By Oki Samson, Trek Africa Newspaper
The rising profile of Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos as a bridge builder has again come to the fore. And the man will not leave any stone unturned on his drive to ensure that Ndigbos in Lagos enjoy the confidence of their host communities.
Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene insists that Igbos have to live in unity and think of what they can contribute for the development of Lagos State to be able to attract opportunities from the State government.
In a chat with Oki Samson of Trek Africa Newspaper, the no. 1 Igbo in Lagos stated: ‘The unity of Ndigbos is more profitable for Lagos. What I have done so far is to bring unity, direct our people in the right direction and in one voice ready to give more supports to the ruling party in the State. The Lagos State Government especially, Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration has been very kind and supportive to the Ndigbos.’
‘What this government has done for us is so much especially in the widow’s support. We are pleading with Eastern governors to do similar thing. Ndigbos feel at home in Lagos because of what Gov. Sanwo-olu has done and have accepted that they will support the ruling party whenever the time comes especially, election periods. And I want to tell Ndigbos to think of what they can do to support the ruling party so, that will challenge the government to do more.’
It would be recalled that upon assumption of office, Chief Ogbonna immediately paid a courtesy visit to the Oba of Lagos alongside Chief Ebitu Ukiwe. Remembering that momentous move, he said: ‘I felt it was an issue to be addressed frontally because I know Lagos Ndigbos need peace for their enterprising and other vocational endeavours. I led a peace mission to the Oba Akiolu’s palace. I was accompanied by Nigeria’s former Vice President, Chief Ebitu Ukiwe, former Ambassador to the United States, Cyprus and Israel, Prof. George Obi Ozo and others. The royal father, who has a pan-Nigerian spirit having worked round the country as a senior police officer, received us well. Surprisingly, we discovered he has strong partnership and friendship with Ndigbo dating back to his contribution to the return of late Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. His contribution was unknown to so many Ndigbos. In the end, we were able to reconcile the issues before our inauguration.’
Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene, president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos, a successful and well travelled businessman, especially in the area of promoting African art, recognizes the importance of peaceful coexistence with host communities and their government then put action to his words. He went all the way to support the candidacy of Babajide Olusola Sanwo-olu for the 2019 Gubernatorial Election who has since become the Governor of Lagos and is doing well for Ndigbo in Lagos. ‘That move, he said, ‘has yielded tremendous results for Igbos. I will continue it and I encourage all Igbos to join this movement. Enough of playing opposition to our hosts’.
Already in the second year of the Chief Solomon Aguene’s administration with visible results, such as providing official Secretariat for Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos, economic rebirth of the over Four million Lagos Ndigbos that has materialiazed in the Fidelity Bank Ohanaeze Ndigbo Membership Identity and Debit Card which is designed as a seamless local and international business transactions and self identification for members, the benevolent spirit of the Governor Sanwo-Olu who has generously redeemed his campaign pledge of N100,000 each to the over 100 Ndigbo widows.
“In the 2019 Windows’ Empowerment Programme organised by Lagos State Government for members of the Union, a total of 100 Igbo widows got N100, 000 each as start ups facility. We are grateful to the governor for this. Our Ezes have also benefitted from the governor. I feel justified for the support we gave the Governor and return all my success and kudos to him. The Ohanaeze I lead will support Lagos APC over and again,” he vows.
Massive Palliatives was given out to Ndigbos, non Igbo, Nollywood Stars, Widows during the Covid-19 lockdown courtesy of the Lagos State Government and Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, a very good friend of Governor Sanwo-Olu who has been supporting almost Sixty percent of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos’ activities. Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma is the only Igbo man in Lagos supporting Ohanaeze Ndigbo without attaching personally interest.
Through Aguene’s exemplary leadership and innovative style, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos Secretariat has been witnessing array of high class Igbo professionals, leading Nollywood Stars are openingly identifying with the association even as the growing financial membership is a clear signal of the confidence Lagos Ndigbos have in Solomon Ogbonna Aguene who exudes life of purpose and steadfastness, perseverance and deference to God in the pursuit of set goals
Speaking further, Chief Solomon Ogbonna Aguene, solidly backed by Chief Oliver Akabueze, former President of the association and current Chairman, Council of Elders said, he embarked on a reform agenda that tallies with an effective and efficient member association with clear administrative and strong communication links and a well run, proficient and dedicated secretariat in Surulere which serves as administrative, consultative base and engine room for Ndigbos in the State.
“Our administration is committed to the care and welfare of all Ndigbos in Lagos. It is no longer an association of business as usual where anything goes. That is the reason we got a digitalized secretariat for proper documentation and implementations of our goals. That is the vision of the team I lead,” he said emphatically.
Chief Oliver Akabueze, Chairman, Ohanaeze Council of Elders
On his part, Chief Akabueze, who has deep knowledge of the history of Lagos Ohanaeze, has severally maintained that Chief Solomon Aguene’s style of managing the association is unique and unmatched by all parameters of assessment which informs the reasons he has always stood by him to ward off distractions. Of particular interest is the alignment with Lagos APC government which has attracted much goodwill to Ndigbos.
Without wasting time, he set off to addressing an existing animosity between the Oba of Lagos, His Highness, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and Ndigbo, occasioned by the Oba’s fatherly advise to the Igbos to vote APC in the 2015 general elections which was misconstrued as a threat to the Igbos.
Indeed, those who amplified the royal father’s advise invented a different meaning to the effect that the Oba had threatened to invoke Lagos Lagoon underwater demons to feast on Igbos should they not vote for APC.
Aguene, who hit the ground running after inauguration however, thanks governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his accelerated cooperation with Lagos Ndigbo by supporting the association through different windows.
Reinforcing his role as a rallying figure for all Igbos in Lagos, Chief Solomon Aguene added: ‘Ohanaeze is sociocultural, not political. I as the father of all and the no. 1 Igbo in Lagos will continue to guide Igbo sons and daughters so that we can protect our interest in Lagos. I believe that the advice and direction I give will yield greater and more positive results for the next general election as it did for us since 2019.’