Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the apex Igbo socio cultural organization. It is the group which is expected to represent and advocate for the interest of all Igbo communities within and outside Nigeria. Igbo by census, is one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. The group recently in Owerri, the Imo State capital, held election for the president general and other executive positions. After the election, Prof George Obiozor, who is a former Nigerian ambassador to the United States of America, as well as former director general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, emerged victorious as the president general, though controversies are still surrounding the election.
There is the issue of boycott of the election by some other notable candidates who expressed disappointment with the modalities/procedure adopted by the electoral committee, as well as the perceived partisan interference of the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma. Also news later emerged that there was a parallel election for the same body, spearheaded by former Imo State governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha. An election said to have been conducted virtually, in adherence to the Covid- 19 containment/preventive directives by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The election was said to have produced former commissioner under Okorocha’s administration, Chief Chidi Ibe as the president general.
However, this piece is meant to review the acceptance speech of the president general elected in Owerri and accepted by majority of the stakeholders of the organization, including governors and the immediate past president, Chief Nnia Nwodo. If the prospects of a George Obiozor- led Ohanaeze Ndigbo is to be judged by the acceptance speech of the newly elected president or factional president as the case may be, then it means that the race (Igbo) is in for a big joke.
Many critical observers, especially those who were listening to the professor for the very first time, eagerly listened to hear from him the plans he has to move the organization forward and take it higher than where Nnia Nwodo left it.
Many had expected a father figure like him to be magnanimous in victory. Rather, the professor, said to be about 78 year-old ended up disappointing not a few people by his acceptance speech. The speech, according to some analysts, was vague, sycophantic, egocentric and literally empty. Though a professor of international repute, the speech was everything but fluent. He mumbled the speech and cracked more jokes than the serious minded speech expected by the passionate and critical listeners. The speech would have been perfect for a comedy gathering or an activity of any entertainment industry, such as Nollywood or Actors Guild of Nigeria.
Some analysts reasoned that the acceptance speech does not in any way suggest a serious minded leadership which will be able to fight for the Igbo race in the highly segmented Nigeria. Obiozor was recently quoted as having said that governance in Nigeria had become an existential threat to the Igbo race which was stereotyped and greeted with envy by other component parts of the country. However, his acceptance speech did not in any way suggest a serious minded fellow who has passion to champion the cause of the Igbo as was seen in Nwodo, the immediate past president did for the four years he served as president general of the organization.
In fact, some of the analysts reason that at about 78 years, age has caught up with the former diplomat, arguing that he would lack the physical energy and mental stability to carry out the onerous task of leading the apex Igbo socio cultural organization, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, which goes with a lot of pressures and requires a lot of traveling, consultations and confrontations. They wondered whether Ndigbo are moving forward or backwards and queried why the baton of leadership should be moving from a younger Nwodo to a more elderly Obiozor when the clamour has been on across the world to hand leadership to young and more vibrant persons.
In his acceptance speech, rather than appreciating those who elected him and giving a clear cut summary of what they should expect from his leadership, the elderly Professor ended up using the duration of his speech to praise three individuals; Governor Hope Uzodimma, Chief E.C Iwuanyanwu and Nnia Nwodo, in a very boastful manner. He displayed an attitude of a conqueror that was not sympathetic to the plight of those he has conquered. He started by defining power which in his own term is the ability to promise you hell and deliver on time, praising Governor Hope Uzodimma, whom he said knows very well how to obtain and use power, advising boastfully that his opponents have no option than to jettison their opposition and start supporting him.
He put it this way, “They have no option than to join you in your successes. They become great by association, but if they are envious, they go on and keep suffering. In fact, God is very fantastic! He seems partial sometimes (laughing) those he will bless, he blesses them and goes on. The others are grumblers. They will keep praying; keep shouting, ‘what is going on? Why always him. “That is why sometimes it takes courage to endure the successes of a friend. When a friend is about to succeed, some people don’t even know what it means and they say, ‘I support you, may God help you, but the day he succeeds you tell God, ‘I didn’t mean it. That is the reality of human nature, because success has hundred fathers, while failure is an orphan.
He went further to praise Iwuanyanwu thus: “So when I look at Iwuanyanwu, today in Igboland, he is the politician number one. He has all the indices of power, including presence, some people need introduction, he doesn’t need introduction. When he enters the room, you look at him”. He deviates, hails Iwuanyanwu, ‘Aha Eji aga Mba!!!’, and hilariously shouts, ‘Igbo kweenu!! Muonu!!!. He then turned to Nwodo: “Our brother called John Nwodo, believe me, it has been a long time relationship. He was one of the triumvirate of George Obiozor, Chuba Okadigbo and Nnia Nwodo, who was the youngest minister in Shagari’s government in 1980. One of the things that made me run for this office is called relative deprivation. In fact it is called selective morality, outrageous paradox and double standard (laughter and applause from the crowd over the grammatical juxtaposition).
He told a story of how as a minister of aviation, Nwodo masterminded the only plane that flew to the east after seeing off their president, when many aircraft flew northwards. “Nwodo, you are a true son of your father. Those of us that are a little bit old, even though people say old is bad, believe me, old is wonderful, it gives you experience and tells you what the world is all about”. Again he interrupted the flow and exclaimed, ‘chai! ndi di old shoutuonu alleluia’! The exclamation and its humourous content drew response and laughter from the crowd. He continued after the laughter interjection, “Eehm, Nnia Nwodo, Nnia Nwodo …
He shifted back the praises galore to the governor, “Behold my governor, he is unbelievable, when I see him I get inspired and he is one of the few Nigerian young men for whom I have once written a lecture called, ‘reason for optimism’. My mother says whoever does not have what he remembers and wake up from dream will be lost and die from dreaming. Back to Nwodo, he said, “Nnia whoever that is told to sustain what he is doing, it means what he is doing is good. You have worked, and I am coming. You have done the work of John the Baptist, using youthful passion and exuberance”. He used it for a song in Igbo language, “Ara ka mma n’okorobia! Ara ka mma n’okorobia!! Ara ka mma n’okorobia!!!
Continuing after the singing he said, “We have seen where you are focusing (ebe mmadu n’ebe Akwa atu aka, nne ya ga ano ya, nna ya anoro ya) we will actualize and conclude it”.
It can therefore be deduced that, based on Obiozor’s acceptance speech, he has no plans on how to move both the organization and the Igbo race forward!