Ohanaeze Ndigbo: The tempest in a teapot ,By Chief Gary Igariwey

Prof-ben-nwabuezeA small event that has been exaggerated out of all proportions is the very definition of a storm in a teacup. In the course of the last couple of months, one or two self-appointed custodians of Igbo priorities, aspirations and destiny have been very busy stoking an otherwise dying ember of discord in our society – to achieve personal ends.

Let me restate, from the outset, the sentiments that represent the totality of my aspirations as the leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. My commitment to reform Ohanaeze, to leave it on a more solid and enduring platform than I met it, will remain undiminished. My dream for Ohanaeze is for it to emerge and remain a veritable instrument that will give authoritative voice to social, cultural, economic and political issues that affect the generality of Ndigbo, at home and abroad, young or old, rich or poor, elite or ordinary. A body that will act in concert with others to elevate and promote the aspirations of Ndigbo; challenge any encroachment upon our interests and stand up against those who might be tempted to bully, intimidate or exploit our sons and daughters wherever they may be. I shall strive unremittingly for the realisation of this dream and will not be swayed by self-obsessed lone-rangers eager for self-promotion and intolerant of alternative categories of options and preferences.

The quantum of intellectual energy and material resources that some of our able sons and daughters are usually willing to expend in shooting themselves in the foot never fails to amuse and sadden me in equal degree. The amusement comes from the folly of such self-flagellation and the sadness comes from the utterly unnecessary waste. As I write, extensive newspaper advertorials, booklets, sponsored opinion editorials and pamphlets are being published and circulated with feverish zest by a handful of individuals upset by our efforts to modernise Ohanaeze and take it forward to the digital age. Those who are misguided enough to embark on these futile enterprises may presume that they are attacking the leadership of Ohanaeze but the bitter truth is that their efforts are blatantly anti-Igbo.

Given that the characters in question have attained a certain status in society, both in terms of age and personal accomplishments, I feel compelled to situate their declamations in proper perspective so that a mere teapot does not assume the proportions of a geopolitical zone.

Firstly, the allegation that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is enmeshed in leadership crisis and legal tussle is baseless and unfounded. There are no litigations pending in any court in any jurisdiction within the Nigerian federation in respect of the leadership of Ohanaeze as presently constituted. If any such litigation exists, then it must have been instituted in the last 24 hours and my attention is yet to be drawn to its existence or pendency. I am bound in honour and duty to assure every Igbo son and daughter that the Ohanaeze executive which I have the unique privilege of leading is entirely legitimate and was brought into being through a legitimate democratic process.

Secondly, the allegation that the Presidency dispensed a monetary largesse of 1.2 billion naira to Ohanaeze as a reward for supporting the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2011 presidential election is false, defamatory, ignorant and calculated to whip up anti-Igbo and anti-Ohanaeze emotions. The additional claim that such monies were embezzled or fraudulently appropriated is a weighty accusation and one that was not lightly or flippantly made. It, therefore, cannot go unchallenged.

I assumed office as the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on 12th January, 2013, long after the general elections of 2011 were contested, won and lost. Given the defamatory, malicious and criminal dimension of the allegation, I have commenced discussions with my legal advisers with a view to ultimately giving instructions for all legal means of challenging this allegation to be explored and proportionate redress obtained.

Thirdly, the position of Ohanaeze on the National Conference has remained consistent and formulated in tandem with contributions made by various Igbo organisations. This formulation formed the basis for the Memorandum presented by Ohanaeze to the Presidential Advisory Committee on the National Conference in October, 2013. The Memorandum was signed by not only the President-General and Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo but also by notable members of Ohanaeze’s Imeobi and representatives of other Igbo groups, including Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, Sen. Ken Nnamani, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Igwe Agubuzu, Prof Ukwu I. Ukwu, among others.

In that Memorandum, our unified position on the structure, legal framework, duration, post-conference legal procedure, etc, was brought about through intense dialogue within the Imeobi; consultations, debate and disputations with other interested groups. I endeavoured to live up to my aspiration of leading an Ohanaeze that is inclusive of all shades of opinion, tolerant of debates and disputations without which sound and compelling conclusions cannot be realised.

However, when few individuals led by Professor Ben Nwabueze arrogated to themselves the arbitrary role of vetoing the contents of a Memorandum formulated through painstaking consensus and sought to recruit me to rubberstamp and legitimise their veto, I was not prepared, in good conscience, to become such a lackey.

On 6th January, 2014, Prof Nwabueze, wrote a 7-page letter based primarily on the protocols of a group called The Patriots, to the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, eviscerating the recommendations of the PAC. The letter stood, in many significant respects, in total contradiction to the recommendations contained in Ohanaeze’s Memorandum. It further sought to serve as a preamble to Professor Nwabueze’s desired constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

While I have enormous respect for the celebrated professor of constitutional law, I was not in the least inclined to betray Ohanaeze and all the other Igbo organisations that entrusted me with their voice, their aspirations and demands to be projected with the united authority of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. My commitment to the unity of purpose among the Igbo is superior to whatever respect I may have for any individual human being.

Fourthly, the wild claim that Ohanaeze is acting in collaboration with Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to retard Igbo ambition and political progress and that I personally conduct the affairs of Ohanaeze based on instructions and guidance from Aso Rock is contradictory of the political situation in the land, entirely hilarious, desperate and flies in the face of the proof of my actions and Ohanaeze’s positions on national issues in the course of my leadership thus far.

A deliberate and disingenuous attempt to create a crisis of confidence through blackmail and slander against me personally and Ohanaeze in general is altogether counterproductive and will be resisted. In pursuit of narrow-minded and self-serving political agenda, some individuals should be careful not to throw the baby away with the bathwater. Ndigbo are becalmed by our purposeful leadership and farsighted appreciation of their stance on current issues and aspirations for tomorrow. Those who are hell bent on whipping up a tempest should know the difference between a teapot and a geopolitical zone.

Chief Igariwey is the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo

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