Opinions

Uche Okwukwu: Defence Chief, Irabor and Igbo origin controversy

On 26th January President Muhammadu Buhari appointed four new service chiefs for the Nigerian Armed Forces. They are Major-General Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A. Z. Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O. Amao, Chief of Air Staff.

Surprisingly enough the discredited former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, chided President Buhari for not appointing an Igbo man as one of his service chiefs. He said, “Gen Buhari, thanks for making us in Igboland feel, once more, that we are not fit to head any of the security services.” His utterance varies from the overwhelming goodwill in Igboland towards Buhari for appointing an Igbo his Chief of Defence Staff.

But Ndigbo stand with Engr Chidi Ibeh, MFR, incumbent President General of Ohanaeze, for doing the right thing. Engr Ibeh spoke the mind of Ndigbo when he said, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo lauds President Buhari for the appointment of Maj Gen Leo Irabor, a Delta Igbo as Chief of Defense Staff.”

General Lucky Eluonye Onyenuchea (LEO) Irabor, born 5th October 1965 at Aliokpu Agbor, Ika South Local Government Area, LGA, of Delta State, is Ika Igbo; just like I am an Ikwerre Igbo. Nwodo is an Nsukka Igbo. All Igbos are Igbos without discrimination. The Ika are found in present day Delta State where you have other Igbos like the Kwale, Ndokwa, Oshimili and Aniocha collectively called the Anioma or Bia group. Their neighbours, namely, the Benin, Urhobo, Essan, etc, identify them as Igbos. So I don’t know where the likes of Nwodo draw their inspiration from.

Nwodo claims his name is “Nnia.” But does he know that 80 percent of Igbos do not know that “Nnia” means father? Ikwerre people call father “Nna” or “Ndah.” The whole Imo, Abia, Anambra and Delta States also call father “Nna.” I don’t know why Nwodo thinks his own dialect of Igbo is superior to that of Anioma or Ikwerre group.

Not a single Igbo can tell you the meaning of “Igariwey,” surname of former President General of Ohanaeze. Is “Torti” no longer an authentic Igbo name? It is. So it is okay if some Igbos do not know the meaning of “Irabor.”

Nwodo will Destroy Igbo

My genuine fear is that Nwodo is working for some external interests as he sees nothing good in another Igbo man except himself. I have said it that he is on the fast lane to destroy Ndigbo. If we don’t quickly come together and oppose him, his seed of discord will do us a great harm. Now that we desire a united Igbo for our immediate future interests, he alienates frontline Igbos outside the South East.

Nwodo is indicted for monumental corruption by no other person than the immediate past National Legal Adviser of Ohanaeze, Chief (Ichie) Chuks Muoma, the Ochiagha Oraifite. It is important to state for record purposes that since the inception of Ohanaeze we have never produced a better National Legal Adviser. Chief Muoma is a British trained lawyer called to Bar 50 years ago and for decades a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.

Chief Muoma played significant role in cutting the teeth of hundreds of Igbo lawyers. He also ensured that a lot of them were elevated to the rank of SAN. I can attest to the quality of his character and intellect because I knew him before becoming a member of the Ohanaeze executive. He has a chamber along Okija Street in Diobu, Port Harcourt. A man of few words, the entire Igbo listen to him. He indicted Nwodo for corruption; not verbally but in writing.

The eminent Muoma challenged Nwodo to account for the Fifty Billion Naira (N50, 000 000 000) civil war compensatory damages awarded Ndigbo by the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Abuja, in the case of Vincent Agu & 19 others Vs The Federal Republic of Nigeria. Furthermore, he made it clear that Nwodo opened domiciliary accounts overseas not disclosed to Ndigbo. The accounts of Ohanaeze were also not audited the four years that Nwodo was President General.

Today, instead of answering to these damning charges Nwodo is gallivanting and playing to the gallery. He claims to speak for an amorphous Southern and Middle Belt Forum. The question is, who gave him the mandate? Can a discredited character speak for Ndigbo? How can he be taken seriously in the comity of nations when he has failed to clear his name at home?

Ndigbo Grateful to Buhari

We are eternally grateful to President Buhari for appointing an Igbo man, General Irabor, as Chief of Defence Staff. Ndigbo can never be more thankful at any other time. We are aware we never voted for Buhari. He never won election in any of the seven Igbo speaking states. Nevertheless, he takes practical steps to give choice positions in his government to our sons and daughters.

Under Buhari we head the Central Bank the second time. Godwin Emefile, Governor of Central Bank, will be heading the central Bank for ten years. Nobody in the history of Nigeria has headed the apex bank that long. Buhari is also rapidly building the second Niger Bridge. He is rehabilitating the Enugu-Port Harcourt and Enugu-Onitsha express ways. The Port Harcourt International Airport in Ikwerreland in Igboland and Akanu Ibiam International Airport also in Igboland are all being upgraded.

Nwodo’s Hatred for Buhari

I know why the wide-mouthed Nwodo is angry with Buhari. Nwodo has nothing to offer politically. He was rejected in 2003 as a running mate by Buhari, who preferred the late Oyi of Oyi, Dr Chuba Okadigbo. Since then he has chosen the path of dishonour attacking without restrain a man who has done him no harm. Nwodo is neither a leader nor hero nor patriot nor nationalist. If he thinks he’s popular he should test himself at the polls in 2023. He can contest for the office of the President of Nigeria; but one thing I can assure you is that he’s going to fail even in his own village of Ukehe.

The people of Ukehe repeatedly informed me that they were disappointed in him. That Nwodo did abnormal things they feared in the next fifty years would make Ndigbo hate anyone from their town. He abused office and a sacred position of trust. There’s this Igbo adage that when one finger smears itself with oil it also soils the other fingers. Ukehe people are worried about the Nwodo excesses.

I thank the leadership of Ukehe for ostracising Nwodo. The decision to ostracise him was in response to the damning allegations of fraud and maladministration levelled against him by Ohanaeze. I urge Nsukka people to also ostracise him as person non-grata in Igboland.

Nwodo is the greatest enemy of Ndigbo. He took all practical steps to undermine Ndigbo by casting President Buhari in bad light. In 2018, Nwodo played an abominable role in denying Ndigbo a sixth Aba State in the South East. I know that in the appropriate time, God Almighty, the Chukwu Abiama, our ancestors and the spirits of Igboland will certainly visit Nwodo with the required punishment fit for a man who took steps to destroy his people.

President Buhari must not be distracted by unhappy elements. On the contrary, he should kindly take further steps to accommodate our people more in his government. Ndigbo are thankful whenever we receive a favour from anyone. At the appropriate time, we shall build a Hall of Fame to honour President Buhari for his great and kind gesture appointing the Igbo-born General Irabor.

We urge General Irabor not to be distracted in his duties. He should discharge them with the fear of God and respect for humanity. Bearing his Igbo roots in mind, he should take steps, in strict adherence to the principles of justice, equity and fairness, to accommodate Ndigbo. We urge him to do what is right to all manners of people without regard to their language, tribe, gender or colour. We wish him the very best.

Conclusion

There are unfounded rumours allegedly peddled by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, that General Irabor was a Muslim, But Ndigbo must ignore IPOB, just as I urged my brother, Governor Nyesom Wike, to ignore it. In a sensitive matter of this nature IPOB should speak with caution. It wants secession, let it occupy itself with that and leave people’s careers alone.

IPOB is ignorant having not read the Holy Koran or the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Mohammed, May the Blessings of Allah be Upon Him. The Holy Koran, as revealed to Prophet Mohammed in the Cave of Light some 1500 years ago, clearly states that Islam is a religion of peace. As an Elele man, my people have lived peacefully with Muslims for about 150 years. There are good and bad Muslims; just like good and bad Christians.

Assuming without conceding that General Irabor was Muslim, he has the right to freedom of worship. As long as what you practice is not offensive to the law, you have the right to practice it. What is important is our collective prayer to God to strengthen him to discharge the duties of his office. He needs inner courage to fight terror in all its ramifications. Terrorism has brought Nigeria under very bad light globally; leading to poverty, food insecurity and deaths.

We pray to God to help General Irabor and the other newly appointed service chiefs. We thank President Buhari for appointing all of them. They are all men of honour and upright characters as it is not easy to attain the rank of general in a complex configuration like Nigeria. Anyone who passes the integrity and rigorous military tests to be so appointed is not only a deep person but serious minded. We congratulate all of them.

Dimm Okwukwu is Deputy President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.

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