The Igbozurume Cultural Centre in Enugu recently came alive as the crème de la crème of Igbo nation comprising the Igbo intelligentsia, traditional rulers and others converged to discuss the way forward for the Igbo nation, Daily Sun reports.
But governors of the South-East states were absent and the people blamed them for not showing significant interest in what the people of the region was doing.
The gathering, which was on the invitation of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) was the second of its kind this year as it came on the heels of a similar one held in May.
Tagged the First Business Conference of Igbo Leaders, it was part of the three-day event organized by the foundation as part of efforts aimed at developing the Igbo nation through effective economic policies and actions.
Long before the commencement of the programme at about 11:00a.m, prominent sons and daughters of the land, including the Obi of Onitsha, HRM Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe; Chairman of Enugu Traditional Rulers Council, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzo; former Minister of Power, Prof. Bath Nnaji; former Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Nigeria (ASUU) Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie; Managing Director of Coscharis Group, Dr Cosmas Maduka; Chairman of ABC Transport, Dr Frank Nneji, United Progressives Party (UPP) Presidential Candidate and founder of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie; Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, and the Secretary of the committee, Prof Nath Aniekwu, had arrived to take their seats.
The event which began after the arrival of the dignitaries with an opening remark by the royal father of the day, Igwe Achebe, had as its theme: “Rebuilding and Development of the Igbo Nation: Think Home, Invest Home.”
The illustrious sons and daughters were united in one purpose: how best to make the Igbo nation the economic power-house of the world.
They have been pushed by the harsh economic realities staring the Igbo nation in the face and the taunting of their people doing business outside Igbo land by their hosts like the pronouncement of the Oba of Lagos, Akilu who dared the Igbo to vote against his wish and perish in the Lagos Lagoon.
Thus the Igbo had gathered to put heads together to seek for ways to improve the economic condition of the region with a view to “ drive the future development of Alaigbo not only within the country but also as a major player in the global community”.
First to make his views known was Igwe Achebe who went down memory lane to look at the position of the Igbo in the country and what their destination looks like. He observed that the Igbo have passed through numerous challenges as a people, but was optimistic they would emerge victorious, saying that God has destined that the Igbo nation would live.
The royal father, therefore, advised the Igbo to diversify in their businesses at home and abroad to bring them back home for them to have direct impact on the lives of the people.
He reminded the Igbo of the popular adage which states that “charity begins at home”, adding that “if Igbo land is developed, we all will benefit from that because there will be employment for our people; we can then start thinking of developing somewhere else.”
His words: “What is our condition like in Nigeria today? We need to understand our destination; where is Nigeria going to? Where is Ala Igbo going to? Those we are with, are we together in unity or is it every man to his own business? That is what we have come here to do.
“We had gathered here some years back to launch a book entitled: the Igbo Nation: History and Challenges of Rebirth and Development. It was in this hall then, I had said that it is important for the Igbo to increase the amount of investments they have in Igbo land. We should diversify our investments back to Ala Igbo. If you go round the world, you will see Igbo sons and daughters doing well in various spheres of life. But if you look at our land, it now looks like we are looking for someone. It is almost becoming a desert as far as economic activities and investment are concerned.”
He, therefore, insisted that as part of efforts to make Igbo land becomes the power-house of economic activities around the world, Igbo sons and daughters should have a base at home from where they can now venture into the outside world.
After Achebe, numerous speakers ranging from traditional rulers to entrepreneurs, as well as politicians mounted the podium to air their views on the current state of the Igbo nation with major focus on its economic condition, seeking ways on how best to leapfrog the Igbo land to an Eldorado.
In his welcome address, the President of ADF, Prof Uzodinma Nwala, observed that the Igbo have since the end of the civil war suffered a devastating blow that has seen them experiencing high rate of infrastructural decay with the ripple effect of high unemployment rate, poverty and increasing crime wave in the region.
He regretted that despite the doggedness, communal spirit, industry and hard work the Igbo man was known for, little or no effort has been made to exploit the economic potentials inherent in the Igbo nation.
According to him, there is strong need for the Igbo to brace up to face the challenges bedeviling the region by channeling their efforts to the development of Igbo land.
This, he said, triggered the establishment of the foundation which he said was born out of the need to arouse and mobilize the Igbo people and their leaders in the task of rebuilding and development of the Igbo nation to showcase its full economic potentials.
“The Invest-at-Home Movement which we are formally inaugurating today is our road to genuine self-reliance. This conference may well be the greatest turning point in the practical re-engineering of Igbo national rebirth. It may well be the pathway to the rebirth of the basic socio-cultural character, values and spirit of Igbo nation, as captured by Olaudah Equiano in the 18th Century, when he described the Igbo society and her people as a nation of happy clean people, without unemployment, without prostitution, without drunkards and without beggars!”
He regretted that the Igbo have been busy developing other parts of the country and have largely ignored their own, adding that “if only we invest 40 per cent of our investments in just other parts of Nigeria, Igbo land would be the economic heartland of Africa”.
Governor Ifweanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State addressing the gathering thanked the organizers for their efforts to chart a new course on the development of the Igbo land.
He said that while it was important for the Igbo to join heads together in seeking for ways to address the myriad of problems affecting the region, there was also the need for the Igbo to exhibit true love for one another in all they do.
Ugwuanyi who was represented at the event by the state Commissioner for Water Resources, Chief Charles Egumgbe, also expressed the commitment of the state government in doing all within its power to develop the Igbo nation.
Declaring the event opened, Ugwuanyi noted that as the home of all the Igbo in the country, the state would not hesitate to play its part in efforts aimed at improving the lives of the the Igbo in the country.
“We know the place of Enugu in the Igbo land as the headquarters of Ndigbo. We are assuring you that the government of Enugu State will continue to support whatever is being done here for the development of Ndigbo. What is happening here today may be difficult, but I am optimistic it will come to pass. Whatever role there is for the government of Enugu State to play in the discourse being held here today, it will carry it out and even do more because Enugu is the home of all Igbo in the country,” he said.
On his part, a former Presidential Candidate of United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, urged Ndigbo to remain consistent and never relent in their quest for economic development.
Okorie frowned at the attitude of the state governors in the region who, he said, have not lived up to expectations with regards to spearheading the economic realities in the South-East, adding that much still needed to be done by them.
“It is unfortunate that our governors are not here with us. For us to develop the Igbo land, it is important for them to be active in whatever is being done because without their support, nothing meaningful can be achieved. So, it is sad that our governors are not here”, he regretted.
The ceremony, however, took to a new dimension when the President of Igbo Women Assembly (IWA) and member of OhanaezeNdigbo, Chief (Mrs) Maria Okwor, who was conspicuously the only woman of high repute in the gathering, took a swipe on Igbo leaders who she said have not really done much to better the lots of the Igbo in the country.
Looking visibly angry and on the virge of breaking down in tears, Mrs Okwor raised the alarm that there was fire on the mountain, saying that putting off the fire may not be a mere walk in the park as she urged Ndigbo never to relent in their efforts of nation building.
Her words: “The condition of Ndigbo causes me much pain. We must rise and continue the struggle. We need to remain steadfast in saving the Igbo nation because the person that has been defeated is he who was beaten and he fails to rise again”.
Similarly, the Managing Director of Coscharis Group, Dr Maduka, expressed his pride of being an Igbo man.
He stressed the need for the Igbo to remain in unity and work towards the betterment of one another, saying this has been what the Igbo are known for.
“We have a destiny and through constant effort, we must get to our destination. It is important that we all continue to support any cause that is aimed at developing the Igbo nation and would help improve the lives of our people,” he said.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, Igwe Agubuzor praised the organizers of the event, adding that they had indeed immortalized their names in the history of Igbo nation.
“For many years, Ndigbo have invested their time, talent and treasures in the political development of Nigeria while paying very little attention to the economic welfare of their own land. Their investment pattern followed the rhythm of political movement in the country. The belief of Ndigbo in the unity and oneness of Nigeria led to her spread and settlement in all the nooks and crannies of the country”, he noted.
The traditional ruler observed that the consequence of the spread of the Igbo round the country has been the lack of economic investment in the region, regretting that the Igbo have not been able to reap the fruits of their labour.
“Other Nigerians have not reciprocated the open-mindedness of the Igbo by settling and investing in the Igbo land,” he noted with dismay.