted and tough as nail. This is why the only Black person with oil blocks in the United States and United Kingdom is Igbo. Anyibu Igbo. Umunne m, Igbo di egwu!

Ironically however, the governor observed with deep concern and sadness that all the famed Igbo successes were mostly outside Igboland and have little roots at their homestead. 

“I am often distraught to think that our people have learned nothing from our bitter experience of the Civil War. We take pride in building up every human settlement everywhere else but in Igboland. South Eastern Nigeria smoulders in the scorching sun of neglect while we make a show of our success abroad. Umunne m, that is why I agree with the theme of this Congress. What can we do as a highly gifted ethnic nation to change our story at home? Are there global benchmarks we can learn from? What did people who were once pressed to a point of extermination in other cultures and hemispheres do to regain a respectable standing in the global community?”

He therefore want and expects things to begin to change positively immediately. He wants this year’s meeting to go down memory lane as the take off point for the great future for our people that had been on the drawing board for years.

According to him, “Ndigbo, four and a half decades after the (Nigerian)Civil War, we Igbos should ask ourselves some disconcerting questions. What is the attitude of the Jewish Diaspora to the state of Israel? Does the Igbo Diaspora have a unified response to Igbo issues in the homeland? Can we distil the conversations here in a manner that will ensure a direct impact on the socio-economic situation at home? How many Igbo scholars have actually devoted time and resources to research important things like the Igbo origin and our probable Jewish ancestry since the 19th Century? Some of the authorities we cite on Igbo scholarship are foreigners who chanced on precolonial Igboland over a century ago.

“Brothers and sisters, I am not making any prescriptions for Ndigbo. Igbos are wise enough to figure things out for themselves. I am merely drawing our attention to what we may not have considered. And that is the heart and soul of what has inspired my team and myself in Anambra State in the past two years.

“We came into governance with a melange of anxieties. We worried about security that had eluded my beloved state for four decades or more. We worried about the seeming disinterest of our people in agriculture even when our soil is 100 percent arable. We worried about the relocation of the famous Anambra enterprise outside our state and we worried about building bridges of understanding and consensus between the government and Anambra’s numerous accomplished people in order to foster progress.

“We have also placed Anambra on Nigeria’s agricultural map but perhaps more importantly, we have recorded quite some progress in bringing Anambra’s big sons and daughters together on the table of brotherhood. We achieved this through the highly successful Interactive Evenings we have had with Anambra communities in Lagos and Abuja and of course, in Awka. We are planning to reach out more. We may hold a US edition very soon. We are doing this because we understand the value of collaborative partnership or what Oby Ezekwesili calls “crowd sourcing” in building a prosperous society. We achieve development goals faster when we work together as one.

“It was this same thinking that made my team and I convene a Regional Security Conference in August last year that attracted my brothers, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and of course Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State. We did this because we have since realised that Anambra cannot experience sustainable growth without the complementary efforts of our sister states in the South East and Delta. We believe that Igboland will be a better homeland for all of us if Anambra’s promising story becomes the story of the entire region.

“Brothers and sisters, we sincerely believe that our narrative of excellence in Anambra State will be incomplete if the South East region fails to rise to the call of history on your generation. So, we must all stand tall to regain the foothold we have lost in human development indices in Igboland. The time to do that is NOW!

“Igboland needs urgent help at the moment. By the way, my heart sank when I was reliably informed that many manufacturing companies in the South East are folding up due to the foreign exchange difficulties in Nigeria at the moment. This trend portends grave danger to Ndigbo who are not only industrialists but are also the main drivers of the import business across West Africa. Disposable incomes may eventually dry up and many of our people may face hunger and starvation. 

He however recommended for our people especially the state governments to embrace Agriculture with full intensity, bearing in mind the progressively dwindling revenues at the centre and foreign exchange hitting the rooftop.

He urged the South East governors to come together to build a railline that would connect the entire region to the rest of the country, as that would facilitate trade and commerce in the region and stimulate the regional economy.

He also want Ndigbo in the Diaspora to come up with a strong Economic Response Package that will stimulate more investments in Agro-allied industries in the South East to feed the people, create jobs and create wealth by exporting the surplus like Anambra state was currently doing. Again, we provide a good example here as more than 60 percent of the investors who have moved into Anambra State in the past two years are Ndi Anambra. He therefore expects other South Eastern states to borrow a leaf in this regard.

Gov Obiano again called for increased cooperation among the South Eastern states in crucial areas like security, power generation and supply and of course roads and bridges construction. This, he noted was with a view to strengthening social and economic ties and open up new windows of growth in the region.

He called on the Congress to set up a Special Committee that will work in collaboration with the South East Governors to draw up a Marshall Plan for the economic survival of the South East and Delta states.

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