By Chris Orji, Enugu; Nwanosike Onu, Awka; Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt; Chris Njoku, Owerri; Bassey Anthony, Uyo and Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki
Aspirants for Ohanaeze Ndigbo President-General have rejected the choice of 78-year-old former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof. George Obiozor, as the consensus candidate.
The tenure of Chief Nnia Nwodo ends on Sunday. His successor will be elected on January 21 in Owerri. It is the turn of Imo state to produce the President-General which is rotational among the member-states.
The election is already being threatened by the emergence of a parallel electoral committee.
The Nwodo-led executive set up the Chief Enwo Igariwey-led 40-man electoral committee, which was endorsed by the Ime-Obi (the decision-making organ).
But another committee headed by Dr Richard Ozobu was inaugurated on December 31 at a meeting called by the suspended Secretary-General, Uche Okwukwu.
The six aspirants in the race are Prof Obiozor, Ukachukwu Awuzie, Nnaemeka Obiaraeri, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, Chief Chris Asoluka and Chief Goddy Uwazurike.
Imo elders, led by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, announced Prof. Obiozor, a scholar and veteran diplomat, as Imo “consensus candidate” to succeed Nwodo.
Governor Hope Uzodimma has accepted Obiozor’s endorsement by the elders.
But the other aspirants rejected the nomination because the Ohanaeze Constitution does not recognise “consensus candidacy.”
Dr Nwaorgu, a former Ohaneze Secretary-General, said the Constitution mandates that three candidates stand for election.
Asoluka said the Imo elders can select whoever they want but their choice “neither binds the election committee nor determines who is eligible to contest the forthcoming elections.”
He quoted Article 11 (b) of the Constitution which reads: “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.”
President of Ohaneze in Anambra State, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, told The Nation that Imo had the right to adopt any candidate, adding that none had yet bought the nomination form released last Friday.
He said: “Ohanaeze has not adopted anyone as its presidential candidate. The forms were just released last Friday and no one has bought them. The electoral committee has started working.
“There’s no crisis. We are working to make sure a good leader is installed and God willing, it will be achieved.”
The Ohaneze Youth Leader Worldwide, Arthur Obiora, also told our correspondent that the body had not adopted any person.
“No candidate has been adopted. Everyone is free to contest. We’re not supporting any particular candidate. Delegates are to vote according to their conscience,” he said.
My plans for Ohanaeze, by Obiozor
Prof Obiozor has assured the Imo elders that he would not disappoint them and Ndigbo.
He told our correspondent that he would assemble Igbo talents and experts to help him run Ohanaeze with diplomatic dexterity, decency and decorum.
“My dream type of leadership is the leader/manager model, using the most efficient persons and instruments to achieve Igbo collectively-defined objectives.
“I believe this can be done without malice but with diplomatic dexterity, decency, candour and decorum,” Obiozor said.
He said that the decision to contest for President-General was not based on personal ambition or self-promotion.
“My most compelling necessity was service; timely and crucial service at one of the most critical times in Nigeria’s history, 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,” Obiozor said.
He said Ndigbo need a very careful and skilled manager to handle the delicate relationship between them and other nationalities, especially the national power elites.
Obiozor said: “This requires a mature and experienced person with a capacity to build enough consensus to define and defend the interest of Ndigbo.
“In my view, 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.
“For far too long Ndigbo have been objects of stereotype and profiling which ended in being misunderstood and misrepresented before other Nigerians.
“That has been the Igbo albatross everywhere in national politics or business, academia or artisans. Negative profiling has been an Igbo cross to carry since Nnamdi Azikwe’s emergence in Nigeria politics in the 1940s.
“We must change the narrative through Ohanaeze Ndigbo. We must be ready to negotiate effectively by having skilled and experienced people to bargain in the interest of Ndigbo.
“Our position should, therefore, begin with efforts to effectively re-integrate Ndigbo into Nigerian political process. This will require serious diplomacy and not confrontations or conflicts.
“Power elites reward their friends and frustrate or punish their enemies.
“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.
“In 2023, 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.”
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