HRM Eze Dr. Oliver Ohanwe, is a phenomenal elder statesman better known as a crusader for positive generational change, in this interview with EVEREST EZIHE, in Owerri, he gave insights on why he was the architect for the justly adopted and legislated Imo Charter of Equity, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State second tenure ambition and his age long vision for fuel subsidy removal among other critical national issues. It’s a must read.
Your Imperial Majesty may you introduce yourself self to our reading public ?
I am His Royal Highness Eze Dr. Oliver Ohanwe, the Obi Gburu Gburu of Igboland and the traditional ruler of Ihim Isiama autonomous community in Okigwe Senatorial zone of Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria. The Chairman Governing Council of Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu College of Education, Isinweke, Ihitte Uboma. The Chairman Okigwe Elders Global Forum, member Imo State Elders Council among others .
Your Highness, talking about your membership of Imo Elders Council, there is an article written by one, Mr. Kennedy Eweama published in Announcer Express and African Hearld Newspapers of July 2023 crediting you as the arrowhead who moved the motion for establishment of documented Imo Charter of Equity, how true is this ? If true, what was your driving vision?
Truely, I moved the motion in one of our quarterly meetings. As a reverred traditional ruler who has been actively around and deeply involved in what is happening within and around my environment. I have noticed that elections in the State has become unnecessarily expensive, instigating crises and unwarranted disunity, fractionalizing the polity and the environment. As a Royal Father, I feel worried over these incidents and I have been divinely driven that to ensure political equity, fairness and natural Justice among the political leaders,the Senatorial zones and all sectors of the interest groups, it’s then pertinent and proper to define power and its sharing formula. Thus, peace will be restored, too much money will not be spend in electioneering campaigns and the political environment will no longer be unjustly heated up. Be it known to you, that the essence of constituting the Elders Council in any society is to be proactive in ensuring peace, political stability and sanity, peaceful co-existence etc. Thank God, Imo State Elders Council is being Lead by a first class traditional ruler, a Pro -Chancellor of a Federal University, HRM Eze Dr Cletus Ilomuanya, the Obi of Obinugwu ancient kingdom. He’s really a tested and trusted administrator, having been one time Chairman Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, South East Council of Traditional Rulers, Eastern Nigeria Council of Traditional Rulers among others.
Recently, in Enugu during an inaugural memory lecture of late Senator Anyim Udeh, well meaning Nigerians canvassed for the domestication of Imo Charter of Equity initiative to the entire 5 States of the South East region, are you comfortable with such implementation ?
Why not ! I will be so glad because it’s a policy that protects both the weak and the strong. Am sure also that Governor Hope Uzodimma, will be pleased. It’s his administration’s humane initiative of reducing rancour and acrimony within the polity and the gladiators. There will be political and security sanity within the polity. South East, just like Imo State will be a reference point.
Sir, what of if the credit doesn’t go to you as the Geese that laid the golden egg ?
You know as a famous traditional ruler, am not a politician but am interested in generational positive changes. Am highly committed to peace, security and stability in the states, region and Nigeria at large. As an elder statesman, it’s our duty to ensure we laid a solid foundation for the incoming generation. To me, it doesn’t matter whether my inputs were recognized or not, what is paramount is laying solid foundations for the peaceful growth of our children and children’s children. I will be glad if the South East Governor’s should adopt this imperative vision so as to jettison unnecessary political bickerings and wranglings. I will dearly cherish it, because am always a vanguard when it comes to what will benefit the present as well as the coming generations. It’s a historical fact that as elders, we have an obligation to lay solid foundations for the growth and development of further generations.
AS A FOLLOW UP TO THIS, SIR SOMETHING SURPRISINGLY HAPPENED ON THE 4TH OF JANUARY THIS YEAR DURING IMO STATE STAKEHOLDERS MEETING, YOU WHERE EQUIVOCAL IN MOVING A MOTION FOR THE ADOPTION OF GOVERNOR HOPE UZODIMMA FOR SECOND TENURE, ARGUING THAT THE ESSENCE OF GOOD WORK IS MORE WORK, WHAT ACTUALLY MOTIVATED YOU ?
My son, you can recall o o o o !!!!. As an elder statesman, I have seen so many administrations come and go, every one has it stories to tell, but the Shared Prosperity administration of Senator Uzodimma has shown Imo people that there are differences between June and July. The administration’s giant strides is like pregnancy, you can not cover. Infrastructural development is unprecedented, human capacity building is overwhelming. He has practicalized compassion in governance. He’s running an inclusive administration. My brother, it’s not sycophancy to appreciate the truth. You remember, once I made the statement and moved the motion, it was like a thunderbolt every body hailed it. Igbos have an adage that says “ihe agba na aka anaghi eji enyo ele ya”( literally meaning you don’t need mirror to look at what you are wearing on the hand). I have seen integrity in governance. I have seen accelerated performances in all the sectors of governance. Even the blind feels the performances of this youthful but visionary leader. You can see, since then there have been endorsement galore from every group. Am happy to be the man that saw tomorrow. Do you remember that the Governor took over the mantle of leadership of Imo State without any hand over note from his immediate predecessor, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha ? Yet, he has been able to over come the tides. He was not interested in excuses. He was not looking for blame games. He was focused and determined to salvage the Eastern Heartland State and that he’s doing. Am at home with his administration and leadership. As a financial expert, I can attest to you that all his infrastructural developmental projects are built to last. Look at the quality of roads he has built, is any one China road ? You think people are not happy over his prudence in financial management of the state funds ? Are you not impressed with the kind of reformation in the State civil service? Is he not taking care of Ndi Eze and PGs ( President Generals of the 655 autonomous communities) . Yes, you can talk of insecurities in the State, which I know it’s a national issue and Imo State own, is obviously been orchestrated by opposition political opponents, even at that the Governor is not happy over that and he’s investing heavily to checkmate the hoodlums, unknown gunmen, kidnappers, assassins among other heinous crime perpetrators. Uzodimma have made landmarks progress in Imo State and deserves the encouragement of Dick and Tom. He’s not a selfish leader as we have witnessed in the past but rather he is patriotic. Certainly, I have every conviction that his second tenure which is constitutional will place Imo in front burner in terms of development and transformation.
YOUR MAJESTY AS A JOURNALIST, AM FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE YOU, FIRST YOU ARE A PACESETTER WHEN IT COMES TO ADOPTION OF IMO CHARTER OF EQUITY, YOU ARE EQUALLY A PACESETTER IN MOVING A MOTION FOR SENATOR HOPE UZODIMMA, SECOND TENURE AS GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE, I CAN ALSO RECALLED THAT YEARS BACK YOU HAVE VIGOROUSLY CANVASSED FOR THE REMOVAL OF PETROLEUM SUBSIDY, TODAY THE SUBSIDY HAVE FINALLY BEEN REMOVED AND NIGERIAN’S ARE SERIOUSLY SUFFERING, WHY ARE YOU AT TIMES INTERESTED IN SHAKING THE TABLE ?
Truly you are in touch with history. It was long ago about 33 years ago. It was during a military era and I actively played roles for the military to leave governance because their administration does not guarantee accelerated development and transformation. It was then known that oil Subsidy policy was a bane of corruption. It was so worst that NNPC could neither repair their refineries nor refine crude oil into petroleum products. Nigerians were mortgaged by cabals importing the petroleum products and making fectitous payment claims in the name of petroleum products importation subsidies. International communities and Nigerians who understood what I was canvassing for applauded and supported my crusade. All the foreign embassies who then watched my interview in NTA Channel 2 Victoria Island Lagos. It was conducted by two veteran Journalists and Broadcasters, Messrs Chima Anyakpam and Sebastin Opurum. As a patriot, I realized that since the country was drifting from productive economy to consuming economy, that one of the fundamental panaceas to the country’s survival is the removal of the petroleum subsidy, which then was the nation’s major nest of corruption. As an answered prayer, that year some percentage of the petroleum subsidy was removed and the nation’s foreign reserve bounced back with over 633b Naira, unfortunately, the military administration did not do anything meaningful with the money. Am quite convinced as an Economic and Financial expert, if the money realized from the removal of petroleum subsidy are prudently utilized for good and purposeful governance, Nigeria position as giant of Africa and the most populous black nation in the world will not be a mere lips service talk. Am a man of vision, am the man that discovered the integration of Small and Medium Scale(SMS) entrepreneurship in year 2001 when I show cased what Local Government Areas in Nigeria can produce and market in Abuja based on scale of economy and comparative advantage. I introduced the need for African nations to have collaborative trade partnership also based on products comparative advantages. Am not known for selfish interest but rather collective interests, as a man of inclusive and dependable vision, this was why introduced so many international Non Governmental Organizations ( NGOs) to the country that brought alot of socioeconomic interventions in the overall interest of Nigerians. This prompted my desire in reviving of Ajeokuta Steel Company LTD . It was my personal company, Olinco Transworld Nigeria LTD that did the auditing and revival in the overall interest of the nation and her populace. Am the founder African Agro American Trade (AGOA). However, the final removal of fuel subsidy by President Ahmed Bola Tinubu is a bit painful and Nigerians are complaining bitterly but if the present administration could maximize effectively the money saved from the subsidy removal, Nigerians will for the first time in recent years breath fresh air of happiness, accelerated economic survival, transformation, development and patriotism. It’s my dream to see Imo State, South East and Nigeria at large with viable and stable economic survival while am alive. Honestly, it will give me joy and happiness seeing implementations of my visionary ideas leading to overall growth and advancement of the nation.
Recall last July is barely one year, you took the mantle of leadership as the Chairman, Senator Ben Uwajimogu College of Education, Isinweke Ihitte Uboma LGA of Imo State, just barely a month ago, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Deputy Governor of Imo State made a press statement concerning the state of education in the State, he proudly said that the College of Education has been revived, restored and transformed from a glorified secondary school to a tertiary institution of repute, are you delighted with that statement ?
Am completely happy because the taste of the puddy is in the eating, moreso, when the statement of facts are coming from an erudite scholar. It’s not politics. It’s a reality on the ground. His Excellency Senator Hope Uzodimma after appointing me and other members of the council, personally gave me a marching order to revive the institution because it was a paradise lost and so dear to his administration. On assumption of office, I received a shocker that National Council for Colleges of Education, NCCE has handed down 3 weeks ultimatum to withdraw the institution’s operational license, due to lack of educational infrastructures and good learning environment. Honestly, It was a challenge and with the tremendous assistance of Governor Uzodimma, we were able to provide the basic needs of the Council on record time, thus the institution which have less than 4 accredited courses was able to gain accreditation in 49 courses for the first time of the school existence. The number of students are increasing. The institution has matriculated her students, earlier the lecturers staff room was under mango trees they nicknamed Campus 1 and Campus 2 but today they have befitting furnished offices with air conditioners. There’s ease in learning in the College. The school can now boast of decent hostels, 24 hours power supply, good drinking water with computerized library among other things.
It’s on record that that’s the only tertiary institution owned by the State government in entire Okigwe Senatorial Zone and as Chairman of Okigwe Elders/Global Forum, it’s naturally and proper to guide and protect the institution jealously. Am glad the Governor gave me the mandate and today we have not disappointed him nor Imolites. I am passionately attached to the College because of my military training at the institution during the Nigeria/ Biafra war.
LET STOP AWHILE FOR THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, YOU HAVE BEEN AMBASSADOR OF FIRST THIS FIRST THAT, HOW WOULD YOU LIKED TO BE REMEMBERED IN LIFE ?
Hmmmmm ! It’s always difficult to remember all the storms one went through in Nigeria while been alive. Surprisingly every one becomes an Angel and Saint when he or she is dead, however I would loved to be remembered when am alive for all my contributions in the upliftment of mankind. Recalled that the man who created the Nigerian flag, green white green was for years forgotten and languishing in a rural village but one day he was remembered, just like Late Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe during the regime of Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, an examplary leader in Igboland was for sometime equally forgotten. Am happy today in life, that I have a Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma who has remembered me and all my contributions in life endeavor and offered me responsibility as Chairman Governing Council of the State College of Education. He appreciated the facts that am a man with vision, integrity and pedigree, and I delivers. My major vision and mission in life, is being that instrument for the upliftment of mankind and institutions. Thus, I was the catalyst that instigated the on going massive support for the Governor’s second tenure in office because of my love for him and the State in consolidation, and for him to ensure the implementation of the State Charter of Equity so as to avoid further political rancour and acrimony in the State. With this alone, the Governor has written his name in gold. Again from your question, I can vividly recalled the importance attached to the biblical books of records, as revealed in the book of Esther of the Holy Bible.
In view of all these, will you ever considered the society as kind to you, if you are described as the man that saw tomorrow?
I may not proudly say am a man who saw tomorrow but rather a man who is passionate in compassion for others, this makes me to see things ahead of others.
Finally,your majesty as a first class traditional ruler and an elder statesman what’s your revered opinion about Imo State, South East and Nigeria at large ?
For Imo State, I have been an architect to Governor Uzodimma’s second tenure ambition because he has shown capacity, capabilities and patriotism. He has really shown that he’s an ambassador of good, purposeful and visionary leadership. It’s my candid opinion that the electorates should reciprocate his good gestures by voting for him massively. The second tenure is for consolidation and betterment of the State. In his first tenure he did excellently well and he’s a man with milk of human kindness. If for no other thing his commitments in dredging Oguta lake and Orashi River for ease of productivity and commerce in South East, coupled with the fact that Igbos are technological and technically inclined considering their experiences during the civil war. With Uzodimma, my vision is that Imo State is being reset for accelerated economic, infrastructural and developmental transformation and repositioning. There’s need for stability in terms of peace and security, so that the populace will be happy.
The problem of Nigeria today is the neglect and marginalization of the South East. If Nigerian leaders can genuinely embrace the geopolitical region as an equal critical stark holder, the nation’s backwardness will be a thing of the past. All over the world the people of South East have remain economic and technological power house, it baffles me why Nigeria will not maximize their potentials. The South Easterners have the natural endowment to rebuild Nigeria into a world-class in all sectors of human endeavours. The nation should harness economics of comparative advantage from each of the geopolitical zones as a road map for accelerated development and transformation. It’s pertinent that the Nation must strive to be fully developed in all sectors particularly education, industrialisation so as to create employment opportunities with infrastructural developments.