By Emeka Mamah
ENUGU——The Town Hall Meeting organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture at Nike Hotel Resort, Enugu, enultimate Monday, must have been an eye opener to the organisers on the position of Ndigbo on some national issues, including “the new National Prayer, restructuring of the country, marginalisation and alleged politics of exclusion by President Muhammadu Buhari,” among others.
The meeting was attended by traditional rulers and top government functionaries who remained standing in the crowded tent for hours due to inadequate number of seats. The first contentious issue during the meeting bordered on the “National Prayer,” aimed at reducing the time spent on prayers during national events.
The Master of Ceremony had kick-started the occasion after brief introductions by the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, by asking the crowd including the governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi and his deputy, Cecilia Ezeilo, deputy governors of Anambra, Abia and Ebonyi States; the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and five other ministers including that of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, Chief Audu Ogbe (Agriculture), Prof Isaac Adebowale (Health) and Mr Geoffrey Onyeama (Foreign Affairs), among other high ranking officials, to recite the national prayer after him.
After most of the attendees had “parroted” the national prayer and the occasion began, the proceedings were interrupted once again following objections by some religious leaders who insisted that proper Christian prayers must be conducted if they must be present.
The Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev Emmanuel Chukwuma who said the second prayer, implored God to assist Ndigbo in their current economic and political tribulations, occasioned by alleged marginalisation and exclusion from top political positions in the country.
Chukwuma described the national prayer as unacceptable to Ndigbo, who he said were deeply religious. He prayed God to direct the ministers present on the occasion to be truthful in their defence of the Buhari administration by telling the people nothing but the truth.
In their contributions, the former Information Minister, Chief Nnia Nwodo Chukwu and Igwe Chris Ogakwu of Udi Ancient Kingdom, accused the administration of discrimination against Ndigbo in appointments into positions of relevance in the country.
Reacting to the allegations by the three people, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, faced a herculean task trying to convince the people that all the political office holders, especially governors, were also, guilty of nepotism.
Ngige tried to rationalise the appointment of key officers of the Federal Government from a section of the country, saying, “Since the bishop prayed that we shall speak the truth, let us tell ourselves the truth.
“Everybody knows that just like the farmer who after harvesting his yams in the farm would roast some for those who accompanied him to harvest them before sharing the rest to others, more appointments would be made to address areas of perceived injustice.”
He was however, interrupted when the crowd began to murmur in disapproval. He continued, “Our people should not wallow in self-pity. Ndigbo are not playing second fiddle. We should put on our thinking caps and plan.” Nwodo had said that available records showed that Igbo had over half of the property in Abuja, Lagos and parts of the country adding that they would not have been interested in agitating for Biafra if not for marginalisation by the Federal Government.
But, Ngige regretted that “If our youths had acquired skills, they would be self-employed and shunned Boko Haram, IPOB and Avengers.” According to him, there were no more white collar jobs but blue collar ones and urged the people to discard the idea of their “persecution syndrome,” as the Buhari-led government was not marginalising any section of the country.
Minister of Agriculture, Chief Ogbeh, had also said that the era when herdsmen moved about destroying people’s farmlands would soon be over as all cattle would be confined to ranches. He said the government would not be inviting people to go into agriculture, only for some cattle to go and eat such crops, adding that already, the military had set up a committee headed by General Edward Nze, to stop herdsmen from moving about with AK47 rifles to kill farmers or other Nigerians.
“Killing of Nigerians has to stop. Very soon, no cow will be allowed to roam around but confined in ranches…,” he said.