2015 Presidency And Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s Betrayal By Chekwas Okorie
THE recent statement credited to the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Enwo-Agariwey in most Nigerian newspapers published on Monday September 15, 2014, stating in clear terms that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not interested in the participation of Ndigbo to produce the President of Nigeria in the 2015 presidential election is heart-rending and the “unkindest cut of all”.
In my 38 years active involvement in Igbo rights crusade, no Igbo leader occupying the exalted office of President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has gone this far in betraying the Igbo people. I was a very young member of the Igbo Forum as an undergraduate in 1976 when it was formed. The Forum had Dr. Akanu Ibiam as Chairman, Justice Daddy Onyeama as Vice Chairman, Chief Jerome Udoji as Secretary and Mr. Jacob Ukeje Agwu (my Uncle and Guardian) as Assistant Secretary. It was Mr. Agwu that brought me to the Igbo Forum. It was in 1979 that the name of the Forum was changed to Ohanaeze Ndigbo with the same officers in control. These men of unquestionable integrity did their utmost to restore the battered self-esteem of the Igbo people who had just came out of the debilitating fratricidal war, the Nigeria-Biafra War which ended in 1970. By the way, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the Patron of the Igbo Forum and for a brief period the Patron of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Things began to go wrong in Ohanaeze when businessmen, government apologists and contractors began to lead the organisation. In 1979 under the chairmanship of Igwe M. N. Ugochukwu, a renowned contractor and the Traditional Ruler of Umunze in Orumba Local Government Area of Anambra State, Ohanaeze was misdirected to pander with the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). This unfortunate partisan posture of the leadership of Ohanaeze angered Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and all his Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) associates and they pulled out of the organisation. Ohanaeze collapsed. It was not until 1983 that Ohanaeze was revived with the clear resolution to stay the organisation away from partisanship in order to ensure the respect and loyalty of Ndigbo. It remained on course and became a very powerful and respected mouthpiece of the Igbo people.
But during the Presidency of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the leadership of Ohanaeze under Prof. J. O. Irukwu as President General aligned with the Third Term ambition of Obasanjo. This resulted in the first major factionalisation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. A Committee led by Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu as Chairman and Chief Mike Ahamba as Secretary, amongst other notable members, including respected Clergymen brought Ohanaeze Ndigbo once again back on track with Dr. Dozie Ikedife as President General.
In 2011 the leadership of Ohanaeze under the leadership of Amb. Raph Uwechue led Ohanaeze into full-blown partisanship. Ohanaeze Ndigbo became an appendage of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Even at that, Amb. Uwechue repeatedly assured Ndigbo that it would be their turn to go for the Presidency of Nigeria in 2015. This assertion of the Ohanaeze leader found eloquent and powerful expression in the Key Note Address he delivered at a Seminar in commemoration of the Ahiara Declaration in 2012.
Here we are in 2014 to be assaulted and insulted by Chief Gary Enwo-Agariwey, the President General of Ohanaeze with the offensive and heart-breaking statement that Ohanaeze is not interested in the project of Igbo man becoming the President of Nigeria in the 2015 General Elections. Even the predecessors of Agariwey who towed the path he is following now clearly avoided the heresy of an outright betrayal of the legitimate aspiration of Igbo people by stating that the Pan-Igbo Organisation was not interested in an Igbo man vying to become the President of Nigeria.
It may be necessary to remind Chief Agariwey that it was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igboman that spearheaded the struggle for the independence of Nigeria. Dr. Azikiwe, an Igboman contested to become the First Prime Minister of Nigeria in 1963 on the platform of the National Council for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC). He did not succeed in that bid but wisely led his Party to form a Coalition Government with the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC). The fallout of that coalition was that while the NPC produced the Prime Minister in the person of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, the NCNC produced the President And Commander-in-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces in the person of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The NCNC also produced the Speaker of the First Post-Independence Nigerian Parliament in the person of Dr. Jaja Wachukwu. Ndigbo stood to be counted and were respected in Nigeria. The creation of Mid-Western Region was made possible because of the collaboration between NCNC that led the struggle and the ruling NPC. In the Second Republic, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe contested twice to be President of Nigeria in 1979 and 1983.
After 1983 when Dr. Azikiwe last contested for the President of Nigeria, Igbo people consigned themselves to the sideline and were practically missing in action in the politics of Nigeria until 20 years after, in 2003, when I founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). God used me to present to the Nigerian people on our Party platform Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu of blessed memory as Presidential Candidate. Whatever was the outcome of that election, Ndigbo stood to be counted and we were respected.
In 201, the appropriation of APGA by agents of the Presidency had been virtually completed. To reward the Presidency for assisting their stooges to assume the leadership of APGA, the party adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as their candidate for the Presidential Election of that year unconditionally. Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu was terminally ill and incommunicado in a London Hospital at the time of this coupe de grace. The lie was even told that he gave his consent, but his son Chief Emeka Ojukwu Jnr. in a measured public statement stated that his father was not in any condition to communicate with anybody let alone making such weighty political commitment.
In 2012, I led my associates across the country to found the United Progressive Party (UPP). The National Executive Committee (NEC) of UPP in its inaugural meeting in November 2012 graciously zoned its Presidential slot for the 2015 Presidential Election to the South-East geopolitical Zone in a very strategic initiative that has positioned our party very well for the impending epic encounter of 2015.
The least that is expected of the leadership of Ohanaeze at this time is to appreciate and commend the UPP for giving the Igbo people of Nigeria a voice to be heard and a place to stand in the contest for the highest office of the land. The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo by the reckless statement he has made regarding the interest of Ohanaeze or lack of it in an Igboman vying for the President of Nigeria in 2015 is a grievous act of ingratitude to UPP, as well as the betrayal and sabotage of the Igbo collective aspiration. Neither Afenifere nor Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Ohanaeze counterparts in Yoruba and the North, will never be caught undermining the collective aspiration of their people.
We demand the General Assembly of Ohanaeze to disown the statement credited to its President General and reassert their commitment to the well-being and welfare of the Igbo race in line with the vision of the founding fathers of Ohanaeze. On the other hand, Igboezue joins all well-meaning Nigerians, especially Ndigbo in commending and appreciating the kind gesture extended to the people of the South-East Zone by the party which will enable an Igboman to fly the Presidential flag, a situation that was last witnessed about 12 years ago.
We have implicit confidence in the leadership of UPP and we shall accept in good fate any political alliance the party may wish to enter into which will be to our collective benefit and interest, and for the political development and stability of Nigeria.
To Ndigbo, we urge them to take heart in the face of the Ohanaeze betrayal. The plague of the present leadership of the organisation shall one day become history like others before it. Ndigbo should remain prayerful. It shall be well.
- Chief Okorie is National Chairman of Igboezue group
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