Matters Arising from the Election of Prof. George Obiozor as President General of Ohaneze
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
Since the election of Prof. George Obiozor as President General of Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo on Sunday 10th January 2021, there has been increasing level of fireworks in opposition to his election. Not only that while the election that produced Prof. Obiozor was going on in Owerri as agreed by the meeting of Ohaneze Ime-Obi on December 20th, 2020, another election was also going on in Enugu, which produced Chief Chidi Ibeh, also from Imo state, as Ohaneze’s President General. Although sudden developments on Saturday left some marks as to what shape the election’s outcome will likely take, including the reactions it is likely to generate and so far, it has been nothing surprising. The curious withdrawal of Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, Dr. Chris Asoluka and Prof. Chidi Osuagwu, from the process just a day to the election left more to be desired.
Only yesterday during a virtual meeting attended by some stakeholders; Sen. Abaribe, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Former governor of Ebonyi and serving senator, Sen. Sam Egwu, Prof. Pat Utomi, among others, called for the election that produced Amb. George Obiozor to be cancelled and a new election conducted. It is not entirely clear or obvious why they are making such demand. Especially bearing in mind that all these are coming after changes were made to accommodate expressed concerns over the nomination of electoral committee members by the outgoing Ohaneze President General; Nnia Nwodo. The change saw Sen. Ben Obi who was originally the Chairman of the electoral committee resigned his position when opposed by Dr. Chris Ngige who claimed that Ben Obi is a member of the PDP. In his place, the former President General of Ohaneze Chief Gary Igariwey took the chairmanship and it was agreed that the election will hold on January 11, 2021 in Owerri. This meeting was successful much so, that Nnia Nwodo described it as the “most peaceful” Ime-Obi meeting the organization has had in a very long time.
Good a thing, the opposition mounted against the election of Prof. George Obiozor has nothing to do with his qualification and suitability to occupy the position, or his capacity and willingness to provide leadership and direction to Ndi-Igbo. A former Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States from 2004 to 2008, former Ambassador of Nigeria to Israel and former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Cyprus, Awo-omamma Imo state born Amb. Obiozor is eminently qualified to lead Ohaneze. The only challenge being his age, which is both a pointer to his experience and also a likely encumbrance to his performance. At 78 years, it is doubtful he has the precise measure of energy for the job. But then, old age is not a disqualification. In all, when we consider that what played out on Sunday’s Ohaneze election was as agreed by the meeting of Ime-Obi last December, truly, one is left more bemused as to what must have been the cause of the rancor the election is now generating.
This may offer some clue. The leading supporters of Prof. Obiozor’s candidature are governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo state and governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state. In Imo state, Prof. Obiozor was since adopted as a consensus candidate. Although many other contenders are from Imo state because, there is persistent argument that it is the turn of Imo state to produce Ohaneze’s president. Notwithstanding, Governor Uzodimma’s support for Prof. Obiozor is not a secret. Also, governor David Umahi never kept his support hidden. In fact on Sunday during the election, which took the option A4 model, Umahi was the first to stand and boldly, behind Prof. George Obiozor. Coincidentally, Umahi and Uzodimma are the only APC governors in the whole of Southeast and even South-South geo-political zone. The two men also are some of the most critiqued and less accepted governors in the zone, which, mostly, is a consequence of their political affiliation. Governor Hope Uzodimma quickly gained the title of ‘Supreme Court Governor’, after he was declared winner of the Imo state governorship election by the Supreme Court to the utter amazement of everyone. This forced Emeka Ihedioha of PDP out of office, an event that left many confused till date. It was such an unbearable blow to many, this, sadly, still pitched Uzodimma against so many people in Imo state and the Southeast, as his acceptability remains highly questionable. Therefore, one can conclude that governor Uzodimma is not a supporter with a lot of goodwill to go round and ruboff on his benefactor. Certainly not a supporter that will not raise opposition and enemies for whomever he is supporting. Governor David Umahi on the other hand just decamped to APC only a few months ago, after decades of membership of PDP that has brought him enormous good fortune in politics. His Presidential ambition is an open secret and he is in several running political battles with a number of people in Ebonyi state including Sen. Sam Egwu, Sen. Pius Ayim and many others. His enlistment into the APC fold has been viewed by many with extreme suspicion and months on, most people critical of his move still cannot find any justification for his choice to join APC or excuse his comments against PDP after he moved to APC.
Arising from these considerations, it is perceptible that opposition to Prof. George Obiozor is not necessarily opposition against his election on any basis whatsoever. This is because, Prof. Obiozor is qualified for the position and the election followed as agreed by Ime-Obi Ohaneze in their last meeting. However, opposition to Prof. Obiozor is incurred opposition from his support base. The criticisms, resistance, anger, dismissal and the stigma attributed to governors Uzodimma and Umahi has now been duly extended to Amb. Obiozor, who, unfortunately, is now being regarded in some extremes, as an extension of the Caliphate in the Southeast, just in the exact manner Governor Uzodimma, and later Governor Umahi are seen by many. The most unfortunate thing however, is that this rancor appears to be reinforcing certain assumption that Igbo people can never support each other to succeed or make some personal sacrifices in the interest of the whole. This is particularly audible in the light of the demand for Igbo president come 2023, to which many now wonder if election of Ohaneze President General can be so fraught with controversies, how much worse would it be to have a consensus candidate of Igbo extraction in the 2023 presidential contest. These developments, as confusing, and perhaps worrisome as they may appear, are lessons that must be well assimilated, moving forward.
Stakeholders, leaders and elders of Igbo origin, Ohaneze Ime-Obi and all concerned, must intervene immediately to resolve the situation before it spirals out of control. It is not in the interest of Ndi-Igbo for any political warfare to be exported to the apex socio-cultural organization uniting Igbo people. The rancor over Ohaneze election has to be resolved immediately so that the President General can enjoy the support of the people he leads to be able to champion the Igbo cause and possibly achieve clamor for Igbo President in 2023.
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