THE CREW MEMBERS OF EVERGREEN NEWSPAPER AND ONLINE MEDIA VISITED DEACON CHUMA OKWODU THE PRESIDENT GENERAL OF MBIERI NWAOTUOKE UNION OF IMO STATE.
In the interview, Deacon Chuma Okwodu bared his mind on some issues and developmental projects of the community
My president Sir, can we meet you officially?
My name is Deacon Chuma Okwodu from Umunjam Mbieri in Mbaitoli LGA. and the President General of Mbieri Nwaotuoke Union. The apex umbrella of Socio-Cultural Organization of all Mbieri people globally.
I am an entrepreneur, I have a business interest, dredging and mining, and I have a dredging and mining company and also integrated agriculture and real estate management.
When were you elected as the President General of Mbieri Nwaotuoke Union?
I was first elected on July1st, 2015, and I was just re-elected for the second time on 4th February, 2020.
What are your plans for developmental projects for the entire Mbieri community?
The first things for Mbieri is “the development of the mind and soul” that should come before infrastructure and other things. Well that is part of what we were contending with all this while, getting our people come together with one mind and unity and have that consciousness of patriotic spirit and putting Mbieri above self and personal interest, that is actually what we have been battling with and once this is actualized physical development will happen.
As far as physical development is concerned we have a current development road map for Mbieri which we have just finished some touches and put in order. But as physical development is concerned something are very obvious for example roads we have the best worst roads in Imo State so you see road is a major concerned and roads are not just things that a Socio-Cultural Union like ours can embark on, what we can do is to do advocacy and be like a pressure group that will persuade those in power and government to give priority attention to Mbieri and we are working hard in that regards.
In this new tenure, the story of Mbieri roads and infrastructures will be retold. Those things we look down on in terms of infrastructure will become things of praise. Starting from Orie-Mbieri where we are, Orie-Mbieri is like Abuja to Mbieri people, this is a very historical place, a place of pride for all the people over the years, but you can see what it looks like now.
There is a time when you could get buses from Orie-Mbieri to Kano, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Abuja, Lagos, and Port Harcourt in those days. Just like Biblical Nehemiah we are committed to rebuild and re-making this place. Starting from here is our schools, we have plans of getting them rehabilitated, we have started doing something in our primary schools, any moment from now this project will commence in collaboration with World Bank assisted agency to bring attention, to intervene in renewing of our Primary Schools and some of our Secondary Schools. We are encouraging the Alumni Associations to get involved, one of our secondary schools, the Mbieri Technical Secondary School that is located in Awo community, that place now looks like we now even have herdsmen going to harass people there, this herdsmen took their cattle to the place because of its dilapidated nature but we are on a project concerning that place and we have plans of converting it into a University, we are discussing with certain organizations that can help us rebuild that place.
In summary as far as your question is concerned it is by networking, it is by advocacy. We will keep the government at all levels engaged, we will keep our people, Mbieri friends and In-laws, relations who are wherever they are of influence to look this way. It is a lot of work but we are very committed to doing it and we shall do it by God’s grace.
How would you integrate the various autonomous communities’ leadership in your administration?
Okay, interesting, we just reviewed our constitution and it was adopted this year January and work has just began. So administratively most of all these things that have been done like for examples, the new reviewed constitution we have now, each Autonomous Community has its elected executive with their president, who are in my executive, we have seven (7), now in our newly reviewed constitution the president of those Autonomous Communities are automatic Ex-official members of the central executive. Also each Autonomous Community nominates a provost who also now become a member of the Ex-official, so that way, the autonomous communities are on board and they know what is happening at the central union. Also in our constitution there is zoning of offices to various Autonomous Community so that our election are not unduly fractioned.
What is your relationship with the traditional rulers of the various communities?
Ok, good one, traditional rulers we should have also seven (7) of them, but one is late and that Autonomous Community is now in the process of getting a new Eze, for example my relationship with them individually has been very cordial. We have been having some misunderstanding recently with some of them, this is a matter of perception. In terms of what are the relative powers of the traditional rulers at the level of Mbieri Nwaotuoke Union in comparison with what our constitution stipulates in terms of leadership. So you know this is something that has been happening and it is common among the Autonomous Communities in Igbo Land, often you have the Autonomous Communities Executive on one side that should handle the administration of the community and you have the royal fathers on the other side that should handle the traditional affairs of the community but many times you find /see an attempt to overlap this way or that way. I think also that over recent history in Imo State has flagged up this matter even more, I am talking about the C.G.C experiment which the last administration of Imo State did, in that experiment that they did they found themselves getting royal fathers more involved in administration.
This is like a rebuilding process of this Mbieri Union for many years the union has been in crisis. We are now just beginning to renegotiate this relationships, though we may have certain in-consequences of perception but we are managing them, we are moving ahead, you know there are some little disagreement here and there, but the interest of Mbieri supersedes and should prevail.
What is your relationship with the present administration led by His Excellency Senator Hope Uzodinma?
We are not partisan, we are Socio-Cultural Group and of course we are pressure group that want to bring every good thing to Mbieri, and of course if we can bring Douglas House to Mbieri we will do it. We are not overly involved what some people may call political drama but we believe that whatever authority that is in place is sanctioned by God and so His Excellency Sen. Hope Uzodinma is our governor today, we know he is just taking over and we are working on possibly having good audience with him, we know that he will remember Mbieri well. Mbieri is the second largest clan in Imo State after Mbaise clan and we have 19 towns in Mbieri. Mbieri should be like three (3) Local Government Areas but because of lack of unity and something in the past we are not there yet, but nobody or government in power can forget or neglect Mbieri. Mbieri has close to 80 thousand registered voters that is up to five (5) LGA in Imo State, Mbieri is a place where the government in power will like to give attention.
We are also faithful people, therefore, if you take good care of us, we are faithful, we will take good care of you, and we know that we will work well with His Excellency Senator Hope Uzodinma.
During your election, there were opposition and an alleged challenges, what are these challenges and how would you accommodate the losers?
It is natural to have oppositions, Jesus said where two or three are gathered in my name I am there and I say where two or three are gathered there is politics even in the family. Opposition is a good thing, it makes the place vibrant, it makes people want to know more, and it increases attention. What matters is the collective good of Mbieri that is what we are committed to and that is what we are trying to demonstrate to our people and leadership. The first time we were elected that was when the fight began about two people fighting for name but we were able to hold on to what we love which is calling the community together. Towards the ending they later came back together and as a matter of fact we shared power and even asked some of the executives to step down for them which they agreed and stepped down. The people has spoken in the last election, people even came back from far places like Abuja, Lagos, etc. though the election was conducted in such a way that only delegates were allowed to vote but the people came to observe and watch how everything was conducted. It was really remarkable.
What were your achievements in the first tenure that made them re-elect you again, what are the people expecting?
I think one of the things I considered most is that we tried to model a leadership that was grassroots based, that I engaged with the people and was not elitist, you know that I relate to the people directly and in sincerity. I think that’s what they began to see, it was no longer a situation whereby we gather together to do some launching or money is raised and before you know it the money is embezzled. They began to see that we were doing what we said and before then, this union was almost moribund, let me say that, a situation while knowing you for 3-4 years, you just go like that, you will mobilize the people, give them a new vision and hope that you can rise again and build the great nation that it has been ordained to be and it has been before. So, I think that was the first achievement they saw, to recreate a consciousness of Mbieri and not just different sections running their own affairs on different individuals because Mbieri is blessed with great people but united we stand, divided we fall. In terms of other things, within our office, unlike before the secretariat is near my house but I said we will go beyond that, we need a new befitting secretariat so we got this place and we furnished it and purchased some vehicles for the staff and officials to use. So giving more seriousness, one of the things we also did was to recover the boundaries of Orie Mbieri. This Orie Mbieri is commonly owned area, several autonomous communities meet here, there are several boundaries of lands in Orie Mbieri that belong to Mbieri but because of the long period of crisis, people have started stealing and selling off some parts of our land and we have started fencing it.
We re-established the boundaries and engaged those people trespassing and using different means we have been able to recover a lot of the lands, and we started fencing the most vulnerable part and we intend to complete that. Another thing we have done, we have our Health Centre of Dispensary which we started from the 50’s and many babies were born here, and many of them received inoculation here before the civil war but at some point that dispensary was left and going into disrepair, abandoned and big trees growing from inside the rooms so we took it up and rebuilt it. We have just furnished it and the local government health workers who have been squatting in one of our old buildings have been told to move into the new building. We have the ‘Afor Market’ called Afor Nnudo’ that is the big economy owned market, we have started rebuilding it from the scratch, we are talking with private developers that will come and help us build the market, we have already built an Abattoir to catalyze the situation, the Abattoir Project is 70% done and set to completion, now that we are here, that place will be a place for, instead of going to Obinze and other places, we can now come here and buy your cattle and not just Fulani cattle also the ‘Ehi Igbo’. We have talked to some of our brothers in Anambra State who are into raring of Igbo Cattle, so that will help us introduce and keep our market going. We have invested in that directly, we have done, overtime, we have the cause of doing great doing, I think these are some the things we have done.
Sir, what is your advice to your people in this time of economic hardship and political development in the state?
You know, my people have been or have excelled in business and industry, they have excelled in education. Some of the earliest millionaires of Igbo extraction were from Mbieri. Port Harcourt in those days was the center of commerce and business as of that time, it’s not arguable that the Igbos own the half of Port Harcourt, especially the old Port Harcourt. Now economic hardship is something we are feeling, the whole of us in Nigeria and some of those virtues we had that made wealth for us, the principle of “Onye aghala nwanne ya, onye huta ya bia zi nwanne ya” is no more. If you find a place that is good and convenient for your people, you train them and show them the way, our people need to recover that thing again. The sense of individualism, just me and myself, family and my greatness. We are saying not anymore, let’s go back to the family that we are. We are called Mbeiri “Nwaotuoke”, it actually “Nwa-otu-Nwoke”, it abridge like that, the people have one origin called Mbeiromu like producing this great nation and so that sense of oneness, that sense of family is what we are advocating now. Secondly, come together, dreaming together, working together will bring rapid development to our place. We are firmly advantageously located in Imo State, we are very close to Owerri town, Owerri town has actually given us advantage, we must take care of the Owerri city as it expands, we are also advocating to our people that are very great in business out there and even outside Nigeria. They are beginning to come home now. You know we have land and we are telling them to come home and set up that great thing you are doing in other places, at least come home and setup a good branch of it and employ our people and empower the youths of Mbieri. There are programme like that going on for example one of our industrious son, who is the Executive Chairman of Globe Motors, has acquired a much plot of land, you know his company manufactures those Hyundai vehicle, his is about to set up an industry here.
We try to be positive thereby there are a lot of opportunities in that hardship especially our youth, we as people will try to orientate them not to go into fraud or those things that look attractive.
Yes, in terms of political development, like Mbieri first, we don’t take that lightly at all because we know the impact and the political power so we have a very important organ in Mbieri which is called Political Assurance Council by helping us to do some work, racism even get more involved now so that we do not allow politicians to come and do elections and tell us stories ,we engage with them especially on the Mbieri road map and say what can your government do for Mbieri, this is what we require here for over the next four years and if we can support you on this, this is specifically what we want.
What advice do you have especially for the youth of Mbieri and Imo State in general?
For the youths in Mbieri and Imo State there is nothing new in this world, every generations comes up and feel that oh yes it is something we know and is happening that nobody have seen that before ,the principles of life, the principle of success will remain the same because we must understand your purpose and you must have vision, prepare yourself, train yourself, discipline yourself in that direction and also have faith as it happens, it does not matter what you are involved in ,you must be successful in life ,in the mist of this difficult time is to make the youth not to lose hope, they get desperate and undersell themselves. We will tell them to feel calm that everything will work in a good direction, don’t belittle your destiny by getting involved in crime like prostitution and robbery. Education is very serious and important. Ndi Imo has been leading in education in Nigeria and we must not let that drop, we must be leading and across everywhere and you as an individual have to give value to yourself, invest in yourself not by sorting but by reading your books, it will help you sometimes in future.
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