LEADING aspirants for the President-General of apex Igbo Socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, picked holes in the emergence of Professor George Obiozor as the consensus candidate for the position.
Professor Obiozor, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the United States was on Monday presented as a consensus flag bearer by Imo State Leaders of Thought led by Elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu at an event held at the Government House, Owerri.
Three of the aspirants – former presidents of Igbo Think-Tank group Aka-Ikenga, Chiefs Chris Asoluka, and Goddy Uwazurike; and former Secretary-General of Ohanaeze, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu spoke on the issue yesterday with Uwazurike and Asoluka describing Obiozor’s mode of emergence as consensus flag-bearer as illegal and unknown to Ohanaeze Constitution.
Asked his take on the development, Nwaorgu, who has been in the Ohanaeze leadership hierarchy for close to 20 years said he was still studying the situation. ”Sorry, I am not yet ready for comments on the issue,” he said in a terse reply to a text message.
Owerri jamboree uanaeznknown to Ohe constitution —Uwazurike
However, Uwazurike said the process of electing Ohanaeze leaders has no room for interlopers and scuttles attempts to impose candidates, adding that the presentation of Obiozor as consensus candidate was a mere jamboree.
His words: ”Adoption of a consensus candidate for an office in Ohanaeze by a group of people is alien to the constitution. Ohanaeze only requires a candidate to purchase a form and contest for the post assigned to his state. In other words, I can go and gather 1,000 people and declare that Mr. A is now a consensus candidate. Such an action goes to no issue except to massage the ego of Mr. A. ”The Ime-Obi is yet to sit to appoint an electoral committee. No electoral guidelines have been issued. So, what happened in Owerri is just a jamboree. Nobody can stop a candidate from the election. This is because the Ohanaeze constitution expects at least three candidates to vie for that office. Ohanaeze shies away from the manipulation of state government in the election of officers. It shunned the attempts of both Ebonyi and Imo States to impose candidates eight years ago by electing independent-minded officers.
”It is only after the screening of aspirants by the election committee that candidates can emerge for election for the office of the President General according to Article 11(b) of the Constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which stipulates that, ”the President-General shall be elected by the National General Assembly.”
Asked if he is still in the race, he said: ”Of course I am in the race! I dey Kampe! I cannot be deterred by a group of people playing out a script. Elechi of Ebonyi and Rochas of Imo State tried it and failed. Ohanaeze has its own process of election. Definitely, presenting a person to a governor is not there.
”Presently, we are all aspirants. Ime-Obi will soon meet to appoint Electoral committee members. The electoral committee will present the guidelines to Imeobi for approval. Thereafter, aspirants will buy the forms and submit themselves for screening. If they are successful, they will become candidates. The voting for the next President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide will be done on the floor of the general assembly. The process has no room for any interloper.’
They’re jumping the gun —Asoluka
On his part, Asoluka, former vice president general (Imo) of Ohanaeze, co-chairman of southeast/South-South Professionals, SESSP, and chairman/member, Ohanaeze Election Committee for 2012 and 2016 elections consecutively, said that as of now, there are no candidates yet until an election committee and the guidelines have been approved by Ime-obi.
On the presentation of Obiozor as a consensus candidate by Imo Leaders of Thought, he said any group of individuals is free to endorse anyone but that it is only “their preference, which neither binds the election committee nor determines who is eligible to contest the forthcoming elections.” He argued that it is premature for anyone to speak on who and who are candidates for an election which guidelines are yet to be unveiled, adding that until the close of return of forms whenever it opens and closes, no one can be said to be running as a candidate. It is only after the screening committee of aspirants by the election committee that candidates can emerge.”
On the mode of election for the Office of the President General, Asoluka cited Article 11(b) of the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which stipulates that “The President-General shall be elected by the National General Assembly from all interested candidates from the state which turn it is to fill the office, provided there are at least three candidates”
The Ime-obi (Inner Caucus) of Ohanaeze Ndigbo will roll out guidelines for electing Nwodo’s successor next week after an enlarged meeting in Enugu.
Chief Nwodo’s tenure will end on January 9, 2021. By the rotational Principle of Ohanaeze, the next president-general will come from Imo, a reason a host of Imo leaders are now in the race.
Those eyeing the Ohanaeze prime seat include Professor George Obiozor; Chiefs Chris Asoluka and Goddy Uwazurike; Dr. Joe Nwaorgu; former Imo State governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim; former Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University, Prof. Ukachukwu Aloysius Awuzie; Professor of Law, and former Dean, Faculty of Law, Imo State University, Dr. Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiaraeri among others.
Why I want to lead Ndigbo —Obiozor
Meanwhile, Professor Obiozor has thanked Imo State Ohanaeze Ndigbo, elders, and stakeholders for adopting and presenting him as a consensus candidate, and vowed to offer selfless service to the Igbo because he sees it as ”a challenge that I must confront triumphantly with honor and dignity, and a sense of responsibility that history beckons on my humble self to shoulder, for the benefit of Ndigbo, humanity and to the glory of God.
”May I equally humbly confess that my decision to contest for the office of president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo World Wide was a decision not based on self-aggrandizement, personal ambition, or self-promotion. By my age and career history, I have long outgrown all that. Instead, my most compelling necessity was service, timely and crucial service at one of the most critical times in Nigerian history with dire consequences, particularly for Ndigbo as a national entity. Indeed, not only has governance become both difficult and complex in Nigeria but downright an existential threat to Ndigbo in particular.
“The Igbo dilemma in Nigeria has come home at last. And the time requires a very careful and delicate skilled manager in the relationships between Ndigbo and other Nigerian nationalities especially the national power elites. This requires a mature and experienced person with a capacity to build enough consensus to define and defend the interest of Ndigbo,” he said.
Professor Obiozor said his background as Ambassador to the US, Israel, and Cyprus; Director-General of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA; co-ordinator, 2014 National Conference, South-East delegates; member: Presidential Advisory Committee-2014 National Conference; adviser to President Ibrahim B. Babangida on International Affairs; member: VISION 2010 Political Conference; and member, 1994 Political Conference led by Dr. Pius Okigbo among others has equipped him to take the delicate task of leading Ohanaeze.
His plans for Ndigbo
”With all sense of modesty, I can and would assemble Igbo talents and experts to cater and defend the destiny of Ndigbo with appreciable success and diplomatic dexterity, decency, and decorum. And Ndigbo will never be victims again, of Nigerian tragic circumstances which they did not create nor can they control.
“Again, with all modesty, I have had political experience on this important topic and played apprenticeship that went with it, with most of our Igbo leaders.
“In my view, ever since the end of the civil war, Ndigbo have not faced existential threats as we face today. The national situation is precarious and our position must be carefully handled and wisely presented. As Atilla The Hun advised, we must “choose our enemies wisely and our friends carefully.
“We are therefore at a point to re-assess the Igbo Dilemna in Nigeria. Every major group even the minorities is doing the same today. Ndigbo from all indications sees restructuring as the most preferred option. However, whatever or whichever options others offer, what is real is that all the nationalities in Nigeria will sooner or later go into negotiations or debates over Nigeria’s future. And through Ohanaeze Ndigbo, we must be ready to negotiate effectively by having skilled and experienced people to bargain in the interest of Ndigbo.
“Specifically, we seek unity but not the unity of slaves and masters and we seek peace but not the peace of the graveyard. We seek justice because we know that throughout history, those denied justice have had no interest in peace. As it stands now, it seems Nigeria and Nigerians would engage themselves in something like Penalty Shootout and every group must be careful in selecting their kickers/strikers. What is at stake requires the combination of the talents of the lion and the fox or the eagle and the dove. Who or the team that represents us matters, for that will determine much of the destiny of Ndigbo in Nigeria or what follows.
“Our position should therefore begin with efforts to effectively re-integrate Ndigbo into Nigerian political process effectively, significantly and relevantly. This will require serious diplomacy and not confrontations or conflicts. Power elites reward their friends and frustrate or punish their enemies. Diplomacy’s greatest lesson is to know how to ‘choose your enemies wisely and your friends carefully.’ And most intriguing is how to make ‘your enemy’ your friend for specific objectives. In fact, in politics and diplomacy, it is the identity of interests that are the surest of bonds between states and individuals in critical circumstances and moments as we are now.
Irreducible minimal demand of Ndigbo in Nigeria
”Generally to me, the demand is for justice, equity, and fairness. That is what we wish to achieve by restructuring the Nigerian political system, by bringing governance to a level playing field to all its citizens and back to the country bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers ‘where tribes and tongues may differ but in brotherhood, we stand.”