Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday condemned what he called the “persistent” discrimination against people of the Igbo ethnic group, which he described as Igbophobia.
Also, the Chairman of the Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, has said there is no fight between the Igbo and Yoruba people in the country.
Speaking in an event held at the International Convention Centre, Awka, Anambra State capital to commemorate the one-year in the office of Governor Charles Soludo, Obasanjo recalled his relationship with the governor and the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as his appointees.
At the event attracted several dignitaries from across the country, including the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, the former president stated that Soludo, who worked closely with him as an economic adviser, “never misadvised me,” adding that the Anambra State governor’s performance impressed him so much that he asked him to lead the CBN.
According to Obasanjo, Soludo was the second Nigerian CBN governor who was not a commercial banker.
He noted that soon after appointing the academic, he found himself in an encounter with a dissenting voice.
“Somebody came to me and said, ‘Wow! You have ruined the economy of Nigeria.’ I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘An Igbo woman, Minister of Finance; an Igbo man, Governor of the Central Bank? Then you have clearly completed the task of ruining the economy of Nigeria.’
“I don’t know why he said that, except for what I can call Igbophobia, and I don’t take that lightly. It remains; it persists. But when you have that type of thing that was said to me and the type of thing that you know is going on, as I have just called it, what do we do with it?
“I believe we have to go back to the scripture, which says we must conquer evil with good. And whoever you are, wherever people are afraid of you, you must make yourself friendly to those who are afraid of you and earn their friendship by being good to them, and that is what we have to do,” Obasanjo said.
He added that the appointments of Okonjo-Iweala and Soludo were “probably the best of the appointments that I made when I was president.”
“When Soludo came to me when he wanted to be governor previously, I didn’t support him. Of course, I didn’t disguise my anger toward him. I told him he should be thinking of something national or international.
“The experience I had of Anambra governorship then was that of Ngige and Chris Uba. I once told Soludo that this is what will continue to happen if people like him are running away from governance. So, when I told him I was disappointed in him going for governor, he also reminded me that I had earlier accused him of running away from governance. So, when he came back and told me he wanted to run, I told him he could go. I also told him – don’t forget that I reserve you for national assignment; so, you can use governor as an appetizer.
“From what I have heard and what I have seen, you have not disappointed me and I believe you have not disappointed the people of Anambra State. When you are done with this, you can think of something international, or national, that is where you belong,” Obasanjo said.
Equally speaking at the event, the Chairman of the Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Iwuanyanwu, has said there is no fight between the Igbo and Yoruba people in the country.
Iwuanyanwu, who equally spoke at the event said those destroying Igbo properties in Lagos were “political rascals.”
“I want to let our people in Lagos know, on Wednesday, I called a meeting of the Ohanaeze Council of Elders Worldwide and we x-rayed the events in Lagos,” he said.
“I want to tell you that people who attended are from the branches in America, Canada, Europe, London, and Nigeria. We have resolved and I want those from Lagos to go home and tell those in Lagos that we have resolved that never again can we allow anybody to take the life of any innocent Igbo person. All of us are going to fight the person. Never again!
“We are in Nigeria and we have invested in Nigeria. Our investments are so much, we are not going to take the question of people telling us to go, we are not going anywhere.
“And I want to tell those in Lagos to realise that there is no war between us and Yorubas. Yorubas are with us. There are just political rascals, and we’re going to handle them.
“The elders have directed the secretary general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, [Okey] Emuchay, to set up a commission of inquiry to find out things destroyed; people are going to pay.”
Speaking earlier, Soludo had taken time to reel out his achievements in the past year of being the governor of Anambra State.
“Here, our mantra is ‘doing more with less’. We want to build a state that everyone will be proud of and my children and great grand-children will be happy to live in.
“We want to transform Anambra into a prosperous homeland so that wherever we are, we will desire to be here. The Igbo man no matter where he lives always desires to be brought back and buried here when they die. But we want to build a place we will not only be happy to be brought back for burial but that we will also like to live in.
“For me, I will be proud to live here, even when I am done with this job. The goodwill is here, the environment is getting better and we shall continue to strive to make it work. We only ask that wealthy Anambra people should help us by bringing back part of their investment. If we can get Anambra people in other states, who can pay their taxes here, then just sit back and see your money work for you,” Soludo said.
He said that in one year as governor, he has employed 5,000 teachers at once, 3,000 health workers, and constructed several roads in the state. “Nigeria is a place where governors only employ massively when they are leaving office, but in one year, we have made many jobs in the education and health sector, and we are planning more,” Soludo explained.