“Ethnicity should enrich us; it should make us a unique people in our diversity and not be used to divide us” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In January 2017, the two-time former Minister of the Federal Republic, Chief John Nnia Nwodo began his reign as the President General of the apex Igbo Organization, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. As he bows out of office next week following the completion of his four-year mandate, the debate has been on what sort of Ohanaeze to expect after the Nwodo’s laudable and irreplaceable tenure.
The leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo rotates among the seven states of Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers that have Igbo speaking peoples. Having finished from Enugu State, the batten of leadership is being handed over to Imo State and the winner will emerge after the election from the candidates being put forward by Imo State people.
Since 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) mounted the political throne of the land, it has not been particularly easy for Ndigbo. The marginalization associated with Ndigbo progressed to a new level under this regime.
Since the civil war Ndigbo never had it so bad in terms of government/ people relationship. Therefore, the coming of Chief Nwodo at the time was providential. There couldn’t have been any better time for somebody of Nwodo’s pedigree to be on the driver’s seat for Ndigbo than when he came.
It was like the emergence of great leaders of their countries during the war. Here the great Winston Churchill, the World War Prime Minister of Britain comes to mind. Nwodo was clearly a round peg in a round hole as he perfectly suited into the position at the time he came utilizing his enormous intellect that is embellished in his exceptional oratory which he perfectly utilized to drive home the Igbo situation in the contemporary Nigeria. Clearly in the eyes of not a few, Nwodo through that endowed faculty elevated the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to such enviable height.
As he bows out, whither Ohanaeze? The apprehension is real about filling the huge shoe being dropped by Nwodo. Are we going to see a continuation of Nwodo era that is a delight to all or otherwise? What challenge will Imo State provide in this circumstance? The competition the state is bringing in the race for the President General is encouraging but the acrimony that is trailing it is discomforting and worrisome.
Even though the bitterness accompanying this could be traceable to the glaring political instability in the state in this democratic dispensation, pundits do not expect the Ohanaeze leadership to be dragged into it. Since 1999, Imo is the only state that has been ruled by four political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), and the APC.
All the other seven states of Ohanaeze have been ruled only by the PDP except in Anambra where APGA is holding sway unnaturally. There was also some aberration in Abia when PPA held on briefly before returning to the PDP, its natural political habitat. As a result, while other states saw only three persons as governors in their states in the last 22 years, Imo has seen five of them in this order, Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim, Rochas Okorocha, Emeka Ihedioha and current occupant, Hope Uzodinma.
Also in the 22 years of this dispensation one geo-political zone, the Orlus have been in power for over 18 years unlike what obtains in other states where top political positions rotate among the geopolitical interests. With this picture of glaring injustice, political peace would be hard to achieve in the state.
The height of the situation was when APC did the Supreme Court abracadabra that brought in Uzodinma from his fourth position in the state gubernatorial contest to occupy the number one seat in the state.
As a result, many watchers envisage that it’s not going to be easy doing any political business in Imo without a destructive fight. Is Ohanaeze going to be a victim? To what extent then will this unfortunate political antecedent affect the leadership of Ohanaeze going forward? Answer to the question will be de-termined by the way and manner contestant take their victory and defeat after the Ohanaeze election. If they decide to stretch the fight after election, know it that Imo political instability is going to take a toll on Ohanaeze and that will be very unfortunate and disastrous. Event watchers anticipate a feud to come after the election whose transparency and fairness have been assured, but they still expect all the contestants to bury their hatchets and join forces with the winner to move Igboland forward.
That is the reasonable thing to do and that is what is being expected from every discerning patriotic minds. To allow acrimony and bitterness to lower the leadership standard already set by Nwodo this past four years will be shattering. Where Nigeria is headed now is such that all people that make up this land should strive to put in their best for their people more so Ndigbo.
Where Ndigbo have been since 2015 in this country’s political calculations entails that all hands must be on deck if the extinction agenda for Ndigbo by the current leadership is to be checked.
If, for instance, 37 Nigeria Police officers are promoted to the rank of Commissioner and only one South-East person ‘merit’ it and 12 ‘merit’ it in the North-West, then know it that merit and nepotism have exchanged meaning in this clime.
In a country with over a dozen military and para-military institutions and there is no Igbo person found worthy to occupy a Command position, such endangered species should not toy with their future by fighting to the grave. Where our country is headed now, the uncertainty in the land being aggravated by nepotism, corruption, insecurity, unemployment and inept economic policy, entails that Ohanaeze leadership should be at its best at this time. In the last four years of Nwodo reign, the issue of tinkering with the nation’s political structure was very effectively brought to the front burner.
This was made possible by the understanding the Nwodo leadership had with other ethnic nationalities. Nothing underscores this fact more than that Nwodo was appointed the Coordinator of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Form (SMBLF). The situation in the country today is such that if restructuring does not happen now, sooner than later the country’s desires to remain one united nation will be gravely undermined. If the talk for a President of Igbo extraction in 2023 is being discussed at relevant places now, it’s all because of the Ohanaeze leadership under Nwodo that elevated it to such status.
Ndigbo all over the World expects the in-coming Ohanaeze leadership to not just follow up on Nwodo’s laudable projections that is targeted at ending Igbo marginalization in Nigeria, but they are to go further and provide some innovative direction to the people. The Aku rue uno project which Nwodo tenure so amply captured under the Alaigbo Stabilization Fund headed by a former World Bank Economic guru, Prof. Osita Ogbu, should be taken to the next level by the in-coming Ohanaeze leadership.
To continue to exist in the contemporary Nigeria, Ndigbo require a leadership that is focused, committed and patriotic in the real Igbo spirit of doggedness and the tenacity that is associated with this unique race. However, if Ndigbo hopes to meet these huge aspirations, it must find a lasting and realistic way of funding Ohanaeze structure.
If Ohanaeze is to effectively play its role as a catalyst for development in Igboland, it must not depend on politicians only for funding. To be able to constantly put political leaders on their toes, a structure must exist that will not tie their financial existence to politicians. The axiom that he who pays the piper determines the tune is real in this instance and it should not be so.
If Oha (the people) and Eze (the King) come together, the people should control not a few heads whose agenda might be different and selfish. Anybody excepting Ohanaeze leadership to effectively ginger political leaders to the right direction for development after begging them to fund the organization is not being realistic. This is a huge challenge which the in-coming Ohanaeze leadership should tackle squarely.
Consideration should be given to legislations by state assemblies for well-structured funding for the organization. Another challenge also awaiting the new leadership is to find a solution to the restiveness and the unreasonableness of Ndigbo youths in their pursuit of Biafra.
The continuous disagreement with Ohanaeze and other Igbo leaders undercuts the Igbo agenda. Here is a huge congrats to Nwodo as he goes to a new role and to the new Ohanaeze leadership. Udo diri unu.