By Obinna Akukwe
The shameless sale of Igbo presidency and Igbo interests by Ohaneze to the highest bidder has attracted the frank opprobrium of Senator Uche Chukwuerije. In a submission he sent to the Igbo Elders,South East Governors, and members of the 11 man committee set-up by the South East Governors on 27th January towards resolving the Ohaneze crisis , Chukwumerije warned that as 2015 approaches, there will be more massive attempts to bribe the body .
A copy of his submission was given to Rev Obinna Akukwe the Director of Media of General Assembly of all Igbo Christian Organizations and Ministers (GAAICOM), and one of the initiations of the exclusive two year tenure extension granted to the late President of the body, Ambassador Raph Uwechue, the misuse of which has brought crisis to the body. This document, meant for the South East Governors, Elders and Clergy was made public in April 2013 by the authority of Igbo Bishops and Pastors under the aegis of GAAICOM and exclusive permission of Senator Chukwumerije. The Senator was also advised to also make it a public document for posterity purposes, which he later did.
According to Senator Chukwumerije,’’The increasing heat of 2015 politics, already smoldering, will reach its zenith in 18months time, bringing in its train even more massive attempts than hitherto to buy off the corporate integrity of Ohanaeze’’ .
He dismissed the election of January12th as a farce and called for fresh elections or the setting up of a Council of Elders to supervise the present leadership for only one term . According to the Senator ‘’ The lethal potential of the ripples of the electoral farce of Jan 12 cannot be overstated. It is a case in which the letters of Ohanaeze’s Constitution were skillfully used to destroy the spirit of the Constitution. Self-serving legalism now threatens to destroy the legitimacy of Ohanaeze leadership and alienate the followership. The grim harvest has begun with the unprecedented open rebellion of three state-members.’’
He warned that the crisis ‘’if unchecked will be a poisoned arrow at the heart of Ohanaeze. We must save Ohanaeze. The burden of history lies on your shoulders, the elders”. Lamenting on the personalization of Ohaneze for four years by the Uwechue leadership, Chukwumerije wondering how the situation degenerated to extent “ in which key organs of Ohanaeze like Ime-Obi and General Assembly could be dispensed with for over a year while the leadership loudly and regularly proclaim policies and priorities on behalf of Ndigbo all over the media speaks eloquently of a solo performance, Non institutionalization of its organs leaves Ohanaeze open to manipulation by any President-General and his captive Executive Committee”. He warned of the consequences of Ohaneze failing saying that’’. If Ohanaeze collapses today or merely vegetates along as an unfruitful tree in the desert, your ancestors will hold you accountable. History will not forgive you.”
Unfortunately, the predictions of Senator Chukwumerije came to pass as there was massive bribing of Ohanaeze before the elections 2015 presidential, a matter that led to the breaking up of the body into three groups. A faction of the body received N5 billion endorsement gift and negotiated nothing for Ndigbo, an act which led the Rev Obinna Akukwe led Igbo Mandate Congress (IMC) to mobilize some members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo National Executives and Ohanaeze Ndigbo Chapter Presidents in the 19 Northern States with Chief Benson Ezeudo,(Niger State ), Rev Offodile Igwesi (Jigawa State), Barrister A.C Amaechi (Kaduna State), Mr Ede Joseph Okafor (Bauchi State), Hon Timothy Nwadike (Taraba State) and Rev Nnamdi Okereke (Zamfara State) leading other state chapter presidents to publicly expose ,renounce and reject the bribe for endorsement gift, asking the faction that collected the money to return same to their principals.
They also issued various press releases rejecting the bribery scandal. Igbo Mandate Congress and Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the 19 Northern States is still watching the show of shame within Ohanaeze and the beggarly attitude of Igbo leaders and will soon make a statement to that regard if the feuding masquerades fail to respect themselves.
Below is the full report submitted by Senator Chukwumerije to Igbo Elders and Governors
Elders Save Ohaneze
Unprecedented in kind and scope, the crisis presently confronting Ohanaeze demands more than a mandatory placebo. It offers us a strategic opportunity to deal with the fundamental and foundational defects of the organization. If such an approach is ignored in favour of expediency and status-quo-reinforcing compromise, Ohanaeze will continue its downward spiral to irrelevance, at best a distracting tragic-comedy to mainstream flow of Ibo resurgence and at worst a casino for all Nigerian political businessmen.
The lethal potential of the ripples of the electoral farce of Jan 12 cannot be overstated. It is a case in which the letters of Ohanaeze’s Constitution were skillfully used to destroy the spirit of the Constitution. Self-serving legalism now threatens to destroy the legitimacy of Ohanaeze leadership and alienate the followership. The grim harvest has begun with the unprecedented open rebellion of three state-members.
This crisis if unchecked will be a poisoned arrow at the heart of Ohanaeze. We must save Ohanaeze. The burden of history lies on your shoulders, the Elders.
My humble suggestion is that we must avoid ad hominem- name-calling. Instead of blaming persons, let us identify what went wrong and seek a lasting solution.
What went wrong?
In summary, three.
One: Atrophy of Ohanaeze’s organs.
The constitution is so silent on the modes of operation of the organs that they are either moribund or merely vegetate as shadows of the command module (the office of the President-General). The result is personalization of roles. The low institutionalization of Ohanaeze structure has a long history, but we must use this opportunity to give Ohanaeze a sound participatory framework. A situation in which key organs of Ohanaeze like Ime-Obi and General Assembly could be dispensed with for over a year while the leadership loudly and regularly proclaim policies and priorities on behalf of Ndigbo all over the media speaks eloquently of a solo performance, Non institutionalization of its organs leaves Ohanaeze open to manipulation by any President-General and his captive Executive Committee.
Two: Lack of a popular base.
From Local Government through State tier to Ohanaeze’s national elections, the extent of wide popular participation is most marginal and narrow. Ohanaeze has always been caught between two models of participation – either universal adult suffrage (as in democratic political parties) or selective representative participation through a network of town unions (as in Igbo State Union). It practices neither. The result is a hybrid model that is accountable only in its elitist self.
Three: Distortion of the Constitution.
The intendment of the Constitution of any organization, especially a cultural body demanding a high level of confraternity and mutual trust, is at least as important as the letters of the Law. To interpret Article 11 (On mode of election) to mean that anyone could go directly to the centre to compete for a national office without the intermediary primary of his/her state elections is indeed legally correct but this is a brutal assassination of the spirit of the stipulation. The use of these two key phrases – “ELECTED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY” and FROM ALL INTERESTED CANDIDATES FROM THE STATE” simply underlines the necessity of an integrated procedure in which the states and Ohanaeze engage in constructive cooperation. This means a seamless sequence, a joint enterprise in which the grass roots of a home base and the central loyalties of Ohanaeze share responsibility in recruiting Igbo leaders known to and supported by the masses. The Constitution devised this as a bridge between the cultural and political spaces of Igbo governance. For one side to ride rough-shod over the feelings of the other side is to destroy the mutual respect and harmony that comes from such partnership. The result will be an ill wind to all sides. History of Nigeria is replete with cases of silent, but carefully managed, tension between ruling political bodies and overreaching cultural organizations. The last Ohanaeze election betrayed arrogant disdain for the lessons of history.
What is to be done?
Again, I’ll be brief.
Option A: Option Clean Slate
This means dissolution of the new executive, installation of a caretaker interim body, and a period of two months to return Ohanaeze to strict compliance with the rule of law, in its spirit and letter.
The advantage of this approach is to destroy and reverse the fast growing negative tradition of in-breeding and self elitism, which has begun to characterize access to Ohanaeze leadership. But the disadvantage is mind-boggling. It may result in the mess of seeking to unscramble scrambled eggs. It will open a floodgate of mercenary politicization, which could deal the final deathblow to Ohanaeze.
Option B: Transition option
This means the retention of the present executive for only one term, while structural organizations of Ohanaeze by a Council of Elders works space and concludes a restructuring programme within eighteen months.
The advantage of this approach is that it allows sleeping dogs to lie and projects to the outside world a positive image of a people with self-regulatory capacity. But the disadvantage is the unpredictability of human behavior in a long land-minded period of 24 months. The increasing heat of 2015 politics, already smouldering, will reach its zenith in 18months time, bringing in its train even more massive attempts than hitherto to buy off the corporate integrity of Ohanaeze.
If option B is preferred, I suggest the following remedial measures:
- A strong Council of Elders or a Sanitized Ime-Obi to act as the highest authority of Ohanaeze. Whether Council of Elders or Ime-Obi, the principle is guardianship by a body of mature, experienced elders, as in traditional Igbo governance. A reorganized Ime-Obi should do this job of effective oversight over Ohanaeze Executive Council. It can be recalled that our original Ime-Obi was indeed a hallowed gathering of elders and pre-eminent Igbos. The criteria for membership of this body must be clearly re-defined today.
- The new executive should be summoned to a meeting in which the elders should in true Igbo tradition discuss with them confidentially and frankly issues of proven improprieties, especially distribution of financial rewards among themselves and illegalities in the election that brought them to power. The Elders should secure an undertaking that the new rulers will not perpetrate such improprieties in future, and must respect the guardian role of Council of Elders or Ime-Obi as a mandatory clearing house for policies
- The Elders should embark on a peace offensive mission to Ebonyi Government and other aggrieved parties to effect a reconciliation of all alienated parties as members of one Igbo family.
- Immediate establishment of a constitutional review committee to review Ohanaeze Constitution and cure detected flaws (e.g. operationalization of the organs, electoral delineation of status of components or status or states strictly on basis of demographic indices, ideal mode of popular participation, clear definition of Ime-Obi (as a new council of Elders), hierarchy of decision-making organs, management of finance, etc).
- Establishment of a committee to recover effective ownership and assets of Ohanaeze Foundation, Ohanaeze Transport, Ohanaeze Centre for Leadership and any other outfit registered in the name of Ohanaeze. High commendation should be given to the originator of these schemes which, If well managed can cure Ohanaeze’s recurring headache of lack f funds.
- In further appreciation of the pivotal role of the Ohanaeze in the battle for self-empowerment and resurgence of Ndigbo, you, the Elders, should facilitate the emergence of a central think-tank for Ndigbo. Such a think-tank should be the central point of articulation of group vision, planning and harmonization, drawing its membership from the leaderships of three spaces – political (forum of governors), cultural (Ohanaeze) and business (South Eastern Nigeria Economic Summit.
Elders, where is Ikenga Ndigbo? What has happened to our pristine virtues of selfless service, integrity and courage? What has happened to our famed magic of Enyi mba spirit?
Please think of our yesterday’s glory. Fifty years ago, Igbo State Union was the toast of Nigeria as a model development instrument in a plural comity. Our fathers, the founders of Igbo State Union, were so successful that in a short period of thirty years the Union took Ndigbo from the lowest rung of social recognition to the top of Nigeria’s major power brokers. You, Elders can repeat this feat. If Ohanaeze collapses today or merely vegetates along as an unfruitful tree in the desert, your ancestors will hold you accountable. History will not forgive you.
Thank you. May you live till ripe old age.
Comrade Uche Chukwumerije, Senator