Prince Unche Achi-Okpaga is the National Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Chief Nnia Nwodo. He tells RAPHAEL EDE in this interview that the splinter group, known as the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly, is made up of unknown persons, who are seeking relevance
How do you react to the report that a new Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly has emerged?
Thank you; you see, there are instances of this kind of thing; people want to be heard, people want to be seen and you can see that 2023 is just close. You may think it is far away, it is close and people want to be heard. They want to find places from where they can lay their hands and their opinions are listened to. You see, Ohanaeze is the umbrella covering the entire Igbo worldwide and people have seen it as a place they can find a way to come into the limelight. I get infuriated discussing this kind of thing. If people want to register an organisation, there are too many names you can give to organisations other than just coming to tell you that they have registered Ohanaeze. Doesn’t it look childish? Can’t you go and register any other organisation? Every other organisation in Igbo is affiliated to Ohanaeze.
Ohanaeze is like an umbrella that every other person is under. So, people feel that this is the climax of the Igbo organisation and if they find a way to destabilise and dismember it, they now begin to climb up and achieve their selfish political aims. It is just unfortunate that people are being misguided and continuing to react to this so as to give them credence. I would have kept quiet on this but we have to react to your questions. We don’t even need to exchange words with people, who are unknown. Who are they? Where are they coming from? What is their background? You don’t just come out of your house and say you are Ohanaeze; Ohanaeze from where?
Do you see the Federal Government’s hand in this for its agency like the Corporate Affairs Commission to have registered such an organisation?
Of course, I told you that 2023 is close at hand. I do not intend to mention people’s names and begin to tell you this happened or not. The important thing is that when this kind of situation begins to happen, people will begin to put their hands here and there, struggling for breath in order to be heard and to gain political relevance. And I keep saying that Ohanaeze is not a political party; it is just an umbrella body of socio-political organisations. We are just trying to shape things and put things bare and allow people to make their choices. It is just unfortunate that people just want to tarnish the image of the organisation – it has happened elsewhere, even in political parties, some people when they try to get one thing or the other, they will begin to say we are new PDP.
It happened in the APC and these are what politicians do every minute; they are always scheming; this thing has happened in Yoruba land and some people are also trying to do it here. They will keep tinkering with organisations like this in order to play mischief; they will tell you that this organisation has been balkanised so they don’t have relevance again when they think the organisation may not be to their advantage.
So, politicians are beginning to see that Ohanaeze is not ready to change its stance. Ohanaeze wants Nigeria to be restructured, because Nigeria is nosediving dramatically. Now, the country has gone back into recession because of common COVID-19. They don’t know how to manage COVID-19 and billions and trillions of naira have been wasted; they will tell you Nigerians have been given money; who and who have been given the money? Tell me what hospital has been built? What equipment have they purchased in the health sector that billions of naira have been wasted?
The new group alleged that Ohanaeze leadership of Chief Nnia Nwodo has derailed from the vision and mission of Ohanaeze. What is your take on that?
It is high time people began to put their ears on the ground to hear something. Do you know that when the North wants to get the presidency, they begin to court every other ethnic group, every other geo-political zone; they courted the Yoruba, the Igbo, the South-South and the Middle-Belt and they got it? Can the Igbo win the presidency alone? This is the first time Ohanaeze came together and joined other groups to galvanise the PANDEF, the Middle-Belt Forum and the Afenifere taken together. Nnia Nwodo has led delegations here and there, including to the National Assembly. In the heat of the political skirmishes, he led a delegation of these socio-political groups and went to the National Assembly.
They have held conferences here and there; you heard about the Awka declaration and the handshake across the Niger; we have had seminars and meetings with groups here and there galvanising these socio-political groups and bringing them together. This is the first time we are doing it and it is Ohanaeze that is leading it and the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has always been at the helm of this activity. What else did they want? To go and get the presidency of Nigeria alone? Even if the Nigerians say that the Igbo man should become the next President of Nigeria, will you sit at home and become the President?
Recently, Ohanaeze joined other socio-political organisations to sue the Federal Government and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the exclusion of the South-East in the $22.7bn projects, among others. Do you think that this might have influenced the formation of this splinter group by those who are benefiting from the Presidency?
Of course, I do. This is part of the grand plan to bring the geo-political zones together. This is the loan you are getting on behalf of Nigeria and sections of the country are being excluded, being schemed out and these are people whom their respective state governments will also be indebted to that loan and we are saying no. If you are saying one Nigeria, we should be one in all respect with all intent and purposes and that is what we are saying. If you are making an appointment, apart from the statutory ministerial appointment going to respective states, what appointment has come to the South-East? Even the statutory ministerial appointments, almost all we have there are junior ministers. Is that how you want to make one Nigeria when a state that has a sitting President has full ministers?
It is uncalled for and Ohanaeze cannot just sit down and allow these things to continue; even if we can’t stop it, we have to air it for the world to hear.
Is Ohanaeze planning any action against the splinter group?
Well, the Ohanaeze leadership will meet soon. If there will be such a decision, it will be discussed at the meeting. But rest assured, the Ohanaeze leadership is on top of the situation.