The president-general of the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, has expressed frustration that a lot of Nigerians are yet to take coronavirus seriously.
Speaking in a recent interview with Radio Nigeria, Southeast Zone, Mr Nwodo said the country is lucky that the developed nations are the ones bearing the brunt of the deadly virus.
“It is very painful that what is happening elsewhere is not shocking our imagination into compliance,” he said.
“It seems to me that our people are waiting for people to die like mosquitoes or flies before they realise that COVID-19 is real.
“Sometimes, they tell you that it is a rich man’s sickness, that it is affecting governors and so on. Look, this is an airborne disease and you say it is for rich men. Well, if it affected the chief of staff to the president, it also affected the staff of the chief of staff.”
As of April 30, Nigeria had recorded 1,932 confirmed cases of COVID -19, with 58 deaths.
Mr Nwodo said the pandemic has thrown Nigeria into an economic crisis whose only solution is a “drastic leadership.”
“You can’t take me where you do not belong,” he said.
“Look at how much a legislator earns in Nigeria. What is the quantum of job that he does that requires such emolument to be paid to him? Something is fundamentally wrong.
“I hope that COVID-19 shocks us into a realisation that we have been wasting our potentialities for a long time and brings out, amongst you people who are young, a correct leadership. This country has enormous resources. We could be greater than China but we have the wrong leadership, the wrong orientation.”
Mr Nwodo, a lawyer and former minister of information and culture, said the current political climate has reminded Nigerians of their ethnic cleavages.
“If you go to Yoruba land now you’ll find a lot of Igbo women who are married there. And there are Yoruba women who are married here. If you go to the north the same thing. At the end of the war it became a status symbol for every (army) general to marry an Igbo woman.
“We are so mixed, so much that these ethnic divisions that we have now are going to have a toll on products of mixed marriages. Children whose mothers are Igbo and they are married to Fulanis are going to begin to ask themselves ‘Do I really have anything to do with my mother’s home or do I hate my father’s home?'”
He described as unfortunate how religion and militancy have been used to attack the rest of Nigeria.
“A Katsina man called Umaru Altine was elected Mayor of Enugu by adult suffrage. He defeated an Igbo man to become mayor here and Zik campaigned for him. Mr Willoughby, a Yoruba man was Accountant General of Eastern Nigeria here. A Calabar woman won election in Aba as a member of Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly, Margaret Ekpo. Nobody wanted to know where you come from.
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“I lived in Imoke Street; Dr S.E Imoke was Minister of Education. My first school leaving certificate is signed by Dr S.E Imoke. He’s from Itigidi here (Cross River State). His children are my very close friends. They lived in 8 Park Avenue, we lived in 10 Park Avenue. They lived in 12 Independence Layout, we lived in 13… my father lived where the deputy governor lives now and the presidential guest house opposite was Dr S.E Imoke’s residence, as Minister of Information.
“Why haven’t we built new ministerial quarters? Some of them have been monetized by politicians and they are occupying them today, aggrandizement of public wealth in order to encourage self esteem of monstrous character that destroys the capacity to develop.
“Unfortunately the voices of reason have been silenced, both the young and the old and we’ll remain in this quagmire for a long time.”
On the lack of adequate funding for higher institutions in Nigeria, Mr Nwodo said there are too many universities in the country.
“It is not how many universities you have but how many are productive,” he said.
“You see someone that comes out of a university and he cannot write correct English. You employ him in his area of endowment… he read computer science but he doesn’t know how to programme. He just can’t use his certificate which has no productive capacity. Stop building so many universities, but the educational content of the university.”
He further said the country lacked growth of ideas.
“The only past time you have now is to find where you can eat isi-ewu (goat head), a local culinary. As a child I went to watch films, I trekked from what is New Market now to Coal Camp to watch films. Eventually there was another cinema hall in Zik Avenue, we went there.
“Eventually there was one in Sports Club, we went there. I watched Macbeth, I watched Julius Caesar. And while I was reading them in secondary school, I had a pictorial illustration of the book I was reading and I understood it better.
“Ideas don’t grow on unfertile lands, on unfertile environment. You have to create an environment for an idea to grow, the children have to be impatient for production and for growth.”