2019: ON OHANA EZE’S STAND BY CHETA NWANZE
I had wanted to write about this for my next Guardian column, which is due next month. However, that IPOB have declared their referendum for the same day as the General Elections, makes this more pertinent.
Atiku Abubakar wearing ishi agu in Owerri
Last week, Ohana Eze Ndi Igbo broke with its tradition, and endorsed one of the contestants for Nigeria’s presidency, Atiku Abubakar. This decision by its Ime Obi, leadership council as it were, has met with consternation among people who are in support of the current President, Buhari. One of the loudest voices has been the governor of Anambra state, William Obiano, who went as far as calling the leader of Ohaneze, Nnia Nwodo, an idiot. Nwodo felt so insulted that he published the conversation.
Following all of that, the News Agency of Nigeria published a piece, picked up by some newspapers, claiming that the Atiku endorsement has split Ohana Eze. I read the piece, and the lie became too glaring. The only person that NAN interviewed, who has a link with Ohana Eze, is Obiora Ozobu, a former secretary-general of the organisation, who claimed that Nwodo lacked the capacity to summon a meeting of Ime Obi because his tenure has expired. This is simply untrue. The leadership of Ohana Eze has a single four year tenure. Nwodo was elected on 10 January, 2017, so he will be with us (unless he goes to join his ancestors), until 2021. Why would Ozobu tell such a gratuitous lie?
Secondly, all the other people interviewed for the story, Chris Ngige, Geoffrey Onyeama, Ken Nnamani, are not in the leadership of Ohana Eze, and even more to the point, are actual APC members, two of them, Ngige and Onyeama, are in President Buhari’s cabinet. So what would you expect them to say?
Information available to me indicates that Ohana Eze’s state presidents, Rowland Ajuzieogu (Abia), Damian Okeke (Anambra), Uche Nwaokobia (Anioma), Boniface Offor (Ebonyi), Chiedozie Ogbonnia (Enugu), Ezechi Chukwu (Imo) and Igochukwu Okparanma (Rivers) were on board with the decision. If that isn’t the leadership, then I don’t know what is.
Now, let us address the reason that Ohana Eze spoke up at this time. Ohana Eze was formed in 1976 as the main socio-cultural group for the Igbo people after the death of the Igbo Progressive Union. As a part of the post-civil war trauma, Ohana Eze deliberately took the line of not being overtly political. The generation in charge now saw the war, so they are still very cautious, but there is a good reason why they have opted to take this stand at this time.
It is IPOB.
As I mentioned earlier, IPOB have fixed 16 February for their referendum. Whether the referendum makes sense or not is not the subject of this piece. What is important is that, and let’s face the facts, President Buhari is not liked anywhere in Igboland. Even he knows it. By his own attitude, he has made himself almost impossible to like. There is a reason for example, why in Delta state, for his campaign he visited Warri and not Asaba (the Igbo speaking capital of Delta state). His handlers knew that raising a crowd for him in Asaba would be next to impossible. The leadership of Ohana Eze see this, but they also see the governors of the South-Eastern states for whatever reason (Obiano’s is plain jealousy), running about trying to support Buhari. The governors are going against the wishes of the people, and that creates a vacuum.
When there is a leadership vacuum, demagogues step in. It is that simple. Ohana Eze in reality, had no choice but to come down on the side of the majority of the Igbo people, or else lose them forever to IPOB and their Biafra fancy.