Welcome Address on the maiden Edition of the End of year Meeting of Ezza Union, Abuja branch delivered by the President, Dr. Oliver Nwankwo, MD, ON 2ND DECEMBER, 2012 at Green lovers Garden, Gudu.
GOOD OLD DAYS ARE POSSIBLE AGAIN
It is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to the maiden edition of our end of year meeting. The last month of the year is usually a period when individuals and organisations alike take a comprehensive stock of their activities for the past 11 months. Ezza Union (Abuja branch) today joins other town unions/ associations to observe same. I give all thanks and glory to the magnificent, benevolent one, seated in the heavens directing the affairs and times of men. The humble achievements recorded for the short period of her existence, the brotherly love and conviviality among members were not by our powers but for his grace. What started like a brotherly interaction on the state of the Ezza people in Ebonyi State in particular and Nigeria in general at the optima Hotel, Garki 2 years ago has blossomed into a big oak tree – The Abuja branch of Ezza Union which has become a rallying point of the views and for visioners of the greater Ezza. It is proper I thank my members and the indomitable Exco for their enthusiasm, sacrifice and can-do-it spirit which you consistently exhibited and are ready to exercise in spite of the difficult economic realities of our time.
IN THE BEGINNING
Ezza has always maintained a leadership and by extension enviable position in the affairs of Abakaliki Zone prior to the creation of Ebonyi state. She had before then lived up to the historical reality of being the eldest son of the progenitor of the Abakaliki people. This must have helped her people to develop a natural philosophy of the EZZA MAN which is fairness, justice and equity for all men. It is in pursuit of this philosophy that made her put the lives of her brightest and bravest in the harm’s way in various inter-ethnic conflicts around the old eastern region. Notable Ezza Chiefs like Nabu Nweze, Akam Iteshi, Nwusulor Chima, Onyaka Mgbada have at various times and venues given all in the struggle for the dignity of the Abakaliki person. In the second republic, Ezza like Dr. Offia Nwali, Chief Innocent Ugo Chima, Chief Onyaka Samuel Mgbada, Oriwhe Ogodo and many other unsung heroes prosecuted the struggle for the creation of Ebonyi state with all their resources. Little wonder, Ezzas are found in over seven local governments in the present Ebonyi and in other states such as Benue, Enugu and Cross River. Infact in the second republic the senatorial candidates of two major parties in the old Anambra state were all Ezza sons.
EBONYI STATE AND the plight OF THE EZZA
Our fervent prayers and hard work for the emancipation of the marginalised people of the present day Ebonyi was answered with the creation of the state in October, 1996. The jubilation that greeted the creation was cut short for the Ezzas as our co-marginalised suddenly became our hunters. The Ezza were suddenly branded” aggressors, brash occupiers, aliens and too dangerous” to be entrusted with public office. So with the creation of the state, Ezza appear to have lost out in all fronts. This same group whose sons were nominated in two major political parties of NPN and NPP for Abakaliki senatorial zone (made up of 8 local government areas) in 1979 is no longer fit to occupy positions of governor, minister, ambassador and other key positions in both state and federal government. The Ezza/ Ezillo crisis has become a metaphor for the plight of Ezzas in Ebonyi State. And so we ask what went wrong? Is the plight of the Ezza due to our underlings or in our stars? Has the Ezza man always done everything right? Where has the spirit of solidarity and brotherhood known to be fulcrum of Ezza strength gone? How do we regain our political prominence once again?
The search for answers to these questions currently occupies the minds of all well meaning Ezza people. Ezza Union -a non political and non -governmental organisation is an offspring of such quest. The priests led by Rev. Fr. Gabriel Enogu, aim to explore and remedy the spiritual undertone in the loss of grounds by the Ezza people. The union according to the founders sees our present plight in the neglect of our cultures and traditions. It is to the credit of the Union that Okpoku Ezekuna was rebuilt, Fund raising for the construction of a Museum of Ezza cultural artefacts has been done and the old traditional ways of decision making in Ezza land is been revived. The role the Union played in the build up to and during the 2011 general elections is there for all to see and appreciate.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE BRANCH
The Abuja branch of the union is motivated and encouraged by these accomplishments, hence we hit the ground running. After thoroughly rummaging through above questions, we came to the view that the Union needed to open other fronts apart from the spiritual. We have chosen to speak out, to advocate, and encourage honest and genuine debates on the way forward. Let me make clear that arguments may be made as to the effectiveness of our methods but we in the Abuja branch are convinced that our method towers above do-nothing.
1. In February, 2011 we made publications in the newspapers on the stand of the EZZA man on the Ezillo killings of December 31st 2011, where we condemned in strongest terms the use of violence, more-so the killing of citizens, talk less of women and children in the quest for revenge or pursuit of justice. We had to use the media to refute the malicious and unfounded allegations that Ezza people carried out dastardly act. This was borne out of our convictions that to keep quiet was a tacit acceptance of Ezza people’s culpability in this allegation.
2. We undertook wide consultations with the various stakeholders across party divides convinced that we are first EZZA before political affiliation. We met with Sen. Igwe Paulinus Nwagu; Sen Ali Ucha; Hon. Innocent Ugo Chima etc. This consultation is still ongoing and we hope to reach as many stakeholders in the Ezza project as possible. We wish to thank all these distinguished brothers for their hospitality and words of encouragement.
3. We in close collaboration with Sen. Igwe Nwagu made modest efforts towards the amicable settlement of the Ezillo Crisis. On the 25th of March, 2012 we arranged a peace meeting of Ezza and Ezillo people with the Senate President, Chief Dr David B. A. Mark. Unfortunately the Ezillo group did not cease the opportunity; however it afforded the Ezza in Ezillo the opportunity to give their firsthand account to the Nation’s third citizen.
4. The Union has provided aides to our Ezza people in distress inform of cash and legal aid to the family of an Ezza man killed by the police here in FCT. We provided financial and moral support to over five members who married this year alone.
5. We expended over two hundred thousand naira to support other worthy activities of the mother union and the Sacred Heart Parish, Onueke in 2011 1nd 2012 respectively.
6. We have put the marginalisation of the Ezza people in terms of political appointments in the front burner of national discourse through our recent publication on 3rd October, 2012 of an open letter to the President and Commander in Chief.
7. The branch celebrated the’’ Oke-Aku”- Ezza traditional yam festival. We look forward to broader participation by all village/kindred/town unions of Ezza extraction next year.
FOR THE FUTURE
We project to lead a medical mission to Ezza areas of Ebonyi state starting from April, 2013. secondly we also propose to convene a congress of Ezzas in disapora in 2013/2014, where all our sons and daughters from all over Nigeria and Abroad will fraternise and brainstorm on the way forward for this great people.
These modest achievements could not have been possible without the fanatical support of all members. I feel the enormous financial squeeze we all go through to meet up with our demands. But permit me to single out for recognition the following Mr. Amaechi Aloke, Mr. Okey Uhuo, Mr. Benbright Mkpuma, Mr. Boniface Abali, Eric Nwafor and Chukwuma in appreciation of extra material sacrifices made. Let me thank the Executive council led by me for their loyalty and unwavering readiness to answer the call of duty at all times. I would like to thank our wives who keep the home fronts in our absence.
I on behalf of the union branch thank Hon. Innocent Chima who by word and action has supported all our activities. It is my belief that there are many others of our blessed brothers and sisters who are itching to key into the activities of this union. We urge you to take that step of faith, stand up and be counted.
The task of repositioning the Ezza man and Ezzaland after many years of caterpillars and grasshoppers is daunting but doable. We in the Abuja branch of Ezza are of the opinion that for Ezza to move forward we need to forage through our historical garbage and retrieve or revive our strengths, correct our common mistakes. We acknowledge that we are not Mongo parks in charting the road maps but we are ready and willing to join our voices to enrich the debate at any time devoid of being opinionated. Ezza interest supersedes individual interests and aspirations. The last general elections showed that it is a myth to talk about impossibility of unity among the Ezza people. The solidarity and unity of purpose garnered thereof should be consolidated upon. However there are lessons to take from that experience. These lessons will help prepare us for the battles ahead.
The key objective of this union is to ensure that the Ezza man speaks with one voice and also to ensure that the collective interest of Ezza prevails. But don’t get us wrong, unity is not uniformity. We welcome all shades of opinion. We use this opportunity to invite all Ezza sons and daughters resident in FCT who have not joined the union to do so as membership of the union is a birthright of every person of Ezza descent. The good old days are possible is only if you act.