INTERVIEW

Igbos prospered under Zik, but lost the gains under Ojukwu

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—-Dr. Paul Okoye, NIROH PG

—-Dr. Paul Okoye, NIROH PG

Dr Paul Okoye, is fast becoming the new lexis about Igbo unity, a cause he is championing through Ndi Igbo Royal Heritage, NIROH, a global consciousness amongst Igbo intellectual, religious, traditional and economic leaders. In this interview with NGOZI EMEDOLIBE, he talks about his mission to return Ndi Igbo to the path of glory.

Excerpts:

As the President General, could you explain what inspired this new mandate or consciousness called Ndi Igbo Royal Heritage, NIROH?

The present situation of Igbo nation calls for every responsible Igbo son and daughter to reason, to brainstorm, to do a critical analysis of the socio-political situation of the Igbo nation and proffer solutions. The Igbo nation is headed to the Golgotha and the ‘BLAME GAME’ of calumny cannot, in any way, ameliorate the situation; rather it would cause more devastation to our badly battered socio-economic environment. We have lost it. All the beggars in Nigeria are northerners. The gatemen and shoe-shiners are predominantly northerners. I therefore cannot understand how we have degenerated to the point of blaming ‘beggars’ for lack of ‘even’ potable water in Igbo land. Many sycophants and prophets of doom are enriching themselves from the present state of things. If northerners are our problem, who then, are the problems of the northerners? There are no thatched houses in the East, but the north is littered with thatched houses. We, Igbos are the architect of our problems and only we, the Igbos, can redirect our thing for a new and prosperous Igbo nation. I have come to heal the land. We need to change the narratives and reposition the Igbo nation to take its rightful position in Nigeria; the very leading position we enjoyed until the coup of 25th January, 1966.

Where will you situate Dr. Paul Okoye in all the historical perspectives leading to the birth of NIROH?

Well, I have said insistently that the mandate was handed down to me to continue from where Ikemba Nnewi and Onowu Igbo who received the original mandate from the gods stopped. I inherited NIROH. I am not the founder. My only contribution is that I changed the dimension and vision of NIROH.

What is your perception of the problems of the Igbo man today?

We need to take a different approach to the solutions of our problems. If the clinical history of any illness is not known, that illness cannot be cured. We must leave the blame game and address objectively the situations starring us in the face and evolve a solution. We had power before and threw it away. We can get it back with well-thought-out projects. Under Zik, we gained and prospered. Under Ojukwu, we lost what we gained with Zik. Therefore, the solution is in Zik’s approach because we do not have the numerical strength and might to follow Ojukwu’s method. Again, Ojukwu had realised that his method would not work and had reverted while he was alive. Those proposing Ojukwu’s method when Ojukwu, the initiator abandoned it, are not being honest. Zik’s method is the solution to the malady of the Igbo nation and I propose it as a curative measure. War of brain, not of power!

What factors are responsible for these problems in Igbo land?

Greed, avarice, lack of respect for the elders and constituted authority. The age grade system that instilled competition in our polity; my age grade is getting married, so I must get married. My age grade is buying cars, so I must own a car.

What solutions will you and your team bring to the table to mitigate these?

A reorientation campaign in consultation with all the key opinion moulders and protagonists of the Igbos to foster a common unity and propose a united front. We must remember that Ala-Igbo, is governed by Igbos therefore the vultures that wrecked Igbo nation should be out of the new project to give it credibility. A cultural reorientation is needed to cure the current greed and eradicate the effects of neo-colonialism and inculcate honesty, honour and integrity in our body polity.

What level of cooperation are you expecting from every Igbo man in order to achieve the solutions to these problems?

I said at Enugu that every Igbo man has a share of the blame in the present state of affairs (at least the blame of ‘sidon dey look’ and ‘I don kia’) therefore NIROH is proposing consultation to carry every son and daughter of Igbo nation along.

Which is more important for the Igbo nation in Nigeria today: An Igbo as President in 2023 or true federalism?

The campaign of Igbo presidency is a ruse. The very problem of Igbos cannot be solution of Igbo nation. Those proposing Igbo Presidency are doing that for personal aggrandisement. Just like Yerima with Islamic state. They don’t know the Igbos and the Igbos do not know them. The campaign serves them for negotiation and when they get the money they divide it in Lagos before coming back to Ala Igbo. We do not have the numerical strength. We don’t give birth. We are chasing academics and money, so we need to use what we have to get power. Intelligent people use what they have to get what they want. Democracy is a game of numbers. What NIROH is proposing is Zik’s method. It’s a war of brain, not gun. A good General does not tell his opponent his strategy. What we need to do in Nigeria is a level playing ground and Igbos will take over. What NIROH is proposing is a President with Igbo Interest at heart. Goodluck’s administration left nothing in the Igbo nation. Not even the Niger Bridge. No investment, no form of development, yet all the protagonists of that administration were Igbos. If the position were to be Igbo Presidency, we just had Goodluck and we don’t have need for another. ‘IGBO INTEREST and NOT IGBO PRESIDENT. QED’. Federalism is devolution of power. If you don’t have the right people, it is useless. We have never had Local Government election in Anambra since the civilian administration came. To federalism, NIROH is proposing a modern state. A state where law rules. A state with social security. A state with ambulance and health care system. A state where a judge can take a decision without being censored. A state where the Governor does not have immunity. A state where no Governor can remove a king. Where a President cannot remove a Chief Justice. A state with a functional telecommunication system. That is the position of NIROH.

In your opinion, is the Igbo man relating very well politically with other ethnic nationalities and how can this be improved?

The Igbo man is blaming other ethnic nationalities for his chaos instead of collaborating. This dysfunctional position of the Igbos has placed them in conflict with others. The North is the traditional ally of the East but the West in their mastery of the art has positioned themselves and making every effort to scheme the Igbos out. The solution as I said earlier is the Zik’s method and building back the bridge that Ifeajuna broke in 1966. To achieve this, we need to heal the land and NIROH is poised to achieve it.

You are putting in so much time and resources towards achieving a new Igbo consciousness, where do you draw your strength and inspiration from?

From Ofor Igbo, on which this mandate is rooted; and above all and most importantly from God, the owner of this mandate.

Let us get personal: How will you describe Dr. Paul Okoye?

An activist tested. A humanist. An objective and honest man. A veteran of many battles. A cat with nine lives. A die-hard. An author. A writer. A stranger saddled with the mandate of redemption of his people.

Give us an account of how you grew up, and how you migrated to Europe and became the leader of Nigerians resident in Italy?

My activism started at the primary school. During our final long vacation in collaboration with my good friend, Isaac Ifediora, we sold all the firewood generated from the Gmelina tree in our school. The tradition was that the firewood would be divided among all the teachers, and the pupils would be mobilised to deliver the firewood to their respective homes. When the teachers left after dividing the firewood, we diverted the firewood to Mama Ngbogo, the woman selling items in front of our school. The money was used to buy groundnuts and coke, which was share among all the pupils. That was our protest against the teachers for converting the school firewood for their interest. The students were used to cutting and drying the firewood every year and take it to the homes of the teachers. At the secondary school, my Dean of Studies, Mr Obadiegu wired the burning fire of activism already in me. When I left school, I joined the motor spare parts business and consequently the music sector. I managed and promoted artistes. My last work, ‘Africa Needs Freedom’ was produced by Jake Solo for Polygram Records, and the video was done by Charly Boy. Along the line, Wole Iyaniwora, the creative manager of Polygram, introduced and engineered another business to revamp the melody makers. Along the line, something happened. Chris Ajilo, although a junior officer but production manager of Polygram, was not carried along in all the projects and Chima Achiekwelu used him to scuttle the boat. Those were the early days of 419. I have been duped. Ndem Edem that marketing manager of Polygram, needed to introduce Makosa to the Nigerian market. He briefed me and I embarked on the project and brought the first Makosa music to Nigerian market, San Fan Thoma. However, these new found businesses could not sustain me as I was already living a very high profile life. I had to leave the shores of Africa, definitely to Europe. On arrival in Italy, blacks were worse than slaves. No house, no work, no job and no form of social recognition from the government. They were all living in the ghettos. On the 1st of August, 1990, we struck. In collaboration with Centro Pedro and forty other Nigerians, we broke the government reserved place and occupied it. Subsequently, still in the month of August, we went on the streets to demand for our rights. That was how I emerged the leader of the movement that revolutionised immigrants’ rights in Italy. As well, I was the President of Nigerians in the region. On the 22nd of November, 1992, I was sworn in as President National Union of Nigerian Citizens in Italy. That opened a multiple dimension to the battle and the rest is the subject of my upcoming book, Memoirs of the Untold Persecution (The Crime Napolitano Committed).

Tell us about your life as an author? What new initiatives do you have in line with this?

The life of an author is a solitary life. I started with writing articles that later culminated in authoring books. I have two in the market (Who is a woman and How Safe is Our Investment). Two in the publishing company (The Fall of the Giant and Only One Church Others are Ministry) and one still in my computer (Memoirs of the Untold Persecution).

What aspects of European culture do you think the Igbo man needs to adopt to improve his lot?

Their industrious nature and hard work.

How are you streamlining your activities with those of Ndi Igbo in the Diaspora, recognising they are critical in this consciousness?

We already have chapters in all the strategic countries where Igbos have significant presence

You have been leading NIROH to meet several prominent Igbo leaders and personalities, could you describe what their responses have been towards this new mandate?

It has been overwhelming. It looks like they have found the missing link.

What assurances are you giving to Ndi Igbo about you and NIROH in 2021?

NIROH will heal the land and reposition Igbos to take their rightful position in Nigeria and the world at large. It’s no more business as usual. We can’t afford to be a failed state. The destiny of Nigeria is in the hand of Igbo man, the destiny of Africa is the hand of Nigeria and the destiny of black race is in the hand of Africa. This is a tall order, but we are taking the piecemeal approach. The battle is of the brain and no warrior reveals his strategy to the opposing side. What the Igbos need in Nigeria is a level playing ground and its realisation is feasible. We must adopt the mercantile policy and do what the Asian Tigers did. A new prosperous Igbo Nation is possible God is on our side. Thanks for your time!