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Less than a week after the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, presented a paper representing Igbo position to the Senator Femi Okunroumu-led Presidential Advisory Committee on the proposed national conference, prominent Igbo elders under the aegis of Igbo Leaders of Thought yesterday met in Enugu to take a common position in readiness for the conference.
Though, the meeting could not take a definite stand concerning the proposed national dialogue, the highpoint of the three-hour closed door meeting was the setting up of three committees on Planning, Fund raising and Outreach by the elders.
The meeting which was convened by renowned Constitutional Lawyer, Prof Ben Nwabueze, attracted Prof. Uche Azikiwe, widow of late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe; former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbokaba (SAN); Senator Anyim Ude, former Ohaneze President-General, Dr Dozie Ikedife; Prof Elochukwu Amucheazi and Chief Nduka Eya.
Others in the meeting were Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri Ecclesiastical Catholic Diocese, Archbishop Emeritus Maxwell Anikwenwa, Senator Offia Nwali, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Chief Mbazulike Amechi, His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe, Presidential Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi; Dr Aja Nwachukwu and the National President of Igbo Youth Movement, (IYM) Elliot Uko.
THISDAY findings showed that no official of Ohaneze was present at the meeting.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Nwabueze said the elders were worried over the leadership crisis rocking the Ohaneze Ndigbo and therefore decided to come together and not only find solution to the problem but also articulate what would ultimately become the Igbo position to be adopted for the national conference.
Though, he said the issues of Ohaneze could not be addressed at the meeting, they mainly succeeded in setting up the committees, explaining that while he would chair the Committee on Planning with Prof. Mike Echerue as the deputy and Prof. Amucheazi as secretary, the Committee on Fund Raising has the Obi of Onitsha as the chairman.
For the Committee on Outreach, which he said would be saddled with the responsibility of reaching out to other ethnic groups with a view to having a common ground on most of the issues that would be raised, Nwabueze said members of the committee would soon be announced.
He however expressed optimism that the elders would soon resolve the problem in Ohaneze saying: “The body remains the umbrella organisation for the Igbo but there’s problem in Ohaneze; there’s division in Ohaneze. This is part of what we are here to do, we haven’t done it yet but we want to resolve the problem in Ohaneze.”
Also speaking, the former NBA President, Agbakoba, said although the civil society groups would have preferred a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), he would take part in the exercise because it would afford the people of the country an opportunity to take a critical look at the problems facing them as a nation.
“Prof Nwabueze has always said what Nigeria needs is a revolution. There’s no way you can replace what you have now with dialogue but unfortunately, the energy for revolution is not there. We in civil society, realising that we don’t have energy to claw back power from the leaders having tried it severally, and remembering the 12 million man march that nearly took my life, will have to lower our expectation regrettably and engage in the process with the hope that it will take us to our destiny. Though we have been deceived in the past, but we have to take part and find ways of blocking some of the loopholes in order to avoid a defeat,” he said.
Agbakoba further raised an alarm that there could be a conflict between President Goodluck Jonathan and members of the National Assembly, who he said might not be happy with the proposed dialogue but however expressed optimism that something should come out of the exercise at the end of the day.