*Buhari congratulates Nwodo, says he looks forward to working with him
*We’ll hold new exco responsible for any compromise against Ndigbo – MASSOB, IPOB
*There was no imposition— Election c’ttee
By Chioma Gabriel, Henry Umoru, Simon Ebegbulem, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Dennis Agbo, Peter Okutu & Chimaobi Nwaiwu
ENUGU— A pressure group, The Igbo Leaders of Thought, led by foremost constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN, yesterday commenced legal proceedings against the election of the new executives of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation that took place on Tuesday.
But former Minister of Health and Secretary of the Election Committee that conducted the election, Prof ABC Nwosu has dispelled insinuations in some quarters that the five governors of the south-east states, as well as governors of Rivers and Delta states had effectively hijacked Ohanaeze by imposing cronies as new leaders of the Igbo group.
Nwosu said that rather than accuse the governors of hijacking the body, Ndigbo across the globe should be excited that, after several years, the governors finally accepted to show healthy interest in the affairs of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari stated his readiness to work with the new leadership of Ohanaeze, congratulating Chief John Nwodo on his election as the President-General of the organisation and describing him as eminently qualified.
Similarly, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB, yesterday, also congratulated the new executive, saying they would hold it responsible if there was any form of compromise against the interests of Ndigbo.
Represented by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Enechi Onyia, the Igbo Leaders of Thought is insisting that the past executive committee of the group led by Chief Enwo Igariwey had no locus to conduct the Tuesday election that produced Nwodo as the head of the apex Igbo body.
Onyia, who spoke with Vanguard said the tenure of the Igariwey-led executive had expired two years ago, noting that the Igariwey-led executive was served the court process on December 22, 2016 but it was defiant and went ahead to conduct the election.
The matter lodged in an Enugu state high court presided over by Justice A. O. Onovo, however, fixed March 1,2017, as a date to commence hearing on the validity of the Prof Igariwey-led executive to have conducted the election.
Justice Onovo fixed the date to commence hearing on the matter based on the suit number E/655/16, between Chief S.U Nwodo and two others versus Chief Enwo Igariwey and three others, brought before the court by Igbo leaders of thought.
In the suit, the plaintiffs, Igbo Leaders of Thought are arguing that the Prof. Igariwey-led executive were not the actual body entrusted to conduct the election, based on agreement they reached at Owerri, the Imo State capital when Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha intervened in the leadership squabbles prevailing within Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership.
The Igbo Leaders of Thought are claiming that based on the Owerri peace agreement, it is Chief Mbazuluike Amaechi and Chief Ralph Obioha-led Ohanaeze caretaker committee that are entrusted with the task of conducting the Ohanaeze Ndigbo election.
Justice Onovo’s decision to adjourn the suit to the first day of March,was sequel to the plea by the Counsel of the defendants, Chief Enwo Igariwey and co, Mr. James Ikeyi, SAN, demanding that the 42 days of notice of service on his clients has not expired.
Further to the request, Counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Onyia asked for the commencement of hearing on the suit.
But the request by the counsel representing Chief Igariwey and his group, Mr. J Ikeyi appealed to Onyia to give them time.
No imposition— Election c’ttee
Prof ABC Nwosu, who also served as the Returning Officer at the election told newsmen in Enugu that the calibre of people elected into the organisation’s executive council was a clear indication that the future of the Igbo in the Nigeria project had become much brighter, adding that the new leaders would also midwife the much needed unity among the Igbo in the country.
“We’ve been asking our governors to show healthy interest in the affairs of Ohanaeze and we are happy that finally, we’ve achieved that desire. It will be wrong for people who lost election to claim that the election was hijacked by governors. Ohanaeze is like a Board of Trustees, the conscience of the Igbo nation while the governments are the implementers of the direction that Ndigbo wish to go.”
The former minister expressed optimism that for the first time in a long while, Ndigbo had got it right by organising a rancour-free election for Ohanaeze. He also dismissed as false some impressions that some people were “technically excluded” from taking part in the election, explaining that all those who complied with the provisions of Ohanaeze constitution enjoyed free hands to contest for positions.
He said the Electoral committee raised funds to conduct the election from fees paid for purchase of funds, noting that a total of five persons bought forms for the position of President General at N500, 000 each, while others collected forms at different fees down to the local government areas within the seven states.
Eminently qualified- Buhari
In a statement by the presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu yesterday, President Buhari urged Ndigbo to support Nwodo to fulfill the mandate of the organization “in these challenging times”.
The statement read: “President Buhari believes that Chief Nwodo is eminently qualified for the job given his long years of distinguished service to the nation, which includes, Minister of Civil Aviation in the Second Republic under President Shehu Shagari and Minister of Information and Culture during the administration of General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“As Chief Nwodo prepares to settle down with his team to implement his vision for Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the President appeals to Ndi Igbo as well as the wider community of Nigerians to support the new leadership to fulfill their mandate in these challenging times.
“President Buhari looks forward to working with the new leadership, and assures Ohanaeze Ndigbo that his administration will continue to be a partner-in-progress in implementing suggestions, measures and programmes to advance the unity, development and prosperity of Nigeria.
“The President wishes the Chief Nwodo-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a peaceful and prosperous tenure.”
What MASSOB/IPOB said
Speaking in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, the National leader of MASSOB, Mr Uchenna Madu said that the new Ohanaeze leadership should concern itself with piloting the affairs of Ndigbo strictly on the basis of “Igboism which means Igbo political, economic, social, academic and religious interests first, before Nigeria and their personal interests.”
It said it was not bothered if the leadership was even sponsored by President Muhammadu Buhari through his allies in Igbo land but warned them to pursue Igbo political and economic interests
The MASSOB statement read in part: “With the current political development in Nigeria, consciousness of Biafra actualization and Igbo political target in 2019, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership is no longer private businesses as usual.
“As Nigeria government can’t be afraid of Ohanaeze Ndigbo but fears Biafran agitators, MASSOB’s advice to the new Ohanaeze leadership is to align with Biafra consciousness for greater achievement of Igbo political interests in Nigeria and start your official services of Ndigbo with Nnamdi Kanu’s case.
“MASSOB is not interested if President Buhari sponsored your leadership through his political allies in Igbo land.
“We shall work together with Ohanaeze for Igbo interest in Nigeria. We advise the new Ohanaeze not to shy away from their fatherly roles in uplifting the Igbo interest in Nigeria and even defending the cause of Biafra.”
‘Don’t sabotage Ndigbo’
IPOB’s statement on the new executive urged it not to sabotage the cause of Ndigbo. The statement signed by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr Emma Powerful, said they will support the new Ohanaeze leadership if they are not in any way sabotaging the Igbo and the restoration of Biafra.
“We have been in this job to liberate our people and the former Ohanaeze leadership were compromised not to talk about the killing of unarmed members of IPOB, some are even working to ensure that our leader is illegally jailed.
“It is unfortunate that some unscrupulous individuals in our land are struggling to testify against our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and our members detained illegally without open trial and we reject it in every ramification. This is some of the things the new leadership of Ohanaeze must fight.”
A case for Igbo presidency
In a related development, former senate Chief whip, Senator Rowland Owie has hailed the election of Chief Nnia Nwodo as the President of the apex Igbo group, urging him to ensure end to the alleged marginalization of Ndigbo in the country.
Owie who described Chief Nnia Nwodo as a bridge builder, said “ I congratulate the NDIGBO for electing a worthy Nigerian ,Chief Nnia Nwodo as National President of Ohanaeze. The choice of Nwodo came at the right time when the marginalisation of the South East needs to be addressed. Nwodo is a true Nigerian and a bridge builder and one person that “ GHANA MUST GO BAGS” will not divert from doing what is just and good.”
In the same vein, Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha said the election of Nwodo and others is a wise decision. Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, Rochas Okorocha said the delegates to the election and indeed, Ndigbo in general have made a wise choice in the person of Nnia Nwodo.
The governor also congratulated DIG Hilary Opara (retd) and Barr. Uche Okwukwu on their elections as the Deputy National President and Secretary-General respectively of the Igbo apex body.
He charged Chief Nwodo and his team to bring their wealth of experience to bear in piloting the affairs of the Pan-Igbo organization and pursue those policies that would accelerate the development and growth of Igbo land in particular and Nigeria in general.
Ohanaeze not our partner— BIM
But the Biafra Independence Movement, BIM, led by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and the MASSOB faction under his control said they don’t regard Ohanaeze as partners in fighting Igbo cause.
Speaking to newsmen on phone yesterday, factional MASSOB National Director of Information, Mazi Chris Mocha said that though MASSOB does not regard Ohanaeze Ndigbo as partners in Biafra actualization, the newly elected leadership should strive at all times to carry Ndigbo along.