History was made recently in the socio-political annals of Ndigbo, when former information minister and erudite scholar Chief Nnia Nwodo was elected as President-General of Pan-Igbo cum cultural organization—Ohaneze Ndigbo. The beauty of Nwodo’s election is not only that he has the required pedigree and political clout to galvanize, congregate and orientate Ndigbo towards a unified vision and purpose, but that his emergence came at an auspicious time when Igbo nation is at crossroad of destiny—lack of socio-political leadership which is too visible to ignore.
Chief Nwodo like the biblical Moses is taking up this mantle of leadership when Igbo nation has lost its leadership compass in political wilderness. His emergence came at a time when Igbo nation, like sheep without shepherd is desperately yearning for a leader that would defy political cum tribal sentiments to rebuild the broken bonds of unity that defined Igbo nation in the past.
Apart from the clarion call to get Igbo nation to speak with one voice, another major assignment that would portray Chief Nwodo-led Ohaneze Ndigbo as rejuvenated platform, resuscitated with the sole purpose to articulate, defend and project core interests of Igbo nation in a multi-ethnic country like ours, would be how to get President Buhari-led APC government to address injustices vis-à-vis political segregation of Igbo nation. Never a time in the history of Nigeria has Ndigbo be so oppressed, humiliated and marginalized than now! Even the pre-civil war marginalization of Ndigbo was not so pronounced like what we are witnessing in this present government via its actions and inactions.
The current resurrected agitation of Biafra by IPOB is not only as a result of Nnamdi Kanu’s Biafran ideology—that has spread like wildfire since the inception of President Buhari-led administration—owing specifically to unwarranted arrest and illegal detention of IPOB Leader, but lack of respected Igbo leadership to get those behind the movement to roundtable. To make matters worse, immediate past headship of the Ohaneze Ndigbo sometimes issued partisan statements that were not in consonance with longings and aspirations of Ndigbo, especially its youths. Ohaneze Ndigbo lost its glory when its past leadership began using it as political pressure group to peddle influence in the corridors of power, just to propagate selfish political interests of few individuals—who in the absence of recognized leadership in Igbo nation, tried to hijack Ohaneze in other to further their political ambitions.
Now that Governors and other supposed leaders in Igbo speaking states of old Eastern region are divided along political lines, the new leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo will provide the much-needed consensus to ensure visionary leadership for millions of Ndigbo round the globe. Continued invasion of Igbo land by Fulani herdsmen and the gruesome murder and detention of pro-Biafran agitators by agents of this government should be the first problem to be solved by Chief Nwodo-led Ohaneze Ndigbo.
The new leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo should be courageous enough to look President Buhari into the eyes to inform him that unless lopsided appointments and deliberate anti-Ndigbo government policies conceived with the aim of relegating Igbo nation to the background are reversed, agitation for an independent state of Biafra will keep getting acceptance amongst Igbos, especially its youths—who are agitating for equal treatment in a country called their own. It is unprecedented that Igbo—one of the three major ethic groups in a heterogeneous nation like Nigeria is not represented in the hierarchy of security circle. No federal presence in South-East geo-political zone. It is such a pathetic situation as if Igbos forced Sir Frederick Lord Luggard to make them part of Nigeria during 1914 amalgamation! What an injustice!
Chief Nnia Nwodo as the new President-General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, and going by his antecedents, has the political sagacity, requisite experience and strength of character to be the new generation leader every Igbo person should look up at the point of at this trying time. Chief Nwodo should use this golden opportunity presented by this position to demystify this notion that Ndigbo have no recognized king (Igbo enwe eze), which has painted Igbo nation as divided entity for very long time. He should work very hard to remove this toga of elitism in the running of the organization, thereby entrenching it as grassroots association that was established to unite, defend and project Ndigbo in all the nook and cranny of this earth.
I will also want to recognize in a special way the noble role played by Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in the historic emergence of one of the golden fishes in Enugu State as President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo; in the person of Chief Nnia Nwodo. Governor Ugwuanyi placed merit above partisan consideration when throwing his support behind Chief Nnia Nwodo, especially now it has reached the turn of Coal City State to head that exalted pan-Igbo organization. Governor Ugwuanyi in his statesman-like dexterity ensured that there was no rancour or bad blood drawn amongst prominent Enugu indigenes that showed interest in that office before, during and after the election.
The thrust of trust which should emanate from heart filled with magnitude of gratitude, for onerous responsibility of leading Ndigbo bestowed on him should propel Chief Nwodo, not only to make Ndi Enugu people proud but to be the custodian of Igbo conscience and protector of remaining moral compass of our heritage. Positive Igbo cultures, aspirations and values should be adequately sustained and promoted by this new leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo, while some of the negative ones like OSU cast system—which is still a torn on the flesh of Igbo nation, should be exterminated and pushed to the dustbin of history—where it rightly belongs in 21st century Igbo nation.
Chief Nwodo-led Ohaneze Ndigbo should as a matter of principle remain apolitical; in other to earn and command the respect of every Igbo indigene, not minding the individual’s political inclination cum sentiments. I pray that God in His infinite mercy and grace will grant the new leadership of Igbo nation the Wisdom of Solomon; strength of David and understanding of Daniel as they embark on this great assignment to reposition Igbo nation.
Nwobodo Chidiebere writes from Abuja.