By Emma Okocha
Founded right after the Civil War as a social outlet for the depressed Igbo business men and women who were dispossessed of their property and lost their businesses in the Civil War, from North to South, Okaa Social Club later renamed Peoples Club of Nigeria has withered the storm of maladministration over the years.
The premier Club has lost most of its generous donor members like Ude Ubaka, Sir Joe Nwankwu, FFBC Nwankwo, M. Obioha and so on to call to glory. The surviving founding members are in their 80â€™s and not as financially supportive of the Club as before. The headquarter, off Owerri Road in Onitsha, Anambra State, leaves a landmark of dilapidation and decay. What life left of the Club is mainly supported by overseas branches that have sprung up as many as 19 in the United States and Canada while some Branches in Nigeria have lost most of their membership.
Onitsha, Enugu and Aba that used to have over 500 members have now dwindled to under 100. Some members find it very difficult to pay their annual dues and Branches are said to owe the headquarters hundreds of thousands of naira.
The Club for the past six years has been in Caretaker Management under the CEO of Asaba Aluminum, Chief F. A. Onwuachu. A law suit with the past president Chief Eddy Igwah has allegedly prevented the Club from holding an election.
To keep up with the Club, Chief Onwuachu has intensified efforts to create as many Branches in America as possible because the Club brings in much needed funds from fees collected from new members who are inducted. As more Branches are created and as everything Nigerian and particularly Igbo, crisis are creeping in left and right.
Chief Onwuachu, going into his six years at the Caretaker helm wants to run for the Presidency. He is being challenged by at least two other candidates and one of the arguments against him is that he has been there too long and should forget his dream of third term.
Also is the fact that the other candidates feel that Chief Onwuachu is not educated in view of the fact that the Club has gone international and the language has gone English because of the color of the diversity of its membership across the world.
Creating many oversea branches is seen as a way to ensure a win at the polls whenever the election is called. That the Court caseâ€™s unnecessary delay is being funded by those who are benefiting from the caretaker status is a life debate.
Part of the problem is also the fact that the caretaket Chairman insists on being part of a delegation to overseas but it is hard to have him without also including the other contestants so as not to give him undue advantage.
No time has the problems besieging the Club ever evident than at the Convention held by the US Branches in Edison, New Jersey, July 17-18, 2009.
Many Branches are said to be in crisis believed to be fermented by the regular delegates who come from Nigeria. According to sources, being one of the delegates to induct members or charter Branches has become lucrative to some of these members who are said to be either retired or in business that requires foreign exchange.
It is believed that the money they collect, usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars are shared among them to be used to purchase personal vehicles, machinery or goods. On arrival in Nigeria, the money is then paid back in Naira to the Club using sometimes less than the current exchange rate.
According to our eye witness reporter, the hotel venue of the convention was busy from Thursday when the delegates came in. They were wined and dined by the host, Princeton Branch. Many Branches with crisis were also busy bringing gifts of drinks, presents and sometimes brown envelopes.
One of the members from Arlington, Texas Branch who pleaded that his name not be used intimated our reporterÂ they have secured the delegates to their side in a dispute with a faction in that Branch. According to him, the otherside thought that they could prevent induction of some of the members that flew in from Arlington, Texas with their wives.
He said they paid close to $10,000.00 to secure the support of the delegates to disregard an instruction from the leaders in Nigeria not to go ahead with the induction. He said that they paid air fare for two people plus undisclosed amount of money.
He claimed that these men from Nigeria are also sick with prostates and need all kinds of medication which they provide as the Chairman of the Branch and his wife are medical doctors and have stock piles of medicines including Viagra.
The reporter wanted to know why it was so important to waste so much money to belong to this Club, our confidential source simply said it is for the prestige.
A convention that was billed to start at 8:00 p.m. on July 17, 2009 did not start until 2:00 a.m., July 18, 2009. Why? Many Branches members were pushing envelopes and lobbying to try to outwit the other.
New York which recently held and election and ousted the incumbent Chairman was said to be on the verge of its election being cancelled and having the defeated Chairman continue until further notice.
Many of the Chairmen were visibly upset that these leaders from Nigeria would say one thing and do another, even when it is in writing.
At the time of filing this report, efforts are still under way to secure a copy of a letter signed by Chief Onwuachu, based on a decision he was part of making, instructing the delegates not to induct members from Branches in crisis, including Arlington, Texas Branch.
It was learnt that the delegates did not perform the assignment given them in the case of Arlington. Some of the delegates to that Branch were not even named in the letter of assignment which included a specific terms of reference.
Boston was said to also have a crisis that have caused so much problems that the Chairman Â who is finishing his second term cannot wait to hand over. It appears that every member is owing hundreds if not thousands of dollars to the Branch that nobody is qualified to run for office.
Three times the delegates from Nigeria have weighed in and still there is no end in sight. As the problem prolongs, so the delegates are benefiting. The members in Boston are said to be fighting over a piece of property that was purchased for the Club use.
Because some of its members refused to abide by an agreement reached in Atlanta and san Antonio on two separate occasions, Â the Branch had run out of money and could not pay the three thousand convention fee in New Jersey. Consequently, its flamboyant Chairman was walked out of the convention hall with police, in what amounted to aÂ bold face humiliation.
Those who know the Club very well called it unheard of. It is also confirmed that in the Arlington Branch, some members have been worked out of meetings with police. One wonders what is social about the premier Club, anymore.
It was said that the dispute between Princeton and Princeton Junction had been settled but another confidential source called it a bluff and said to wait till next year.
According to him, these same conniving leaders will show up again and deviate from what they said this year. That seems to be the way for the Club and its regular oversea delegates profit. Those at home are said to be waiting anxiously for the delegates to come home because they usually bring in good news.
Until the ultimate authority in Nigeria stand firm in their decisions, it is believed that this Club is a sham and has no credibility. It is believed that the Central Executive Committee has its by monthly meeting at the end of this month.
All eyes will be on them to see how they react to the false report that is expected to be filed by the delegates that were in the USA. We intend to send our reporter to Onitsha to monitor the events and we promise to bring you the latest.