Ohanaeze election: Crisis looms over venue

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Controversy has continued to trail the Ohanaeze Ndigbo election over the venue for the exercise, with some Igbo leaders kicking against plans to hold the election in Owerri, Imo State. 

The leaders, who spoke on the banner of Global Igbo Leadership, GIL, said in the history of Ohanaeze a state producing the president-general does host the election. 

Also, an elder of Ohanaeze and a member of the Ime-Obi (inner caucus) of the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Chief Guy Ikokwu,  cautioned against the Ohanaeze election being held at the Government House, Owerri. 

But chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State chapter, Chief Alex Ogbonna and Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, said there was no law stopping election from holding anywhere the body leadership wants. 

Meanwhile, the Imeobi of the Igbo apex organisation has been scheduled to hold in Owerri, Imo State, says embattled Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Okwukwu. 

We oppose holding of Ohanaeze poll in Owerri — GIL 

Rising from a meeting, the GIL, in a statement by Chief Christian Onuorah, Chief Oliver Nwankwor, Austin Okeke, and Alex Ezeamakam, said: “The independence of Ohanaeze Ndigbo must be respected and upheld. There should be no political interference from any quarters. 

“In conducting Ohanaeze Ndigbo election, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Constitution must be followed to the letter especially in accordance with Section11 of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Constitution. 

“We reject the proposed current venue for the election scheduled in Owerri, Imo State because the state producing the President-General candidate does not host Ohanaeze’s election. 

 “For a credible election for executives in Ohanaeze to be held and in accordance with Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s Constitution, Imo State must present at least three president-general candidates. Therefore, we reject the so-called consensus candidate as it is unconstitutional (Section11(b)). 

“The Enugu State Ohanaeze Ndigbo President General leadership must end January 10, 2021. Therefore, a credible, fair, and level playing ground election must hold.” 

Ohanaeze poll must not hold in Govt House – Ikokwu 

Ikokwu,  on the controversies trailing holding the election in Imo State, which is producing the president-general and the emergence of Professor George Obiozor as consensus candidate, said the issues were discussed at Ime-Obi meeting, recently. 

He said it was agreed that the election should be held in Owerri because the Ohanaeze secretariat in Enugu is under reconstruction. 

“However, the election must be for at least three candidates. It must be by secret ballot and must not be done in the Government House. 

It had happened before when the Ebonyi State Government refused to endorse Chief Enwo Igariwey. 

The election was held in Enugu and by secret ballot, Igariwey beat the Ebonyi State Government candidate,” he said. 

Any Igbo state can host Ohanaeze Ndigbo convention/meeting —Ogbonna 

Reacting, chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State chapter, Chief Alex Ogbonna, cautioned mischievous people to stay away from the affairs of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, adding that the body’s meeting or convention can be hosted in any state since it is an Igbo land. 

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not moving any meeting to anywhere. You should not listen to mischievous people. Ohanaeze Ndigbo stated that any state can host Ohanaeze Ndigbo meeting. Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Rivers and whosoever, have right to host Ndigbo whether in convention or whatever. 

“I don’t see any reason why we should say so because the more merrier the more better. We cannot host all activities in Enugu. This is not the first time, we have held it in Abia, Anambra and in various places. This is not the first time we are shifting it. Since we are holding it in any Igbo land, it is as good as Enugu,” he said. 

 There is no law that election must hold in Enugu — Ahamba 

Also, Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN. yesterday, said that there was no law that says the election of Ohanaeze, must be held in Enugu. 

Ahamba spoke in Owerri, on the confusion surrounding the venue where the election is likely to be held. He pointed out that it should be an internal affair of the leadership of Ohanaeze in deciding where the election ought to be held. 

He said: “If it is the decision of the Ohanaeze leadership to hold election there in Enugu, let them hold it there. It is the internal affairs of the Ohanaeze. 

“There is no law that says it must be held in Enugu State, if they decide to hold it in Imo State, they are welcome.” 

Scribe fixes Imeobi meeting in Owerri        

Okwukwu, who had earlier described as null and void the Enugu meeting, said similar one was held in Enugu and chaired by the Ohanaeze President-General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo. Okwukwu insists that according to Ohanaeze constitution, with him lies the power to call for Imeobi. 

He said in a statement in Enugu: “On December 31, 2020, the Imeobi of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide will hold in Imo State in the house of a very prominent and eminent Igbo. We chose this private residence in line with the true cultural meaning of Imeobi. “Ime” means inside and “Obi” means the private hut for hosting meetings. Imeobi is not supposed to be a public meeting. Its whole essence is for leaders recognised by the Ohanaeze constitution to gather privately and discuss the way forward for Ndigbo. 

“You might wonder why Ohanaeze is hosting this Imeobi in a private place rather than in a hotel. My answer is that what transpired on December 20, 2020, in Enugu, when before the full glare of the public, both Igbo and non-Igbo, Professor George Obiozor collapsed and was talking incoherently, was both unfortunate and avoidable. 

“If he had collapsed in the private house of an Igbo, the incident would have been properly managed without the press reporting it. Whether we liked it or not, it was a huge embarrassment. The question being whispered now is, can a man who collapsed in public and talked incoherently lead Ndigbo for the next four years? The answer, of course, is no. To avoid that kind of embarrassment, we favour hosting our Imeobi in a private place. 

“Agenda for the December 31, 2020,  Imeobi is to nominate members of the Electoral Committee, EC, of the 2021 Ohanaeze Ndigbo general election. The EC will have the power to determine the date and guidelines for the election. It will also cover other matters pertinent to our people, particularly poverty in Igboland occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and general insecurity. Ndigbo are prepared to have a credible election that will produce competent officers to man our affairs. By the divine grace of God, we will achieve that. 

“Oha is bigger than “Eze” in Igbo culture. The latter does what the former agrees. But what we are seeing under Chief Nnia Nwodo is a situation where “Eze” owns “Oha.” We must be bold in stopping the Nwodo excesses. Ndigbo must come out and support the process that will lead to a credible, free, fair and impartial election capable of ushering in a new Executive in January 2021. 

“There is nothing sacrosanct holding Imeobi in Enugu. For the avoidance of doubt, no Imeobi in the last four years was held in the secretariat of Ohanaeze in Enugu. It always held at Nike Lake Hotel, about 10 kilometers from the secretariat. In the past, both Imeobi and Ohanaeze general elections were also held in places outside Enugu. 

“The choice of holding the Imeobi of  December 31, 2020,  in Owerri is because the capital is central in Igboland. Again, the sorry state of our roads also favours Owerri. If you consider the cost of transportation this Christmas period, Enugu is going to be expensive for a person coming from Port Harcourt or Azumili in Abia State, for instance. But Owerri appears to be central and cheaper to access. Only recognised statutory members, namely, serving and former governors, ministers, serving and former heads of the judicial and legislative arms of government, elders, intelligentsia, traditional rulers and the clergy will be in attendance. 

 “A notice of venue for the Imeobi of December 31, 2020, will be issued. This will enable participants to adequately prepare in addition to minimizing publicity. Unlike venue for General Assembly, venue for Imeobi is “Mkpuke,” or private, where Ndigbo gather to secretly consult and take far-reaching decisions. What happened to Obiozor went viral because it happened in an open bazaar nicknamed as Imeobi. If it was in an Imeobi, none would have heard about it because those present would have protected the Ndigbo interests. We promise to sanitize things.”  (Vanguard) 

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