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Selfishness among Igbo leaders, not FG, is to blame for our political misfortunes – Elliot Uko

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Why agitation by angry Igbo youths for secession is unlikely to end - Elliott Uko

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and Secretary of Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), has noted that the Igbo political elite are solely responsible for the political misfortunes of the South East.

Uko, who is also the Secretary of the Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT), in this interview, noted that Igbo often shoots themselves in the foot by promoting individual selfish interest above group interest, while noting that the only way forward is to confront this reality.

Excerpts:

The South East seems to loose out politically every time. In today’s political configuration, the region does not look strong. Which way forward?

I am not a politician. Our political leaders who presented themselves for leadership, are actually the people who should answer the question. I agree with you that my region seems displaced and disoriented at the moment, but we face reality by taking stock of our preferences and choices that brought us here. And ask ourselves why we are always left with the short end of the stick. Identifying our mistakes as a people and then resolve to correct past errors. If not, we’ll continue to swim in circles until we wake up and face reality.

What exactly do you mean by this?

Our crabs- in-a-bucket mentality; our pull him down syndrome and our self-centered culture of chronic individualism, where our leaders place individual advancement over and above group interest, has remained the bane of the South East. We must shake off these unhelpful and even destructive attitude and develop a sense of patriotism and love for our land and stop pulling down our brothers.

Our elite, especially the political class, have always worked against each other, each believing that he must first destroy his brother in order to achieve relevance. It’s an age old problem. The sorry state of Igboland is simply as a result of the selfishness of our own people over the years. Not the fault of the Yoruba, the Hausa/Fulani, the Kanuri or the Ijaw etc. Blame rests squarely on the heads and shoulders of our own people. We failed to collectively work towards the advancement of the interest of our region, preferring instead only the betterment of our personal desires at the expense of group interest. Truth must be told.

Nobody will come from outside to develop our region for us. Our leaders must learn to stop working against each other and sincerely develop a blueprint for aggressive development of our region. Getting one of our politician into Aso Rock Villa, though desirable and proper, should not be the greatest priority of our people. Our greatest priority should be how to develop our region.

The South East Governors, billionaires and business community should urgently design a development plan that will be collectively and religiously committed to and exploit the huge, enviable talents and potentials of our people in order to positively transform our region. Moaning over Aso Rock will not build up our region. Only committed and dedicated effort will grow and prosper the South East. Our leaders across board should wake up to reality.

Are you saying that working against each other and at cross purposes is responsible for the lack of development of the region?

Of course, if Ndigbo pull resources together and and commit our energies towards transforming this region, you’ll be surprised at the result. We are gifted people, hardworking folks with a never-say-die attitude to challenges of life. We are only being held down by the lack of synergy and direction. We usually place individual interest over group interest, and that hasn’t helped us very much.

The political quarrels between the great Zik and K O Mbadiwe and co, didn’t help us, the crack that developed within the NCNC, as a result of Zik’s preference of M I Okpara over K O Mbadiwe as his replacement as Eastern Premier, never healed, in fact a lot of people do not know that the news of federal Minister Jaja Nwachukwu dramatically leaving the NCNC, was drowned by the first coup de tat which occurred same morning, January 15th 1966.

The East continued to revel in internal squabbling against Ojukwu during the war, and this lack of unity created dangerous divisions, the attitude of Ukpabi Asika as administrator for close to a decade sowed certain negative seeds, as the elite did a lot of dishonourable things just to survive, things that negatively impacted on our future as a people.

Again, the needless warfare by the Igbo elite over 40 years ago against Governors Sam Mbakwe and Jim Nwobodo, established a culture of worship of the centre while subverting and undermining your people’s interest, just to profit and benefit from the centre at the individual level. All these very selfish phenomenon, over time weakened cohesion and eroded unity and of course were exploited by others to dominate us perpetually. That is the truth.

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Our leaders must come clean, exorcise their past sins against their own people and make restitution by boldly and sincerely articulating an altruistic way forward and work with their aggrieved youths to develop our region. That’s the way to go. This crabs in a bucket syndrome got worse with time, as our leaders strove to destroy each other, weakening cohesion and unity.

Sowing confusion in the region and of course, loosing the respect of the younger generation of the region. You can easily locate from where the angry youths of the region found it difficult to respect the leaders. During the military era, our leaders shamelessly sucked up to the military rulers for survival. Deified them and even worshipped them as deities, in order to gain favour and patronage. We lost our self respect in the process. Accepting every situation and wilfully degraded ourselves just to profit at the individual level. All these past iniquities are holding us down as a people, as we remain the weakest and most disrespected region.

What exactly is the way out?

Total repentance and telling our self the truth, and coming together to develop our dear region. You see, when you belittle your self, and your region by working discreetly against your own people and your region, for personal cash-out, you loose respect so much from other Nigerians, that when you begin to hustle to become President, those leaders from other regions who know your secret sins, will dismiss your aspiration to lead them. They’ll quietly block your dreams to lead them. A case of one’s sins catching up with him. They may keep quiet about it, just because they appreciate the gains of your aspiration to rule the country.

What is that gain?

Simple: they appreciate that the excitement from raising your hopes to Aso Rock, will invariably weaken the secession breeze blowing through your region and may rekindle the interest of the secessionist towards elections and politicking. That’s all. They will never wish to hand over power to your region, because they understand the enormous powers in the Presidency under this 1999 constitution.

Moreover, they have charges against the behaviour of our region’s politicians between 2010 and 2015, when a Southerner from Bayelsa was President. They rightly or wrongly believe that our people who they say surrounded that President from Niger Delta, behaved very badly in a very selfish manner. These are some of the reasons other Nigerians are not comfortable handing over power to the South East. Now, it doesn’t really matter if these accusations against our people are true or not. The fact remains that those accusing us of being very selfish and insensitive to other Nigerians needs, hold unto these charges. That’s part of our problems as a people.

What is the way forward?

Our leaders must mend their ways. Regrettably, they are yet to. They have not yet come to terms that our salvation lies squarely on a restructured Nigeria built on true federalism and power devolution. If they had, they would have been very committed to the restructuring of the polity. They are yet to understand that it is our duty and responsibility to develop our region. If they had, they would have fought for and gotten us long before now, a functional International Airport with cargo wing, a commercial Seaport, railways, electricity generating plant, etc.They are still erroneously delaying the sincere and direct engagement of the agitators in pursuit of closure and resolution of the agitation. The key word here is sincere.

They are still working against each other, sabotaging each other and decamping aligning only with any party that will guarantee their bread and butter. The self-evident injustices against our region for decades now should have forced our leaders to make sacrifices for the progress of our region. But have they? Just look at the behaviour of our politicians in viciously discrediting each other without minding the consequences of that to group interest and cohesion.

Look at what they did to Chinwoke Mbadinuju, seized the State’s resources through what they called irrevocable standing payment order that crippled the State, shut down schools for one academic year, later hijacked the State and attempted burning down the State. The entire elite club kept quite. Look at the warfare between Orji Uzor Kalu and Ojo Maduekwe, Onyema Ugochukwu, and co that held the State down for years. Look at the battle of supremacy between Sam Egwu and the then Senate President Pius Anyim, look at Chimaroke Nnamani and Jim Nwobodo.

The list is endless. In all these needless upheavals that drew the land backwards, there appeared a clear absence of a respected regional leadership that could call these leaders to order or at least reconcile them. Obiano and Okorocha dutifully stayed away from meetings of the South East Governors forum. How can the region make progress when the Governors don’t enjoy the necessary camaraderie to work as a team.

Politicians viciously discredit and blackmail each other. Check out the attacks against potential South East Presidential materials by their own brothers. Check out the arrogance of men in power. Check out the needless warfare between Sullivan Chime and both his predecessor and successor. Why don’t we see these issues in the North. Look at the needless attacks against each other at every turn, destroying cohesion and group unity. These innanities should come to an end. Our leaders must come together and work together to move our region forward.

That cannot happen if we don’t acknowledge the mistakes of the past and resolve to make a change for the good of the land and progress of our region. It’s time to face reality. We are the ones holding our region down. Igboland has so much potential for greatness, the people are very talented. Our leaders must realise that they need attitudinal change. We must stop blaming others while exonerating ourselves from our evident failures. It’s time to make a change. South East is in dire need of aggressive development. The time to start is now.

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