World Igbo Congress 2007: Repositioning the Igbo Nation

by Bayo Olupohunda

Writing about a different ethnic stock other than your own may turn out to be an arduous task especially when you do not belong to the group. But it gives one the advantage of looking at issues dispassionately without being biased to any particular group within the ethnic formation. In preparing this piece, my thoughts were shaped by the plight of the Igbo nation in the last three decades of our political history and more importantly the events of the last eight years. The events of the last eight years in particular also provide a study in understanding the character of the Igbo man or woman and the traits inherent in the entire Igbo race.

Reading a piece written by one Chris Obasi titled “Breaking the Igbo Curse” in The Guardian Newspaper of Wednesday August 27th 2007 makes an interesting reading and provides a deep insight into how the Ohaneze Ndigbo have single handedly brought the “curse” of irrelevance upon their people through rudderless leadership in the last eight years. I have also followed closely the jamboree going on in the name of World Igbo Congress 2007 taking place in Detroit in the state of Michigan in the United States of America. The purpose of this yearly jamboree has never ceased to amuse me as an ordinary Nigerian anxious to see that all the different ethnic groups that make up this country partake and benefit equally in the political, economic and governance of its resources. I hold the strong opinion that no ethnic group is inferior to the other in taking decisions on governance that affect the generality of the people.

Unfortunately, the Pan Igbo organization that claims to represent the interest of the hardworking, illustrious Igbo sons and daughters in Nigeria and the Diaspora does not seem to hold this view. The questions that have often plaqued my mind is that how come the Igbo nation that is referred to as one the main ethnic groups that make up Nigeria have been reduced to mere spectators in the affairs and governance of this country? How come a race that has some of the best brain of writers, scientist, industrialists etc has always played the second fiddle when decisions that affect even their affairs are concerned? What is wrong with Igbo man that makes him becomes so individualistic when issues that concern his race are in the front burner? What makes the ruling elite to become so suspicious of the Igbo several years after the Biafra uprising?

But that is the sad tale of the Igbo nation today. I have followed with keen interest the activities of the Ohaneze Ndigbo in the last eight years of civilian administration. My submission is that the pan Igbo socio-political group have failed to provide the needed leadership that will bring the Igbo’s into the mainstream of Nigeria political governance. The Ohaneze Ndigbo has failed woefully to chart a well-defined course of its people in the last eight years and beyond. Rather they have been enmeshed in the politics of self-survival. Members are almost contented to feed from the crumbs of the national cake thrown at them by the other main ethnic groups. The events leading to the run up of the 2003 elections spelt the death kneel for the Pan Igbo group. I was rilled by the eventual crippling of the Alex Ekwueme presidential bid by the Ohnaneze Ndigbo through their inactiveness. That singular act spelt the dealt knell on any claim they might make to the governance of Nigeria at that level. This eventually affected their quest to be positioned for the 2007 elections. It smacks of a dirty slap in the face that the Igbo nation could not even aspire to the position of the Vice-Presidency since the beginning of this democratic journey. This is due largely to the activities of the Ohaneze Ndigbo. I stand corrected on this.

The third term saga which saw Obasanjo clandestinely scheme to prolong his wasted years much to the consternation of ordinary Nigerians brought out the true characters of the Ohaneze Ndigbo group. Led by Professor Joe Irukwu, The then President found a ready tool in the Group under the leadership of the Professor. He came out to support the macabre scheming of those hell-bent on perpetuating Obasanjo’s stay in power. It was annoying to hear Igbo leaders that make up this group speak with discordant tunes. When the plot to elongate Obasanjo term was shot down by the House of Assemblies under the leadership of Ken Nnamani, the Ohaneze group lost face and Joe Irukwu and his cohorts made a belated effort to endorse former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu. A move they did not make for Alex Ekwueme in 2003. No wonder the man was hugely disappointed in his kinsmen.

But the endorsement of the former Governor of Abia state to me was intriguing and surprising. Considering the pedigree of the Igbo race, it can be safely said that they do not lack individuals that can occupy the high office of the President and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic. Why would they not put their best foot forward when endorsing a presidential candidate? I do not have anything against the endorsement of Orji Kalu but I also think the Ohaneze Ndigbo being the pan-Igbo group can co-opt people with pedigree into the race. What happened to the likes of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Professor Pat Utomi and even Alex Ekwueme himself? Was Orji Uzor Kalu seen as one that can occupy such a position by Ohaneze? The group has failed its people and they need to reposition before they are completely swept away into political irrelevance.

What I find strange is the lack of unity of purpose by the Ohaneze Ndigbo anytime decisions that affect the socio-political life of their people is being taken. When it is time to pick a presidential candidate, you see a dozen candidates jostling for the slot. That is not a problem in itself as every qualified person can vie for elective position to serve the people. But when these jostling are beginning to affect your chances, there is the need to compromise and reach a consensus otherwise the group risk being infiltrated by the other groups. It is the failure of the Ohaneze Ndigbo to rein in its members that have often led to the situation described above. This has been seen in the last two elections. It is a failure of group leadership occasioned by high level self interest. That is why a group like the Arewa will continue to have the upper hand in the politics of group preservation. The Yoruba’s are also adept at doing this.

It is the light of the above that the current World Igbo Congress 2007 going on in the United States like the former ones would not achieve any meaningful purpose. Already, the leadership of the group is under dispute. Instead of working to put the Igbo in the mainstream of political relevance, participants are reportedly jostling to position themselves for political appointments from the Governors in attendance. Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State who spoke at the conference lamented the place of the Igbo’s in Nigeria when he said and I quote” What other Nigerians are doing to the Igbos is not up to 20 percent of what the Igbos are doing to themselves. He continued “We are spectators in Nigeria because we are not organized and united….my dear people, if we do not hang together, they will hang us one after the other.” True words. I further submit that the plight of the Igbos in the last eight years lie solely at the footstep of Ohaneze Ndigbo who have refused to stand up for truth in the face of injustice, oppression and the marginalization of their people. They have sacrificed their people on the pot of self intresest and self aggrandizement. They have refused to stand up and be counted when it mattered most. Now they have boxed themselves into irrelevance and have become spectators in the political affairs of Nigeria.

For the Igbos to assume their pre-war status, the present leadership of the group must shape up or ship out. They must re-organize themselves and quit their present penchant to result to personal self preservation. They must demand accountability from the present south east governors and play the true role of an apex political group. They have lost a lot of steam and ground as it is. Revered Igbo leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam etc must be shedding tears in their grave now if they behold the rudderless selfish leadership the present Ohaneze Ndigbo have wrecked on their hardworking ambitious ordinary Igbo folks in Nigeria.

Now an average Igbo seem to lack a true sense of belonging in the Nigerian nation because his leaders have failed to provide a direction for them. Delegates at the current World Igbo Congress need to tell themselves and the leadership of the Ohaneze the home truth. The message should be, you have failed to provide the needed leadership in the last eight years. Should we continue to entrust our future into your hands? What are you doing to ensure all Igbo young men return to school rather than hawk and sell spare parts at every major market? What are you doing to return us to the mainstream of Nigerian politics? These and many more questions should form a critical self evaluation for the delegates and indeed to all Igbos and Nigerians who yearn for a true federation in which all ethnic groups that make up Nigeria are treated with equity and justice.

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ibeka chinweuba October 9, 2008 - 2:24 pm

we as a nation known as the igbo nation must first embrace love for one another , not just for ourselves or our individual families but for one another , we should be selfless and be our brother”s keeper , love should be our watch word , we should preach it and practise it , then we should stand as one in togetherness with a common vision and purpose and forge ahead

Valentine Ugochukwu Onwuka September 14, 2007 - 1:08 pm

What a wonderful rendition of ignorance and unbalanced and ill motivated article ochestrated to tarnish the image of the IGBO man. Mr Bayo, I want to advice you. Next time when the writing urge creeps up in you, could u please write about Oduduwa and OPC and leave the IGBO race alone. These are people who you can't run down, and like the saying goes in IGBO, "IGBO ANAGHI AGBA ODIBO" Simply put in English, it means that the IGBO man cannot be led into any slave servitude. People like you who want to use suggestive technics to make the world believe the lie that the IGBO man is not focused are to be ashamed of yourselves. I wish you were more informed about this race you are touching!

I was married to a Yoruba woman who is late now, and whose father happens to be an Oba. I appreciate it if Mr Bayo can have a more positive relationship with the IGBO people he meets, and try not to be biased in his train of thoughts.

Finally, if you need assignments on writing, I can recommend a few;

1. A detailed analysis of the Afenifere crisis.

2. The OPC divides – Who is in charge?

3. Odua States and the lack of Nationalistic Vision.

4. A review of the battle to keep sycophancy in the corridors of the Afenifere court.

I would however wish to thank him for making us relevant, because that is what such misguided propaganda breeds.

uzo September 10, 2007 - 9:05 am

Bayo's article is a mixture of half-researched facts,myths,propaganda and misinformation. Calling WIC an annual jamboree clearly shows where he's coming from so where he's going is not in doubt. Igbos are doing self -searching and should be allowed to do it their way. Yorubas, Arewa ,Ijaws etc all have their problems and should be encouraged to reach their solutions themselves. It will be good for Bayo to remove the beam from his eyes then he will be able to see the problems of others really dispassionately as he allegedly planned. The Ohaneze leadership that championed obj's third term agenda was instituted by him as he did many other things in his eight years to destabilize ndigbo. Bayo should do his researches properly before he starts self- righteous pontification. Ndigbo are trying to forget the horrible things done to them in the past including the past eight years as well as forgive the perpetrators and fashion out a developmental agenda for themselves within or without nigeria. WIC is championing this. Those who pretend to be Igbo friends should at least encourage WIC instead of use all forms of derogatory language on them. If there is leadership dispute, ndigbo will sort it out. If people are looking for govt Appointments, what about that? Will their not always be different types of people. Using abberations to cast the image of Wic or Ndigbo has always been a nigerian propaganda against them. Does he check Jamb,Waec, primary

School enrollments and even adult education enrollment statistics before parotting the well-worn cliche of ndigbo's involvement in trading and hawking.Our detractors should find more modern means of attack as these ones are now obsolete. uche uzo, uk.

HRH Chief Dr Engr. Ezeuwa Omummillioji I September 7, 2007 - 1:02 pm

Very clear, informative and sadly visibly accurate rendition of our condition.

wharever September 7, 2007 - 10:28 am

What is the purpose of this article??


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