The Nnia Nwodo Exclusive: Ndigbo, Nigeria And 2023

Nnia Nwodo

Chief Nnia John Nwodo, a former minister of information is currently the president- general of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a pan – Igbo socio- cultural organisation.

In this interview with Sunday Sun, he fielded questions on the last election, Miyetti Allah group, 2023 presidential elections, the judiciary, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, insecurity, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), as well as other issues bordering on the state of the nation.

Let’s start with the last general elections in Nigeria and the report of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). In their reports which have generated a lot of heat recently. What is your view on the reports vis a vis what you experienced personally during the elections in February?

I think that every Nigerian who participated in this election, if with his conscience, knows exactly where the truth of the matter lies; we didn’t need that EU Report to validate for us what the truth is. We were all in our various polling booths in our primary voting areas; we used the card readers to first identify ourselves as the ones who own the voters card. At the end of accreditation, we were all told that in our polling areas how many people were accredited to vote and after our voting many interested people stayed back and heard the result of the voting . We saw the presiding officers transmitting the results to the server. We also saw a screen in INEC headquarters which was intended to display the results to the party agents who were assembled in INEC headquarters. It was possible to do this by computer communication which is all what the server is about . Now, we’ve had stories being changed by INEC . They are now saying “we don’t have a server; we used the server for experimental purposes”,and we’ve had Atiku say, “this is the identity of your server and it exists; I’m prepared to bring Microsoft to give evidence that you have a server”. The funny thing about this country, is that the things which are happening before our eyes, which are real are subjected to disputation. We’ve just been told that contrary to the Freedom of Information Act, we cannot know the assets of our president, but security agencies exposed the assets of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria,(CJN) .What kind of double standards is this? if the head of judiciary can be exposed for public scrutiny, why are they blatantly hiding that of the president in flagrant disregard to our laws? The truth of the matter is that there’s no transparency in our electoral process. If there’s transparency there’s no need to go to court. We had an election in Anambra State for governorship and none of the persons who lost the election went to the Election Petition Tribunal because It was so transparent that everyone who participated in the election vouched for its transparency. I don’t need the EU to tell me that a lot went wrong. Of course, if you go to the social media, it’s awash with evidences of human faces, INEC materials, where individuals were thumb printing for one party, exhausting the electoral booklets. Do we need the EU to tell us this?Every Nigerian knows, and those it happened in their places know it. The collation officers who were offered bribes by political parties to inflate votes in various states, they’re still alive .Some of them have confided in those people some approaches that were made to them. Is it so difficult for any journalist to investigate this? Why did we have the watergate champions? A virile media should dig into such things.The problem I have with journalists of nowadays in Nigeria is that they prefer received information. Nobody wants to get to the root of the matter, and the honest truth that is indisputable. There is no profession that’s regarded as estate of the realm apart from the visible, functional, constitutionally provided legislature, executive and judiciary, except the media profession. There are no institutions that are vested with that huge responsibility as the profession of journalism.As it stands, when I was the Minister of Information, I tried very hard to ensure that the NUJ would have a benchmark of a minimum qualification and a professional training in a school of journalism that must qualify you to be a correspondent and editor of a newspaper. I put in measures in pursuit of this. I met with a lot of brick wall. So, consequently, I began to wonder whether belonging to the judiciary, for instance, is for all comers.Those of us who’re lawyers ,you must go through a university degree in law, law school and acquire professional qualification .Those who are in the executive must go through election or be appointed by somebody that went through an election .The Fourth Estate of the Realm is not really doing what everybody wants In a democracy .It has the power and the conferment of authority by civilization to scrutinize government and all over the world where civilization has taken root, the Fourth Estate of the Realm is very distinguished and recognized.

Why is it that the electoral impunity of the last few months has been allowed to go untouched? In 1983, if you recall, the elections that time were adjudged as one of the worst In the history of Nigeria and within three months the military struck. Is it because the military boys have been rendered to a state of irrelevance and impotence? Or is it the same thing in Nigeria to accept every impunity?

I had the opportunity to meet with the chairman of INEC before this election and I did tell the chairman of INEC that I was very worried that he may preside over the disintegration of this country .I referred him historically to two incidents in 1966 and 1983 when we had military takeover of democracy, and In that of the the 1966, the Ifeajuna memoirs disclosed that they struck because of the rigging of the Western Nigerian elections and the conspiratorial role of the Federal Government with the alliance of NCNC ( National Council of Nigerian Citizens) reacted to the rigging of Western Nigeria elections ,and there were arson, murder, total breakdown of law and order and the same Federal Government had to declare state of emergency and appointed Dr Majekodummi as administrator of Western Nigeria. The army found this intolerable. Awolowo was imprisoned, the man who was deprived of his victory was also denied of his freedom, and Ifeajuna memoirs said they were going to bring him back and make him the head of the Federal Government. In 1983 ,there were allegations of election rigging by the ruling party, NPN, which I was part of, in Ondo State as well as in old Anambra State. The Ondo one became quite violent. It was between Omoboriowo and Ajasin ,and Omoboriowo couldn’t claim the victory that the electoral commission had given to him. Now, you must know that under the1983 experience that you referred to, it was a civilian government run by a pure civilian government and democratic norms were respected.Our democracy has been destroyed by the militarization of our politics. The fact that we’ve to have a General as president, or a military contrived representative as president since the exit of Shagari has rendered our democracy so redolent since the history of democracy. it’s very unusual to have the Head of State and the chairman of the electoral commission come from the same area as the Head of State .Secondly, our electoral rules are jaundiced and incomparable with any democracy In the world. I do not see how Rangers FC and Kano Pillars FC will be playing a football match and you appoint the coach from Kano Pillars as the referee. I don’t understand it. Look ,our electoral commission chairman is appointed by the president subject to the concurrence of the National Assembly. In the present setting, the president belongs to APC, the majority of the National Assembly belongs to APC, so APC is going to choose as electoral commission chairman and commissioners those who’re pliable or loyal to their cause. It is not done like this anywhere in the world.In Great Britain, the Speaker of parliament is chairman of electoral commission, but the commission is composed of representatives of all the political parties. How could you rig against yourself if you’re a member of the commission. There’s no question of rigging .It doesn’t even arise. Their voting is transparent, their vote counting is on television and in the full glare of the public and transmitted instantaneously. In America, before result is declared, CNN is already telling you what the result will look like, because they’ve already collected data from polling units where their correspondents are and added it up before it’s declared. So ,they can make a projected estimate and all their projections happen accordingly. I listened to Governor Chimaroke Nnamani on TV the other day saying; why is it so difficult to have free and fair elections when in the banking sector, we have free electronic banking that we don’t need an intermediary between the voter and result. He said if you go to an ATM, it recognises you once you put your card and code and it gives you cash according to what you demand of it. Why is it so difficult for the voter to go and put his card into the same card reader and it says okay, and you go and vote, and the result shows reflecting what you voted for? You vote electronically and the result is pasted instantaneously to collation centres and to the server and it is accessible to any journalist and anybody. So, as we’re voting, we know who’s winning. All this money we waste on election tribunals and so on wouldn’t arise .How can you really have a matter subject for disputation where the president of Court of Appeal who is husband of an APC senator, whose son , I understand ran for one election or the other on the same platform should not excuse herself in matters concerning election petition. It’s not because she’s biased on account of her husband’s involvement, but we were taught in the principles of natural justice that apart from the fact that you cannot be a judge In your own court, you must have two sides of the case, but that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done. My wife was a Justice of the Court of Appeal. My wife was seldom deployed to any disputation arising from this area because of my involvement in politics. So, I expect that the judiciary should set standards that should elicit confidence from the ordinary man about what they are doing. When you work from the answer to the question in our country, you’re bound to lose and in any event the sheer use of force In this election which is reported by the European Union election observers ,which we all saw anyway made the exercise look like a script written by the authorities. look at what happened in Rivers State, Bayelsa State, it was almost like soldiers were voting for us .Nobody in government has come up and condemned this, nobody in the army has identified soldiers who were responsible for this and disciplined them .No; you can get away with murder in our country. So, how do you expect the ordinary man to take to the streets the way they did in 1983 .The politics was militarized; a number of people died as a result of the election. Forget about the election .Last month, about 168,000 people were killed in Nigeria in herdsmen related encounters, financed by ISIS and the same herdsmen, there is a proposal to give them N100 billion. It is in the offing. I don’t know if it has already been done. How do you finance people who’re murderers and destroyers…? In any case, what vote is this money coming from?

What is your standard response to any discredited election?

I’ve already told you that the rules are secured .They are secured in order to ensure the truth never surfaces. You know that to prove election petition, it has to be beyond reasonable standards of proof. The standard of proof is extremely high and the material to prove an election rigged or not are within the custody of INEC.How do you expect a petitioner to go to court and he’s not allowed access to the materials? How do you expect him to prove his case when he is not allowed access to voting materials?How do you expect INEC to say today we don’t have a server? Tomorrow we have a server, but only use it on experimental purpose? This is all rubbish. Ideally, the judiciary should have the last say in sanitizing the process, but the judiciary is precluded from having all the facts necessary to establish a proof beyond reasonable doubt by the inability of the petitioner to access the materials used in arriving at the result. The materials are shrouded in secrecy, but in every democracy it’s open and you can examine it, this is our plight now in the country.

In other words, you are saying that there is no hope in the disputation of the last presidential election result?

I’m not saying so. I’m saying that the judiciary should be alert to its responsibility and difficult times require difficult solution because of the obstacles placed on their way in accessing the truth. They should be more liberal in removing the obstacles, but having said so ,our system of government is jaundiced. The procedure of appointing electoral officers is wrong. it’s inbuilt by our selectors and programmed to fail. In South Africa that we helped to get liberation, the judiciary appoints the electoral commissioner and they take nominations from the entire public and they show the entire nominations to the public and ask you for objections.When you make objections, they look at it and screen the list again and publish another screening and say these are the body of people we will chose in the electoral commissioner, do you still have any objections? When you don’t they constitute it so the man who is appointed knows that the entire public has reposed confidence in me as a the man they think they can trust to run an election .He’s not owing his appointment to any executive who can give him instructions, he’s not going to resign or be removed because a president doesn’t want him or a Senate wants to remove him, he’s answerable to the people of Nigeria acting through the Chief Justice of the country who’s supposed to be unbiased.

Recently. the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association likened itself to Ohanaeze, Afenifere and other reputable geo-ethnic organisations in Nigeria. How true is that claim?

This is preposterous . First of all, the people you refer to as Miyetti Allah, security heads in government were always telling us that these herders were not Nigerians .The story changed from not being Nigerians to being herders who’re going through old grazing routes which have been overthrown by development of infrastructure and so on.Now, we know they are ISIS financed militants following the decapitations they’ve done in the Middle Belt and other parts of the country, and the kidnappings they are involved in in various parts of the country prominently, recently in western part of Nigeria .Now, the identity is very clear. We know that if you look at the social media you see pictures of them carrying AK47 rifles up and down; even their women and children carry this. We see training exercises that they give their people; we see our own policemen and soldiers arresting them, hiding these AK47 dismantled, under seats of motorcycles .But we don’t see any of them in court being prosecuted for it. We don’t see any raids on their camps where government is seizing their ammunition. We are just told we are containing the situation, and this is why I completely support General Danjuma, that we must all seek self help and ready to defend ourselves because security forces have lost our confidence. There cannot be one rule for the rest of us and another rule for the Miyetti Allah or so-called herdsmen. They can move around with guns; they can shoot anybody; they can kidnap anybody; they escape unhurt; unprosecuted; unarrested; but the moment you show an attempt to fight them, you see immediately what will come. When they were ravaging the Middle Belt, the police only came after they had finished killing people ,and when a General who went to check how the killings were done was assaulted by the host community; within 48hrs, traditional rulers important personalities and youths numbering about 17 in that community were arrested and taken to court. The swiftness which the security acted shows clearly there is one rule for the goose another for the gander.

As we await the formation of cabinet in the Buhari government, some officials in the first tenure are still in power issuing policy statements. This question is double edged. Is there a constitutional lacuna they are exploiting? And secondly, as the president of Ohanaeze; the face of the igbo ethnic group, what do you want as the share of the Igbo in the allocation of slots in the incoming government?

First of all, speaking as a lawyer, my view is that when a president is elected for four years, at the expiration of his tenure, all political appointment that are dependent on his election not established by law in terms of his tenure expire. If he is appointed chairman of Public Service Commission who is supposed to be in office for a certain number of years, that chairman can continue to be in office in spite of the expired tenure .But if you are appointed a minister, special adviser, secretary to government, these people hold office at his pleasure and at the currency of his tenure .As soon as his tenure expires they’re what we call in law functus officio. They can no longer be in office without his reappointing them. I see now, circulars being written by secretary of the government, announcements being made by his special adviser on media. I see these things. Unless he has written them private letters which they have not publicized ,but we the public ought to know that they’ve been reappointed and this is administrative untidiness. Regarding your question about expectations ,I think if you listened to me during the campaigns , I said that he that is down needs fear no fall. This government has clearly marginalized the Southeast. In his first tenure, he has shown us that we are not part of this federation. I had to plead with the president to visit the Southeast when I visited him with our governors. He had been in office for 2½ years before he considered it necessary to come to the Southeast and it was the only state visit he made to the Southeast. His other visits were during the campaigns when he used the opportunity to commission the Zik Museulum which was started by Minister of Works, Anenih under Obasanjo.You know; so, I don’t really think he cares about this place, we don’t care for him so long as he doesn’t care for us. I couldn’t be bothered if he gives us no appointment whatsoever because in his previous tenure it was obvious that he was giving us the leftovers .No Igbo man was considered to head any of the security arms of the country, not even the Road Safety Corps or Civil Defense, not to talk about the Army, Navy or Air force ;not even Customs ,Immigration, Minister of Defense or Minster of Internal Affairs, and for the first time in the history of this country, appointments to these positions became a function of where you came from and how the president considers you personally loyal to him, rather than loyalty to the country, or your competence and seniority in the job. We had two deputy Inspectors-General of Police from our area retired because their junior was appointed, when they had no query in their long period of service. Their service was terminated on purely ethnic ground in order to choose somebody by the president. The president of our country swore to a constitution which requires him to be fair to all concerned .In order words, literally he is supposed to be father of the nation, but the president tells us everyday that he is more of a father to a particular part of the country .Look at the reshuffle in NNPC. This is a company that runs a natural resource domiciled in the South; the South-south, Southeast and Southwest .That is where you have our oil resources, but its headship since his tenure , all the positions have been derived from the North, and out of eight appointments he made, five are from the North . What else can you use to show his bias? He is brazenly tribalistic and to that extent, I have no expectation from his appointments. I have none whatsoever. What is very baffling is why the southerners who support him are so docile and unable to vocalize their dissatisfaction with what he is doing.

2023 beckons. Some people are already strategizing on how to corner the presidency to their side of the country. How wold you want the Southeast to approach 2023? Do you believe a president of Igbo extraction can emerge this time around?

I would expect the Southeast to boycott the 2023 elections if they are conducted on the basis of this false federation that was imposed on us by the military .We have to go back to the constitution agreed to by our forefathers when Nigeria was created as a country. If there is no restructuring, there is no basis for participating in an election which will elect another tribal bigot and which will function on a system that is likely to make our country poorer, and poorer and poorer. Our constitution emphasizes on sharing of money, received money without any input in catalyzing our resources into more revenue. When you liberate the energy to the federating units ,they bake a greater cake and our country would be more prosperous. I am not interested in our people being the president in a skewed federation.

Your support for Atiku during the elections generated some concerns within the Ohanaeze Ndigbo group leading to some discontentment among some officials in the group especially the general secretary and the publicity secretary. How have you been able to mend the cracks and forge cohesion and harmony after that unfortunate incident?

Your representation is very exaggerating; I hold your newspaper particularly responsible for particularly making a mountain out of a mole hill. There are 23 members of the national executive of Ohanaeze. it is only one dissenting voice and that is Okwukwu, the suspended secretary general and this is verifiable. Your correspondent here, I invite them to come any day we have a meeting of the national executive committee and take a roll call of who is there. If 23 people go to a meeting and one man is the lone voice,why would you call it a rift? Why would you call it a major crisis? In any case, I want you to go to Rivers State and look at Okwukwu’s Rivers State and how he has created Ohanaeze in Rivers State. He comes from an area where he cannot build a local branch of Ohanaeze ,when he has not succeeded in convincing his people that they are Igbo. This trader mentality towards politics is embarrassing. He has no loyalty to Ohanaeze, he is in Ohanaeze to trade .So, I mean, it is a waste of my time to comment on him, quite honestly, because he is of no asset to Ohanaeze. He has no relationship with the state government .He has no relationship with his people. He has no unit of Ohanaeze administration in his area .He brings nothing to the table. He is just a paid agent. And he took a delegation to the Head of State and it is laughable. I mean, you are a journalist. You saw the delegation that went to see the head of state .Tell me any known Igbo leader of note that you saw there. Having said so, look at the voting pattern in Igbo land . In spite of the contrived 25 per cent in some states where some of our leaders compromised themselves, take the voting of the Igbo outside Igbo land; is there anything that shows that Ohanaeze is not in sync with the rest of the Igbo? The Igbo voted where Ohanaeze wanted them to vote; which means we are reflecting their opinions, and I am excited that I am reflecting the wishes of the people of Igbo land .Win or lose, our point has been made.

As Ohanaeze president-general, you know it is a hot seat. Leading the Igbo sometimes can be very tricky. What do you consider as your sad moments or regrets and, of course, your greatest moments in office so far?
Let me start with my good moments. I have been closely associated with Ohanaeze for a very long time. I used to host Imeobi of Ohanaeze in this house during (Prof Ben) Nwabueze’s tenure as secretary general. I was chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee that led to the present constitution we have subject to the amendment of Uwuechie’s regime of the constitution.And so, I am familiar with the workings .Please forgive me if I sound a little self-praising, but at no time have the Igbo become more conscious of the fact that they have a social cultural organisation that reflects their aspiration as they feel now.This executive has brought Ohanaeze to the limelight of Igbo appreciation, and Nigerian recognition .It has become a strong voice for the yearnings, aspirations and feelings of Ndigbo. It has expanded branches ,internally and externally. In every state of Nigeria Ohanaeze is on ground.When we were given quit notice by the North, (northern youths) I moved to the North. I went to our people wherever they lived in the North and gave them succour. I spoke to governors of the various states where they live. I gave solidarity and thanks to those who helped to shelter them when they were in difficulty, including governors, commissioners of police, particularly the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Kukah, who took them into his cathedral and sheltered them from murder. Even though two were killed, but he saved more from being killed. Ohanaeze has reached out to our people wherever they are and provided succour for them, saying we are here for you and I am grateful to God for this opportunity. I have about 17-18 months left in my tenure, and if it continues to go this way I would leave with a sense of satisfaction that we brought it to limelight where it can grow further. You know that it is impossible in any organisation to have just successes without deterrent forces.One of the problems that has been facing Ohanaeze is the lack of finance, because it is a socio-cultural organisation; it’s a voluntary organisation, and there are many Igbo all over Nigeria who do not subscribe to Ohanaeze. They don’t belong to any branch in their various places of residence, they make no contribution to Ohanaeze. We designed a financial policy for Ohanaeze by which every town union in Nigeria will in the next few months be able to collect monthly dues of a minimum of N100 from any Igbo adult ,and this money will be paid into an Ndigbo Fund which will be taken care of by board of trustees, which will soon be approved by Imeobi. The national executive committee has already appointed them and they include some of the best people in Igbo land in terms of experience, integrity and what have you. Subsequent Ohanaeze executives are supposed to go for a budget approval every year and the surplus of the fund will be managed by the board of trustees.They will use it to make ubiquitous interventions in all parts of Igbo land in infrastructural development. We never had anything like that before . It is called Ndigbo Fund.

I am hoping that if we get it started before our tenure is over, we couldn’t be bothered whether any government is coming to develop our roads or not .We will even be able to do rail tracks, we will even be able to develop ports in inland waterways that are seaward, either in Imo or Abia. So, the drawbacks have been the lack of the wherewithal to carry on with our grandiose objectives.Otherwise, I would say that I have had a wonderful time serving my people .I am grateful to God for the opportunity.I am grateful to my people for their co-operation. You will be amazed at the maze of interactions I have had with our people at various levels. People on Okada call me, people in Keke call me.Traders in the market call me. Our big traders in Computer Village, Trade Fair Complex, in Alaba, in China, call me . And I as I speak to you now, I am going to leave here next week for Ohaneze Week in London; I am going to leave there after for a celebration of Igbo culture in Stratton Virginia, in the US. The Council of Igbo States of America led by Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze who is based in California is organising it in conjunction with the State of Virginia, this Igbo week in Stratton. They have a museum in Stratton which reflects the growth of the olden culture in the world, and in Africa, the only culture taken was the Igbo architecture. So, you will see an Igbo village there where you have mud huts, you have Obi, you have kitchen, you have barn of yams, and stuff like that. But in their auditorium, every year they take us through an exercise which lasts for a whole year. They identify black Americans and do a test of their genes and see those of them who have Igbo genes in them. They then bring us to this ceremony in which our traditional rulers come and give them Igbo names ,and literally baptise them. It is a very emotionally moving exercise, because we never knew where we came from. We now know, and through the CIA Tours, they are organising in co-operation with Ohanaeze here for them to come and see Igbo land .I have offered land in my home town, Ukehe, to one of them that found out they are Igbo, I don’t know what part of Igbo land they came from, but I’ve offered them a piece of land in my community , free of charge, to come and build on it, so that they can have a place they can always call and return to as home.

Recently, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria requested that they want to have a Fulani Vigilante in the Southeast. Do you think they are serious with that request?

I don’t think they are serious .it is preposterous. It is insolent and provocative .I don’t think you can come to my house (as you’re visiting now), I give you a place to stay; you decide that you have security for me in my house .Our people live in the North in numbers; they occupy various places and markets, but they have not inaugurated vigilante groups or services, or what have you, because they know they are subjects to governors of states, local governments and local traditional jurisdictions or traditional rulers, and cells of the communities that have vigilante groups. It is our duty to provide vigilante in our midst not their duty to protect us.

What if they are serious and it comes to pass?

It will never come to pass. We will resist it with everything we have. I have said that we have now come to the realisation that we must of necessity defend ourselves .We cannot depend on anybody to defend ourselves, and in law, self defence is a ground . What are you talking about? You can’t come to my house and erect a fence against me and expect me to watch you to use your arms against me. We won’t accept that.

What is the level of co-operation between Ohanaeze and Southeast governors? The Southeast Governors Forum appears to be the most organised governors’ forum in the country. They have a functional secretariat, they have officials . This cannot be said of the Southwest, South-south or other geo-political zones in the North. Why is it so?

We must commend them for that organisation. But it is not true that they are the most organised.The northern governors have a northern governors forum .It is a very strong forum.

Yes, but that is not a geo-political zone forum?
I don’t see why southern governors cannot have a forum. It doesn’t make sense to me. If it is fear, we have to conquer that fear. If northern governors meet periodically and elect a chairman, why is it that southern governors cannot meet? We’re part of our problems. We make it appear impossible to the nation that the South can be united. That’s why we’ve a southern and Middle Belt forum .We have shown the world that these artificial divisions mean nothing to us .We share common interest, common affinity and there is no reason we shouldn’t relate. Regarding the Southeast governors, I think they are doing their best to keep united, but I think they need to up their act small. Having an organisation with director-general is very good, but I want to see as Southeast governors, they apply for a franchise for Enugu/Onisha road, apply for a franchise for Enugu/Port Harcourt road, Onisha/Owerri road, franchise from Obollo-Afor to Onisha through Adani. We need these arteries of roads built into major expressways in order to facilitate means of production and distribution and we can do it without the assistance of the Federal Government. Since Obasanjo, till today, we have been doing 65km of road between Enugu and Onitsha. Clearly the delay is because of the lack of commitment on the part of the Federal Government. I believe that if we have the necessary financial support and commitment to the project it would have been done years ago if we have a franchise for it ,we can go to the money market; we can bring the best international contractors and that is what the Ndigbo Fund is aiming at .

IPOB appears to be silent after the last onslaught on them by the Federal Government. With the increasing threat to liberty and security by the Fulani herders, IPOB has continued to maintain indifference. Do you not think the organisation has finally been silenced and subdued? Do you think that without IPOB, the herders revanchism especially in Igbo land can be contained?

I don’t think IPOB has been subdued. I don’t think IPOB has been silenced. IPOB may have been proscribed by the Federal Government, but the principles that IPOB have are still in the minds of the average Igbo man. The average Igbo man doesn’t believe he belongs to this country called Nigeria. The Igbo man can no longer live with the discrimination, marginalisation that our people are subjected to, and that is barely what IPOB is preaching. I have consistently said that their proscription is unconstitutional. It is a negation of our fundamental human rights, and when you have juxtaposed the situation with the gun-totting Miyetti Allah that has not been proscribed and has been described by Global Territory Index as the 4th most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, you see the phoney in the proscription of IPOB. I want to say to my young men who belong to IPOB, that I remain your father. Your struggle is my struggle. We may differ in tactics .I go for restructuring, because I believe that restructuring will give us the independence that IPOB is looking for in a republic of Biafra . If we are restructured and we have regional independence and sovereignty of our natural resources, it is as good as getting Biafra. But it also gives us a larger market in the Federal Republic of Nigeria .But if Nigeria continues to go this way it is going now, it will seem to me that the clamour for an independent nation in this part of the country will be unstoppable.

Ojukwu is gone, Nnamdi Azikiwe is gone. The Yoruba have a rallying point in Tinubu at the moment. The North has a rallying point in Buhari, as it were. Who is that Igbo leader that the Igbo should rally round?
A leader isn’t prescribed by one man. I have retired from partisan politics and I have no intentions to go back there for the rest of my life. I am not interested in disputations regarding who is the Igbo political leader. I believe that circumstances will create one. As we go through this struggle, somebody will emerge as the anchor and the driver of our movement .When the person emerges, you won’t need to ask me this question. It will be so visible that you don’t need to ask who is this. That is the dynamics of leadership. We are in the process of evolution. At least there are few people you can see in Igbo land that you can refer to as being in leadership, either because of the office they hold, or because of the respect people have for them. As we go further in this struggle, one or two of them will crystallise as leader.

We have what has been known as the Nwodo dynasty. Recently, apart from you , the others have apparently taken refuge in reticent hibernation. How do you evaluate the dynasty?

Ah! We have never called ourselves a dynasty. This has crept in from our political lexicography. It is purely an accident. My dad was an only son of his mother in a polygamous setting. The father had six wives, but he appeared to be the most literate of his father’s children by dint of the fact that his father was a paramount traditional ruler who had a demobilized soldier of the 2nd world war from Ilorin called Momodu Lawani deployed to his court as his court messenger. Momodu was literate, writing court proceedings and interpreting rules and regulations written in English to the court . He persuaded my grandfather to allow one of his children go to school .In those days, children of the privileged don’t go to school. My father became very fund of Momodu. Momodu took him to school, and he became literate. He became a member of the civil service . He joined the local authority as a sanitary inspector. He was sent to Government College Umuahia and eventually he met Zik in a campaign and asked Zik questions that drew his attention to him. Zik immediately struck his friendship and got him interested in politics . He got him to resign from his work and to run for house of assembly seat.From there he became parliamentary secretary for health, minister of commerce and industry and was used by Dr Okpara to build Nkalagu Cement factory, to build the poultry industry in Ekulu, to build Golden Guinea breweries, to build soft drink factory here and to build Iron and Steel company, to build asbestos factory.Dad was involved in the economic revolution of the country, Dad took the instrumentality of Eastern Nigeria government to commission the first oil well in Oloibiri in what is now Bayelsa State. You see,the apple doesn’t fall too far away from its parent tree. As we grew up we watched my father. This house that you and I are sitting is my father’s house which was built when I was in standard one. It is more than 60 years . I am 67 this year .it was my third year in primary school which I started probably at five or seven years. Now, Dad all the time told us about the virtue of public service. He told us to put more premium in name than in material possessions. Consequently, I am living in his house. I’ve been minister twice and I have not been able to build a place like this, because he said to us, if any of my children destroy my name by material acquisition, corruption or infamous conduct, if the dead have power I’ll fight him. If I left you a good name you must leave my grandchildren a good name because a good name gives you accessibility. Many doors have opened for me because I’m my father’s son. From the old establishment who worked with him, it was a recommendation to be his son and so we all strived. We limit what we call a dynasty to just three or four. My father had eight children. Two of them have died now. The last one ,you could say has no relic because he died while he was in the university. Aniagolu, my sister Cecilia was the second daughter, a pharmacist. She married a chartered accountant. Their children are doing brilliantly well. They are established in all areas of enterprise and have very good education from the USA .My sister Grace, because she was chairman National Council of Women Societies, Permanent Secretary, Commissioner in old Anambra State we’re lucky she’s 80 and celebrated recently. She has had visibility that’ll make you think she’s the first of the stars of the Nwodos. Don’t forget the last of us all is a SAN, Mrs Azinge; she was the secretary of the constitutional conference under President Jonathan and her husband Prof Azinge was the DG, National Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. So, in her own right, she has distinguished herself in her profession, and had she been in politics, she would have been more than a senior advocate. Her immediate senior is a medical doctor who has worked for international organisations . The fact that Joe, Okwesilieze and myself made forays into politics;Joe ran for president, Okwesilieze became governor, became Chairman of PDP; became secretary of PDP ;now member of board of trustees of PDP. He is a medical doctor. he has my father mien in terms of affinity for details and documentation. Joe and I have my father’s loquaciousness, and public speaking disposition. But we feel proud of our heritage . We have no financial asset to boast of, but we have a culture of service to humanity and desire to leave our service name for history. I thank you for the compliments you gave us, but that is where it ends. Right now, none of us is in the political arena. We have no such ambitions. I hope the dynasty thing will be played down.