The Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo last weekend made the bold attempt to begin yet another voyage in self-determination. The organisation held its national election in Enugu State and replaced an executive that had promised so much. The event ended the tenure of Ambassador Ralph Uwaechue, which was elected four years ago.
Like previous elections of the organization, the weekend’s exercise was not without controversy, complaints of manipulations amidst allegations of perpetuity in office by Uwaechue.
It was a similar scenario four years ago at the Women Development Centre Awka, Anambra State, where Uwaechue was elected. At that election delegates found it tough gaining entry into the venue as thugs suspected to be hired by politicians, took over the entire arena, pushing and kicking delegates including the contestants.
Meanwhile, controversy trailed the position of the Secretary General, zoned to Enugu. Two candidates, Chief Nduka Eya and Richard Ozobu emerged. When Eya was picked after he emerged from the state election, government authorities in the state showed preference for Ozobu. In the end, the new national executive stayed with Eya. To show its displeasure, government, officials in the state on several occasions prevented the meeting of Ohanaeze in Enugu and Police, State Security Services (SSS) were used to lock and guard the secretariat. The situation prevailed until highly placed Ndigbo intervened and Governor Sullivan Chime asked Ozobu to accept the development.
Last weekend’s election was fought with might especially by those who fixed the process. The process was eventually manipulated to the disadvantage of certain members.
The deep rooted animosities of four years ago surfaced. It was speculated that only those favored by the past executive emerged, irrespective of the limitations posed on their candidacy by the organisation’s constitution.
For instance, less than 24 hours to the election, secretary of the electoral committee, Chief Richard Ozobu was replaced by Mrs Grace Ene. Ozobu’s sin, according to the chairman of the electoral committee, Chief Chris Asoluka was that he tried to use his office to circumvent the overall interests of the organization.
Asoluka, said that Ozobu unilaterally postponed the election from January 12 to January 19 without recourse to the committee or the leadership of the organization that set up the committee with the mandate to conduct the election on January 12.
He acknowledged imperfections in the process as “human errors” and added that the election “had to go on to avoid obvious calamity that could have befallen Ndigbo by the vacuum that could have been created by the exit of the leadership of Uwaechue.”
Ahead of the election, Ozobu told journalists that the committee was not ready for the election, stressing that lack of logistics had made it impossible for it to meet with items in the programs it planned. He said that ballot papers, brochure for the elections, screening and protests arising from the elections conducted at the local and state government levels had not been attended to, and that security arrangements were not in place.
He had also explained that most of the nomination forms collected by the candidates for the exercise had not been returned, and that the committee needed to adjudicate on thorny issues that might recur during the election.
After explaining the issues to members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of Ohanaeze, he appealed that the event be shifted to January 19 to enable the committee tidy her efforts and give Ndigbo a credible election. While he queried the haste to conduct last Saturday’s election, he said that he would not be part of a process that would not deliver a credible election to Ndigbo.
That night, Ozobu sent messages to Ndigbo that the election had been postponed to January 19. As he was sending the texts, the committee was announcing his removal.
The committee moved to tidy things in its own way. The next day, it invited for screening those who purchased the forms with evidence of purchase of their nomination forms.
Meanwhile, Ozobu dismissed his removal and insisted that he remained the secretary of the committee, describing the election as “nullity” and a poor reflection of the aspirations of Ndigbo. Displaying copies of protests and petitions from some state chapters, he said that the national election of Ohanaeze would be conducted on January 19.
One of the letters came from chairman, Ebonyi State Traditional Rulers Council, elder Agom Eze, who said that he was informed on the day of the election (January 12) through a text message about the exercise.
He said it was “too prompt to allow for stakeholders to be mobilized,” adding that ‘Section 11 of Ohanaeze’s constitution provides that the state that will produce the president general should have screened and produced for the purposes of the election at least three candidates.”
He added that the process of screening the aspirants for the position of the president general from Ebonyi would hold on January 17 and that they would be prepared for the election on January 19.
A similar letter was received from the Imo State chairman of Traditional Rulers’ Council, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri, who bemoaned the urgency of the election. He stressed that the state was not ready to present a candidate for the position of secretary, which was allocated to it and called for a new date for the election.
Ozobu also referred to Article 1 of the Ohanaeze which states that known card carrying members of political parties or serving government officials were barred from holding the positions of President General, Secretary, Deputy National President and Deputy Secretary General.
He observed that despite the stipulations of the constitution in that regard, the newly elected Deputy National President, Ogochukwu Onyema, “who is a known card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as Special Assistant to Enugu governor” was allowed to contest.
The electoral committee chaired by Chief Chris Asoluka released the list of the winners as: Chief Gary Nnachi Enwo Igariwey from Afikpo North in Ebonyi (President General). Igariwey was the Deputy President General of the organization. He emerged unopposed after two other contestants from his state, Ebonyi, Emeka Ekuma and Ndubuisi Isu, stepped down. Others Imo State Chief, Dr Joe Nworgu from Ngor Okpala, Imo State as Secretary General. Nworgu was the Deputy Secretary General during the tenure of Prof Joe Irukwu.
Ozobu had said that from nomination forms available to him, Ekuma and Isu, who “purportedly” stood down Igariwey did not purchase nomination forms and were not candidates to the election and wondered how their names came about.
He said that Igariwey, Senator Emma Agboti, Ambassador Aja Wachukwu, Cajetan N. Oketa and Iboko Sylvester were the only constants who submitted their forms to the secretariat. Bemoaning the anomalies, he said: “They cannot conduct this illegality and we will allow it to stand. What will they lose if we get an extra week to do a good job. Some of the persons who were supposed to be part of the election left before it started. Uwaechue manipulated a process to perpetuate himself in office and we will face him squarely.”
But former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said that the election was a reflection of the aspirations of Ndigbo against the wishes of certain government officials and parties in Igbo land, especially on the 2015 politics. Describing the various complaints as “normal,” he said that the new leadership has the capacity to solve any outstanding issue and that there was no perfect system anywhere in the world.
Igariwey has promised to use dialogue to bring all outstanding issues to rest, even as he hailed the immediate past executive for the service it rendered to Igbo land. He stated that Ohanaeze under him would regain the confidence of all Igbo and urged for the support of all.
Nworgu polled 211 votes to emerge Secretary General after the position was allocated to Imo in line with the rotation principle of the organization. He had to battle five other contestants including Prof J C Agwulobi, Chief Cletus Amaraegbu, Dr Chidi Osuagwu and Chief Peter Orji.
Ogochukwu Onyema, the immediate past Chairman of Enugu chapter of the organization, became the Deputy President General. His opponent stepped down, while the third contestant, Dr Emma Nwankpa did not show up at the election following reports that he was shot by unknown men on the eve of the election. Mrs Selina Adibuah became the Financial Secretary among others.
In attendance were former Governor of Anambra, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former Presidents General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Rear Admiral Allison Madueke, former Minister of Health, Prof A.B.C Nwosu, Prof Anya O. Anya, Ambassador Eddy Onuoha, Chief Bob Ogbuagu, Col. Joe Achuzia, retired Justice Eze Ozobu, and Prof Irukwu, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Chief Nduka Eya and immediate past president general, Uwaechue.
Others include Chief Anagha Ezerikpe, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Chairman of South East Traditional rulers council, Chief Cletus Ilomuanya, Igwe Gibson Nwosu, representatives of Igbo in the Diaspora, Umuada igbo, Aka Ikenga, Izu-Umunna and delegates from the five South East states, Delta [Anioma] and Rivers states.
PRESIDENT GENERAL Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey(EBONYI)
DEPUTY PRESIDENT GENERAL Chief I.N…. Wonwu (ENUGU)
VICE PRESIDENT GENERAL Abia Chief C. Ndimele
VICE PRESIDENT GENERAL Anambra Dr. P.N.Atanmo
VICE PRESIDENT GENERAL Anioma Delta Chief E.P.Onyia
VICE PRESIDENT GENERAL Imo Chief(Bar) Ruben Okoro
VICE PRESIDENT GENERAL River Emmanuel Ajoku
NATIONAL TREASURER Chief D.A.OKEKE OGENE (Anambra)
NATIONAL LEGAL ADVISER Bar. Olunkwa Ifeanyi M. (Abia)
NATIONAL PUBLICITY SECRETARY Prince Ogana (Delta Anioma)
NATIONAL FINANCIAL SECRETARY Chief Mrs Celina Adibuah (Enugu)
ASSISTANT NATIONAL TREASURER Chief G.N. Mgbada (Ebonyi)
ASSISTANT NATIONAL LEGAL ADVISER Chief Joseph Ihemeta (Imo)
ASSISTANT NATIONAL PUBLICITY SECRETARY Bar. E.O. Okpala-Ukwu (Anambra)
ASSISTANT NATIONAL FINANCIAL SECRETARY CHIEF NWAGWU ALOZIE (ABIA)