On 13th February, 2021 during the zoom meeting of the Global Igbo Leaders (GIL), part of the deliberation focused on the lack of consistency among Ndigbo today in pursuing the Igbo Agenda.
That brings back into discourse, the talking point in Ala-Igbo today – the botched Ohanaeze elections.
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 the Igbo Agenda lies in the domain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the Igbo apex socio-cultural and lately political organization. Who else defines the Igbo Agenda, if not Ohanaeze Ndigbo? Who else evolves the ways and means of actualizing such?
But, one may ask, “Which Ohanaeze?” Is it Ohanaeze Ndi Fulani? Where a 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 candidates zoned to his state leading to a “Unity List”; a new lexis 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 in Ohanaeze, his common maxim was that “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, not the other way round. 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 an effective sanction arm could beat them all into line. Can an unpopular Ohanaeze that came into office through a constitutionally flawed election mobilize 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 recognizes 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 gets to the apex body through town unions, organized on state wide basis. Unfortunately, organizational 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 recognized supreme organ never met once through out 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. Firstly, 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. Secondly, it ended abruptly when some of them 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’ 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 own presidential candidate. 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 from a constitutional amendment changing tenure of the executives from two to four years despite the objection of his predecessor- Dr. Dozie Ikedife, that it was immoral for him to do so, being the initiator.
Finally, “ onwu egbushi okokpa sa umirima maru la udele abuhu alu oriri ”. May the elders not die (prematurely) lest the younger generation mistake vulture for chicken. Where are our Igbo elders? Elders in this context means old men who speak with the moral authority of ofo na ogu, men who are scarred from fighting the Igbo battle, not ndi okokpa aruruali , old men whose god is their stomach, who majority of Ndigbo view with leprous suspicion due to their antecedents.
It is time for our elder statesmen to rise to the occasion by getting all Ohanaeze factions and as well the Governors to accept the expediency of the task before the Ohanaeze Caretaker Committee.
The Igbo tragedy as personified by Ohanaeze today is such that unless Ndigbo do the needful by restructuring Ohanaeze, as recommended by GIL, there shall be no collective will and political vehicle to tackle the issues of the day facing Ndigbo namely; IPOB’s security implications and Igbo (South East) Presidency 2023.
Today, a huge leadership chasm exists in Ala-Igbo, one which cannot be wished away by “letting sleeping dogs lie” but one that has to be tackled by a deliberate attempt by Igbo leaders to create other Ikemba Ojukwus and Ndubuisi Kanus to speak truth to our Governors and other political leaders and restructure Ohanaeze Ndigbo as well as reposition Ndigbo at this very crucial chapter of their history.
Mazi Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji, MNSE
Ohanaeze Stakeholder since February 2000
Publisher, hoo!haa!! Igbo online Newspaper