BY ONWUASOANYA FCC JONES
For all intents and purposes, it would be unfair not to concede that as long as the authentic Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide is concerned, Professor George Obiozor is the man at the helm, the story about the controversies trailing his emergence will not come into my scope of intervention in this offering, neither will I want to dwell on the validity or otherwise of the grievances of those who picked issues with the process. What I can say however is that the former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America has been handed over a hot pan, it would be his choice to either use that pan to fry akara to the satisfaction of every well-meaning Igbo or to use the same pan to scorch the fragile Igbo unity. Of course, the latter is the best option.
I trust that the retired diplomat will be able to galvanize the Igbos to a common cause of development and advancement of our political and economic goals, if he does not get stuck on yesterday’s rhetoric and histrionics that defined the campaigns and the election proper. If he understands that he did defeat anyone in that election, but rather got a mantle to lead others, and become an impartial father rather than an imperial king.
The turnout at the Dan Anyiam stadium where the election held is encouraging. Statutory delegates from across political divides queued behind him. This feat must not be credited to anyone else but the clout of Obiozor himself. My thinking is that these people, even though they have their political differences believe in the capacity of Professor Obiozor to be the face of the Igbo ethnic group. In Ebonyi State for instance, it was an interesting sight to see former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, former governor, Sam Egwu, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, all queuing behind Governor Dave Umahi to support the candidature of George Obiozor. This is notwithstanding the raging rift between these gladiators in their States, where threats have been made to lives and letters have been written to express fear that one is looking to have the head of the other on an occultic altar. Any man whose election was able to bring these people on a line, raises hope of offering the kind of leadership Igbos need at this time.From Abia to Anambra up to Enugu, one could see political leaders burying their personal interests in order to unite behind a common Igbo cause. For me that is an encouraging sign of leadership. It was only among the Imo delegates that one could notice an apparent discord. This is neither the problem of Ohaneze nor could it really be blamed on Professor Obiozor. If I am to put the blame on anyone’s doorstep, I would put it squarely on the doorsteps of Imo’s political class, who have shown over and over, a pathetic inability for compromise in political struggles. This brings us to what I consider the first most important task of the new Ohaneze Ndigbo President: asserting his independence of thought from the current operators of government in Imo State, and the APC in general. Some people have started expressing fears that Professor Obiozor would be a stooge of Governor Uzodimma and a lapdog of the APC. Given that top stakeholders from across political divides showed presence and voted for him, the new President will have no excuse not to be the President of all. He will have to distance himself from any form of partisanship or protectiveness of any particular politician. If possible, he should keep some distance from Imo’s toxic politicking and whenever he must intervene, let his intervention be as impartial and fatherly as possible.
While he must not isolate Ohaneze from other sociocultural groups in the country, Professor Obiozor should be careful not to give the impression that the Igbo is subservient to any other ethnic group. Already, some people, either out of deliberate mischief or ignorance have labelled him a Miyetti Allah imposed candidate. While I consider such insinuation insulting to the Igbo race – Ndigbo are not vassals of the North, that the North or a Northern group would impose a candidate for the leadership of our apex sociocultural organization on us – Professor Obiozor must take deliberate steps, not to prove the purveyors of this insulting falsehood wrong, but to bolster the confidence of the average Igbo on the ability and readiness of the Ohaneze to speak for us, defend our interests and yet maintain good and gainful rapport with other parts of the country. No rational Igbo would want the Ohaneze to be a truculent jackal, nor would we applaud a President who would turn us to some timid hyenas.
The Ohaneze under Obiozor must rise to the challenge of rallying the Igbo intelligentsia, politicos, business class, youths and all relevant Igbo stakeholders for Igbo development. He would be leaving an indelible legacy, if within his tenure, he is able to exploit the rich pool of Igbo leadership that came to show him solidarity at the election, to execute an economic roadmap that would propel the Igbo to economic independence. The Igbo’s have the capacity to build Africa’s Silicon Valley, and there is no better organization to champion this than the Ohaneze. Get all the governors of the Southeast, Rivers and Delta States to contribute to a common purse for such project. The Igbo can own the best hospital in Africa that shall attract people from all over the world and we have the resources to execute this.
The acceptability of a leader is determined by his or her ability to mobilize resources for the execution of his ideas. How many Igbo billionaires and millionaires can the Ohaneze under him convince to commit resources to a collectively owned investment? It is time for Ohaneze to go beyond meetings and press conferences to embarking or encouraging developmental projects for the best of Ndigbo. Ndigbo are looking forward to a development driven Ohaneze and not a talkative Ohaneze.
One of the reasons for the seeming discontent among some stakeholders in Ohaneze leadership and the desperation by some to hijack its structures could be the understanding by some that the Ohaneze would play a critical role in projecting one candidate or the other for the presidency and other elective positions in 2023. The new Ohaneze leadership must try as much as possible to keep a distance from endorsing or even talking about candidates for elections in 2023. Leave politics for politicians and focus on the main agenda of fostering unity among Ndigbo for our social, economic and political development. The current leadership must deliberately place itself at a position where it could have the confidence of all contending political lineups within and outside Igboland.
The Ohaneze could be at the forefront of the campaign for an Igbo to become the President of Nigeria in 2023, but it must not allow itself to fall into the trap of trying to choose a consensus candidate or to endorse one Party against the other. It would be understandable if the leadership encourages Igbos to vote only political Parties that field an Igbo as their presidential candidate, but it would be divisive if the leadership endorses one Igbo candidate against the other. The variegated political sensibilities of the Igbo must be taken into account at all times.
As we look forward to a more virile, unifying and development driven Ohanezre, let me formally congratulate Professor Obiozor and his executive on their emergence.