By Chinonso Alozie&Nnamdi Ojiego
The emergence of a parallel electoral committee for the election of a new executive committee of apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has been dismissed as inconsequential by Chief Garri Igariwey, chairman of the electoral committee appointed by President-General of the body, Chief John Nwodo.
Last Friday, embattled Secretary-General of Ohanaeze, Uche Okwukwu, had announced a 21-member electoral committee, headed by Chief Richard Ozubu.
Okwukwu, who made this known in a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting held in Owerri, said the Igariwey-led committee set up during an Imeobi convened by Nwodo was null and void.
He said: “Unauthorised people not mandated by the Ohanaeze constitution have hijacked the electoral process to impose their preferred President-General.
“Imposition of a candidate for President-General is illegal, undemocratic and unacceptable. The electoral timetable, as pursued by the illegal Nwodo-led Ohanaeze, is deliberately delayed to rob candidates any chance of campaigning before delegates.”
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard on the development which seems to threaten the prospect of a peaceful exercise, Igariwey said the splinter group should not be taken seriously.
He said: “The group is not part of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. We don’t know them. Certainly, they are not part of Ohanaeze. Therefore, they are very inconsequential and shouldn’t be taken seriously. I don’t know if anyone is sponsoring them. They are on their own. The election would still hold on January 10 as scheduled. The date has not been changed and the election has not been postponed. The electoral process was well-publicised and people were free to go for whatever position they desired. There is nothing like an imposition.”
But a defiant Ozubu told Sunday Vanguard that the guidelines of his committee would be released on Monday.
He said: “We have a constitution and the present executive whose tenure has expired has not followed the constitution. In the first instance, Nwodo’s electoral committee was not properly set up.
“We have a constitution that talks about the powers of the President- General, powers of the Secretary-General, and the procedure through which you can set up an electoral committee.
“The President-General has no power to summon Imeobi meeting, except through the Secretary-General. That is where the power lies. It is stated in the constitution of Ohanaeze. Nwodo is deliberately flouting the constitution of Ohanaeze.
“We are not quarreling with the zoning arrangement. What we are not happy about is the procedure. Nwodo said he summoned Imebo meeting and I am a member of Imeobi. It is a monthly affair, and decisions taken at ImeobiI are normally sent to the General Assembly before they become the decision of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. And they have never held any Imeobi meeting in the last four years. They have never held a General Assembly. That is why I am telling you that what we did was constitutional.”
Commenting on the matter an aspirant to the position of President-General, Prof Chidi Osuagwu, said what is happening re-emphasises the need for Ohanaeze to be free of political interference.
He told Sunday Vanguard that: “What is happening today is a good reason Ohanaeze should be kept far away from partisan politics. In my campaign, I said it would be one of the things I intend to achieve.”
Another aspirant, Joe Nworgu, who is also a former Secretary-General of Ohanaeze said: “I am still studying the situation.”