Solomon Ogbonna Aguene is the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lagos State. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, he talks about Ndigbo speaking with one voice on the 2023 elections, empowerment, building a cordial relationship with host communities, support from Lagos State Governor, Jide Sanwo-Olu; and the challenges of uniting Igbo leaders for a better future. Excerpts
The 2023 is around the corner, what plans do you have for the presidency?
I would say that official comments on the issue of Nigeria’s presidency should be left to our National President, Professor George Obiozor. He will be working with the government and traditional rulers on the position of Ndigbo. So, whoever emerges is the person we are going to support. Some of the things we are going to look at include if the person is coming to stay for eight years or four years. The discussion will look at all tribes, irrespective of where he is coming from or which party emerges. So, the assignment has been given to our national leader by all Igbo sons and daughters. They made that decision and we must abide with that decision.
So, you are saying that Igbo’s will speak with one voice this time around?
Yes. And if it is what is going to give us the unity that we have been clamoring for, then all hands should be on deck to push it. This is because this has been the problem in the past and we have gotten a leader who has Igbo interest at heart. I must say that leadership is by the principles that you believe in. It is not just about speaking big words or grammar. It is basically about the interest that you have for your people, as well as your personal beliefs. So, whatever he says will be the decision of the people.
Are you very close to him?
Yes. When I won the election in 2018 as the President of Ndigbo Lagos State, Professor Obiozor and Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe were in the frontline. They accompanied me to visit the Oba of Lagos as a key stakeholder on one of the key points for my leadership. This was to reconcile Ndigbo and the host community in Lagos State. This is important, especially when you do a flashback to the 2015 election and some of the incisive words that were credited to the Oba of Lagos. So, that visit brought a lot of progress between us and our host community.
I know him very well; he doesn’t talk much but he carries everyone along. He is a man of the people; he doesn’t segregate at all. So, he is the right man and he is capable.
What are some of the achievements you have recorded during your tenure?
The first achievement was that immediately I won the election; before I was inaugurated, I gave the organisation a Secretariat in Lagos.
One other thing that I was passionate about was uniting our leaders. There was no unity among the traditional rulers here for about 21 years. So, I had to bring them together and appoint Eze Ndigbo General in Lagos; that is Goddy Ohazulike. I now set up a council of Eze’s proper and we appointed a Chairman of Eze’s in Council in Lagos with other executives.
During the campaign of Governor Sanwoolu, we used the platform to bring all the Ezes in Lagos together which culminated in the hosting of the governor. We also gave him a chieftaincy title during his campaign. It was after I united Ndi Eze that we were able to give Governor Sanwoolu the title of Ugo Chinyere Eze of Ndigbo.
What does this mean?
The biggest bird, Eagle, that has no enemy. It can live anywhere. It can fly, stay on the ground. So, that title means a lot to Ndigbo and whoever they give the title to. So, that unity I brought to the traditional rulers is what inspired the title they gave to Sanwo-olu. Also, I was the first Ohanaeze chairman to set up the elders’ council that would be looking into what is happening to Ohanaeze, especially when we have disputes; they would come in as elders to make sure that things are in order. After that, I brought our industrious sons into Ohanaeze community because they saw Ohanaeze members as jobless people.
So, we tried to make Ohanaeze what it was supposed to be. Today, every other Igbo association is under Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
How would you assess the Lagos State Governor?
He has never disappointed us. I am so proud and happy that we gave him all our support. To make it good, we should continue to support him because he has shown that arm of friendship to Ndigbo; that we are one irrespective of tribe. As far as you are in Lagos, you are a Lagosian and that is what Sanwoolu knows. He does not want to know where you come from. There may be some acts that may come from advisers which is normal but talking to him as a person, I can tell you that he is a real born again Christian. He consults God in everything, especially the way he handled #EndSars.
Talking about EndSars, our youths are agitated, what advise do you have for them?
Yes, even the governor has told them that the patient dog eats the fattest bone. Remember that Rome was not built in a day. You cannot destroy a house today and build it again the same day. So, they are working underground to make sure that the youths, who are the
pride of every nation, are taken care of; to make sure that we don’t have youths as jobless graduates. He is doing very well.
Let’s talk about the Southeast security challenge that is ongoing?
There are people who should be held responsible for not doing their jobs. If they are doing it; we have community police, community vigilante and others. So, it is important to hold the people who are in charge of security responsible for the damage. The Chief of Staff,
Inspector General of Police and leaders in the security network should put the necessary things in place, scrutinise those who are doing things that are suspicious.
Source: The Nation