High Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene is the president Ohanaeze-Ndigbo, Lagos chapter. He is also the brain behind Aguene Arts Foundation. In this interview with Ngozi Okpalakunne, he spoke on the relationship between the Igbos and their host community; what should be the roles of the Igbos in diaspora towards the development of their homeland. Solomon who had recorded remarkable achievement in the social-cultural group since his inception as the president of the set two years ago also talked about issues of national interest.
How would you assess the relationship between the Igbos and their host community in recent time?
We are no more hearing about the area boys harassing our people in the places of their business. Simply because we have a good governor and that is Babajide Sanwo-Olu. His administration is inclusive both the indigene and non-indigene.
Since the beginning of his administration, he has been supporting Ohanaeze- Ndigbo. Whenever we have a programme, he is always supporting us. He had fulfilled 70 per cent of his promises to the Igbos in Lagos during his political campaign in 2018. He has done a lot in the area of women empowerment. A lot of our women have been economically empowered through his support.
Also, during festive periods like Christmas, the Igbos in the state are included in all the palliatives. During the COVID -19, the Igbos were not left out, they receive palliatives from the state government.
The Igbos here in Lagos are appreciative also, about 60 per cent of the Igbos in the state are in support of the ruling party in Lagos.
The fact is that the Igbos in Lagos are now close to the government of the state unlike before.
If we continue supporting the ruling party especially in Lagos where we have 99 per cent of our investments, our businesses will continue to flourish and we will not have disturbances.
What actually motivated you to join the leadership of Igbos in Lagos?
My father was one of the greatest traditionalists in my area. At the age of ten, l was able to recall names of masquerades one by one. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is social-cultural and political and l would not want the culture and tradition of my people to go in to extinct, that was the idea behind my going into the leadership of my people in Lagos.
What has been your challenge so far and how have you been able to navigate through?
Most of my challenges since l became the president centred on finance. But, the governor of Lagos state has come to my rescue and some notable individuals as well. Since then, we are moving from one place to another in terms of progress. l believe that we have achieved a lot in this short period of time in the area of women empowerment.
Report shows that in the recent time, Ohanaeze -Ndigbo has been faced with leadership crisis. Have you been able to settle this challenge?
I have made peace between Chairman Council of Eze in Lagos, Eze Christian Nwachukwu and the Eze Ndigbo in Ikeja Eze Uche Dimgbo, Honorable Jude Idimogu and Honorable Engr. Joe Igbokwe.
There was an argument on who is going to be the Apex leader of the party APC Ndigbo in Lagos which l have finally settled.
A few months ago, l called a meeting of reconciliation.
Before then, l had meetings with the party leaders and l told them that there was a need for the Igbos in Lagos to come together so that we can speak in one voice and walk together.
I also made them understand that when there is no peace an aggrieved party can deviate based on the pressure from the other party.
It is difficult to settle people when they have issues, but, l have done it before, and that was between Eze Hyacinth Ohazulike and Eze Christian Nwachukwu, their differences lasted for 21 years.
Many are of the view that Igbos prefer to establish in their host communities than their homeland, what do you think is responsible?
It is like a controversy if l said that Igbos in foreign lands are tenants, that means that whatever establishment they have in foreign lands does not really matter, what count is the one they have in their homeland. There is a proverb in Igbo land which said, “no matter how white people build a cemetery, it is not for a responsible Igbo man” this is because an Igbo man must go home either alive or dead. l always tell my people here that there is no place like home. They should endeavour to build and establish businesses at home.
What are your advise to Igbos come 2023 general elections?
The Igbos should be mindful of their utterances, they should abstain from boasting and mentioning war when there is no war. For those who are saying that 2023 is not negotiable, they should desist from making such statement in order not to put the Igbos in danger before the elections. They should remember that we are in a democratic government, those that are elected by the people will occupy the positions of authority.