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World Igbo Congress 2016: Obiano challenges Igbos in Diaspora to think home

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By KINGSLEY EZEKWELU 
 
The Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, has challenged all Igbos in the Diaspora on taking development and expertise back to their homeland.
In his keynote address at the just concluded 22nd edition of the World Igbo Congress (WIC) in New York, United States of America (USA), the Governor minced no words in declaring that, “Igbo land can be Great Again!” adding: “that’s with a collective resolve to change drastically the way we do things.”
The governor remarked that “the Igbo spirit is indestructible and can never die, hence, “must be rediscovered in the interest of our people and future generations coming after us.”
He commended the conveners of the meeting for their doggedness which has resulted in the recent admission of the World Igbo Congress into the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Paying tribute to great leaders of Igbo nation, Obiano stated: “I stand in the shadows of the great Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the venerable Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and so many other icons of the Igbo nation that have shaped conversations in this gathering in the past.” 
“My predecessors, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Dr. Chris Ngige and Chief Peter Obi, attended the WIC meetings, showing how seriously the government and people of Anambra State have always taken issues concerning Ndigbo,” Obiano added.
The governor further eulogised the conveners of the Congress for showing a great deal of foresight in the choice of the theme for this year -. “Kanyi mezie Alaigbo”, which he said strongly resonates with “efforts in the past two years to rebuild Anambra State. “I am happy to realize that the concerns of the 2016 Annual Congress are exactly our concerns in Anambra State,” he said.
Obiano noted the conference themes like “protecting our homestead”, “stopping the conversion of our home into a ‘conquered territory”’ and preserving our heritage,” are part of what his administration in Anambra State took a step further to show concerns about “preserving our collective memory.”
He expressed happiness that since the inauguration of the World Igbo Congress in Houston 22 years ago, Ndigbo have gradually been waking up to the imperatives of unity and brotherhood in what he saw as “a raging sea of bigotry and threatening territorial expansionism. 
Obiano emphasised that it is indeed a great achievement and a thing of pride to every Igbo man and woman, saying: “in the years ahead, our struggle for a place on God’s green earth will be even more demanding. So, we need more strategic approaches like this one for the survival of Ndigbo into the next millennium.”
He highlighted: “… Whenever I contemplate the place of the Igbo in our fast changing world, my pride in the Igbo nation is rekindled; whenever I remember the scientific and technological exploits that shook the world from 1967 to 1970, my heart glows with pride. And whenever I realize the enormity of Igbo contributions to modern thought and knowledge, I feel more confident in the future of our people.”
Obiano declared that the Igbo story is “a narrative in courage. A great epic that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit. The story of a people who rose vigorously from the rubble of genocide and extinction to assert their membership of the human race in the 21st century with so much brilliance, so much promise! It is a story that I am immensely proud of.”
“… Our story is awesome indeed. It stretches from what we know of the wise and rare kings of ancient Nri in Anambra State to the Aro and the Long Juju in today’s Abia State. A common thread connects it to fabled personages like King Jaja of Opobo, through Olaudah Equiano down to the Igbo Landing at Dunbar Creek in Georgia on the continental shelf of the United States of America,” the governor observed.
He, highlighted: “….we are a people who rose from the ruins of a brutal civil war to give the Secretary of State Distinguished Public Service Lecture on Geometric Reasoning and Military and Civilian Applications here in the US. We are the people who woke up from the cruel threats of extinction and genocide to produce a medical doctor who has become the first person in the world to discover and publish findings in traumatic encephalopathy in American football players.  We are the people whose creative genius flowered abroad after being rejected at home, leading to the invention of HopStop which Apple acquired for a heavy sum of money. We are those men and women whose pursuit of excellence has caught the attention of America and the rest of the world, with one of us becoming the President of the World Conference of Mechanotronics. We are smart, gifted and tough as nail. This is why the only Black person with oil blocks in the United States and United Kingdom is Igbo.”
The governor, however, decried with deep concern and sadness that all the fame of Igbo successes were mostly outside Igbo land and have little roots in their homestead. 
“I am often distraught to think that our people have learned nothing from our bitter experience of the Civil War. We take pride in building up every human settlement everywhere else but in Igbo land. South Eastern Nigeria smoulders in the scorching sun of neglect while we make a show of our success abroad,” he advocated: “What can we do as a highly gifted ethnic nation is to change our story at home? Are there global benchmarks we can learn from? What did people who were once pressed to a point of extermination in other cultures and hemispheres do to regain a respectable standing in the global community?”
He, therefore, expressed the need for things to begin to change positively, adding that this year’s meeting should go down memory lane as the take off point for the great future for Igbo people that had been on the drawing board for years.
The governor stated that Igbos are wise enough to figure things out for themselves, adding that he was merely drawing attention to what they may not have considered. “And that is the heart and soul of what has inspired my team and myself in Anambra State in the past two years,” he said.
Obiano narrated: “We came into governance with a melange of anxieties. We worried about security that had eluded my beloved state for four decades or more. We worried about the seeming disinterest of our people in agriculture even when our soil is 100 per cent arable. We worried about the relocation of the famous Anambra enterprise outside our state and we worried about building bridges of understanding and consensus between the government and Anambra’s numerous accomplished people in order to foster progress.”
“We have also placed Anambra on Nigeria’s agricultural map but, perhaps, more importantly, we have recorded quite some progress in bringing Anambra’s big sons and daughters together on the table of brotherhood. We achieved this through the highly successful Interactive Evenings we have had with Anambra communities in Lagos and Abuja and of course, in Awka. We are planning to reach out more. We may hold a US edition very soon. We are doing this because we understand the value of collaborative partnership or what Oby Ezekwesili calls “crowd sourcing” in building a prosperous society. We achieve development goals faster when we work together as one,” he disclosed.
The governor further revealed that it was this same thinking that made him and his team convene a Regional Security Conference in August 2015 that attracted Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and of course Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
He explained that this was done because they realised that Anambra cannot experience sustainable growth without the complementary efforts of the sister states in the South East and Delta. “We believe that Igbo land will be a better homeland for all of us if Anambra’s promising story becomes the story of the entire region,” he said.
Obiano stated that excellence in Anambra State will be incomplete if the South East region fails to rise to the call of history in this generation. “So, we must all stand tall to regain the foothold we have lost in human development indices in Igboland. The time to do that is NOW” he declared.
The governor maintained that “Igbo land needs urgent help at the moment.”
He encouraged the state governments to embrace agriculture with full intensity.
Obiano also urged the South East governors to come together to build a rail lines that would connect the entire region to the rest of the country, as that would facilitate trade and commerce in the region and stimulate the regional economy.
He also want Ndigbo in the Diaspora to come up with a strong Economic Response Package that will stimulate more investments in Agro-allied industries in the South East to feed the people, create jobs and create wealth by exporting the surplus like Anambra State is currently doing.
Obiano further disclosed that over 60 per cent of the investors who have moved into Anambra State in the past two years are Ndi Anambra. He therefore expects other South Eastern states to borrow a leaf in this regard.
Obiano called for increased cooperation among the South Eastern states in crucial areas like security, power generation and supply, including roads and bridges. This, he noted, is with a view to strengthening social and economic ties and open up new windows of growth in the region.
He called on the Congress to set up a Special Committee that will work in collaboration with the South East Governors to draw up a Marshall Plan for the economic survival of the South East and Delta states.

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