Former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has said that “phobia” for the Igbo ethnic group still persists in Nigeria.
OBJ’s comment came after national and state elections which were trailed by numerous reports of voter intimidation.
The United States diplomatic mission noted that the use of “ethnically charged rhetoric” before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was “particularly concerning”.
Without making reference to the aforementioned development, the former president who spoke in Anambra State at the one-year-in-office celebration of Governor Chukwuma Soludo, lamented that despite the end of the civil war, the perception of Igbos in some quarters is still associated with the phobia.
“But on one occasion, after I appointed him (Soludo), While in Government, Somebody came to me and said, ‘Wow! You have ruined the economy of Nigeria.’ I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘An Igbo woman, Minister of Finance; an Igbo man, Governor of the Central Bank? Then you have clearly completed the task of ruining the economy of Nigeria.
“Now, I don’t know why he said that except what I can call “Igbophobia”, and don’t take that lightly; it remains, it persists.
“And I like what Chief Iwuanyanwu said. I believe on the 13th of January, 1970, Biafra died and was buried, actually in the house of my friend here, Simon Okeke. But when you hear the type of thing that was said to me and the type of thing that you know is going on, what do we do with it?,” he queried.
Advising the dignitaries that graced the occasion, OBJ said Igbos could overcome any negative perception of them through friendliness and being good, wherever they reside in Nigeria.
“I believe we have to go back to the scripture which says we must conquer evil with good. And whoever you are, wherever people are being afraid of you, you must make yourselves friendly to those who are afraid of you and earn their friendship by being good to them. That is what we have to do.
“I have personally experienced that. Nothing wins friendship like you being friendly,” the former president said on Saturday.