THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma
Sunday, 6 December 2020 will mark the formal commencement of the fourth battle in the Igbo Wars. This column has steadily documented since 2018 the unfolding of the Igbo Wars on politics and culture. Many battles have happened, some leading to the next round and others of not much significance.
We noted this at the beginning of a three-part series in 2019.
“Full-Scale war has broken out in the South East as Nigeria prepares for General Elections 2019. It is not a physical battle, mind you, at least not yet. On the surface, the war is about political choice. More in-depth analyses, however, reveals a more nuanced struggle around issues of direction and the soul of a people.
Election 2019 would serve as a proxy for the many issues in contention. The issues are political, economic, and socio-cultural. They have developed as stirrings and taken shape as disaffection with growing unresponsiveness of Government. Deepening poverty and a landscape denuded of hope and jobs has caused questioning and manifests in several directions. While some of the issues are as old as Nigeria’s First Republic and Biafra, they are all coming to the fore and would echo loudly in the coming election.”
The battlefronts included IPOB, Youth versus Elders, the choice of an Igbo as the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 General Elections and the quest for the presidency. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the umbrella socio-cultural organisation of the Igbo by ascription and consensus, was always in the mix of the battles. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is now the battlefront.
The Ime-Obi of the Ohanaeze would meet on 6 December to appoint an Electoral Committee to supervise the election of the next president of the body in January 2021. The stakes are high and growing. No fewer than six eminent persons of Imo State stock are aspiring for the position.
Aspirants include Prof George Obiozor, former Nigerian Ambassador to Israel and the United States of America as well as former DG of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Dr Chris Asoluka, current co-chair of South-East South-South Professionals (SESSP), consultant and a former commissioner in Imo State, and Chief Goddy Uwazurike, former president of Aka Ikenga, an affiliate of Ohanaeze. Others are Dr Joe Nworgu, former secretary-general of the body, former President, Imo State Chapter, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. Chidi Osuagwu, and former Vice-Chancellor, Imo State University, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie.
The next president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo will come from Imo State. Heightened expectations attend the presidency of Ohanaeze. It follows from the many wars of the Igbo in the Buhari Years. President Muhammadu Buhari by acts of commission, has heightened the feeling of alienation of Ndigbo in the Nigerian project.
The Wikipedia entry on Ohanaeze Ndigbo notes, instructively, that “Although the group is not a political party, part of its objectives of creation is to foster unity among its members to allow them better to be represented within the political scenario of Nigeria. The policy is under review as some important issues are confronting Ndi Igbo, some of which are even threatening their growth which the umbrella group needs to address urgently”.
Ohanaeze birthed in a crisis that gave it further resonance and appeal. I cite the Wikipedia entry again: “After the Nigerian civil war, some prominent Igbos gathered to proclaim the need to unify Igbos under a standard umbrella body.
This initiative was much welcomed, considering the maximum displacement of the Igbos during the war and its aftermath. An organisational assembly was created, referred to as the Igbo National Assembly (INA). This organisation was later banned by the Federal Military Government at the time, probably due to the Government’s fear of a grand suspicious agenda being cultivated by the Igbos via the organisation; hence, the creation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in 1976.
Professor Ben Nwabuze, a foremost constitutional lawyer, assembled prominent Igbo leaders to form the organisation of which he emerged the Secretary-General spanning 20 years. The organisation was effectively championed and supported by Kingsley Mbadiwe, Dr Francis Akanu Ibiam, Dr Michael Iheonukara Okpara, Dr Pius Okigbo, and Chief Jerome Udoji, (who served as the first Secretary-General), among other notable Igbo personalities.
The forthcoming election has drawn in the political class with their games. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, chairman of the Elders Council, sought to disregard the constitution of the body and collaborated with Governor Hope Uzodinma to anoint Prof George Obiozor a putative consensus candidate. The gambit has failed in ignominy, as it ought. Let every aspirant enter the ring in the best traditions of Igbo republicanism.
There are many issues ahead of the new Executive Committee of Ohanaeze after the team led by the distinguished John Nnia Nwodo. They include finance the body, interest aggregation and articulation, service in the mould of the Igbo State Union of old and a clear plan of issues for its advocacy that leverages clout to drive socio-economic and cultural development of Ala Igbo.
Ebonyi State and its truculent governor David Umahi are also part of the Igbo Wars as I identified in February 2019. I noted then: “Then there is the special case of Ebonyi State. Ebonyi State was the only one where citizens turned their back on IPOB calls to stay home.
They had the backing of their governor, David Umahi. And history. Ebonyi State is the place that looks the other way in matters concerning the South East. They cite a long history of scorn and disregard by other parts of the region. The outburst by the Ebonyi State Government over the renaming of an Abakaliki Street in Awka spoke to the depth of feelings in Ebonyiland. It was passionate, angry and brimming with indignation”.
Now Umahi has come fully into the square. He joined the APC and effectively divided Ebonyi State and turned it into a battleground for political control. Ebonyi is unravelling in the ugliness of Politics Nigeriana.
The Igbo Wars are significant. Unlike the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in ancient Greece, the Igbo Wars are internal. Yet they will have the same consequence of determining direction. The combatants must be men of courage and vision to make a difference.