The wind of who to support and endorse has continue to create a deep hallow in between the Ohaneze N’digbo brothers. The strong disagreement between the top members of the current leadership of Ohanaeze, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Ndigbopeaked during the weekend as the President of the organisation, Chief Nnia Nwodo and the Secretary-General, UcheOkwukwu, expelled each other, a development that has pitched Igbo elders and members of Imeobi, the top echelon of Ohanaeze, against each other.
The disagreement, which has for long been a carefully guarded secret, blew open when Nwodo said recently that the organisation had, after a crucial meeting, endorsed the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the coming presidential election.
The announcement literally pitched Igbo leaders with differing political persuasions against each other. First to open the attacks was Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano, a member of Imeobi and the leader of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who described the action of Ohanaeze executive as ‘idiotic.’ As would be expected, that vitriolic response has led to equally explosive verbal exchanges, denials and counter accusations that have further exposed the deep division within Ohanaeze.
Following his alleged rejection of the endorsement, the Nwodo-led leadership promptly announced on Thursday, through the Publicity Secretary of the body, Uche Okpaga, that Okwukwu has been suspended as the Secretary-General of the organization. To deepen the crisis, Okwukwu’s faction at the weekend also announced the suspension of Nwodo, the President-General. Both leaders and elders of Ndigbo and other stakeholders have reacted to the development, calling for restraint.
For example, former Minister of Health and a prominent member of Imeobi Ohanaeaze Ndigbo, Professor ABC Nwosu, in his reaction to the development at the weekend described the purported expulsion of President- General of OhanaezeNdigbo, Chief NniaNwodo, as “a sick joke.”
He gave the reaction when he was asked to comment on the purported expulsion of the leader of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization by the Secretary -General, Uche Okwukwu, at the weekend.
Nwosu said he was the Secretary of the Electoral Committee and the Chief Electoral Officer that supervised the election and swearing-in of the President-General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, from Enugu State and Barrister Uche Okwukwu as Secretary General from Rivers State according to the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Nwosu, who was former Secretary of the Supreme Igbo Committee under Dr. Pius Okigbo in 1995 and former Chairman of Organizing Committee of Mkpoko-Igbo, said: “It is disgraceful that Barrister Okwukwu acquaintance with Ohanaeze Ndigbo should earn him a suspension because the only name associated with him is Prince Richard Ozobu, whose record in similar past activities are known.
“The venue of their purported Imeobi meeting was not stated, prominent Ohanaeze members who attended their purported Imeobi meeting are not mentioned, those who spoke at their purported Imeobi are not stated, their communiqué from their purported Imeobi meeting is not available to Ohanaeze and to the media. So, what kind of a sick and expensive joke are they up to?
“It is therefore heartening that a complete Ohanaeze executive from which the Secretary-General excluded himself met and recommended the suspension and seasoned members of Ohanaeze are wondering from where the Secretary-General derived the power to appoint Prince Richard Ozobu as Chairman and sole member of the Disciplinary Committee because no other member of the Disciplinary Committee was mentioned.’
According to Nwosu, “OhanaezeNdigbo is unfazed by this because similar sabotage had happened and had been easily contained. I can assure you that Ohanaeze is not giving even half a thought to this one.”
But another old member of Ohanaeze, Chief ChekwasOkorie, the Founder of UPP,at the weekend faulted Nwodo’s action. Okorie, in an address in his capacity as the National Leader of Igboezue Cultural Advancement Initiative, said “We, condemn in strong terms the unconscionable and disgraceful dragging of the revered image of the Pan Igbo, socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, into the partisan adoption of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, under the cover of a contrived Imeobi meeting of Thursday, 24th January, 2019, at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu. This compromising political scam was pulled off by a few cardcarrying members of the PDP to the deliberate exclusion of other members of the Imeobi who are obviously in the majority. What those desperate political leaders did was embarrassing to the Igbo nation and has tended to ridicule the republican Igbo nation as politically naïve and pedestrian, in their collective political strategy.
Citing the cases of 1979, 2006, 2011 and 2015, ChekwasOkorie said, “We are disappointed that some of those who brought this shame to the Igbo nation are very conversant with the chequered history of Ohanaeze and the damage done to the organisation each time succeeding leaders of Ohanaeze dragged it into partisanship.
“We urge the Igbo electorate who amount to about 30 million voters across the country to join hands with other Nigerians to have a major stake in the imminent victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the forthcoming Presidential Election,”Okorie said.
The Nation investigation revealed that the disagreement of the top leadership of Ohanaeze did not begin with Atiku’s endorsement. “Since the inauguration of Nwodo’s leadership, there has been disagreement. Nwodo has sidelined other leaders of the organisation and have run the organisation as a personal estate,” said a source close to the executive who preferred not to be named.
Asked the progress so far made in reconciling the leaders, the source said: “Not much has been achieved because the whole thing has been politicized. Each of the leaders and their supporters are influenced by their political and material interests. We know the interest of each of the governors and members of Imeobi, most of which may not tally with the interest of Ndigbo. It is unfortunate.”
In his response, Evangelist Elliot Uko, the Secretary of Eastern Consultative Assembly and Founder of Igbo Youths Assembly, said the crisis is disgraceful but will not determine how Ndigbo will vote. “The youths of Igboland today are not bothered with Ohanaeze because they know that its leaders are politically and materially compromised. Such old men will not influence how Igbo youths will vote,” he said.
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