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Ohanaeze: Stoking crisis to weaken body ahead 2019

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The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not new to crisis.

Since the formation of the group as an umbrella organisation of all Igbo organisations, home and abroad, it had experienced discordant tones that had often polarized administrations of the body.

External influences from persons believed to be desirous of using the group to burnish their political profile and the personal interests of some of the members, especially those of the leadership had tended to divide the organisation.

It was in the attempt to minimize such crises that leaders of the group insisted that its offices should be on rotational basis among the seven Igbo-speaking states that make up the organisation. As part of effort to reduce crisis also, a time frame was set for tenure of those offices.

To further the spirit of accommodation, those who mooted the idea of the group had also made a case for other arms of the organisation, including the Youth and Women wings, as well as, its highest decision making body, the Imeobi Ohanaeze.

But, the gains from such subdivisions into various arms of the organization, notwithstanding, every administration has, one way or another, been embroiled in crisis.

If it is not the Secretary or President-general mired in power struggle, it would be external forces trying to remove an executive committee or, even battle over tenure among others.

Governors and other levels of leadership in Igboland had had cause on several occasions to intervene in wrangling within the august body.

On one occasion, the Government of Enugu State had to seal-off the national secretariat of the organization in the state capital, following the refusal of its leadership to yield to the choice of the state for a secretary general position.

The fact remains that there has never been any moment of peace in Ohanaeze Ndigbo, irrespective of how the executive was composed.

It was therefore, not surprising to many, when news of an imbroglio between the current executive led by Chief Nnia Nwodo, the Youth group led by Okechukwu Isiguzoro and the Women wing.

Isiguzoro had accused Nwodo of high-handedness and using the group to advance his political interest. He stated that Nwodo was working for a particular presidential aspirant from the Northeast and had reeled on the organisation to undertake political tours to achieve personal ambitions.

He further accused Nwodo of sidelining other members of the Ohanaeze executive and had run the organisation like a “personal enterprise” to the detriment of Ndigbo. Okechukwu, therefore led his members on a discordant song different from those of the leadership of Nwodo.

Matters came to a head last week when the youth leader called for Nwodo’s removal and replacement, even as he and his group went ahead to nominate three persons from Enugu State, including Prince Richard Ozobu, Chief OAU Onyema and Prof Eche Ugwu, as possible replacement for Nwodo.

Relying on a meeting allegedly held in Enugu on Wednesday with some un-named Igbo leaders, Isiguzoro had issued a statement announcing that Nwodo had been removed and replaced by Ozobu, a responsibility Ozobu declined.

Claiming a meeting held under the aegis of “Save Ohanaeze,” the youth wing briefed Journalists on its outcome. Isiguzoro said: “The meeting attended by Igbo Leaders, Save Ohanaeze Group, Ohanaeze Youths and Women gathered, in Enugu today  and screened all the  shortlisted candidates for Nwodo’s replacement,  namely Prince Richard Ozobu, Sir OAU Onyema and Prof Ugwu, and Prince Ozobu emerged new President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and he will be sworn-in on April 21, 2018 at Owerri, Imo State.

“The meeting, also plead with the Igbo nation, Southeast Governors, Igbo Leaders of Thought, intelligentsia and captains of industry, Ohanaeze Youths and Women to support the new President General, Prince Richard Ozobu and his team to be announced later.

“As a consequence, Nwodo have been banned from carrying any action and or political hobnobbing with Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s sacred identity; and he is banned from entering Ohanaeze Ndigbo Secretariat and if seen there, he would have himself to be blamed.

“The meeting also observed that Nnia Nwodo had also alienated the Ohanaeze Youths and Women Wings to the level of calling for elective convention on both wings, just to rival and silence the Igbo youths and women who are watchful and opposed to his preference for recycling another politician of the old brigade, as President Buhari’s alternative.”

A day after the statement “sacking” Nwodo was issued; another statement emanating from the group announced their “Independence” from the apex Igbo organisation.

All those that watched the development attributed it to “rascality”, stressing, “it is part of the move by certain politicians to infiltrate Ohanaeze Ndigbo ahead of the 2019 general elections.” They pointed to the head of a federal government parastatal from Enugu State, a Minister, who recently disagreed with Nwodo at a function in Awka, Anambra State, among others as sponsoring the youths against the parent body.

They contended that the action was “to destabilize the group, especially given the stand of the Nwodo led leadership on certain developments in the country since it emerged”, adding however that it was wrong to use the Isiguzoro Youth Wing, which had long been disbanded by the Imeobi Ohanaeze.

The Guardian gathered that the immediate past administration of Chief Enwo Igariwey had in 2016, before handing over to the Nwodo executive, disbanded the Youth wing led by Isiguzoro, following alleged “financial recklessness, extortion, misrepresentation and unruly behaviour.”

Igariwey had said: “During my tenure as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the then youth wing led by Isiguzoro operated as if there were two parallel bodies, taking decisions and making unguarded utterances in the media, without the permission or consent of the parent body. Several efforts made to bring him to order failed.

“The then youth wing under Isiguzoro also embarked on reckless missions outside Igbo land without the consent of the parent body. It became obvious that they were in pursuit of their selfish interest.”

He explained further that a six-man committee, set up by Imeobi Ohanaeze, led by Prof Atamuo that investigated the matter “recommended the temporal disbandment of the youth wing. So we sacked them accordingly before conducting election that brought in Chief Nnia Nwodo as my successor.”

Sources disclosed that the members of the Isiguzoro led Ohanaeze Youth had accepted their sack in good faith and had since packed out of the national secretariat of the Ohanaeze in Enugu; but they regrouped in the wake of the killings by herdsmen and the recent threat by northern youths on Igbos residing in the area to quit.

It was gathered that hiding on the lacuna provided by the absence of a substantive youth wing in the Ohanaeze parent body, they had started issuing statements to counter those of the Northern youths, a development that Ohanaeze leadership did not object to.

However, with the threats over and as the country draws nearer to the 2019 general election, the group started endorsing politicians across the southeast for re-election and when reminded that, it was not in their place to do so, had allegedly ignored such warnings and rather resorted to attacks on the Ohanaeze leadership.

Those who had read statements from the group announcing endorsement for some governors of the zone, knew that it was outside the mandate of the parent body, going by the fact that its aim is to protect the interests and well being of Igbo persons anywhere in the country.

A source said: “So when you said you have endorsed a governor, it means you are being political as telling other Igbo sons and daughters in the various states not to ventilate their political aspirations.

It is not fair and Ohanaeze Ndigbo has never endorsed any governor of Igbo origin before. It is simply, protecting Igbo interests.”

It would be recalled that in the bid to find anchor, gain acceptance, legitimacy and control recently, the Isiguzoro group had threatened to deal with Igbo leaders converging for any meeting in Igboland, without their involvement and those of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

That was soon after members of the IPOB destabilized the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) award ceremony in Enugu.

Efforts At Ending The Mischief

Nwodo has maintained studied silence since the matter started. However, many believe that the target is to create crisis in the leadership of the parent body, so as to whittle its influence on Ndigbo ahead of the elections.

For instance, Ohanaeze is still being accused for the “rejection” of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 general election by Ndigbo.

It is held that should the Ohanaeze leadership continue to hold it’s belief that, the President has not treated Igbos fairly would affect the chances of Buhari in 2019 in the zone; hence the need to checkmate the group.

Those in the know however, insist that should the seed of discord being planted in the group by the activities of the disbanded youth group fester, it would ultimately dwarf the consciousness and momentum that has been breathed into the Igbo body in the administration of the country.

Despite its failings, many see Ohanaeze as Igbo weapon to fight alleged injustices among others in the country. But, beyond the façade of politics being played out and apparently to check further uprisings from its Youths and Women wings, the parent body on Friday held elections into the two wings to fill vacant positions that arose from their disbandment.

Many said the uprisings could have been avoided if there had been functional executives at the youths and women wings.

It is believed that the emergence of a new Youth and Women executives will put to rest vituperations from the disbanded Isiguzoro group and enable Ohanaeze leadership to concentrate on its goals.
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