I RECALL that on February 13, 2021 during the zoom meeting of the Global Igbo Leaders (GIL), part of deliberation focused on lack of consistency among Ndigbo in pursuing Igbo Agenda. This brings into discourse, the talking point in Ala-Igbo today – the last Ohanaeze election.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the Igbo patrimony where every onye Igbo, regardless of political party affiliation, regardless of being among the “Oha” or the “Eze” has an equal stake and sense of ownership. Consistency in Igbo Agenda lies in the domain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the Igbo apex socio-cultural and lately political organisation. Who else defines the Igbo Agenda if not Ohanaeze Ndigbo? Who else evolves the ways and means of actualising such? One may ask, “Which Ohanaeze?” IOhanaeze Ndi Fulani where the Chief of Staff to the President calls some Igbo governors and tells them, “This is the man I shall be comfortable to work with as Ohanaeze President General?”
Is it Ohanaeze Ndi Govano, where each state governor was asked to produce the candidate zoned to his state leading to a “Unity List”, a new lexicon in the Ohanaeze dictionary? That was in the personal short term interest of each governor but it is not in the Igbo interest, whether in the short or in the long run. In the days of Dr. Dozie Ikedife’s Presidency, his common maxim was, “The tail does not wag the dog.” The Igbo tragedy as personified by Ohanaeze Ndigbo today is that the tail is becoming used to wagging the dog. Evidently, Igbo governors are super stakeholders in Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Igbo project. However, they are not meant to be the foremost layer of Igbo political leadership.
There should be elder statesmen, men whose voices the governors will heed to and cast aside their political party togas in the Igbo interest. Such men include Senator Jim Nwobodo, Bishop Obi Onubogu, Prof Elo Amucheazi and Prof T.U. Nwala. With such elders who the governors can hearken to, the dog will start wagging the tail. Having such men in front will also be a buffer shielding the governors from untoward political backlash resulting from their pro-Igbo actions.
Taking a cue from our Yoruba brothers, their governors were able to establish Amotekun as their regional security outfit regardless of partisan differences because their elders under the umbrella of Afenifere with the OPC as effective sanction arm, could beat them all into line. Can an unpopular Ohanaeze that came into office through a constitutionally flawed election mobilise Ndigbo for any project? Furthermore, such lofty powers, as wielded by the governors need to be moderated by patriotism. According to Frederick Lewis Donaldson, “The seven social sins include politics without principle (patriotism)”. It would amount to a “social sin” for the governors not to give thought to the effect their decisions on Ohanaeze will have on the generality of Ndigbo and the Igbo interest. As good Igbo sons, Igbo governors should be patriotic enough to rise beyond personal and partisan interests, to become statesmen. Looking at former governors today, they should think of how they want to be remembered when they leave office.
Is it not better to be remembered like Sam Mbakwe, Jim Nwobodo and even Peter Obi instead of being visited with vilifications? Apparently, the governors, or at least, some of them, took the position they took on the Owerri Show of Shame dubbed Ohanaeze election based on misinformation. From its own nomenclature, Oha na eze Ndigbo is meant to place the “Oha” before the “Eze”, in line with the Igbo maxim “Oha nwe eze” since the Oha (the masses) crown/elect and as well dethrone/remove their Ezes (leaders/ nobility). That is why the Ohanaeze constitution recognises the town union as the basic unit of the Ohanaeze organogram. In view of that, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, since 2004 had resolved to become financially self-sustaining by relying more on dues from members which get to the apex body through town unions, organised on state wide basis. Unfortunately, organisational lassitude has not allowed it to implement that till date. Again, the Ohanaeze constitution describes the Ohanaeze General Assembly as “the supreme/highest decision making organ that ratifies all Imeobi decisions for such decisions to be VALID”.
Tragically, this constitutionally recognised supreme organ never met once throughout the four years of the immediate past Ohanaeze regime! Actually, what is ongoing in Ohanaeze today is an ideological battle between opposing Igbo worldviews. On one side, you have “Onye kpu igu ka ewu na-eso” and on other side you have “Aguu nwere nchekwube anaghi egbu egbu.” For those who subscribe to the former worldview, anything goes. For them, the election has come and gone; if you were rigged out today, try to rig yourself in next time. However, those who subscribe to the latter worldview want to avoid “aru gbaa afo o buru omenala.” For them, letting the Ohanaeze electoral heist to stand will mean allowing partisan politics with all its attendant roguery to pollute the umunna (kindred) spirit which Ohanaeze is built on. Political party affiliation nudged aside patriotism in Ohanaeze following the manner of Atiku Abubakar’s adoption by Ohaneze in January, 2019.
It was made a PDP affair since the APC Imeobi members were deliberately schemed out of participation in the Imeobi where the decision was taken. The Imeobi was scheduled on a date all Igbo APC chieftains would be at Onitsha for the unveiling of Zik’s Mausoleum by President Buhari. It ended abruptly when people like Dr Chris Ngige and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu were already at Nike Lake Hotel (the venue) and about entering the hall. Besides, Prof. Kingsley Muoghalu, an Igbo son and YPP Presidential candidate was not even invited to present his case despite having previously met the Ohanaeze NEC on his candidature. That was against the Igbo maxim “Igwe bu Ike”, which is also Ohanaeze’s motto and as well against the Igbo principle of igba izu. In the past, before endorsing any presidential candidate, Ohanaeze engaged in extensive consultations with Igbo political leaders and candidates in various parties, both the ruling party and the opposition parties. Consequently, the immediate past Secretary General then provided a platform for the APC to hold an Ohanaeze endorsement of their presidential candidate. And for the first time, Ohanaeze had two endorsements for one presidential election.
Those favoured by the electoral heist claim that trying to address the crisis amounts to causing trouble and exposing the Igbo apex body to ridicule.“ Anaghikwa asi nwanyi muru nwa n’ahia chikolata okpa.” Other Nigerians know about the brigandage that occasioned the election, so there is really nothing to hide. Rather, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and indeed the Igbo nation will recover its lost respect if the ongoing crisis is resolved amicably and with sincerity. “You don’t bandage a festering sore; instead, you open the sore and give it proper medical attention, including surgery, if need be.”
Certainly, the problem of Ohanaeze did not start today, but it is better addressed at this juncture while the body is still in a state of flux. Certain constitutional lacunas that gave room for mismanagement of Ohanaeze/observance of the constitution in breach by past administrations can best be rectified by the Caretaker Committee that has been set up by the Concerned Imeobi Members (CIM). Past experience shows that an incumbent President General will always influence any constitutional amendment to his benefit. For instance in 2010, Amb. Raph Uwechue, as President General benefitted
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