As thetenure of Chief John Nnia Nwodo-ledexecutive of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze, graduallycomes to an end, a chieftain of the organization Dr. Richard Obiora Ozobu, in this interview with Deputy Editor Mike Ubani, accuses Nwodo of committing several constitutional infractionsthat have put the group in disarray.
Can one say Chief John Nnia Nwodo, President-Generalof Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has performed creditably well in office against thebackground that his tenure is gradually coming to a close?
First of alllet me say that according to the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, all themembers of the Nwodo-led executive will soon leave office. You know that thepresidency of Ohanaeze and all other positions in the executive of the organizationis rotational.
Having saidthat, let me say that the tenure of Chief Nnia Nwodo, as Ohanaeze NdigboPresident-General, has been tragic, indeed a sad one.
He createdlots of conflicts as president-general. Hecommitted several constitutional infractions as president general. A lot of people wanted a peaceful Ohanaeze,but Nwodo brought confusion in the system. Today, a lot of people are happy that his tenure isabout to end, and that the position, for the first time, is moving to Imostate. Once the position moves to another state, we’ll begin to repair some ofthe damaged relationships that Nwodo caused among the states that make upOhanaeze.
What are some of those conflicts anddamaged relationships you talked about?
You knowthat Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not a political organization, but a socio-culturalorganization. The major problem we havein Ohanaeze today is unconstitutional behavior exhibited by Chief NniaNwodo. We have never had it so badbefore. He has infringed on the variousaspects of the Ohanaeze constitution, and on the rights of the people ofvarious states that constitute Ohanaeze.
First ofall, the Ohanaeze constitution is very clear on how a member of Ohanaezeexecutive can be removed or suspended from office. It is the function of the General Assemblyof Ohanaeze to remove or suspend an executive member of Ohanaeze. But here, you have the minutes of Ohanaezeread on December 6, 2020 at Nike Lake Resort, Enugu, which was supposed to be ameeting of Ime-Obi Ohanaeze (Elders Council) – but was rather converted to avaledictory session of Nwodo and his out-going executive. We saw Chief NniaNwodo mount the rostrum to deliver a valedictory speech.
What was wrong with that?
It was notnecessary. That gathering was supposedto be a meeting of Ime-Obi. Theconstitution is very clear on the membership of Ime-Obi. The composition of Ime-Obi is as follows: all past and serving presidents, vicepresidents, Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives who are ofIgbo origin, all past and serving governors of states or former regions ofNigeria, who are of Igbo origin, six distinguished leaders from each Igbo Statenominated by the State and endorsed by the Council of Elders.
Also, theconstitution provides for two distinguished leaders to be drawn from Delta andRivers State.
ThePresident General of Ohanaeze, who is also the chairman the National ExecutiveCommittee of Ohanaeze, the Secretary General, past president-general, pastsecretary- general, and past deputy secretary-general, also member of Ime-Obi
The Ime-Obiis also made up of seventeen eminent national leaders, nominated by the Councilof Elders, two members of the National Assembly of Igbo origin, representingSenators, and members of House of Representatives from the area.
So, Ime-Obi is made up a select group thatdeliberate on serious issues that require rapid response. Here,my question is: Why did Nwodo invite themasses to attend the meeting of December 6, 2020, which he said wasan Ime-Obi meeting? The minutes of the meeting of Ime-ObiOhanaeze which was held on February 9, 2020, was distributed and read at thatmeeting of December 6, 2020, which was attended by several hundreds of peoplewho are not members of Ime-Obi Ohanaeze. This is a major infringement of Ohanaeze Constitution. According to Chief Nnia Nwodo, the last timeIme-Obi Ohanaeze met was on the 9th of February 2020, whereasIme-Obi is supposed to meet every month. If you look at the minutes youwill notice that under any other business, it was stated that “Chief OkekeOgene, Ohanaeze State President, Anambra, informed Ime-Obi that the duo ofOkechukwu Isiguzo, Ohanaeze Youth Leader, and Uche Okwukwu, suspended secretary general of Ohanaeze, havebeen involved in clandestine activities against the current national executivecommittee of Ohanaeze.” Thereafter,Chief Okeke Ogene, according to the minutes, moved a motion requesting Ime-Obito ratify the decision of the NEC of Ohanaeze to stop Isiguzo and Okwukwu fromfurther damaging the image of Nwodo and co. The motion was seconded by Chief Eric Obe,deputy national treasurer of Ohanaeze, and approved by Ime-Obi. This is absolute nonsense.
Why do you say so?
ChiefOkeke Ogene, is not a member of Ime-Obi; State Chairmen are not members ofIme-Obi. Is it not funny that anon-member of Ime-Obi moved a motion for the suspension of the secretarygeneral of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who hails from Rivers State?
What about Eric Ebe?
EricEbe, deputy national president of Ohanaeze who seconded the motion is also nota member of Ime-Obi Ohanaeze. Yet, themotion was approved. The executive ofOhanaeze has no disciplinary power. Thedisciplinary power lies in the General Assembly of Ohanaeze.
You kicked against the emergence ofNwodo as President-General of Ohanaeze. Do you think you have been vindicated?
Yes. I saidit earlier that Chief Nnia Nwodo was not capable of doing the job of President-Generalof Ohanaeze. I said that he had notattended Ohanaeze meeting three times in ten years, and that you cannot put asquare peg in a round hole. I criedfoul. As a lawyer, Nwodo should havetaken time to read the Ohanaeze constitution before presenting himself forelection. Nwodo has beenunconstitutional in his actions. Thepowers of the executive are clearly listed in Ohanaeze Constitution underPowers and Functions of the Executives. The major powers of the executive is to supervise thestate and local government chapters of Ohanaeze; promote the aims and objectivesof Ohanaeze, and ensure that every policy decision and other programmes ofOhanaeze as are directed by Ime-Obi and General Assembly are implemented. I madeit clear from the word go that Nnia Nwodo was not qualified for the job, andtherefore, was not eligible to be president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. He has committed several constitutionalinfractions.
Apart from suspending or removing thesecretary general from office, what other constitutional infractions did Nwodocommit?
In the heatof the presidential campaign for the 2019 general elections, Chief Nnia Nwodoannounced that Ohanaeze had endorsed Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidateof the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). And he made this announcement on theday President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress(APC) visited Onitsha to commission the Zik Mausoleum. Don’t forget that President Buhari’s visitwas on the invitation of the Governors of the South-East geo-political zone. Don’t also forget that the Buhari-ledadministration committed about eight hundred million naira to complete the ZikMausoleum, something the previous government could not do. Why did Nwodo choosethat day to announce that Ohanaeze had endorsed Atiku, when there was nomeeting and authorization by Ime-Obi Ohanaeze on this issue? Even if Ime Obi had met and decided on thisissue, it would have been taken to the General Assembly for ratification, andyou need two-third majority of the members of the General Assembly before itbecomes a decision of Ohanaeze. It wasalso on this same day that Nwodo announced the suspension of the secretarygeneral. Does Nwodo have any executive power to suspendthe head of Ohanaeze secretariat? Soyou can see that Nwodo’s tenure has been riddled with unconstitutionalbehaviours and actions.
What qualities do you expect theincoming president general of Ohanaeze to possess?
The questionnow is: How do we have an incomingpresident general of Ohanaeze? At the meeting of December 6, Nwodo broughtout a list he called members of the Electoral Committee. That is not the way it is done?
How is the electoral committee setup?
Theexecutive of Ohanaeze does not prepare a list of electoral committee members;rather the list is prepared by each state Ohanaeze in conjunction with thecouncil of elders of that state. Andeach state in the South-East is expected to bring four members; Delta andRivers – three members, Diaspora two members, and Ohanaeze Lagos one member,etc. The states have to meet to prepare their lists, and thereafter presentthem to Ime Obi Ohanaeze. The executivedoesn’t chose members of the Electoral Committee, and present them to Ime Obias Nwodo did. At that meeting, His Excellency, the former Governor of AnambraState, and current Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, told Nwodo that themeeting was not an Ime-Obi meeting; therefore, he ought not to have presentedthe list. Dr. Ngige also asked Nwodo toexplain how the Anambra list was prepared without his (Ngige) knowledge. Ngige also noted that the list was made up ofpoliticians on the platform of PDP.
Who and who made the list?
You haveSenator Ben Obi as chairman of the Electoral Committee. He is a core PDP member, and a closeassociate of the former vice presidential candidate of PDP, Peter Obi. You have Ferdinand Agu, as secretary of thecommittee, another PDP top notch. DubemOnyia, another PDP stalwart made the list. You have Gen Godwin Ugwuoke from Nwodo’s home town, and Clement Okwor,another PDP stalwart. We are not talkingabout formation of a political party, but something to do with a socio-culturalorganization? You can find honestpeople who are not aligned to any of the political parties to conduct theelection, but Nwodo chose to bring in PDP people. So the list he brought was rejected.
Was the list actually rejected?
As far as Iam concerned, Nwodo’s list of electoral committee members was rejected.
What happens if no election takesplace under Nwodo?
Then the governors will to set up an electoral committee to conduct the election.