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Eminent lawyer and rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome has punctured a recent statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the Igbo are a dot in Nigeria’s geographical map.
Ozekhome pointed out that it was historical profanity to posit that the Igbo masterminded the 15th of January, 1966, military coup.
He stated these in his definitive keynote address at the second edition of the ‘Handshake across Nigeria,’ conference on the theme – ‘Building bridges for a new Nigeria.’
The event was organised by a leading Igbo Think-Tank, Nzuko Umunna, in Enugu.
Ozekhome described the Igbo as the glue or binding force in Nigeria together.
According to him, the Igbo remain the only tribe that believes in the indissolubility of Nigeria, stressing that was why they live in any part of the country: ‘I particularly like the goals of Nzuko Umunna (NU), which is a general platform for creating effective management of Igbo professionals, both at home and in the diaspora, uniting and bridging the gap between the various Igbo groups; and promoting cooperation, peace and good neighbourliness between Igbo and other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Through its handshake across the Niger and handshake across Nigeria programmes, Nzuko Umunna has demonstrated its love for, and belief in one healthy Nigeria.
‘Nzuko Umunna is therefore a metaphor for the average Igbo man and woman’s gregariousness to live anywhere with other Nigerians of whatever ethnicity, religion, language or culture. Highly Republican, extremely industrious, aggressively innovative and painstakingly dedicated to a course they believe in, the Igbo constitute the second largest ethnic group after the indigenes in any part of Nigeria.
‘No other ethnic group believes in the unity, indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria as the Igbo. It is therefore a national embarrassment and shame when they are profiled for attacks, denigration; disrespect or disregard, and regarded as a dot in the longer circle of Nigeria. No! The Igbo are not a dot.
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They are the pillars that hold the Nigerian project together. Of Prof Onigu Otite’s 374 ethnic groups in Nigeria that speak over 350 languages, the Igbo constitute the main link that binds the beads of the other 373 ethnicities of Nigeria.’
The legal luminary noted that the Igbo were mentally and physically under siege, saying ‘You will find this as you pass through Onitsha, Ihiala, Awomamma to Owerri and other parts of Igboland. And I begin to ask, what have these people done?
Ozekhome insisted that the current suffocation and alienation of certain sections of the country was causing crisis, declaring that the leadership of the country must seek genuine peace and not peace of the graveyard to place it on the path of growth and development: ‘Ethnicity, language and religion have divided and destroyed Nigeria. They drive our politics. Some Nigerians will vote for a thief provided he is from their tribe. Ethnicity, language, and religion promote disunity, unhealthy rivalry and disenchantment.’
He said it was wrong for anyone to insist that the Igbo were not ripe to produce the president of the country, stressing that the area had produced eminent people who have made Nigeria proud on different occasions and have continued to play roles for the country’s advancement and unity.
He, however, regretted the civil war that broke out in the country in 1967, stressing that it could have been avoided had wise counsel prevailed.
Ozekhome opined that Nigeria was on autopilot and needs a brand-new indigenous constitution, if it must function effectively. He stated that no amount of amendment in the current constitution would make the country work.