The New Ohanaeze and Igbo Future
Since the emergence of Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the Ike Ukehe, as the President General of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, early in the year, the Igbo narrative is fast assuming a new and interesting dimension. Chief Nwodo, the new man in charge took over from Chief Gary Igariwey.
Nwodo took over the leadership of Ohanaeze at a time there is so much discontent in the land and rise in separatist agitations as represented by the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and their persecution by Nigeria’s security agents.
He came at a time when there is much despondency in the land arising from the way the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership has treated the South-East zone in terms of appointments and infrastructure development.
He also came at a time when the South-East politics is in total disarray and the leaders cannot meet and speak with one voice on issues that concern the zone. There is a huge gap between the leaders and the led. There is absence of dialogue between the leaders and the led. Such alienation has seriously undermined the development of the zone as an important economic hub in the nation. There is indeed lots of work for the Nwodo-led Ohanaeze and the expectations are equally high. He came at a time when Fulani herdsmen armed with AK-47 rifles kill, maim, rape the people and destroy farms in Igbo land.
And the man of the moment has apparently seized the occasion and has hit the ground running to foster Igbo unity and strengthen the relationship between the Igbo and other Nigerians. Nwodo’s Onanaeze is singing a new song of hope and aspiration for the Igbo. Nwodo believes that the era of lamentation is over. It is going to be replaced with an era of new songs of hope and progress.
In his inaugural address published in the Saturday Sun of January 21, the Ike Ukehe captured poignantly the plight of Ndigbo in Nigeria thus: “Under the current Federal Government, Igbo representation is abysmal and fall extremely short of the constitutional provisions for the reflection of federal character in the appointment into important government positions. No arm of government namely, the Executive, Judiciary or Legislature is headed by an Igbo.
“No section of the Armed forces or paramilitary organization is headed by an Igbo. We know in this country when a Lieutenant-Colonel was appointed to the position of Chief of General Staff over and above his superiors just to ensure ethnic balance.
“We know when a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation was appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria to ensure ethnic balance. We know when a former Military Head of State was drafted to run for the President just to douse ethnic tensions.
“What is very perturbing is the public declaration of Mr. President that his appointments must favour the States that voted overwhelmingly for him and those he trusts even against the provisions of our constitution relating to federal character! One is at sea why Ndigbo who campaigned and voted for him appear not to be trusted.
“No wonder he defied the zoning structure of his party and appointed a non-Igbo man as Secretary to Government. No wonder the ministries with lean capital votes are the ones assigned to Ndigbo! No wonder he nominated Ambassadors for confirmation to the National Assembly naming three ambassadors for some states and only one ambassador for each of the Igbo States!”
Nwodo was categorical on his stand with Igbo freedom agitators when he said: “As President General of Ohanaeze I tend to extend my warm hand of paternity to IPOB and MASSOB. They are my children. I shall never desert them. Their struggle is my struggle even if we do not completely agree with their methods. In warfare there are two types of approaches:- coercion and diplomacy. I completely favour diplomacy.”
On a final note, Nwodo assured the Igbo that “The time of lamentation is over. Our continued cry of marginalization has become stale. No one is listening to us anymore. I take up the challenge of this onerous assignment confident in the fact that I know the Igbo that I will be serving. I am aware that in the DNA of the average Igbo person are bold strands of ingenuity, resourcefulness, intelligence and the ability to survive and thrive in the face of various odds and challenges.”
Nwodo also reminded the Igbo of their past monumental achievements as represented by the Nigercem factory at Nkalagu, the Golden Guinea Breweries in Umuahia, Turners Asbestos and Iron and Steel plants in Emene, the Port Harcourt Michelin Tyres and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He stressed that during this period, the World Bank recognized South Eastern Nigeria as the fastest growing economy in Africa. To him, these exploits can be done again.
Nwodo’s words are indeed inspiring and reassuring. It is hoped that Nwodo and his team will match their words with commensurate actions. The new Ohanaeze should work seriously on Igbo unity and politics. The new leadership should dialogue with diverse groups including market men and women, academia, politicians, civil society groups, artisans, artists, artistes, writers and other professionals.
There is the need to build consensus on issues affecting the Igbo. The Igbo rhetoric should be firm and fair. The continuous engagement with other Nigerians is imperative. The Igbo should think home and invest heavily in the zone. The principle of akuruoulo must be preeminent in Igbo agenda. Our charity, investment-wise, must begin at home. We have invested so much outside. The Igbo will show the lead in the development of our zone. Ohanaeze must show a new direction for Igbo politics.
We should rethink individual versus group interests and harness the good aspects of both to achieve greatness. The new leadership should ensure that the South-East governors hold regular meetings like other geo-political zones. We should be ready to present our best brains for politics and political appointments at all tiers of government. We must eschew politics of bitterness, hatred and violence. Our selfish and commerce-oriented politics should give way to pro-people and development-oriented politics. There is urgent need to end the lamentation songs and blame game on others for our woes. Let us remake Igbo land in the image we like.
We should set goals of what Igbo land should be in the next 10 to 20 years and aggressively pursue them. It is time to pursue with vigor the Igbo autonomy agenda and restructuring of Nigeria. Igbo should join other progressive Nigerians in making the restructuring a reality. Let us support the new Ohanaeze leadership to achieve their lofty dreams. The rebuilding of Igbo land is our collective responsibility.
Thank you for kind attention. JOHN NNIA NWODO IKE UKEHE