Before he became the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos State, Chief Solomon Ogbonna had been a man whose passion for human development cuts across the socio-ethnic groups in the country. Having done series of empowerments solely to his name in the past, the spirit of liberating man from anguish of life embedded in him has invariably led him to seek lasting solutions to youth unemployment as well as actualizing this initiative.
Strategically, Chief Ogbonna has been seeking partnerships both home and abroad to drive this initiative. He had visited the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Stefan Traumann, during which they discussed on technical training, inter-cultural relationships, creating opportunities for and training young artists in wood carving, and lots more. He shares more in this interview with RAHMAN IS’MAIL. Excerpts…
Since your assumption of office as president to the Lagos State Chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, what have been your challenges concerning the youths?
On our part at Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos, we are harnessing all avenues possible to empower the Igbo youth. Our search for opportunities for Igbo youth is not limited to Nigeria but across the world. On that vein, we just initiated talk with the good people of Germany in the areas of technical training plus inter-cultural relationship to afford our youths the opportunity of displaying our undiluted cultural heritage. The art and culture relationship will also create opportunity for training young artists in the areas of wood carving, painting and exhibition of our works across the world. The quest for Igbo youth empowerment is the reason we visited the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Stefan Traumann.
Well-meaning Igbo people especially the dignitaries and the well-to-do should support ventures to empower the youth. These young people need employment and encouragement to overcome life challenges. Our eminent sons and daughters have the know-how plus the contacts to guide and assist these young Igbo people. We are all aware of the Nigerian factor when it comes to recruitment into any sector especially in federal ministries including the military and paramilitary organisations. There are many Igbo people serving at various federal institutions, and there are retired sons and daughters of Igbo with good reach and contacts at those federal institutions especially the military. These people, both serving and retired officers are in position to assist young Igbo people secure employment or recruitment into these sectors. These Igbo personalities should make themselves accessible to the youths who need assistance to secure employment and business opportunities in sectors they have influence and contacts. Most of these dignitaries benefitted from the sacrifices of our past Igbo leaders such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Sir Louis Ojukwu, Chief R. B. K. Okafor. These people are no more, but the people they mentored are in various sectors of the socio-political-economy of the nation. It is the turn of this top brass Ndigbo to mentor the young ones and help them find their bearing. Time has come for them to lead the crusade for the new development in Igbo land through the empowerment of the youth. It is time for some of our personalities to stop showing superiority and extraordinary class; but use their wealth of knowledge and success in various sectors to guide and empower the young ones. I appreciate the effort of many Igbo leaders who have been guiding and directing the young ones. My call to action goes to some of our personalities who have distanced themselves from the process of rebuilding the Igbo Empire due to reservations they have about certain issues. These people should realise that, if we have to win a race, we have to run in that race. If we have to win an Olympic Gold Medal, we have to compete in the Olympic game. If some of our personalities continue to ignore the goings-on in Igbo land especially among the youths; then it is tantamount to a boxer who entered the ring and started boxing himself to prevent being boxed by the opponent.
What are the measures to put in place by the Igbo in order to attain the greatness they are yearning for?
Ndigbo need to expend more energy in pursuing intellectual treasure. It is high time we encouraged our young people to embrace academic pursuit and intellectual treasure. Quite, we are making money through trading (buying and selling), but we need intellectual treasure to soar to greater heights in all sectors including the commerce that we seem to dominate. Events in the country show that Ndigbo need intellectual treasure to navigate through Nigerian affairs and attain the greater heights we yearn for. Now is the time to start encouraging those of us who are endowed with intellectual treasure, great ideas and even great products without necessarily discriminating on the background of such people whether or not they are rich, famous or popular. It is high time we stopped being inquisitive about who their fathers are. Queries about what they do for a living or the name of their companies or establishments including the brand of cars they drive or other irrelevant issues should be put aside.
What should be of great importance is that he or she is of Igbo extraction. This is because; God who put that treasure in such people did not first of all, ask those questions before giving them that inspiration and peculiarity. Some of the questions of “Who is the father or parents of someone who has idea, intellect, creativity, innovation, craft or vision” have not allowed us tap the treasures that abound within Ndigbo. The United States of America did not ask our own computer wizard, Philip Emeka Emeagwali who his father was, before they encouraged and empowered him to great achievement. Emeka Emeagwali went on to invent the fastest computer in the world that runs at 3.1Billion electrons per second. If we put class sentiments aside as enumerated above, we will be on the road to greatness.
Does that mean some personalities among Igbo are not in consonant with the Igbo project particularly on youth empowerment?
Yes, some of them exhibit I-don’t-care attitude and distance themselves from Igbo affairs and from Igbo people, especially the young ones who need their help. In the time past, Igbo was blessed with father figure and legendary personalities in the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, Eze Akanu Ibiam, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Chief R. B. K. Okafor, Dr. Mbonu Ojike and many others. These figures stood with Ndigbo when the going got tough. They served like the guardian angels to our people against outside invasion. They sacrificed their happiness, pleasure, wealth and time for the well-being of our people. Dim Emeka Ojukwu (Eze Igbo Gburu-Gburu) expended his father’s wealth to fight a war that was not personal. It should be remembered that the father of Ojukwu, Sir Louis Ojukwu was one of the richest people of his time. Yet his wealth went with the War. Why don’t we have people who sacrifice for Ndigbo today? If, I may ask some of our leaders of today: If our past leaders held onto power as if it was their personal property, rendered services and made sacrifices for only their wives, biological children, selected family members and friends they could control, where do you think you will be now? In the past when anyone was looking for business contacts, or job opportunities, and they go to any of these leaders, they will surely succeed; but today, some of our leaders are even obstacles to those that need their assistance.
They will collect their credentials including making other promises, just for the person to turn his back and they will use all manner of derogatory words against these people and their families— the son of a carpenter, daughter of palm-wine tapper and all manner of abusive languages against those who need their assistance. Our past leaders never abandoned anyone, no matter what. They not only rendered assistance when needed, they also made sure to sort out whatever challenges faced by Onyeigbo being it social or political before giving reprimand at home, if need be.
Some of these personalities complain that it is boring and a waste of time attending Igbo functions as more time is spent on other matters. What do you say to that?
Probably, that is the reason some of them stay away from Igbo functions. But courtesy demands that they point out such anomalies and offer solutions. I am equally opposed to praise singing and personality profiling at important Igbo meetings. This is serious cankerworm growing to destroy the mission of Ndigbo on our march to greatness, and if not checked, will spell doom in our quest for the Promised Land. It is something astounding that while the development of the world is going viral towards talents development, vision, innovation and impartation of knowledge to change lives, we are still reeling in the ecstasy of personal awards, profiles, accomplishments and armada of titles obtained to portray our individual achievements that have no landmarks of societal development.
What we need now is to spearhead charity works in motherless babies homes, less privileged, physically challenged and the downtrodden, giving them scholarships, empowerment, hope and skills acquisition; we should not be busy basking in the euphoria of garlands. Whenever Ndigbo gather to chart a way forward for our collective aspirations and efforts to revamp us and strengthen our tribe, instead of facing squarely the issue at hand, we should not be tempted to indulge in the dome of individual profiling, churning out armada of certificates of academic accomplishments, national and international awards, traditional titles, praise-singing, etc.
Are the benefits of chronicling personal profiles, awards, achievements and titles more important than the issue on the ground? Will this ideology solve any of our problems? Will it be the icing on the cake of Ndigbo’s present predicament? The answer as everyone knows is vehemently and capital NO. Therefore, we must do everything possible to discard these obsolete practices in order for us to march forward to actualising our dreams. It has come to the climax where these profiling swallow the agenda of the meeting, launching, unveiling and presentation; long lectures to exhibit persons. The most disappointing of this whole melodrama is that these accolades do not add value to the agenda of the meeting. These praise-singing and profiling of accomplishments are better left for high-life musicians who will make profit from it. Those who have built global brands and projects that stood the test of time have no time to advertise their profiles in events and indeed, anywhere. Yet, they have made serious impact on the society and indeed the wider world with their brand which we consume. The founder of Bournvita, John Cadbury was never seen being chronicled in an event of transformation. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft has never been seen profiling his certificates and accolades, yet he has given away over 40billion dollars to charity worldwide. Michael Dell, founder of Dell computers and all great minds that have changed the society with their incredible creativity have no such things said of them. It is time to stop this unnecessary profiling and title promotion in a meeting where the Ndigbo future is being discussed.