Ekwueme, spoke at the traders’ summit and award ceremony organized by Anambra Consensus Project, ACP, to honour outstanding traders in all the 57 major markets in Anambra State. The ceremony took place at Amaokpala in Orumba North local government area of the state.
He recalled that Igbo were strongly united before and immediately after Nigerian Independence and wondered what went wrong over the years, considering what is currently happening in the Igbo –speaking states of the country.
He said: “When I returned to Nigeria after my studies abroad, I worked for the then ESSO West Africa Limited and the job took me to many cities in the Northern part of the country. I found out that there was no place you would go and won’t find an Igbo man and they all cooperated well.
“If you wanted to buy APC medicine in any city in the North, whether it was Kano, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Bauchi, Bida, Minna, anywhere, it was an Igbo person that would sell it to you.
Igbo people were so industrious that Northerners were saying that after the white man, the next most important person created by God was Igbo.
“When Igbo was Igbo, there was so much unity, such that once Igbo leaders met and took a decision, every Igbo person would abide by it.
The trust among Igbo was responsible for the reason apprenticeship became popular with the result that parents would allow their children to stay with an established Igbo man to learn a trade for periods ranging from five to 10 years after which the apprentice would then be settled to start his own business.
“Even after the settlement, the newly settled young trader would be getting goods on credit from his former master and return the money after sale because of the trust that existed.
But lack of trust has diminished that age long cooperation between the master and his former apprentice, which is very worrisome.
“The main problem of the Igbo today is lack of trust. If we can rebuild the trust among ourselves, our people will be better for it.”
While the former vice president appreciated the efforts of Igbo traders engaged in import business, he advised them to pay more attention to areas that would enhance export, arguing that it was by so doing that they would be in a position to withstand the uncertainties in the foreign exchange trade.
President of Anambra Consensus Project, Dr. Emeka Eze explained that the organization was committed to promoting Igbo ideology, as well as oneness of the Igbo and a unified direction of Igbo growth and development.
He explained that the 57 best practicing traders of the year would enjoy some privileges, adding that ACP would register the certificates awarded to the traders with some embassies to enhance their visa opportunities whenever the need arose.
He said that the recognition of the outstanding traders would be annual event, which would in future, be extended to the markets in Aba, Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Secretary to the Anambra State Government, SSG, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, who represented Governor Willie Obiano at the ceremony, said the state government would adopt the same template in rewarding outstanding civil servants in the state.
He also said that government would meet with the leadership of the traders to work out ways of partnering with them to boost trade and commerce in the state.