FEATURE ARTICLE

Friday, February 26, 2021
uokwukwu@yahoo.com

ENGR IBE: OHANAEZE 2021-2025

ENGR IBE

Engr Chidi Ibe, MFR.

n Saturday 9th January 2021, at Enugu, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide elected a new National Executive Committee, NEC, with Engr Chidi Henry Ibe as President General. The Ezinihite Mbaise-born Engr Ibe is a skilled engineer, respected politician and leader of repute. Based on his contribution to the oil and gas industry, he was conferred with the prestigious national award of Member of the Federal Republic, MFR.

Frugal and humble, Engr Ibe's austere lifestyle while in the public sector as Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, 2011-2015, and Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports, 2015-2019, inspired attitudinal change in Igboland. His outlook is that Igbos should be less visible and noisy in all we do. Most conflicts involving Igbos could have been avoided with little circumspection. The decision of Ndigbo to entrust him with their affairs for the next four years continues to receive strong support from the greater percentage of Ndigbo.

Having participated in two NEC meetings he presided, I score him highly for doing the first thing first: In response to the immediate challenge posed by Covid-19, Engr Ibe produced a million face masks he distributed across Igboland. Directing state presidents to encourage Ndigbo to observe Covid-19 protocols, he understands that delayed response to change is the number one killer of every known civilisation. Ohanaeze has adapted.

Broadly speaking, the President General presented to his executive a five-point programme that will condition his stewardship, namely, Aba State creation, 2023 Igbo presidency, the Nwodibo School Project, revival of science/technical colleges, agriculture and food security.

Aba State Creation

In 2018 President Muhammadu Buhari made two promises to the Yoruba and Igbo. To the Yoruba, he promised to recognise Bashorun MKO Abiola as an elected president of Nigeria in addition to recognising June 12 as Democracy Day. The Yoruba cooperated with him and the rest is history.

To the Igbo, Buhari promised to create a sixth state for the South East. He asked Ohanaeze to go home, decide on which state to be created and bring him the name. Ohanaeze immediately constituted the Ohanaeze State Creation Committee chaired by Prof Chigozie Ogbu, OFR, former Ebonyi State Deputy Governor, with Dimm Uche Okwukwu as Secretary. In a letter dated 10th October 2018, jointly signed by Professor Ogbu and Dimm Okwukwu, the committee recommended the creation of Aba State.

Unfortunately, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former President General of Ohanaeze, refused to transmit the committee recommendation letter to President Buhari. His anger was that his preferred Adada/Nsukka State was not favoured. That was how he cost Ndigbo a sixth state in the South East.

Engr Ibe has promised to transmit to President Buhari the Aba State creation recommendation letter. A visionary leader, Engr Ibe knows that an Aba State would bless Ndigbo with a brand new capital, three senators and other privileges and rights that come with state creation. He remains truly grateful to President Buhari and promised to cooperate fully with him in the actualisation of Aba State.

2023 Igbo Presidency

Engr Ibe has vowed to pursue Igbo presidency with vigour having acknowledged that other ethnic groups have the right to also vie for Nigerian presidency. His approach is to appeal to the conscience of other Nigerians on grounds of compassion and equity to allow Ndigbo produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023. Importantly, the President General's idea of Igboland is not limited to the South East. He embraces and endorses a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction from any Igbo community.

Nwodibo School Project

The Nwodibo School, our equivalent of Almajiri School, is where Igbo sons and daughters who are apprentices can learn to read and write in English and Igbo. It will take care of those who do not have the chance to access formal education due to the circumstances of their births. Engr Ibe favours this innovative project, to be funded by the Federal Government, for the transformation of Igbo youths. We must have empathy for our least privileged brothers and sisters.

Complementing the Nwodibo School project is the education of the girl child. Families must be encouraged to send their daughters to school. One of the toughest problems facing Ndigbo is that a great deal of our women are not educated. Ignorance is cyclic. At the end of the day, a family with an uneducated mother could end up with children not doing very well in school; just as one with an educated mother could excel with minimal obstacle. As intervention measure, Engr Ibe is mapping out strategies to award scholarships to indigent and brilliant students in secondary and tertiary institutions.

Revival of Science/Technical Colleges

Ohanaeze is interested in reviving science and technical schools in Igboland. The deliberate destruction of Igboland and the enabling space a technology-prone Igboland could have endowed us with is regrettable.

For a better understanding of what we mean, a redacted list of secondary schools established before the war in Imo State, for instance, is necessary: Enyiogugu High School, Mbaise; Mbaise Secondary School; Emmanuel College, Owerri; Owerri Girls Secondary School; Government College, Owerri; Holy Ghost College, Owerri; Ntuoke High School, Ideato; Uruala Girls Secondary School, Uruala; Holy Rosary Secondary School, Ihioma; St Augustine College, Nkwerre; St Catherine College, Nkwerre, Trinity College, Oguta; Morning Star Secondary School, Orlu; Bishop Shanahan College Orlu, etc.

Those that built these schools were sincere. They provided hostels, libraries and laboratories. There were no laptops and calculators. Everyone who went to these schools used his or her mind to solve calculations and mathematics. That was the generation that produced the engineers that sustained the Biafran war. No Igbo who went overseas before and after the war was rejected. They were the best brains.

Whether we agree or not, we must improve on education first. It is the quality of education you receive that determines what you become in life. You cannot receive weak education and emerge strong. No. It doesn't happen anywhere in the world. Ndigbo are producing unemployable graduates and it is affecting us. We are not benefiting in the global technological competition because of our obsolete curriculum.

Engr Ibe, himself a world-renowned engineer, has therefore promised to encourage the study of physics, chemistry, mathematics, geography, technical drawing, computer science and biology. Since our children must go out there and compete with science-prone Asians, we cannot continue to educate them in liberal arts alone.

We must understand that the world is now a global village. None looks at your face when they want to give you job. They give you job based on your capacity. Nobody hates you. If you have the capacity to cure patients in Nigeria, they will bring you patients even from America. Why do people go to India from Europe to be cured? They don't go to India based on love but efficiency as Indians know their jobs.

We can never move forward in darkness. It is also self-defeating wasting our time cursing the darkness instead of simply lighting candles. So we must go back to what our forebears had in mind when they established the Boys Technical College, Osusu Aba, in the 1960s. Unfortunately, our technical colleges have been neglected. Ndigbo must demand their governments build and equip laboratories in our existing secondary schools. Libraries must also be built and stocked with science books. Town unions and Community-Based Organisations, CBO, must partner Ohanaeze in reviving science/technical education in Igboland.

Agriculture and Food Security

The lockdown triggered by Covid-19 exposed Ndigbo's weakness in food sufficiency. We suddenly realised our dependence on other ethnic groups for food and protein. This is an existential danger not acceptable to the President General.

In truth, Ndigbo do not have vast land for agriculture. Everywhere is jammed up. There is no space between Abia and Imo from Seven and Half in Obowo. No space between Mgbidi in Imo and Ihiala in Anambra, also. In the next 40 years there may be no space between Port Harcourt and Owerri. The land is shrinking and population increasing.

The way to go is embracing modern farming skills and technologies. We must also make farming attractive to young Igbos. And we must start it now. Secondly, the President General is determined to contain farmers/herders clashes anywhere in Igboland. Ohanaeze will dialogue with the Gidado Siddaki-led South East Zone of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).

Conclusion

In 1979 Dr Obi Wali, Senator Francis Ellah and Eze C. C. Nwuche ordered Igbo leadership in Rivers State to move over to Dr Nnamdi (Zik) Azikiwe and the Nigerian People's Party, NPP. Some objected that Zik might not win the presidential election.

But Dr Wali told Ikwerres that they might not have agreed with everything Zik did but it was dangerous for them to openly disagree with the latter in public. That when the chips were down, the Ikwerre would need Zik's large platform.

Like Dr Wali, Engr Ibe is for Igbo unity. We must come together as brothers and sisters without complexes. Yes, we know we are Mbaises, Ikwerres, Wawas, Arochukwus, Igbankes, Aniomas, etc. But face to face with a common problem, we must forget where we come from and deal with such problem as one people without being seen disagreeing publicly.

Engr Ibe is willing to bring on board Igbos of Edo called Igbankes and the Asa/Ndoki group in Akwa Ibom. They must be given the right to vote and be voted for in Ohanaeze elections. Furthermore, Igbos in Rivers and Delta participated in the 2021 elections with only fifteen voting delegates each. He will increase their delegates. The quarrels that characterised the 2021 Ohanaeze elections must be avoided in future.

God has raised among us a President General with the right education and stamina; and one whose heart is full of empathy for the common Igbo. Ndigbo must agree to support Engr Ibe. Under his unifying leadership Ohanaeze will grow from strength to strength while avoiding the pitfall of dividing Igboland into northern and southern Igbos. His transparency will assure Diasporan Igbos, especially Global Igbo Leaders, that whatever they sent home would be accounted for.

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