Chief Godwin Uwazuruike, a front runner for the position of President General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has dismissed the adoption of one of the aspirants to the position by a group as not part of the electoral process.
The group, led by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, had reportedly met in Owerri, the Imo State capital, adopted Professor George Obiozor as their consensus candidate and presented him to the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma.
The move, has however, elicited mixed reactions from individuals and groups, with a body called Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, threatening fire and brimstone and alleging that the decision of the Iwuanyanwu-led group was a ploy to foist on Ndigbo the candidate of the Caliphate through the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
Incumbent President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo has swiftly countered the position of the youth group, pledging that his administration would ensure free and fair process of election of his successor.
Positions in the Executive Committee of the apex Igbo group are zoned to different states that are covered by Ohanaeze Ndigbo with the Presidency of the body this time zoned to Imo State. Among those aspiring to the position are Professor Obiozor, Chief Uwazuruike, Dr. Chris Asoluka, Professor Chidi Osuagwu and Dr. Joe Nwaogu.
Chief Uwazuruike, who said he is still very much in the race for the coveted position, in spite of the adoption of Obiozor by the Iwuanyanwu-led group, stressed that he “cannot be deterred by a group of people playing out a script.”
The leading lawyer and strong advocate of Igbo issues said, in a statement, that “Ohanaeze has its own process of election. Definitely presenting a person to a governor is not there.”
He said all those interested in contesting the position are still all considered aspirants, noting that “Imeobi will soon meet to appoint Electoral Committee members. The Electoral Committee will present the guidelines to Imeobi for approval. Thereafter, aspirants will buy the forms and submit themselves for screening. If they are successful, they will become candidates.”
Chief Uwazuruike, a delegate to the National Conference of 2014 and a former President of Aka-Ikenga, a foremost Igbo group of professionals, pointed out that some governors, in the past, had tried to manipulate the system but failed, stressing that “the voting for the next President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide will be done on the floor of the General Assembly. The process has no room for interlopers.”
Reacting to the statement by the OYC, a group which he describes as illegitimate, Chief Nwodo, in a statement said:
“The attention of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has been drawn to a spurious, mendacious and malicious news item making the rounds that a candidate has been chosen to occupy the post of the President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, which by rotation, is now the turn of Imo State.
“The said vexatious piece would have been ignored for the chaff it is but for the fact that it impinges on the solid and time-tested tradition of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in choosing its leadership and the integrity of its present President-General, Chief John Nnia Nwodo.
“The truth of the matter is that posts in Ohanaeze Ndigbo are rotational and positions zoned to states. It is the responsibility of states to choose their candidates which they may prune down for their convenience.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo has the responsibility of organising election for all those who indicate interest and buy forms for the election.
“It is, therefore, preposterous and the height of mischief for anybody to write, or in any way infer, that Chief Nwodo went for an Imo State stakeholders meeting in Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyawu’s office.
“Chief Nwodo couldn’t have been at a meeting of Imo State Leaders of Thought for the purpose of choosing a candidate for President-General when he wasn’t invited and Ohanaeze didn’t organise it.
“Moreover, the decision at the meeting will not stop Ohanaeze from conducting the forthcoming election.
“As a matter of fact, Chief Nwodo has not visited Chief Iwuanyanwu since the latter’s birthday celebration last year. They only met recently at a meeting with the Governors of the South East over other matters.
“It is wrong for people to listen to an illegitimate, sponsored and disgruntled group of people masquerading as the Youth Wing of Ohanaeze.
“It is also a great affront to the dignity and image of Ndigbo for purveyors of these fake news, intended to mislead the public, to be taken seriously.
“People should verify such information from the office of the President-General before accepting or releasing them, unless some mischief is intended.
“As to the conduct of the election, an announcement will be made by Ohanaeze Ndigbo after the meeting of the Imeobi next week.
“Any current information or story about the forthcoming election remains the figment of the imagination of its purveyor. Any such story is, therefore, false, void and puerile.
“No amount of innuendos and blackmail will deter Ohanaeze from bequeathing a virile leadership to Ndigbo.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, under the leadership of Chief Nwodo, is committed to the inviolate tradition of conducting a free, fair and transparent election to usher in its successors in January 2021.”
Another front line aspirant to the top post and a former Vice President General (Imo) of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Chris Asoluka, also waved aside the adoption of Obiozor, confirming that there cannot be any candidates until an election committee and guidelines for the polls have been approved by Ime-Obi.
Asoluka, also a former President of Aka Ikenga and co-chairman of SouthEastSouthSouth Professionals (SESSP) as well as Chairman/member of Ohanaeze Election Committee for the 2012 and 2016 elections consecutively, stressed that individuals or groups are free to endorse whosoever they please, noting that such endorsements could not be binding on the Election Committee and would not determine who is eligible to contest the elections.
Noting that it was not yet time to speak on those that are candidates for an election whose guidelines are yet to be released, Asoluka said it is after the screening of aspirants that candidates can emerge, and drew attention to Article 11(b) of the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which stipulates that, “The President General shall be elected by the National General Assembly from all interested candidates from the state whose turn it is to fill the office, provided there are at least three candidates”.
He said he is still consulting with various stakeholders in the state and beyond concerning whether to run for the top office, assuring that his position will be made known very soon.
He, however, charged the Nwodo-led executive to ensure that the election of the new executive is transparent and based on the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, noting that the organization needs a visionary and energetic leadership that would take it forward from the height that the current leadership has elevated it.