The Southeast should forget the agitation for Biafra, Ohanaeze Ndigbo said yesterday.
The Igbo should work towards the restructuring of Nigeria, their apex socio-cultural organisation said.
“We should forget Biafra and insist on restructuring. There is no Igbo person that is happy with the situation of things in Nigeria. We must seek peaceful ways of resolving the issues,” Ohanaeze President John Nwodo said.
He spoke in Umuahis during the inauguration of the state and local government executives of the Abia State chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Nwodo said elders warned Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu against the manner he was going about his agitation for Biafra, but he did not listen.
To the Ohanaeze leader, restoration of Biafra was a tall order, given the constitutional roadblocks which, he said, will not be in the overall interest of Ndigbo in their socio-economic and political relationships with other Nigerians.
He said while youths were justified in expressing their anger at Ndigbo’s marginalisation in national affairs, Nwodo said they should moderate their actions and words. Hate speeches would not resolve any problem, Nwodo said.
The Ohaneze leader spoke of how elders told Kanu and his other IPOB members to tone down their words and desist from denigrating people and groups.
He also said Kanu was told that his insistence on Biafra and boycott of the November 18 election in Anambra State were not acceptable to Ndigbo, hence he should abandon his rigid position and join in the quest for restructuring.
Nwodo justified the proscription of IPOB by the Governors Forum, explaining that what the state chief executives did was to stop IPOB from engaging in its public activities that could spark fatal clashes with security agencies.
He said without the action taken by the governors of the Southeast, that the zone would still have been engulfed in bloodshed, adding that he would not sit by and allow the youth to be cut down prematurely.
Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu said Nigeria and the world were passing through perilous times, hence the need to seek peace.
Ikpeazu said: “We believe in justice, equity and fairness. I believe in ‘live and let live’, as nobody delights in being oppressed.”
He advised Igbo youths to respect leaders and listen to advice of elders instead of embarking on agitation to express their frustration.
Ikpeazu said henceforth, youths and any Igbo person or group with grievances should complain to Ohaneze which is in a position to take the matter up with the appropriate authorities.
Abia State President of Ohaneze, Mr. Chimaobim Ajuzieogu said the organisation would “no longer sit on the fence; neither shall we continue to observe as spectators in the affairs that affect us”.
Ajuzieogu said the new leadership of Ohaneze in the state would strive hard to restore the value system of Ndigbo through massive media campaigns, adding that Nwodo should be praised for the “revivalist strategy” he had adopted.
Elder statesman Emmanuel Adaelu, who chaired the occasion, called for unity among Ndigbo, saying that the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo should be recognised as the voice of the Igbo and no group should try to usurp that authority.
Nwodo also expressed dismay over the spate of hate speech on social media platforms by Igbo youths under the guise of agitating for Biafra.
He said making inciting speeches was capable of causing crisis which could lead to mass violence in the nation, adding that it was pertinent to respect constituted authorities.
Nwodo said the first hand experience that he had during the civil war had given him an understanding of the throes of war, adding that no nation had fought two wars and survived.
“There are 11.6 million Igbo people living in the North and it will be wise for Igbo people living in the South-East and elsewhere to put them into consideration while speaking or engaging in certain activities.
“I urge Igbo youths to desist from activities and comments that could spark violence in the nation. At the moment what Igbo people need to fight for is restructuring of the nation.
“Ohanaeze is in an era of transparency. I assure you that we have not relented in speaking for the Igbo people,especially in the area of restructuring for the benefit of Igbo people.”