Being a welcome address presented at the South-East Summit on ‘Restructuring the Nigerian Federation’ on Monday, May 21, 2018, in Awka
– By WILLIE OBIANO*
Ndigbo kwenu! Kwenu! Kwezuenu-o!
On behalf of the good people of Anambra State, I welcome you all to Awka. Our ancestors must have had this day in mind when they gave us the saying that ‘Izu ka mma na nne ji.’ We have come together today as a family to strengthen the ties that bind us to fellow Nigerians in this big federation. Indeed, there is probably no better time for this conversation than now. So, I welcome you all to this dialogue!
Brothers and sisters, in the past 58 years, Ndigbo have worked tirelessly with fellow Nigerians to lay the foundations for a better federation and a more perfect union. We have made the most sacrifices and, more often than not, we have also paid the supreme price for the unity of this country. But we have made these sacrifices in the belief that in the contemporary history of mankind, the road to nationhood is often paved with the blood of patriots. Indeed, Ndigbo have paid the price for Nigeria’s greatness. We paid in blood. We paid in FULL!
Umu nne m, the future summons us to a brighter dawn! And we must walk in the shadows of our fathers. Yes, our fathers played a major role in Nigeria’s long road to independence. And today we have gathered to dream a balanced federation into existence for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Fellow compatriots, I have combed the pages of history and our contemporary times. And I boldly declare that I did not find a perfect human society anywhere. Every nation on earth is a work in progress. Citizens of both advanced and developing countries continue to ask their countries hard questions that will lead them to a better federation, a better nation and a better society. And Nigeria cannot be an exception to this rule. So, we must ask Nigeria hard questions too!
Fellow Nigerians, the question on everyone’s mind today is ‘what kind of country do Nigerians want Nigeria to be?’ This is the question that will determine Nigeria’s promise, Nigeria’s future and Nigeria’s greatness. Happily, different ethnic groups and geo-political zones have made bold efforts to ask this question in recent times. And today Ndigbo will ask their own!
As governor of Anambra State, I was born and raised in Nigeria and I have lived in Nigeria for the better part of my life. I have lived the Nigerian dream and felt Nigeria’s heartbreaks. I know what my people want from Nigeria and the question we must ask of Nigeria. We must ask what every forward-looking people want from any socio-political arrangement: life, liberty and a chance to raise happy families. We must ask for a just, fair and equitable federation where every citizen is guaranteed the freedom to be the best they can be and to aspire to the highest position in the land regardless of their tribe, culture or religion. And this is what Nigeria in its present structure has not given to us!
Brothers and sisters, we have answered the call of history. And, hopefully, history will be kind to us. If our fathers invested their youthful hopes and the power of their intellect in the Nigeria of their time, we have invested our wealth, our enterprise and our emotion in remaking Nigeria. Indeed, no other ethnic group has as much emotional investment in the Nigerian project as Ndigbo. And now, we have been called upon to re-imagine Nigeria. We welcome this challenge with both hands.
For if we rose from the ruins of the civil war to rebuild Eastern Nigeria in record time, there should be no doubt about what Ndigbo can bring to the table in a fair, just and equitable Nigeria.
Umu nnem, I have no doubt that this summit will articulate a wise, realistic and hopeful position that will represent the key expectations of Ndigbo from Nigeria.
It is on this note that I welcome you all once again to Anambra State!
*Chief Obiano is the governor of Anambra State, Nigeria.