Last week, Ndigbo was faced with a serious embarrassment that their apex umbrella body, Ohanaeze, has been appropriated by some group of Igbos as their personal platform by registering at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC.
This action triggered questions from Igbos from all over the globe. CAC was bombarded with questions from eminent Igbos on how the registration came about. To the surprise of Ndigbo, a traditional ruler, Igwe Keli Nzekwe of Igbariam was named as the chairman of the Board of Trustees and he addressed journalists to confirm his involvement.
Ndigbo were angry by this action; a few unscrupulous individuals want to personalize the Igbo race and maybe make a mess of them, using the umbrella body of Igbo Nation. The action was strange, very strange indeed.
To start with, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has no provision for the position of chairman, the board of directors. It is not a company but a body of all Igbo people, home and in the Diaspora.
What it has is Ime Obi, which serves as the board of trustees or consultative council, if you like, and is chaired by the revered Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe.
So for some elements to register a whole Igbo Nation with the CAC obviously points to a sinister motive; hence the spontaneous outrage that trailed the registration. Of course, without much ado, CAC de-registered the body.
Saboteurs at work — Mbazuluike Amechi
Reacting to the action of the unscrupulous elements, an elder statesman and leading Igbo voice, Chief Mbazuluike Amechi, described the people behind the splinter Ohanaeze Ndigbo as “a group of rascals and hungry people who want to make money with the name of the group”.
When told that traditional ruler, Igwe Nkeli Nzekwe of Igbariam community in Anambra State, is claiming to be the leader of the group, Chief Amechi dismissed him and his group as jokers.
Amechi, the only surviving member of the Zikist Movement and the first Republic Aviation Minister said: “If such rascal behavior is actually coming from that particular traditional ruler, I am not surprised because it can only come from him”.
Chief Amechi, however, expressed disappointment that a traditional ruler could be involved in such a dirty act to destroy a respectable Igbo socio-cultural organization.
“The community whose traditional ruler is involved in the dastardly act of destroying Ohanaeze by forming a splinter group should call that traditional ruler to order because he is disgracing them.
“However, the public should ignore them; they are a group of rascals who are seeking recognition, people should forget them, they are a group of rascals who wants to be noticed”, Amechi said.
Illegal group seeking political relevance for 2023 — Ohanaeze Spokesman
In his reaction, the national spokesman of Ohananeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, a lawyer, said those behind the illegal activities were seeking political relevance ahead of 2023 general elections.
Achi-Okpaga emphasized that despite the fruitless efforts of some persons to balkanize the organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo remains strong and unwavering.
“I would not know; every good politician, in the Nigerian context, could be described as a cat with nine lives. With 2023 fast approaching, they have started scheming for relevance. Perhaps, those who want to ride on the back of Ohanaeze to political limelight but would not gain such access would want to balkanize it in order to achieve their selfish political aim.
“Nothing has changed. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is a strong tower and it does not waver. In the words of Ola Rotimi, the venom of vipers does nothing to the back of a tortoise. Were you expecting every Igboman to identify with the current Ohanaeze national leadership? It would be unheard of. Even in families, parents sometimes disagree with spouses and/or children”, the spokesman said.
He however appealed to those interested to be part of the leadership structure of the organization to allow the current National Executive Committee, NEC, to conclude their tenure in order to pave way for another leadership arrangement.
“This National Executive Committee, NEC, will not last forever. They can strive to come in at the end of our tenure, in order to do what they think that we did not or could not do”.
On whether the organization is divided, Achi-okpanga said: “I cannot see any visible one, except you have any to air. The division is a natural phenomenon in every setting emanating out of individual differences and wouldn’t count as part of lapses on our part”.
It’s an act of sabotage —Igwe Spencer Ugwuoke
In his own opinion, a prominent monarch in Enugu, Igwe Spencer Ugwuoke of Obimo autonomous community in Nsukka Council Area, described those behind the aborted registration of splinter Ohanaeze Ndigbo as “saboteurs of dreams of Ndigbo”.
The monarch further described them as “merchants of destiny who would not hesitate to renounce the Igbo nation for money” even as he expressed happiness over the de-registration of the group by the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“Igbos are not more than Jesus Christ who was also betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Those people are Jonahs who would always want to bring bad luck to our collective dreams of self-realization. They are the saboteurs who are against Igbo dreams. If you give any of them that signed that document N20, 000,000 to renounce Igbo nationhood, they would not hesitate to sign and maybe claim Kano State or any other state outside Igboland.
“I am happy that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not keeping silent about it. That is why I want the leadership to collaborate with the council of chiefs to lobby other traditional institutions in other geopolitical zones of this nation in order to realize our presidential ambition.
Let them visit the Emir of Kano, Sultan of Sokoto, Oba of Benin, Attah of Igala, Tor Tiv, Alaafin of Oyo, and other revered traditional institutions in Nigeria and implore them to give the southeast a chance to produce the president of Nigeria in the spirit of equity.
“We cannot win the presidency without the support and consent of other geopolitical zones. When Jim Nwobodo contested for presidency in 2003, I and some select Igbo stakeholders toured most of these traditional institutions and solicited for their votes, but they told us to go back home and present a consensus candidate which we couldn’t do. This is why I am talking of unity of purpose among South Easterners.
“We have governors we can approach in South East to sponsor this tour. The president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo shall accompany the traditional rulers in this all-important tour. This way, we can realize our dreams. I am happy that the splinter group has been quashed,” Ugwoke said.
Criminal mischief on part of perpetrators — ASETU
The President-General of the association of South East Town Unions, ASETU, Chief Emeka Diwe described the attempted balkanization of the apex Igbo umbrella as “criminal mischief” and expressed disappointment on the elements behind it.
“I think it is time we begin to call things what they exactly are. The attempted bifurcation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo by way of registration of an alien group by a coterie of self-serving individuals is simply a sort of criminal mischief. Make no mistake: the right to freely associate with one another is inalienable and has even been safeguarded by our constitution. Nobody quarrels with anyone who chooses to associate in any way provided such association does not violate any of the extant laws.
“However, when a group rises to paradise another, to mimic, impersonate, and misrepresent the other in such a way as to confuse and hoodwink the public, such a group should be cautioned. To be clear, there are many interest groups dotting the landscape of the South East. But they maintain distinct identities and pursue their various agenda in a manner they have spelled out. Ohanaeze, which is the most prominent pan-Igbo elitist pressure group, has existed for years and has established its leadership succession framework.
“Whether they were being used or not, it may not be completely false. However, why should a true Igbo person allow himself to be used by a purported external force against his people in a perilous time like this?
”It is also worrisome that some of the persons involved are alleged to be holding some positions within their areas. What this should rather remind us as a people is to be cautious of the quality of people we entrust with leadership at all levels and to embrace integrity as an article of faith in our leadership selection processes”, Diwe noted.
Division not in Igbo interest – ADF
Also, the elite Igbo group, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, headed by Prof. Uzodinma Nwala berated those behind the splinter group, saying the division was not in the interest of Ndigbo.
According to Hon. Abi Onyike, the group’s spokesman, “ADF saw the split as not being in the interest of Ndigbo” because we believe that we need a united front at this juncture in order to defend the interests of Igboland at this critical moment in the history of Nigeria.
“We believe that Igbos can make contributions to the development of Alaigbo, using several platforms without necessarily creating problems in Ohanaeze.
“Is there anything Ohanaeze is not doing well that warrants such action? Political polarization occurs not necessarily for objective reasons. It may be the result of the power tussle inherent in any organization. So, it has nothing to do with being right or wrong.
“Political splinter groups are natural elements of political tension in moments of national crisis. There are several political tendencies in Igboland today arising from the crisis of Nigerian federalism. Many actors and activists may become impatient with the status quo or may harbor different imaginations about how to solve the complex problems of the national question.
“These are the reasons why an organization like Ohanaeze may be experiencing this type of attack, but we in ADF believe that we should always resolve our differences and forge ahead with a solid and united front for the liberation of the Igbo Ethnic Nationality in the multi-ethnic nation-state of Nigeria.
“There is nothing Ndigbo will do to those who tried to pilot a parallel Ohanaeze group. You can never know tomorrow. No group or organization or group of individuals can claim to have a monopoly of knowledge. All these formations are pressure groups. They don’t operate as governments, so you cannot punish anybody for treason. Rather you have to work hard to overcome your rivals by doing what the Igbo masses want so that you can relegate your detractors to a position of irrelevance and obscurity.
“You can only attain that by holding up the banner of Igbo Nationalism with a proven and popular record of credible service which will endear you to the minds of Ndigbo. So you will go for moral victory over those challenging you. You don’t go about muzzling them or decreeing them out of existence”.
Saboteurs are driven by selfishness – Osuagwu
For the former Imo State chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Chidi Osuagwu, selfishness drove those behind the aborted splinter group and however that it has been a problem that Ohanaeze Ndigbo has not effectively projected the affairs of the people.
But he said out that the current leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo under Nnia Nwodo, compared to other past leadership of Ohanaeze, has shown better records of creativity in leadership in terms of projecting the Igbo agenda.
Osuagwu said: “I don’t consider them as a splinter group, they are just a mischievous group; a misguided group of people. I have been in Ohanaeze for a long time and chairman in Imo state. Under the circumstance and the way things are, the most articulate leader now is.”
Nnia Nwodo. You can say anything you like, Nwodo has projected Igbo position the way it is. He has done better than any other person I can think of.
This person doing this has been a self-promoting person since I know him. He has been dysfunctional”.
On what the body had not been doing right,
Osuagwu said, “There has always been something wrong with Ohanaeze Ndigbo. I want you to get that different. Ohanaeze has never been effectively organized to project Igbo interest. In 2008 there were things fall apart celebration around the world but Ohanaeze Ndigbo could not organize it here. In that sense, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has never been an effective agency to organize Igbo interest.
“When Obasanjo at that time was harassing Ndigbo the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, at that time could not push back. At some point under Jonathan, some Anambra traders used the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to siphon money. So, something has been wrong with the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo”.