The apex umbrella body for the Igbo nation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, might have run into a serious crisis over succession politics of the chosen person that would replace its current president, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, whose second term ends on January 11, 2021.
Curiously, the development has led to intense plots on how to get a replacement for Nwodo in January 2021, when the new leader is also expected to emerge by consensus and sworn in. All previous leaders of have emerged by consensus. But this time that consensus appears elusive.
Interestingly, the race to lead the Igbo comes at a time, when there is high hope that the Igbo Presidency could materialise in 2023, hence the various groups and personalities had been trying to have a say in who emerges Nwodo’s successor.
Both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are believed to have been using proxies to realise their position on the anticipated Igbo leader.
In line with the Ohanaeze constitution, the three-year tenure of the presidency of the organisation rotates in alphabetical order among the five Igbo-speaking states of Southeast and the Igbo speaking parts of Delta and River States.
Abia State had the first slot with Prof. Joe Irukwu as the president. Thereafter, it shifted to Anambra, with the late Dr. Dozie Ikedife, picking the leadership ticket. The late Ambassador Raph Uwechue from Delta State took over the leadership, but later vacated the position for Ebonyi State’s Chief Gary Igariwe.
Presently, Nwodo from Enugu State occupies the office. But starting from January 9, 2020, when a successor would be chosen, the mantle of leadership of the socio-cultural organisation would move to Imo State, and by 2023, it would move to Rivers State.
Already, five prominent Igbo sons are aspiring for the position of President-General. They are Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, Dr. Chris Asoluka, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, Prof. Chidi Osuagwu and Prof. George Obiozor.
All of them are from Imo State that the office has been zoned to in accordance with the rotational arrangement of the union.
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma was alleged to have endorsed Prof. Obiozor, but has been rejected by others on the ground that the constitution of the Ohanaeze does not recognise endorsement. All elections in the past were by consensus.
So far, various attempts to reach a consensus had failed, while disagreements trail the composition of the electoral committee that would conduct the January 2021 election.
For instance, a 40-man electoral committee headed by Chief Ben Obi, a chieftain of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faced series of criticisms and opposition from a fellow Anambra son and Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige.
Understandably, Ngige is of the All Progressive Congress APC.
For peace to reign, Obi has voluntarily stepped down paving the way for a former president general of the organisation, Gary Enwo Igariwey from Ebonyi State to head the electoral committee.
Ngige felt the committee comprised of people of a particular political party and stressed that, “Ndi Anambra would meet and decide the people that will represent the state in the committee.”
On his own part, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Maurice Iwu, alleged that a political party was trying to influence the election.
There have also been accusations that the governors in the region were trying to influence the election. There are five governors in the zone belonging to three political parties. Two belong to the APC, (Imo and Ebonyi States), PDP has two governors in Enugu and Abia States, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is in control of Anambra State.
Apart from Uzodimna, all the four other governors would have ended their constitutional two terms by 2023 and have eyes for higher office.
The defection of Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi to the APC and the capture of Imo State by the party is also an indication that one way or the other, ‘Abuja’ might show interest in who emerges Ohanaeze leader. This is an area the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other militant groups in the region would be watching out for.
Meanwhile, at an expanded meeting of the Imeobi (the highest organ of Ohanaeze), last Sunday, Imo state consensus candidate for the post of President-General, Obiozor was carried out unconscious from the venue of the meeting.
His adoption was, however, still being resisted by individuals and groups like the Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC).
Knowing the republican nature of the Igbo, the intense race for Ohanaeze leadership might not surprise a few, who expect it to go down the wire.