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Dr. Acho Orabuchi, Sr., the founder and moderator of Igbo Forum, is also the Chairman of Pan Ndiigbo Foundation USA (PNF USA). As PNF USA gears up for its third annual Pan-Igbo Political Conference scheduled for first weekend of May, 2005, Osondu Interviews presents an exchange with its leader on various issues of interest to our guests. Here are excerpts:


PNF USA, which you lead, shall host its third annual Igbo summit in Dallas, Texas in first weekend of May 2005. What is this year’s conference going to be about?

This is going to be a monumental conclave for Ndiigbo; a confab where the Igbo intelligentsia would deliberate serious issues concerning the Igbo.
It is a conclave for the Igbo political rebirth. The theme of the conference is “The Nigerian President of Igbo Ethnic Extraction and Economic Empowerment”. As we advocate for equity in the Nigerian body polity, it only fair for us to advocate for and support the agitation for the Nigerian President of Igbo Ethnic Extraction. It is our belief that the Igbo have been marginalizes both in economic and political realms in Nigeria. If you look at the history of Nigeria, you would notice and agree that the Igbo have suffered a great deal in the hands of various administrations; the Igbo had virtually not led the country called Nigeria while other members of the tripod have enjoyed a good number of years of leadership of Nigeria. This does not mean that the Igbo lacked quality crop of leaders. No, the Igbo have and will continue to have abundance of quality leaders capable of leading Nigeria into good times in terms of economic, social, and political development. It is imperative that we encourage and support the Igbo for the number one office. We are encouraging quality Igbo leaders to aspire for Nigerian president. While we are deliberating on how to make the goal feasible, we would educate the entire nation to be receptive to the urgency of having a Nigerian President of Igbo ethnic extraction.

The President General, Professor Joe Irukwu said at the WIC convention in New Jersey last year that Ohanaeze is not a political organization. As a result, the organization is handicapped from proffering political solutions to issues of that magnitude. It is left for us to come up with a consensus candidate and have Ohanaeze to come up with social sanctions.As you can see, it appears that Ohanaeze does not have the tools to deliver this good. Ohanaeze has a role as it relates to other tribal apex organizations like Arewa, Oodua Peoples Congress, and others. Getting these apex socio-cultural organizations to agree to the quest is something Ohanaeze can do better than any other organization. - Dr. Acho Orabuchi

Let me say this, time for intellectualism is over; it is time for action. PNF USA needs workers in every area to facilitate some of the sessions during the Pan Igbo Political Conference, especially during the day on Saturday, May 7, 2005. Volunteers are needed. Please contact us immediately. For those of you who have indicated interest in one area or another, it has been noted. The program will be coming out sequentially. It's for all of us!

How do you assess outcomes of the two previous PNF USA-sponsored annual summits? How much involvement do your group’s programs and activities get from women and youths?

Sometimes, you may not be able to quantify qualitative variables. The previous PNF USA-sponsored events have tremendous impact in Nigeria. We have able to reach some segments of the electorate who are now empowered to carry out their constitutional obligations without fear of intimidation or harm. We are still trying to reach and educate a large segment of the masses. We’re reaching the women and college students in our effort to sanitize the Nigerian body polity.

Some of your critics suggest that PNF USA summits could be conduits for featuring operatives from the Aso Rock to sell the virtues of the Obasanjo administration to the Igbo elite. How closely is your group related to home-based politicians?

PNF USA is an independent organization without any affiliation with any political party.

How is PNF USA funded? How can anyone interested support your group’s efforts?

PNF USA is funded by its members. Nigerian politicians do not fund the organization. It is imperative that it remains this way so that we can independently evaluate issues and policies without any prejudice before supporting or condemning them.

The inaugural Igbo political summit in 2003 issued a communiqué announcing, amongst other things, the creation of an Agenda Committee. Has this committee completed its task? If so, what are its recommendations for building an Igbo consensus?

Dr. Okenwa Nwosu is the Chairman of this committee. He is working tirelessly for the Igbo cause in midst of his busy medical practice. He will unveil some components this agenda in May. If anyone has information, he/her should forward the information to Dr. Nwosu.

Some feel that PNF USA was primarily created to provide direct competition to World Igbo Congress (WIC). Why do you feel that there is need in the Igbo Diaspora for multiple major pan-Igbo organizations instead of a single unifying umbrella group?

PNF USA is the only Igbo organization in the Diaspora chartered as a political organization. WIC is a socio-cultural and not a political organization. As a result, there is no competition. Remember that most members of PNF USA are indirect members of WIC through their local organizations. We are open to work collaboratively with WIC to accomplish the Igbo agenda. Our overriding interest should be Igbo cause. That should be the single most important factor that would unify all of us.

There is overwhelming popular criticism about indolence of WIC leadership, particularly in addressing pressing matters that are of great concern to Ndiigbo. How do you assess the roles of Ohanaeze and WIC in ongoing political crisis in Anambra state?

Anambra crisis is a mesh of politics and criminality. A non-political organization will not be equipped to deal with the situation. From a social point, the crisis is a menace. But from political and legal points, it is lethal. It requires both legal and political remedies to get a lasting solution. None of the organizations could offer that. However, there is role for each of these organizations in our quest to enhance Igbo economic and political capacity. There is a role for our elders to place in this quest. PNF USA spoke very vociferously on the issue and laid blames where they should be.

Majority of Igbo groups appear to support the Igbo presidency project in Nigeria’s 2007 general elections. What specific role shall PNF USA play to ensure realization of this objective?

The agitation for the Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is real! Based on the scheme of things on the ground, coupled with efforts to level the playing field, it is feasible to have a Nigerian president of Igbo ethnic extraction. If every ethnic group should focus on the quality of the candidates, the Igbo have a repertoire of highly qualified candidates in both Nigeria and in the Diaspora. That is why Ndiigbo are assembling in Dallas, Texas on May 6, 7, & 8, 2005 to discuss the project. The generality of Igbo elite, intelligentsia and electorate are resolved and committed to 2007 project.

PNF USA will shortlist the names of qualified candidates. At a point, we will narrow the list to only two-three names. As soon as a candidate is selected, we will unleash all machineries to get that person elected. It is going to require hard work and sustained commitment.

Why do you feel that Ohanaeze Ndiigbo has what it takes to deliver on the promise of producing Nigeria’s next president from Alaigbo in 2007 when the apex group failed to deliver on same pledge in 2003?

The apex organization is apolitical. The President General, Professor Joe Irukwu said at the WIC convention in New Jersey last year that Ohanaeze is not a political organization. As a result, the organization is handicapped from proffering political solutions to issues of that magnitude. It is left for us to come up with a consensus candidate and have Ohanaeze to come up with social sanctions.As you can see, it appears that Ohanaeze does not have the tools to deliver this good. Ohanaeze has a role as it relates to other tribal apex organizations like Arewa, Oodua Peoples Congress, and others. Getting these apex socio-cultural organizations to agree to the quest is something Ohanaeze can do better than any other organization.

Do you have any partisan sympathies in the context of Nigerian politics? Are you comfortable with Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) dominance throughout the Southeast?

I’am a member of PDP, but I do not subscribe to the activities of some individual members. The constitution of the party is clear on what its activities should be. PNF USA that I lead is independent of political parties. I do believe that in Nigerian politics, where parties are devoid of ideological principles, one has to hold on to his/her valued principles to maintain his/her sanity.

Comfort is a relative term. However, if true elections were conducted, PDP would not have dominant in the Southeast. This is an opportunity for the party to show the masses that it cares. The party should be reminded that whatever has a beginning will ultimately have an end.

Lack of regional solidarity is the Achilles heel of Ndiigbo in Nigeria’s political equation. What must Ndiigbo do to overcome this major handicap?

That is part of the work PNF USA is embarking on. The 2005 Conference is a start and we are very hopeful.

PNF USA and other pan-Igbo groups are strong advocates for economic empowerment of Ndiigbo. Could you elaborate on substantive results from this advocacy so far within the US Igbo Diaspora?

It takes time to educate. If it were easy, we would not have organizations such as PNF USA. We are optimistic!

Is it necessary to seek political empowerment for US Diaspora Igbo, for example, just as we clamor for ascendancy of home-based Igbo political elite?

It is very important that we participate in the political process here in the US to the extent of penetrating into mainstream American politics and economy. That would enhance our political leverage at home. The advocacy for political empowerment in Nigeria is meant for the underprivileged who are suffering immensely and not necessarily for the elite some of who could be swimming in ill-gotten money.

Ejike Okpa II, an Igbo American mayoral candidate for city of Dallas, came 3rd out of a field of 5 candidates in last contest for the City Hall. How would you characterize Igbo support for that electoral contest?

We failed as a people for lack of enthusiastic support for Mr. Ejike Okpa when he ran for the Mayor of Dallas. We’ve learned from that experience. We did not have a cohesive and coordinated organization for that campaign. We did not maximize our resources for a maximum impact. In any case, I commend Ejike for the courage to embark on that bold venture. His attempt was a good thing for Ndiigbo and Nigeria as a whole. It shows that the door is open for us here too.

Movement for Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) seeks self-governance for Ndiigbo. How much assistance has PNF USA and other pan-Igbo groups offered so far toward its goal?

Most of our members do not subscribe to sovereign Biafra, we believe in one Nigeria that is united, equitable, and fair to all.

No one appears to be willing or capable of alleviating the misery of handicapped Biafran war veterans since end of the Civil War. Why is this? What can be done by Igbo groups like yours to assist them?

I believe that the Southeastern states have a role to play here. They should include veterans’ affairs in their budgets. They should also lobby for federal funding for these veterans through the members of the National Assembly.

You write regularly for Champion newspapers. What motivates you to give so much of your valuable time for this service; or you in the newspaper’s payroll?

God gives us different gifts to use to uplift others. I am blessed that I am doing my best with a supportive family.

Are you satisfied with current representation of Igbo interests in the Nigerian mass media? What can Igbo Diaspora do to enhance the status quo?

What we have now is better than what we had 20 years ago. We still need media outlets for our local markets. I would like to see new Igbo owners of media houses to publish Igbo language versions. It will go a long way in educating the people in the rural areas.

The yahoogroups e-list that you own, Igbo Forum, has become the dominant arena for discussion of Igbo affairs. Are original goals for founding this forum being fulfilled? What word do you have for other Internet forum owners who censor participants whose ideas they find offensive?

I am happy that Igbo Forum e-group is functioning. Subscribers are joining every day and that speaks well of the group. Censorship should be discouraged as much as possible. Truly, freedom of speech is a wide-open arena and one must have thick skin as a moderator to stomach the garbage that runs through from time to time.

Onitsha and Aba are key economic nerve centers of Alaigbo. Dilapidated infrastructure and unsanitary surroundings stifle socioeconomic advancement and livelihood of their residents. How do we begin to address these serious issues without further delay?

We will start with individual responsibility. People are responsible for keeping their environment clean. We have to educate the residents on the importance of keeping their environment clean. We cannot always depend on the government to do what we can do by ourselves.

Alaigbo is being devastated by combined menace of gully and floodwater erosion. What can the average Igbo do to help himself since the government is unwilling or incapable of tackling this matter?

The problems of erosion and other ecological devastation is humongous for individuals other than the government to handle. It is pertinent to form partnership with the government and international agencies to start addressing these problems. It is pathetic that the government has allowed the problem to worsen.

Individuals should start taking some corrective measures to check erosion by adjusting farming methods.

Some marvel at how you manage to attend to all your many tasks while maintaining a full-time regular employment. What’s your regular job description?

My priority is my teaching job. I derive joy in teaching people. My job has strengthened me mentally and socio-emotionally because I constantly learn how to do my job better. I have been able to do certain things well because of my ability to compartmentalize my activities. Again, commitment is a key ingredient for accomplishing tasks.

Does your spouse have political inclinations or sympathies? What takes up most of your free time?

My wife hates politics. She has learned to cope with my activities. I thank God for her. Do I have a free time? In any case, I create time to watch world news on television and read some columns in the newspapers.

Dallas/FW metropolis has ample supple of home foodstuffs. What is your favorite Igbo food?

I really do not crave for home food. I try to stay away from carbs. However, I enjoy licking “egwusi soup” with stockfish and goat meat. It tends to remind me of my mom’s home cooking. Well, my wife is equal to the task, too.

Many see you as someone with a bright political future, either here in the US or in Nigeria. Do you hope to take a plunge and if so, how soon?

Thank you so much for the compliments. I’m really flattered… Well, my actions are guided and directed by God Almighty. I owe everything to God and I trust Him to show me the way to serve my people. It is all about service.

Thanks you for sharing this valuable time with our guests.

Osondu
The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo

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