By Franklin Ngorofo
One can easily argue over the leadership of the Igbo apex social cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, but for many people, the question remains: who do the people want?
Without sugarcoating facts, Ndigbo needs a strong, resolute and indubitable character who has the capacity to challenge the status quo, who has the zeal to see his nation succeed. Igbos don’t need a push-over who lurks around at the doorsteps of politicians waiting to be anointed. Ndi Igbo does not need someone afraid to challenge for a post; a person that will be receiving attacks and is expected to fight back.
Among those vying for the post of the President General, Prof. Chidi Osuagwu, a former Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Imo State Chapter, is arguably the best candidate.
The Federal University of Technology, Owerri lecturer appears to be the only aspirant that understands that the essence of the group is fast depreciating due to fundamental cracks in the formation of the group. He is the only aspirant urging Ndigbo to take back power as the “Oha”, rejecting outright, the so-called consensus saga.
Chidi Osuagwu has also had an experience of the group when he reigned as the head of the Imo State chapter from 2007 to 2009. He is vying for the post of President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, because he is determined to restore Ndigbo to its rightful position in Nigeria. He added that Igbos have suffered enough blood shed in the country. The brilliant Professor also knows that Ndi Igbo needs to go back to the old days of proper communal system.
According to Professor Chidi Osuagwu in our interactive session, “the Igbo once got involved in the colonial government, found a way to create peer groups in the towns and those were mutual help organisations that people identified with; it was used as a community help group. Gradually they stabilized and then found a new purpose”.
The Igbo are very emulative. The Igbo heart is beaten by emulation. They saw the new things in town and decided to transform their villages so those mutual kinsmen organisations became transformed to town development unions and they started federating, because federating is part of our culture; that is the purpose of the kolanut. The kolanut represents networking in convergence by the Igbo people; a communion.
They quickly started federating to different unions and automatically into a state union. They were tasking themselves to repeat what they saw in their home towns. That is the origin of what became the Igbo state union; a very powerful organisation. The union was formed on an Igbo traditional organisation framework.
The power there was diffused. At the end of the war, the Igbos were outside the system and the few people that came together thought about how to get a voice in the system again. They now founded a group called the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and many of them were affiliated to one party at that time, they were oriented to NPN and that was the abstruse and achilles hill of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
But in terms of a brand, the name has stuck with our people and some of us have come in to transform it into a proper Igbo organisation, what an Igbo group should look like. In 2007, the group was moribund in Imo state and some elderly people invited me to revive the state chapter. That was how I came in and created a functional Ohanaeze in Imo state such that the President
General could not organise, the novel, Things Fall Apart that was being celebrated around the world and I brought it to Imo State. It was well celebrated. We achieved what the national body could not do in Imo State.
The starting of Ohanaeze made it easy to be maneuvered by a group of people that has tagged themselves as stakeholders, when you have a people system, you don’t think of stakeholders. That is the problem Ohanaeze is having.
There is a stemming problem between the group and the people which are being exploited by competitors in the country. Another thing is that we, as the Igbo, have not recognised ourselves as who we are. The next President General should understand who the Igbo are and should come with a strategy like the Hausa, Yoruba and others, to strategically put the Igbo on the roadmap. Some Igbos don’t know that we are the better placed in Africa today, because the majority of the black Americans are Igbo and those are the most powerful black race. We need to create an Ohanaeze that will interface with black Americans. Last year the Ooni of Ife told the Igbo to lead the black race because we have always done that and it was anointed on us the great Igbo nation,” he stated.
“Ohanaeze should stay clear of politics because they are the people’s mouthpiece. Politics is subjective which means the people are subject and few representatives can’t speak on subjective matter for the people. It is a hard truth but necessary. We all saw the effect in the last Presidential election, at the very apex we saw Ohanaeze backing Atiku and some other members supporting Buhari. It should not be but it is a culture that has handicapped the group for years. One of the iconic figures in Ohanaeze, Prof. Ben Nwabueze was so frustrated by how Ohanaeze was waddling around that he identified some distinguished Igbo patriots to form the Igbo Leaders of Thought so that the Igbo could have a coherent voice. Although President Nnia Nwodo has done well as an orator who can be outspoken and has brought us closer to other regions, the organisational problem is still fundamental.
The Igbo state union was anchored on people but the Ohanaeze is not. I am interested in becoming the President General because I find the need to go back to a framework that is natural to us. I am vying for the President General of the national body to take over from Prof. Nnia Nwodo because there is a fundamental issue that begs to be corrected.
The problem of stakeholders in Ohanaeze Ndigbo started long time ago. Sometimes, there are stakeholders who are aligned to some political parties. The last election showed the division in the group. “I am contesting because I see the need to go back to the framework like the Igbo state union, that gives power to the people. The Igbo state union is natural to us. The power belongs to the people,” he stated.
Prof. Osuagwu has decided to run now because he could no longer stand and watch the Igbos suffer, “for several months, I have had calls from various groups and well-meaning Igbo patriots, urging me to make myself available for service to our people. I am deeply humbled by their faith in me, and I assure them that every step I take will continue to justify the confidence reposed in me.
After seeking the endorsement of God and consulting with my family, friends and numerous other believers in the cause of Ndigbo, this decision is born out of my deep conviction that with a leadership that is imbued with a great measure of integrity, credibility, character, vision and passion, Ndigbo can make the future we seek and unleash the potentials of our people.
Considering the unique and empirical experience of our people in the past, with the current challenges and the existential threats we are currently facing, there is absolute need for Ndigbo to produce a new dynamic leadership. Leadership with great antecedents, proven ability, a very deep insight and understanding of who we are as great people, richly endowed and tremendously blessed by the Good God Almighty.
“It is important that we take this exercise seriously as I encourage the “Oha” who are actually the kingmakers to get involved in choosing the very individual that will lead them in the capacity of President General in this very crucial time. The importance of this upcoming election is further underscored by the growing strategic importance of other socio-cultural groups and organisations including even the agitating groups which many seem to have misunderstood their motive and the very undercurrents of cumulative injustices that fuel such agitations. It will be my primary goal and objectives to seek for ways to unite all in the greater Igbo family.
We must seek to understand rather than ostracize the younger generation and better guide them towards their future. “Where they seek to draw a narrow circle to keep us apart, we shall draw a wider one to keep all in” We are all in this together as peace, freedom, justice and mutual respect are all basic aspirations of all human beings and it is no different with us as a people,” he stated.
With me at the helm of affairs, our people will be inspired and motivated again to do the greatest things as those before them made such positive impacts with some of the bold initiatives they pursued. Leadership after all is not a position but action.
“I shall seek for a new deal for our people. I shall seek for the arrangement that will ensure the security and progress of our people. This idea must be pursued based on the realities we find ourselves and what is in the best interest of our people predicated on general consensus of the people.
“There is a need to regain our confidence in whom we are; People of unparalleled pedigree and rich history. The very pioneers and distant first in so many human endeavors as empirical records and history will bear me out. So, if elected my leadership must seek to rekindle that great Igbo spirit, that resilient and can-do attitude that has led them in the past to do the greatest things.
The same spirit that helped them to survive some of the greatest challenges to ever confront any group of people on the face of the earth, yet through those rubbles of despair and destruction they arose, not just to survive, but to thrive as the water mark of their achievement even after a very destructive civil war helped the rest of the country to heal and progress.
We shall seek to revive our people politically, culturally, and spiritually while jealously guarding our very rich cultural heritage. We must articulate new and bold ideas as we make a paradigm shift away from some of the old Ohanaeze idiosyncrasy and compromises which has greatly constrained us and limit our ability to be both assertive and proactive when the moment and realities demand for such leadership,” he stated.
We have a responsibility to recalibrate the Igbo homeland economy, by building confidence in our people both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, to begin to consciously think home and replicate the wonders we have done across the world right here in Igboland. We have a duty to permanently end the spilling of Igbo blood anywhere in Nigeria no matter the pretext under which it occurs. We have an obligation to listen to the grievances of our youths, to talk to them, to address their worries and to guarantee a brighter tomorrow filled with opportunities for them.
The dignity of Ndigbo, the sanctity of Igbo culture, and the protection of all Igbo interests must never be negotiated, tampered with, nor compromised.
“We must reconnect with our people, re-establish trust in our leadership and collectively address our challenges. It is time to heal, to reunite and to progress.
The long years of injustices against our people in Nigeria, and the litany of deprivations meted out to us, must now give way to a new era, when Ndigbo must retake our pride of place. This is what must happen!
“No matter what we think of the past, we must never be prisoners to it. Ndigbo, we now have a great opportunity to be that which we desire,” he said.
The task ahead may be herculean, the water may be stormy and the tunnel may be dark but with the untiring spirit of Ndi Igbo, there is faith that only Prof. Chidi Osuagwu can deliver us. Like he says in Igbo parlance, after all, a man is only known in the face of adversity.