By Daud Olatunji
On January 17, this year, the leadership of an association of Igbo Communities of Lagos and Ogun states led by Ohaneze Ndigbo Ogun State, Ogbueti Nkeze paid a visit to a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, to seek his guidance on the then fast approaching presidential election. The Igbo President in the state Nkeze said; “The visit was meant to identify with the former President and seek his guidance in the next political dispensation.”
During the visit, the traditional head of the Igbo, Willy Ejimkonye, prayed for the Obasanjo family before conferring the title of Enyi Ndigbo on him which literally means ‘Friend of the Igbos’ in Ogun State. However, on July 19, 2015, shortly before the elections, the Igbo community in Ogun State decried what it called the marginalization of Ndigbo in the politics of Ogun.
The Igbo had threatened to vote only for politicians who would improve their welfare, alleging that Igbo people were being excluded in the politics and other important sectors of governance in Ogun State despite their sizeable contribution to the economic development of the state.
The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ogun State, Ogbuefi Austine Nkeze, noted that they had been living in harmony with their host communities. He said: “It is indisputable that Ndigbo constitute over thirty per cent of the state population. Our contribution and participation in the political, economic and social engineering of the state is well known to the whole world.
“But we have been continuously marginalized in the scheme of things in Ogun State. We are just remembered a few days to general elections, when some politicians would visit us as individuals or minor groups and after collecting our votes, abandon us until another four years. In fact, we become important Nigerians in Ogun state once in four years”.
Meanwhile, most people who spoke with Vanguard on whether it is right or wrong to have Eze Ndigbo in the state supported the idea of having Eze Ndigbo in the state.
There is a need for Eze Ndigbo – Respondents
According to Ogochukwu Ogechukwu , a trader, “It is important for us to have Eze Ndigbo in Yorubaland so that he can help us by communicating with the Oba of Yorubaland”. Also, another trader, Mrs Odimegu Blessing, said; “Eze Ndigbo in Yorubaland is representing the Igbos in Yorubaland. He serves as a delegate for the people since we (the Igbos) cannot go straight to the king for help.
“On other hand, when Ogun state needs help of the Igbos, they go through the Eze Ndigbo for assistance”.
Mrs Ofonedu Ify, a businesswoman/computer engineer, said “It is important we have Eze Ndigbo in Yorubaland and likewise Obas and Emirs in any land for easy channel of communication in the society. For instance, during elections, such representative can help to mobilize his people in the community. The Obas, Emirs or Eze Ndigbo in a community can also help to settle quarrels among other ethnic groups”.
A transporter, Adebayo Ademuyiwa, in his reaction to the poser, said “I don’t see anything wrong in that. As long as he does not go beyond his boundary”. Oluniyi Joseph, a trader, said; “Eze Ndigbo should be allowed. He is just for the Igbos, their representative in Yorubaland”.
Jumoke Olaseyinde said “Eze Ndigbo should be given the opportunity to rule over his people in Yorubaland as in London , they will allow the other ethnic groups to rule in their jurisdiction”. Olatunji Stephen, said: “In my opinion, Eze Ndigbo should be allowed to rule over his people in Yorubaland as long as there is peace in the society.”
Comrade Dotun Opaleye, chairman, National Association of Nigerian students, NANS, said: “For the sake of national integration and harmony, I will support Eze Ndigbo in Yorubaland and vice- versa”.
A businessman at Panseke, Mr Joseph Eze disclosed that; “In normal circumstances, the traditional ruler is an institution established before the colonial administration . Having Eze Ndigbo in Ogun Sate will make one to be able to have knowledge of culture and tradition of Igbo in Ogun State.
Mr. Ibrahim Atanda , a businessman, said: “There is nothing bad about it ,because we have more than one Igbo man here in Yoruba land. If anything happens between Igbo men, a Yoruba king may not know how to go about it like an Igbo king because they are from the same place. It is good because their importance is to coordinate and guide their people here”.
Rejection of Eze Ndigbo
A businesswoman, Grace Ajiase, said “Yorubas should not allow the Igbos to be king in Yorubaland. They should stay in their states and rule over their own people”.
Mr. Paul Weto, a civil servant, said: “I would not support the Igbo Oba in Yorubaland”.
A retired civil servant, Mr. Dibia said; “Having an Eze Ndigbo in Ogun State does not reduce the power of a Yoruba leader, and has not come to disturb his authority in Abeokuta. It is a good thing because I have travelled a lot, and I have seen a Yoruba in Igbo land as Oba”. (Vanguard)