Few days from now sons and daughters of Igbo extraction from across the globe will be converging in Owerri, the Imo state capital to elect a new President to take over from Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the outgoing President of Ohaneze Ndigbo as his tenure ends.
GoldenNewsNg gathered that One of the contestants to the apex socio-cultural position and a Security Expert, Dr. Valentine Iheukwumere Oparaocha in this interview with Golden News Online said he joined the race with the agenda including; liberating the Igbo man from years of socio-political and economic bondage, the 2023 agenda, deprivation, discrimination and a common voice for his people. Oparaocha said his coming on board will also mark an end to the tradition of merely allowing people with little or no knowledge of what the Igbo man plying their trade across the globe stands for to lead the organisation because they have never witnessed or feel the pains of the Igbo man in the Nigerian context.
Q: Can we meet you sir?
A: I am Dr. Valentine Iheukwumere Oparaocha (Ochudo Ndigbo), a retired Intelligence Officer of the Directorate of State Security Services, a Public Administrator and a Theologian.
Q: You are aspiring to be the next President of Ohaneze Ndigbo in the forthcoming election bidded for 10th January, 2021. Do you think you have what it takes to lead the apex Igbo body considering your age as many people believe that the position is meant for only the grey haired, experience and other variables which may count against you compared to your opponents?
A: Well, I don’t know what you mean by ‘the grey haired’, what I do know is that I am eminently qualified to lead ndi Igbo haven worked and retired as an intelligent officer after working in virtually all parts of this country before settling down in Niger state. Intrestingly, my Presidential candidacy has been endorsed by the Ohaneze Ndigbo in the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. And as I have always said, team spirit is the key word to achieving whatever we wanted as a people.
Q: What should Ndigbo be expecting from Oparaocha if voted in as the next President Ohaneze Worldwide?
A: A lot from our team, because I so much believe in team spirit. Priorities with emphasis or what I would refer to as my three points agenda; the first is to bring synergy or to build brisges of understanding among ndigbo with the Bible as my guide in Amos 3:3, to an end the erroneous impressions other tribes or people have about an Igbo man, that we can never agree or speak with one voice.
And we need to speak with one voice in 1 Corinthians 1:10. Part of the things I am going to institutionalize is an Igbo national prayer day to seek for God’s Mercy and direction for the Igbo race. Secondly, I will evolve strategies that will protect ndigbo wherever they are found doing their legitimate businesses across the world and as well ensure that my people no longer suffer like common criminals but treated like a generation of people who are hardworking, industrious and desirous to make a difference in whatever they lay their hands on.
Don’t ask me how it will be done, but I am telling you as a security expert that it is possible to protect them anywhere in the world. Thirdly, I don’t need to beg any body to address issues concerning ndigbo anywhere because there are trade crafts that we can apply to situations from the point of law at national and international levels to protect my people when the need arise.
Q: One of the greatest problems in Nigerian politics is Godfatherism; are we expecting an Ohaneze that is free from conventional without any political inteferences, do you have a god-father, if not how do you intend to check such incursions?
A: It is possible to end god-fatherism. Some people had it and it worked for them but I, Valentine Oparaocha do not have a Godfather and can tell you, nobody will like to be my Godfather and I don’t have any but God, who created me knows me and he alone orders my steps.
Q: There has been cries of marginalization of ndigbo in Nigeria which brought about the formation of some eastern blocks, including the Ohaneze, how do you intend to tackle discreminations against the Igbo man or the entire eastern region?
A: I am going to give you a brief about what brought us to where we are today as a people: after the civil war, we wanted federal character, it was given to us. Today, the same federal character we agitated for is limiting us and so fighting marginalization wouldn’t be an impossible task if elected. When we address the victim’s mentality of some ndigbo, we then just keep quiet and bring in some psychological operations to neutralize any lopsidedness. However, we must make lots of discreet efforts because we fail due to the way we talk.
Q: The IPOB thing: many are of the views that part of the present day problem of the Igbos is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) a group agitating for an independent state for the east and you must tame them or carry them along in order to succeed, how do you intend doing that?
A: I see the IPOB composition as mostly young people or youth organization that did not see the Nigerian/Biafran civil war. They’re equally being supported and sponsored. But they need to be guided. People should not die for a course they believe in except when it has become absolutely necessary and I am sure you will agree with me that it hasn’t gotten to that level yet. I never liked this Egwueke thing set up to checkmate the IPOB. That thing could have been averted and that is centered on the security of the Igbo man and where I will be displaying my skills as security expertise in protecting the Igbo and by extension the entire eastern Nigeria. Again, I prefer the later messages of IPOB over the first. Therefore, if voted in I will have meaningful discussions with the group’s leadership because they are the future leaders of our land hence needed to be mentored aright and as a matter of fact, their leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu appears to be genuine but needed to be guided to avoid further misconceptions.
Q: Many have extolled the virtues of the outgoing President, Chief Nwodo especially in managing the affairs of the Igbos in a couple of years now, many also believed that he has left ‘big shoes’ and had wondered if you can ever fit into the space, what have you to say about this?
A: Threatened or intimidated over achevements by the incumbent? Not at all, remember I told you that am coming from security background though shouldn’t be the basic criteria for the Ohaneze stool, I can always assure you and the entire Igbo race that, we will cross over when we get to the bridge and finding the ‘big shoes’ along the way.
Q: Are we also expecting the restructuring of Ohaneze with a view to making it more responsive to present day expectations/realities of the Igbos in the Nigerian context and as well having Nigeria’s next President of Igbo extraction come 2023?
A: Naturally, I will like to consolidate on the gains of my predecessors. The incumbent President, Nnia Nwodo has tried or done his best to bring us to where we are today, however, my priority if by God’s grace I emerge next Ohaneze President is to work for the emergence Nigeria’s next president of Igbo extraction in the next election. I will put everything I have into work to support candidates that will emerge from the East because there is no way we can achieve desired success from outside the nation’s seat of power; the Aso Rock and the National Assembly.
Q: How close are you with the Governors of the South-Eastern states in achieving this Igbo agenda, will you be prepared to work with them without which you cannot achieve the 2023 Igbo Presidency agenda?
A: Of course, the Governors are the custodians of our land, they were sworn-in to protect the interest of the eastern people and they almost must work within the confines of the law. If you will understand the frame work of the federal laws in which they must work in, you will agree with me that they are doing their best to protect lives and properties of easterners in their respective states. I was opportuned to listen to one of the northern states Governors crying and lamenting on the National Television aout the rate of insecurity in his state, it was so disheartening for the Governor.
Q: There has been this argument over which region should produce the next Nigerian President after Buhari between the east, west north and south, as an in-coming Ohaneze Ndigbo to be, what would be your position?
A: I believe that what good for the Geese is also good for the Gander; since Nigeria’s independent wbout 60 years ago, the north has produced Presidents of this country more than the entire south against this rotational Presidency arrangement. Again, in the south, south-west has taken more slots, followed by the south-south in the person of the immediate past President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan though he did for one term after completing his joint ticket with late President Umaru Yar’Adua, what is bad if an easterner or Igbo man in particular becomes President of this country in 2023?
Q: The IPOB came up with this, ‘Eastern Security Network’, how do you checkmate their activities to ensure their activities do not crash with conventional federal security architecture?
In all honesty and as an expert, managing the Eastern Security Network is far better than trying to break up the country or agitating for Biafra. With the kidnapping and armed banditry that is becoming an embarrassment to the Nigerian government in all fronts, the network is certainly a good development that will help security agencies neutralize some of these security situations we have and I think that is working out very well in the east. But again, they must seek legitimacy because we cannot forget in a hurry about the Onitsha and the Bakassi boys and how the frictions or clash of interests was solved. Besides that, there have been many other difficult security situations solved with the help of such well organised regional vigilante groups and I must give kudos to some of them that are doing excellently well.
Q: Is there any outstanding achievements of the incumbent President of Ohaneze that you would want to sustain or build on for the better if you emerge the next leader of the group?
A: Why not, leadership is about continuity, one of such concepts is the, Alaigbo Stabilization Fund that the Chief John Nnia Nwodo led administration actually initiated and approved and it turned out to be one of his best achievements. The best thing about this socioe-conomic manifesto, if pursued is to develop and industrialize the entire Eastern states. However, such projects in the past have always ended up betraying the confidence ndigbo reposed on the region’s leaders like the; African Continental Bank (ACB), Cooperative and Commerce Bank (CCB), Progress Bank (PB) et cetra. I assure you that we will support this new experiment if it is mainly private participation and private driven as we were told.
Q: What is going to be your other areas of focus if given the mandate?
A: Among the things I am or I will be bringing to the Ohaneze table as earlier said is to consolidate on the gains of my predisessors and build on them, but the security of ndigbo as my major priority. This is the first time somebdy from security background is aspiring for the Ohaneze seat and I promise to take to the any extreme whatever it would require to protect the lives and properties of any easterner, Igbos in particular. I asically joined the Ohaneze Presidential race because the current realities that Igbo man and his businesses are no longer secured is very much real and I want to know why it should be so. Further more, I will build bridges across all the ethnic-nationalities in the east without which there will be no peaceful coexistence in the region, the laws of this land must protect every easterner anywhere they are doing their legitimate businesses. Again, I see myself as taking the place of the youths in this contest and I will take advantage of that to bridge between he place of youths and older generations in the spirit of ‘we must co-exist’, blending elderly advice and at the same time encouraging the future generations to carry out whatever they are doing in the right perspective. We cannot do without the youths as our future, we must mentor them, at the same time we must court the elders in order to receive their fatherly/motherly blessings before they join their ancestors. You cannot allow Igbo youths to derail unchecked, we must continue to mentor them. The youths must note that I can not go on television vision and say that my children are bigger than me. I won’t allow them to be killed, as in Python dance. I will deal with them my self. We did our best not to allow Igbo youths to be misled during recent protests else they would have been given a bad name and another opportunity for the massacre of the Igbos up north during the protests and no body would have said anything. So as I said earlier, my tenure as Ohaneze President will have a working scenergy with the youths of Igbo extraction and by extension, youths from the entire eastern states to ensure they discover and put their potentials into proper use for a better and greater Nigeria, eastern region in particular.