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What future holds for Ohanaeze Ndigbo as Obiozor bows

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
30 December 2022   |   3:07 am
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor submitted to the cold hands of death on December 26, 2022. It was nearly two years after he was elected into office. Obiozor, who hailed from Awo-Omamma, Oru East council of Imo State was elected into office on January 10, 2020. He was aged 80. He celebrated…

Ohaneze Ndigbo

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor submitted to the cold hands of death on December 26, 2022. It was nearly two years after he was elected into office. Obiozor, who hailed from Awo-Omamma, Oru East council of Imo State was elected into office on January 10, 2020. He was aged 80. He celebrated his last birthday on August 15, 2022.

Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma confirmed his death on Wednesday night, thus ending several days of rumours and speculations over his demise.
Uzodinma said: “On behalf of the government and people of Imo State, I, Senator Hope Uzodimma, the Executive Governor of Imo State, sorrowfully announce the passage of a great son of Imo State and Nigeria, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, worldwide, Prof George Obiozor.

“A renowned academic, an exceptional diplomat, a statesman and a tenacious patriot, Prof George Obiozor passed on recently after a brief illness.
“The death of this foremost Igbo leader and former Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States and the State of Israel is a big loss to Imo State, the South East and the entire Nigeria.
“I have no doubt that both Nigeria and the international community will miss his profound intellectual contributions and wise counsel on national and global issues.”

Reacting to his death on Thursday, the former president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, expressed deep sadness over the development, stressing that, “it is a tragic development, especially now that the Igbo are looking for opportunity to be integrated fully into the mainstream of affairs in the country.”
Nwodo, who was succeeded by Obiozor in office, said the erudite scholar would be remembered for his leadership proficiency, which according to him, “endeared him to the rest of the country and beyond,” adding that “he remained a true and patriotic Igbo man until his death. We will surely miss his fatherly advice and guidance.”

Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which he served until death said: “Obiozor was a prodigy and an enigma of some sorts: an erudite reflective scholar of world renown, prophetic intellectual, astute resourceful administrator, sagacious phebian political submarine, seasoned diplomat, cultural reservoir, detribalised patriot, jovial cerebral discussant, among others. The most endearing of the Obiozor mystique can be summarised in character; the courage of his convictions, steadfastness and uncompromising commitment to his goals. Obiozor was sometimes misrepresented and misunderstood because of the silent cautious strategy and tactics with which he pursues his goals but behind the great achiever was an uncommon and perfect gentleman of immense proportions.

Dr Alex Ogbonnia, National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo organisation in the statement, added that the global academic community has lost a lot with the passing of Obiozor.
“Obiozor will be remembered as a man who displayed an uncommon intellect, irrepressible courage, candor, tolerance, large heart and equanimity; he sacrificed his personal comfort in the service of Igbo nation. What stands Obiozor out among his peers is his unique intellectual wizardry, profound sense of humour, extraordinary creative imagination, rationality, clear-headedness, unwavering determination and incandescent passion with which he pursues his views even in most hostile or complex circumstances,” he stated.
Founder and former National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie said: “I am greatly saddened by the death of Ambassador Professor George Obiozor, the highly respected President General of Ohanaeze Worldwide. His death has left a huge void in the leadership of Ohanaeze. He brought incomparable intellectual depth, maturity, forthrightness, courage and diplomatic savvy to bear in his leadership of Ohanaeze. Ndigbo are by their very nature highly critical and republican. Our expectations from our leaders are usually high.

“Professor Obiozor excelled and delivered on his mandate excellently. When it was the turn of Imo State to occupy the exalted office of the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, the state presented an array of highly qualified persons that made the contest keen and very competitive. When all factors were considered Professor George Obiozor emerged the undisputed choice of overwhelming majority of the large and unprecedented delegates of Ohanaeze leaders from the 36 states of Nigeria, the Federal Capital Territory and the Diaspora Igbo leadership.

“Professor Obiozor spoke truth to power and was a strong advocate of a united Nigeria where justice, equity and fairness will reign supreme. The cold hand of death cut short the tenure of Professor George Obiozor as the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. He will be greatly missed by Nigerians, the diplomatic community and Ndigbo in particular.  May his noble soul rest in peace.”

Also in a tribute, emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, who contested alongside Prof Obiozor in the 2020 Ohanaeze Ndigbo election that threw up Obiozor stated: “Prof Obiozor has been a high flier all his life. In academia, he was a star. In political life, he excelled in the appointments he held both during the military and civilian governments.
“In retirement from government services, he was elected the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide on January 10, 2020. In almost 2 years of service, he stood like a rock of Gibraltar, even in the face health challenges. We salute him for his life of service.”
It could not have been a palatable experience for former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Israel and Cyprus, who will be greatly remembered for championing and sustaining the Nwodo’s legacy of handshake across the Niger serving the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Leading Ohanaeze Ndigbo was as tortious as his emergence.  A few months ago, hoodlums operating as Unknown gunmen attacked his country home at Awo-Omamma. His palatial home, which sources said was built during his years in active service was completely razed by the gunmen. It was gathered that he lost all his writings and memoirs, which were to be launched officially next year to the incident. “He died of heart break,” said a source.
Riding on the support of the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, who also nominated him for the position, when it became the turn of the state to produce the president, Obiozor emerged in the election held at Owerri to lead the organisation in 2021.
It was this support and insistence that created the gulf over the election. Those against him insisted that he was never part of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and that allowing him to lead the group was like ceding the apex body to politicians and a particular political party. They said that never in the history of the organisation were governors allowed to nominate or participate in the election of the Igbo apex body.
The other was his failing health, which many feared could be aggravated by such responsibility. The fears about his health disposition became a reality during one of the meetings in Enugu by Igbo leaders to harmonise the various interests towards a peaceful election when the late President General collapsed midway and was rushed to the hospital where he was resuscitated.

Amid these oppositions however, and when it became clear that there was no going back in his emergence, many of those contesting in the election including Chief Joe Nworgu, Goddy Uwazuruike, among others had withdrawn and hinged their reasons on lack of transparency, adding that the process had been compromised even before the day of the election.
However, the Chidi Ibeh led group refused to beat a retreat. The group had gone to the media and announced that it had “conducted” a parallel election that produced Ibeh as President General and Okechukwu Isiguzoro as Secretary General. Incidentally, both men emerged from the states where the positions were zoned. They have continued to operate from Abakaliki in Ebonyi State and enjoying the support of some governors.

Pained by the activities of the Ibeh led group, the late Obiozor executive had filed a suit at the Enugu High Court, where they asked the court to declare their leadership the “authentic Ohanaeze Ndigbo leaders.” Unfortunately, the matter was not resolved until the death of Obiozor.
Prior to the court suit, senior religious leaders in the zone under the aegis of Southeast Bishops and Archbishops waded into the protests arising from the Owerri, Imo State election of Obiozor. The group after several meetings in Enugu, where they interacted with those who withdrew from the election in protest, members of the Chidi Ibeh led group, as well as those of Obiozor resolved that Obiozor should retain his seat while his deputy should give way for the deputy produced by the Ibeh faction to take over. It added that the Secretary General produced by Obiozor, should also give way for Okechukwu Nwadinobi, who withdrew from the election in protest. The group reasoned that making the sacrifices would usher lasting peace in the organisation among others. Unfortunately, the resolutions of the group were not honoured until Obiozor breathed his last. Until his death, those who felt uncomfortable with his emergence never attended the meeting of the group.
Now with the passage of Obiozor, there are tendencies that the contentions over who leads the main Ohanaeze Ndigbo would be revisited. Imo State by the rotational clause guiding the Ohanaeze will still produce Obiozor’s successor to complete their remaining two years. Now will the state fall back on those who withdrew out of protest to produce his replacement or would Governor Uzodimma insist on producing another successor?

This is part of the challenges the organisation would face. Although Obiozor emerged in the presence of Uzodimma and Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, the quest to assert control of the executive among the governors made those of Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi states turn their back on the Ohanaeze.
Guardian gathered that since his administration came on board, it has only received financial backing from Imo state government, a development coupled with the health status of the President general that affected the effective running of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
While the organization contends with the development, another challenge that it would act fast to resolve is how to summon the Ime-Obi meeting to source for Obiozor’s replacement.
It was gathered that in the event of the death of the president general, the Deputy president should summon and preside over a meeting where a successor will be nominated from the benefitting state or convene a congress where the void will be filled.
However, the way it is, the position of Deputy President of the organization has remained vacant since the death of its occupant early this year. River state produced the Deputy President general in line with the rotation.
A chieftain of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo told the Guardian on Wednesday that “it is really a difficult time for Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Obiozor could have done well but for his health challenges. This was what most people feared when they tried to oppose him, but those who needed him as their stooge refused to see reasons with the rest of the people. He has died when his services are needed most. I have every conviction that the pressure of office and what he has been through since his emergence contributed to his death.
“It is really a wakeup call for everyone, especially now that we are looking for a president to emerge from Igbo. But the greatest honour anybody can give to his gentle soul is to allow peace to reign in Ohanaeze Ndigbo. The greatest honour is to support every effort to unite Nigeria and ensure the emergence of Peter Obi in 2023. These are his ideas and dreams while he lived. During the last meeting of the National Executive Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide held at Owerri, Obiozor spoke emotionally about the candidacy of Peter Obi and pointed out that it would have been a major catastrophe if Obi were not in the race. He expressed satisfaction that Peter Obi has changed the political dynamics of the country and created a pathway for Nigerian new beginning”, he said.

The coming days will certainly define the shape of Ohanaeze Ndigbo going forward.

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