The Igbo’s main socio-cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndiigbo has been torn apart ahead of its February elections following the emergence of a parallel electoral committee.
Recall that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu had predicted that Ohanaeze Ndigbo will not longer represent the yearnings of Igbo people. That prophecy has been fulfilled as the group thrown into crisis.
Apart from the Ibe Igariwe-led electoral committee, which had the backing of the President-General of Ohanaeze, Nnia Nwodo, another committee headed by Dr. Richard Ozobu was inaugurated on December 31st in a meeting called by the Secretary-General of the group, Uche Okwukwu.
Ozobu, who confirmed the development declared himself as the authentic chairman of the committee saddled with the responsibilities to organise elections for new officials of Ohaneze from the local government to the national levels.
He alleged that the Igariwe-led committee was illegal explaining that it was not established in line with the constitution governing the activities of Ohanaeze.
He said: “My electoral committee is authentic because it was set up in accordance with the constitution of Ohanaeze. It was following a meeting called by the Secretary-General. The President-General or Secretaty-General are the only two officials that can summon the meeting of Ohanaeze Ime Obi, General Assembly or the Council of Elders.
“The President can summon the meeting through the secretary-general. It is stated black and white in the constitution. So, any meeting that is not summoned directly by the secretary-general is inconsequential. So, on 31st December, I received a circular to the meeting in Owerri.
“It was summoned by the secretary-general and there a committee was raised for this election and I was made the chairman. Other issues were also handled at that meeting. We are talking about a major election and there are provisions in the constitution on how these things should be done”.
But he said the meeting where the electoral committee led by Igariwe was inaugurated was called by the Administrative Secretary of Ohanaeze insisting that the committee was an abuse of the constitution of Ohaneze.
“The meeting that was summoned was called by the Administrative secretary. Just imagine administrative secretary serving a circular for a meeting. It is not done that way. When the administrative secretary sends such a circular it must be by the directive of the Secretary General, Uche Okwukwu,” he said.
He said his committee had concluded plans to roll out the guidelines for the election adding the electoral procedures would be available latest on Tuesday.
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He said the committee had also started printing the forms for elections into various offices insisting that there was no no threat against the electoral process.
He also kicked against adoption of a consensus candidate saying it could only be decided publicly if all the contenders decide to step down for one candidate.
He said: “There is nothing like consensus candidate. It is not allowed in the constitution. Igbos do their thing in the open. If there will be a consensus, it will be in the open where the candidates will come out and maybe all will step down for one candidate.
“At the final election, we hope to elect the president-general, the Secretary-General, deputy president-general and deputy Secretary-General, publicity secretary, and others. We know where each position had been zoned to. We are going by rotation and everything has been zoned.
“The president-general will come from Imo and the Secretary-General from Abia. There is no dispute about the rotation arrangement. What is the essence of the constitution if it is not to make everybody’s action predictable.
“I expect a hitch-free electoral process. I am not worried about any faction emerging because we have a constitution. Any form sold to candidates emanating from the other committee is fake.”
When contacted, Igariwe, a former President-General of the body, who simply said his committee was making progress with the electoral process declined further comments saying only Nnia Nwodo could speak further on other matters.
But the Coordinator of the Ohanaeze Youth Wing in Southsouth, Chief Chinedu Arthur Ugwa said Okwukwu had no power to convene a meeting following his alleged suspension from Ohaneze.
Besides, he argued that only the electoral committee with the backing of Nnia Nwodo was validly recognised to conduct the forthcoming elections.
Ugwa said enemies of the southeast were planning to destabilise the Ohanaeze ahead of the 2023 election but added that the youths would stand by Nwodo to resist them.
He said: “In any election people will come out to destroy the good things that leaders had done. They have called Ime Obi, which is the final decision making organ of Ohaneze and a decision had been taken. A electoral committee had been formed and they are working.
“Those forming a parallel committee are trying to destabilise the Igbos. They will not succeed. We know the people in charge of Ohaneze and the electoral committee formed by them is the one that will conduct the election. Any parallel electoral committee formed by any other person apart from Nnia Nwodo and his executive committee is invalid.
“Is Ozobu, the President of Ohanaeze Ndiigbo? Whoever that is setting up a committee is fighting for what we don’t know. We have passed a vote of confidence in Nwodo and we will stand by the electoral committee formed by him. Even Ohaneze youths worldwide has passed a vote of confidence in Nwodo and we don’t recognize any committee outside his leadership.
“We need peace in Igbo land and we don’t want destabilization. I don’t know who Okwukwu is in the current Ohanaeze. But I know that he was a former Secretary-General. He was suspended before now and that suspension has not been lifted. I know his antecedent. I am rooted in Ohaneze issues and we know all of them. 2023 is coming and the Igbo is supposed to speak in one voice. But some people are trying to destabilise us”.
Also, the Vice-President representing Rivers in Ohaneze, Igo Okparama, said Okwukwu had no powers to call a meeting of the body without consultations with and approval of the President-General.
He said Okwukwu was suspended for over a year as the Secretary-General adding that someone had been occupying the office in acting capacity.
He said: “I have been in Ohanaeze for 12 years. Even the constitution said that the secretary shall call meetings in consultation with the President. If the president does not approve any meeting, nobody calls a meeting in Ohaneze. Uche Okwukwu has been suspended.
“Ohanaeze has an acting secretary who has been acting for almost a year now. Nobody has disputed it. Even Nnia Nwodo did not set up an electoral committee. What sets up a committee is the NEC approved by Ime Obi. So, the NEC did and it was approved by Ime Obi. So, Uche Okwukwu calling for a meeting I don’t know where he derived his powers from.
“He is from Rivers and I am from Rivers. He is from Ikwere and I am from Ikwere. When he was suspended, he chose Ozobu as his own President-General. The same Ozobu he is now using as an electoral committee chairman. He doesn’t have the constitutional right to call for a meeting”.
But Okwukwu dismissed his purported removal saying it failed the test of Article 21 of the Ohaneze constitution and insisting that he sell remained the Secretary-General with powers to convene meeting.
He said: “Ask those saying I have been suspended to read out Article 21 of the Constitution. Ask them who suspended me and where and when I was suspended. The article says only the general assembly can remove the Secretary-General not Ime Obi. If you remove him you must replace him with somebody from his state.
“If they said I have been removed did they replace me with someone from Rivers state? Was I removed by the general assembly? You purportedly claimed I was removed by Ime Obi, can Ime Obi remove an officer? They have lost the case. We are going ahead with our election.
“So, everything they did is illegal. Why are they panicking? Let them conduct their own election if they think they are right. I don’t want to comment on Igariwe because he was a former President-General. By my training I don’t make comments on leaders. But the only thing I know is that he knows he is presiding over an illegal institution that cannot stand the test of time.
“Are you following what the global Igbo leaders are doing. The global Igbo leaders recognised me as the true Convener of the Ime Obi. My only regret is that we are dragging the Ohanaeze institution to the mud by our action and inaction, omission and commission. An institution that is ought to be at the level of the Arewa and the afenifere, we are destroying it because of greed.”