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Ime-Obi Ohanaeze holds December 20 to resolve election controversy

By  Lawrence Njoku (Southeast Bureau Chief)
18 December 2020   |   3:52 am
On Sunday, December 20, another attempt will be made to bring normalcy to the apex Igbo socio-cultural group Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to enable it conduct its 2021 election for a new leadership.

[FILES] John Nwodo, President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo

On Sunday, December 20, another attempt will be made to bring normalcy to the apex Igbo socio-cultural group Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to enable it conduct its 2021 election for a new leadership. The Sunday meeting being called under the aegis of Ime-Obi (highest decision making organ) Ohanaeze Ndigbo followed the failure of the December 6 meeting to resolve disagreements over the composition of a list of members that would conduct the January 2021 elections, among others.

The Sunday meeting is important to Ime-Obi members because the tenure of the current leadership of the group will elapse on January 11. What it means is that Ndigbo have less than one month to unite and conduct fresh election. The current administration of Ohanaeze, led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo, will expire on January 11, 2021 and the failure to elect new leaders might lead to a lacuna in Ohanaeze.

Nwodo had said at different fora that he was not prepared to stay a day longer in office than his constitutionally approved term. By January 11, 2021 the position he occupies will shift to Imo State in accordance with the rotational arrangement of the union.

The Guardian gathered that after the Ime-Obi meeting on December 6, where Nwodo unveiled the 40-man electoral committee, a series of criticisms and opposition that trailed it made it difficult for the committee to be inaugurated and start work. The nominated members for the conduct of the election have not been sworn in, the election timetable has not been approved and the aspirants have not been screened, among others.

It was, however, learnt that opposition to the list of electoral committee members did not begin with the Ime-Obi meeting of December 6. Sources indicated that it began with the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the body, convened earlier by Nwodo, where he unveiled the proposal and informed members that the list would be presented to the Ime-Obi for ratification and approval.

Some NEC members in the meeting were said to have raised objections to certain persons who were brought into it, based on their alleged affinity with the state governors and the various political parties. They had pushed for a review of the list, but failing to secure same, had begun a subtle campaign to ensure that it did not scale the hurdle of Ime-Obi. In fact, it was the subtle campaign to ensure the list did not scale through that gave rise to the number of persons that attended the meeting, including those who constitutionally did not belong to Ime-Obi Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

At the Ime-Obi meeting, Nwodo had stated that the list contained names of members drawn from the five Igbo-speaking states, including Rivers and Delta as well as affiliate Ohanaeze groups. He announced that while Imo, Abia, Enugu, Anambra, and Ebonyi States have four members each on the list, Delta and Rivers States have three members each. Other members were drawn from Ndigbo Lagos, Association of Southeast Town Unions (ASETU), IDA, ADF, Diaspora, youth wing, Ohanaeze Abuja, Aka Ikenga and Izu-Umunna.

Nwodo had proposed that Chief Ben Obi from Anambra State should head the electoral committee while Chief Ferdinand Agu from Enugu State becomes secretary. It became a herculean task to control the discordant voices that arose soon after Nwodo presented the names for consideration and approval.

There were those who spoke in its favour and there were those who spoke against it. Those who spoke against it felt that there was no consultation before the members were drawn, insisting that such negligence lent credence to beliefs that those who drew the list were working for a particular political interest. This was the case made by Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, who stated that Anambra people were not consulted before the list from Anambra State was arrived at.

He had told the Ohanaeze gathering in Enugu that some of the names on the list were members of a particular political party, stressing that “Ndi Anambra will meet and decide the people that will represent the state in the committee.”

His position was not far from that of Senator Rochas Okorocha, who went as far as criticising Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu for allegedly contravening the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo by forming a stakeholder’s forum in Imo State for the purpose of nominating a consensus presidential candidate for Ohanaeze.

Iwuanyanwu responded that Imo State had not endorsed any consensus candidate, stressing that he vehemently opposed the nominees from the state to function in the electoral committee. He told the meeting that Imo people would meet and decide those who would represent it in the committee.

Iwuanyanwu, while defending the list, stated that it was just designed to midwife an election, adding that their assignment would end the moment a new leadership was elected. He said it would be difficult to consult every Igboman to draw a list of electoral committee members, appealling that it be upheld.

General Obi Umahi (rtd) also spoke in similar vein, saying that it would be difficult to have a consensus list that would midwife the election.
Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, alleged that a political party was trying to influence the election and asked for the adoption of the list.

With these submissions, President of Association of Southeast Town Unions (ASETU), Chief Emeka Diwe, moved the motion for its adoption while Chief Guy Ikokwu seconded it. Nwodo threw the motion to a voice vote and the “yes” had a loud acclamation. He hit the gavel to signal its approval.
 
While the December 6 meeting in Enugu adjourned and members dispersed, those opposed to the list continued the advocacy to ensure that it was not implemented. They stated that what held in Enugu was not Ime-Obi and called for a fresh Ime-Obi. They insisted that the list was defective and did not meet minimum standard among other threats of litigation.
 
The Ala-Igbo Development Foundation (ADF), led by Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, had written to Nwodo, insisting that implementing the decision of the said Ime-Obi would not augur well for Igbo land. The group had insisted that the meeting where the list was upheld was not an Ime-Obi meeting but “a quasi-assemblage of some members of the Ohanaeze General Assembly” and therefore could not decide for Ndigbo.
 
They said: “Senator Chris Ngige eloquently made this observation, and although his observation was widely supported, his views were ignored. Another former governor made a related observation, but all were ignored and suppressed by the chairman.

 
“The implication of this is that no meeting of Ime-Obi Ohanaeze has taken place with respect to setting up the machinery for the election of a new Ohanaeze executive.
 
“On the list read out by Chief Nwodo as members of his electoral committee, no consultations were made with the respective states and bodies/organizations whose so-called representatives were announced by him. Most of us are familiar with the tradition of getting representatives of various states/organisations into any committee of Ime-Obi Ohanaeze. And what is that tradition?”
 
They continued: “In a properly constituted Ime-Obi Ohanaeze, once we get to the point of appointing, for example, the electoral committee, states/organizations are requested to stand aside to nominate their representatives and return the list to the Secretary of Ime-Obi Ohanaeze. After which the names of nominees are collated and announced.
 
“We therefore urge Chief Nwodo and his team to urgently convene a properly constituted Ime-Obi Ohanaeze so that a legitimate electoral committee shall be set up to organise Ohanaeze election in January according to Ohanaeze constitution.”
 
Apparently because of agitations over the composition of the electoral committee members, the proposed inauguration of the members billed for last Sunday in Enugu did not take place. It was cancelled by Nwodo at the last minute when some members had arrived for the exercise.
 
Sources told The Guardian that the cancellation was to make room for further consultations, as well as placate those with ill-feelings about it. It would also erase the fears that some of the positions to be contested for had not been ceded to any state governor.
 
“It will also create room for real members of Ime-Obi to properly review the list and ascertain the criteria upon which the names came, so as to douse the feeling of an orchestrated plot to cede Ohanaeze’s control to state governors and politicians. This is a socio-cultural group that should speak for Ndigbo. It does not owe allegiance to any particular political party. But there is an effort to ensure that those who would speak for Ndigbo do so based on political cleavages. Anytime we allow such to happen, then it is no longer Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
 
“This list that is generating much fuse would not have been so if our president-general, who without doubt has externally positioned Ohanaeze Ndigbo in a place of pride among other ethnic groups in Nigeria, has stuck to the guns of democratic principles. If he has shown cause to keep the organisation within the bounds of the intents of the founding fathers and not seek to inadvertently shift the goalpost in the middle of the match. We have a constitution, which stipulates its separation from the caprices of the political class as represented by the governors,” a source stated.

MEANWHILE, as Ndigbo awaits the resolution of the electoral list and modalities for the elections, aspirants have continued their campaigns, even as some Igbo organisations have begun to engage them on their possible missions if elected.
 
Last Sunday, a coalition of Igbo organizations, led by Mr. Ngozi Odumuko, held a virtual interactive session that had over 200 participants for the aspirants. Four of the five presidential aspirants participated. They included Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, Dr. Chris Asoluka, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike and Prof. Chidi Osuagwu. However, one of the aspirants, Prof. George Obiozor, did not participate.
 
The session afforded the aspirants opportunity to meet with the people and feel their pulse about Ohanaeze Ndigbo and unveil their agenda for the Ndigbo organisation if elected.