Ohaneze Ndigbo , the apex Igbo socio political organisation has been on the news again especially over the controversial new four year tenure for elected officers and controversial election which saw to the emergence of Chief Enwo Igariwey as President General.
Chief Igariwey was the former Deputy President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo who refused to be bribed to betray Ohaneze and Igbo interests and the panel constituted to investigate the bribe matter indicted Chief Emeka Nwankpo, Special Assistant to President Jonathan on SURE-P of interests inimical to the growth of Ohaneze Ndigbo especially in the handling of the Ohaneze Foundation, (details of which is not part of the current subject matter). Igariwey returned his N20 million naira bribe cheque and together with the then secretary general Chief Nduka Eya, Chief Chukwuemeka Onyeso, Prof Ben Obumselu, Prof Elo Amucheazi, Senator Edwin Onwudiwe and Senator Uche Chukwumerije among others rejected the attempt to convert Ohaneze into an arm of the presidency. It is the expectations of many that Chief Igariwey will not toe the line of the immediate past leadership which turned Ohaneze into a parastatal of the federal government.
Following the release of the first part of this report in 2012, there were a lot of activities within Ohaneze to patch up initial differences. The first part of this report made the Uwechue group to reach out to the Igariwey Group which controls most of the Ohaneze Chieftains for truce and the two groups agreed to conduct an election to take Ohaneze to the next level. Subsequently an election committee was constituted headed by Dr Chris Asoluka with Prince Richard Ozobu as the secretary and fourteen other members.
Initially Former Ebonyi State Governor Sam Egwu indicated interest to vie for Ohaneze leadership but when it was obvious that his candidacy will attract opposition from the State House, he chickened out and indicated support for Igariwey. Ambassador Ogbonnaya Aja Nwachukwu and Senator Emma Azu Agboti were the clear favourites of Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Martins Elechi . In Imo State, Chief Okorocha rejected the choice of Chief Joe Nwaorgu as Secretary General and fielded his own candidate ,while Nwaorgu and Uwechue played a fast one on Okorocha by replacing the delegates list from Imo State with new one on the eve of the election. Delegates from Delta States led by Ambassador Leo Okogun, Nigeria’s Ambassador Plenipotentiary, wrote a petition to the electoral committee alleging that he and other Ohaneze Chieftains from Delta State were deliberately denied nomination forms.
The electoral committee was starved of funds till three days to the election before Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State came to the group’s assistance with N2million naira. Prince Ozobu smelt rat in the deliberate delay in the release of funds and canvassed for a shift of the elections timetable. Other members of the election committee insisted on holding the election on the earlier scheduled date of February 12th because they were tired of constant postponement and intrigues and want to face their other businesses.
On the day of the election, a lot of names on the delegates list were replaced by new list especially from Delta, Imo and Ebonyi states. In order to forestall any reaction from the disenfranchised delegates, estimated over one hundred personnel of the State Security Services and equal number of policemen were drafted to the Ohaneze Secretariat to discipline any erring group. Lots of delegates complained that their name were not on the list while numerous others were not allowed into the venue. At the end of the elections Chief Igariwey was returned unopposed because the other candidates from Ebonyi boycotted the elections due to procedural irregularities and the earlier announced shift of elections date.
The attempt by Prince Ozobu to conduct parallel Ohaneze election in Abakaliki on February 19th was first challenged by the leader of MASSOB, Chief Uwazurike, who threathened to mobilize five thousand MASSOB members to stop the election. When Uwazurike and his sponsors heard that all anti-MASSOB and breakaway MASSOB elements are converging at Abakaliki for a final showdown with him, they pressurized the electoral committee into rushing to Enugu High Court to obtain injunction stopping the Abakaliki election. MASSOB foundation members like Mr Ndubuisi Igwekala (aka Agu Biafra) and Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka (aka Ogirisi Igbo) were among those mobilizing in readiness ready for Uwazurike’s five thousand boys at Abakaliki before the court shelved the proposed mother of all MASSOB battles.
It is pertinent to note that Chief Emeka Onyesoh’s attempt to get a court injunction in the same court a week earlier to stop the election of February 12th failed because for certain reasons the court could not hold. Chief Onyesoh is contesting the legality of the tenure elongation from 2 year to 4 year term of office without appropriate constitutional ratification. He is also contesting the legality of the said election.
Presently, Ohaneze is still in crisis because lots of chieftains have vowed never to allow one man to use the group to do business transactions with the State House. The chieftains have threatened to form a parallel group if transparency does not return to the system. Due to last minute pact between Uwechue and Igariwey, many participants in the February 12th election also indicated interest in participating in the botched February 19th election as a way of protesting what they termed as brazen display of power and excess intimidation by security agents.
According to the aggrieved chieftains, Ohaneze Ndigbo is suffering a crisis instigated by elements within the presidency to stifle any attempts by the Igbo to present a common front for 2015. The secret position (not media position) of the immediate past leadership was that Goodluck Jonathan must finish his second term in 2019 before the talk of Igbo Presidency. The dissenting group have asked various questions some of which include: What is the basis for another Igbo 2nd term support for President Jonathan?; What happens to Ndigbo if Nigeria breaks up before the 2019?; How do Igbos contain the aspirations of other groups for 2019 presidency especially the North?; What has Igbos benefitted from President Jonathan’s presidency? .
If the new leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo fails to take urgent steps to address all the questions raised by the elders , and take urgent steps to unify aggreived interests, by 2015 they will discover that they are leading only themselves, families and hangers on while Ndigbo will seek an alternative umbrella that will articulate their interests and not auction the Igbo presidency dream to the highest bidder.