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Why Ndigbo are unhappy in Nigeria –Rev. Ukoh

The President, Igbo Youth Movement, Rev. Elliot Ukoh, in this interview, tells OZIOMA UBABUKOH what the Ndigbo expect from the ongoing National Conference, among other issues

It is about nine weeks into the National Conference, are you satisfied with the representation of Igbo delegates to the conference?

It is not about my being satisfied, it is about the Igbo delegates understanding the real issues. We can only judge them from the result of their performance after the conference. The government nominated their favourites. If the decisions reached at the conference do not reflect the true wishes of Nigerians, the agitations would continue, the kidnappings would continue, unemployment continues, and the country would keep marching on to Armageddon. It is genuinely addressing the core issues plaguing the country that would save Nigeria. So, whoever is nominated has two choices before him, either to work towards fundamentally restructuring this country and ushering in a new, glorious era of political and economic growth anchored on equity and mutual respect and love for fatherland, which is non-existent at the moment. Or, the alternative, which is window dressing, make-belief solutions, piecemeal amendments here and there, which are actually based on self-deceit and the refusal to face reality. In the later case, the country would grow worse and worse. These are the two options facing the delegates.

What is the level of discontent of the Ndigbo?

I am one of those few people who can advise the government authoritatively on the actual percentage of Ndigbo who are tired of Nigeria and want out. Whether there are 20 per cent of the Igbo population or 40 per cent or 70 per cent, the Federal Government does not know. I happen to know because I have been organising seminars on issues concerning Ndigbo for close to two decades. I know that Ndigbo are tired of Nigeria. They are tired of this militarily-structured Nigeria and the ‘Abacha’ Constitution. If the National Conference fails to address the fundamental structure of this country then the future of this country is very bleak. Igbo youths are very bitter with the present structure of Nigeria. Nigeria must be restructured into six regions in order to save the country.

Do you honestly think the ‘Igbo book’ on the Igbo agenda to the confab has been of any essence?

This book is the Igbo position on the Nigeria that we wish to be part of. Nobody would accuse Ndigbo that they don’t know what the Igbo agenda is. That book is the Igbo agenda. Igbo clergymen, politicians, traditional rulers, elder statesmen, civil servants, businessmen, etc aggregated their views, opinions and aspirations, and the planning committee of the Concerned Igbo Leaders of Thought aggregated those views, which were adopted at the plenary as the Igbo position to the National Conference. That is the minimum (standard) acceptable to Ndigbo in the new constitution. Items in the Exclusive List were reduced from 68 to 36 and the Concurrent and Residual lists were enlarged in order to whittle down the powers of the centre and make it less attractive; the bane of Nigerian politics is the vicious struggle for the control of power at the centre. The vicious struggle usually incorporates ethnicity and religion as weapons. And with these two being stoked all the time, no nation can survive such an onslaught.

What then is your view on the political situation in the country?

President Goodluck Jonathan is trying his best but the problems of Nigeria are so great. Nigerians should start now to advise all the confab delegates from the six geopolitical zones of this country to bear in mind that this is probably the last chance to save Nigeria. The unjust unitary structure, the unrealistic political structure where pecuniary interests drive political decisions, plus the 30 million unemployed young people, are all danger signals that Nigerians must use this National Conference to get Nigeria right. We have no reason to miss this opportunity.

What’s your view about the criticisms surrounding the second Niger Bridge construction?

It (the construction of the bridge) is belated. I am not excited because it is the first Public-Private Partnership in Nigeria. The East-West road, all the bridges and roads all over the Northern and Western Nigeria undergoing construction now are all 100 per cent funded. Why should our own be PPP, to be recouped from the masses?

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