The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo has decried the rate of marginalization of the south east in the country.
Nwodo said that the southeast has not produced a President since 1970, adding that for 49 years, the Igbos occupied the position of the Chief of Army Staff only once.
He made this statement during a lecture theme; The problems confronting governance in today’s Nigeria at Ahiajoku Center, Owerri, Imo State.
He added that the country has always treated the Igbos like conquered minorities, stating further that there is an urgent need to restructure the country.
He said: “Speaking from the Igbo point of view, since the end of Nigerian civil war, no Igbo man has been allowed to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, either in military conspired coups or through major political party nomination elections.
“The highest position the Igbo man has attained since 1970 is the position of Vice-President, which the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme occupied between 1979 and 1983.
“In the 49 years under review, only one Igbo man has been Chief of Army Staff, the second to occupy that position since Nigeria’s independence. Two Igbo men became Inspectors General of Police and lasted for only short spans.
“An Igbo man became Comptroller-General of Customs and lasted for three months. It has been held in many quarters that the reason for the coup of 1983 was to forestall the possibility of an Igbo man in the person of Dr. Ekwueme becoming the president of Nigeria.
“Paradoxically, since 1979, the North has held the position of the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces eight times in a cumulative period spanning over seven tenures, the west, four times and the southern minorities once.
“Like all Nigerian political phenomenon, the areas from which the president came from have had unprecedented exposure to high political patronage and offices. Most dominant of these patronages has been in appointments into positions in the Armed Forces.”
He continued: “The greatest victim in this nepotic style of rulership became the South-East. We in the South-East of the six geopolitical zones had the least number of states and local governments and we receive therefore the least of federally distributed revenue. Our state governments are technically impoverished. Our ability to influence decisions at national conventions of political parties was consequently sequestrated.
“To make matters worse, the military without offering any reason designed a new constitution that gave exclusive control of our mineral and natural resources to the Federal Government in violation of the agreement of the component parts of the federation between 1944-1963 to constitute one country. Our federation was formed on the basis of independent and autonomous regions and a loose Federal Government.
“The constitution we were given by the military is not autouchtonous. It was not ratified by the people either in a reference or in a mass vote. In law and in political norm, it is a no-starter.”
“The constitution which was promulgated by the military was imposed on us by force and any attempt to oppose it is viewed by the powers-that-be as treasonable.”
“This is not politics. This violates human rights, this violates self-determination. This imposes a hegemony on some sections of the country. The reactions have been myraid and virtually unstoppable.”
“In the East, the government attitude is appalling. The policy is one of subjugation, dehumanisation and containment. Driving from one city to another in the South-East, one is confronted with toll gates in the name of military/police check points.
“The extortion is carried out so brazenly that no secret is made of it. To ensure that the practice continues unimpeded, police, army and security bosses sent to the South-East are mostly deliberately chosen from other parts of the country.
“You are a conquered people. Given the inability of young graduates of Igbo extraction to get employment in government agencies and top private sector establishments controlled by non-Igbos, the South-East has become a breeding ground for revolutionaries.
“Their language is persuasive. Their dramatisation of marginalisation is real. Their sense of hopelessness is pathetic. Their recruitment drive is irresistible. Their call for action is contagious. But the resort to military containment, whether in the form of police mop-up actions or in army python dances is palliative and unsustainable.”
“For those who deride Igbos every day in our newspapers and say we can never be president on account of our voting in the last election, my answer is simple. We don’t want to be president in a skewed and unjust federation.
“We have demonstrated that unless you rig, Igbo votes will determine who will be President. They now know that our votes are sizeable! We want a restructured Nigeria and this is not negotiable nor is it stoppable.”
However, he added that “the solution to this situation must address the causes. So long as the Nigeria federation continues to be run as a unitary system of government imposed by the military which treats the South-East as a conquered minority and denies it access to regional self-government and direct control of its natural resources, so long will the agiatation for separatism continue in the South-East.
“As one who was in the theatre of war in the last civil war, I hate to see a return of hostilities to the land. “I am convinced that there is only one way out – namely a return to federal system of government in accordance with the agreement reached by our forefathers between 1944-1963.”