Article by Obinna Akukwe
Ohaneze Ndigbo the apex Igbo Social, cultural and political rallying point is enmeshed in crisis over allegations that some of the leaders have auctioned the Igbo presidency 2015 project due to presidential largesse estimated to run into billions of naira. This amount includes various sums allegedly released by the presidency for the purpose of settling Ohaneze chieftains in support of 2011 presidential bid and the second tranche released in appreciation for the role Ohaneze played in garnering Igbo votes for president Goodluck . There is wide belief among the protesting Ohaneze chieftains known as the transparency group that other sums, contracts and appointments are being obtained secretly to auction and scuttle any attempt by the Igbo people to present a common front for 2015.
Presently, Ohaneze President General, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue is at loggerheads with the Secretary General, Chief Nduka Eya and Deputy President General, Chief Nnachi Enwo Igaliwey , Chief Chukwuemeka Onyesoh among others. Uwechue and his loyalists including Chief Joe Nworgu, Chairman of Igbo Day Organizing Committee among others are insisting that no such largesse was ever received from President Jonathan. This crisis have become so protracted that Ambassador Uwechue runs the Ohaneze Secretariat from his African House Residence in Asaba and has not visited the secretariat more than thrice in 2012..
Chief Nduka Eya has been insisting that transparency must be the watchword in Ohaneze Ndigbo financial dealings to avoid a situation where Igbo interests are sabotaged. He insists that whatever largesse from anybody, group, forum and even the presidency must as a matter of policy be tabled before the Ime-Obi Ohaneze so that the forum would decide whether to accept the gift or not, and on what condition. Chief Igaliwey claimed that he rejected his own share of Ohaneze national cake of N20 million naira which was an attempt to bribe him. He claims that since he rejected and exposed the dealings, his life is being threatened from unknown sources including sources claiming to come from within the presidency. Therefore, the man lives a life of hiding for safety purposes..
The accusations and counter- accusations which started as unsubstantiated reports have now grown to the point that the documented evidences are volumes and the chieftains are threatening to expose the entire dealings if the leadership fails to confess and ask for forgiveness. Since the once secret affair blew open, a lot of Igbo youth organizations and opinion leaders have been going on pilgrimage to Asaba to know whether they can collect their own share from the Ohaneze leader and reports have it that some of these groups did not go home empty handed.. Chief Rochas Okorocha called a meeting at Government House, Owerri in early September 2012 to settle the rift but the two parties stuck to their guns. Three days later he paid an unscheduled visit to Ohaneze Headquarters but met a disillusioned workforce.
Chief Nduka Eya, Chief Igaliwe and Chief Emeka Onyeso are leading the group which insists that Ohaneze Ndigbo is not a one man show and that Ambassador Uwechue must consult widely before any critical decision. They posited that neither the exco meeting nor the Ime Obi meeting has been called in the past twelve months. When the new National Security Adviser , Sambo scheduled to talk with Igbo leaders on the state of the nation at the Ohaneze Headquarters on the 13th of July 2012,, they accused Uwechue of scuttling the meeting because of personal differences with Senator Chukwumerije.
They pointed out that Uwechue set up a personal outfit, the Ohaneze Foundation, which he allegedly used to collect billions of naira from the Goodluck Jonathan team under the guise of Igbo interest with the assistance of a presidential aide, Mr Akachukwu Nwankpa. This Ohaneze Foundation as part of its business venture is a transport outfit known as Ikenga Express with a fleet of about 30 buses. They insisted that Uwechue has been hijacked by the presidential aide and both of them are doing business with the name of Ohaneze and deceiving Jonathan. They claimed that he has cancelled the monthly Ime Obi meeting and Executive Council meeting, which has not held more than four times since the inception of his tenure in 2008.
The Uwechue group insists that the Ohaneze leader have been running the secretariat from his personal finances since he came on board as the leader ,including payment of secretariat staff salary without any help from the disgruntled group, therefore they should hold their peace. They also insisted that there was no such business transaction and that Uwechue have used personal finances to support Ohaneze since the South East Governors failed to support the body financially. They also believe that Uwechue have not betrayed any Igbo interest if he collected some money to run Ohaneze when other ethnic nationalities were collecting theirs.
Various traditional rulers and elder statesmen in Igboland have tried to mediate on this crisis since the past eleven months to be able to forge a common front to present Igbo interests but the two groups have stuck to their grounds. This crisis almost took the shine off the 2012 Igbo day celebrations held at Asaba, Delta State. Many Ohaneze Chieftains boycotted the Igbo Day celebration at Asaba, Delta State in September 2012. However Governor Peter Obi graced the occasion while Governor Rochas Okorocha came after the end of the event.
It is obvious that other ethnic nationalities are repositioning themselves for 2015 while Ohaneze Ndigbo is bickering over presidential largesse which informed sources said was also extended to leaders of other ethnic nationalities, including the O’dua People’s Congress(OPC), Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF), South South Peoples Assembly (SSPA), Middle Belt Forum, among others before, during and after the presidential elections.. The sharing of this national cake has not brought any conflict within other nationalities. They have swallowed their share and cleaned their mouth.
The other ethnic nationalities are repositioning their people in preparation for 2015. The Buhari- Tinubu alliance is a strong South West agenda to recapture power after the turn of the north. The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) is looking seriously in the direction of Senate President David Mark. The Core North in the ruling party,PDP, still has Vice President Sambo as a joker if Boko Haram succeeds in frightening President Jonathan into the creeks. Former Vice President Atiku is still breathing around the corner and incumbent president Jonathan is being prepared by his South South and Ijaw people to recontest in 2015. It is only the Ohaneze that is still at the level of speech making while others nationalities are strategizing ahead of 2015.
The situation in Ohaneze, if not checkmated will greatly imperil Igbo Presidency project 2015. The two elephants are fighting and the grasses, the hardworking Igbos are being massacred by Boko Haramists and other enemies at the slightest provocation. Their means of livelihood is being destroyed with nobody to help them. The state of infrastructural decay in Igbo land is monumental and is seems the war is not yet over.
A cross section of Igbo leaders including Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Dr Dozie Ikedife, Col Joe Achuzia, Chief Charles Okereke among others have canvassed support for Igbo presidency severally with the mindset that the apez Igbo body is working assidously towards it. The optimism may be misplaced because this crisis have taken the front burner and the task of repositioning Ndigbo has been limited to fine speeches and rhetorics without any serious strategizing
Ohaneze cannot continue to chase rat while the house is on fire. They should settle this rift urgently and not allow this distraction from sabotaging the uphill task of reaching out to other nationalities ahead of 2015 or risk being appropriately labelled turncoats who have auctioned Igbo their people for a bowl of presidential porridge.