Time To Discard Or Reform Ohaneze Ndigbo?

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When a nation lacks leadership, it also lacks purpose and direction. The failure of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has inspired thugs like Mr. Ralph Uwazurike and others to front themselves as leaders of Ndigbo. Its my sincere hope that when Ohanaeze Ndigbo is finally reformed, it’s leaders would be too busy, too glorified to ever find the time for wandering like vagabonds from one corridor of power to another begging for alms.

The greatest challenge facing the Igbo nation today is the apparent lack of honest, principled and intelligent leadership. The cry of marginalisation or neglect will therefore continue until such a time when there is a selfless and focused leadership that will drive the aspirations and dreams of the world’s richest black nationality. A leadership that knows its rights and duties, which inspires as it engages, and which intelligently confronts critical issues as they affect the Igbo. A leadership which consistently demands on behalf of the Igbo nation, it’s rightful place in the Nigerian polity. Ndigbo must know that nobody brings them their rights in the comfort of their bedrooms just because they are shouting marginalisation.

As it is today, the majority of Ndigbo feel that Ohanaeze Ndigbo has now become more or less an irrelevant institution which does not in anyway truly represent the dreams and aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Ndigbo. Interestingly, this feeling of worthlessness is becoming increasingly preponderant among the younger generation who believe that the organisation is nothing but an assemblage of self-seeking, insensitive and shameless Igbo leaders who merely used it in recent years for their own selfish aggrandisement. Critics have also argued that these leaders had literally turned Ohanaeze Ndigbo into an endorsement supermarket, especially during presidential elections when they sell their endorsements to the highest bidders. Never in the history of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has it been so routinely abused and discredited as it is today!

Owing to the widespread failure of the organisation over the years to selflessly project, promote and advance the collective interest of Ndigbo, which was the purpose for its creation in the first place, a lot of us tend to assume that the organisation has become useless and should therefore be thrown away. But Ohanaeze is both a vision and a precursory of the Igbo dream. It may have been misused and abused, but that has not defeated the purpose for which it was established. Personally, I believe that the Igbo nation still needs the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, but there is no doubt that the organisation as presently constituted, in both form and shape, has outlived it’s usefulness and needs urgent reformation or restructuring.

…in the area of the promotion of core Igbo values, the organisation has failed woefully as the nation has become a broken society owing to the total break down of family and moral values in the land. This has greatly damaged the moral fabric of the Igbo society and turned the Igbo value system upside down. Even the longstanding social values which hitherto inspired decent social conduct over centuries have now been completely eroded, culminating in a new pattern of behaviour in which greed, inordinate ambition for money, power and fame have become the order of the day…

Ohanaeze Ndigbo is, first of all, a sociocultural organisation set up by the Igbo nation to promote core cultural and social values based on the rich moral and traditional heritage of the Igbo nation. Ohanaeze Ndigbo also serves as both the local and foreign relations arm of the Igbo nation, with the mandate of promoting and defending the collective dreams of the Igbo people within and outside Igbo land. In doing so, Ohanaeze is expected to become a diplomatic agency that builds bridges of trust, friendship and cooperation with other ethnic groups within the country. This is imperative, considering that the Igbos are everywhere across the length and breath of Nigeria engaging in one business or the other, developing where they live while also contributing immensely to the economic development of their homeland.

Being the central leadership organ for Ndigbo, the Ohanaeze is also expected to serve as a think tank for Africa’s most talented and richest nationality, helping in defining and providing newer and worthier directions or alternatives on critical issues as they affect the Igbo people. Those issues could range from cultural, economic, educational, scientific, and political, among others.

But in the area of the promotion of core Igbo values, the organisation has failed woefully as the nation has become a broken society owing to the total break down of family and moral values in the land. This has greatly damaged the moral fabric of the Igbo society and turned the Igbo value system upside down. Even the longstanding social values which hitherto inspired decent social conduct over centuries have now been completely eroded, culminating in a new pattern of behaviour in which greed, inordinate ambition for money, power and fame have become the order of the day; and in which money worship becomes the new spirit of engagement. Today, the Igbo language is dying and so also long-aged customs. Ohanaeze Ndigbo itself has become transformed as an agent of this new era where money is everything.

More worrisome is the failure of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to address the monumental corruption that went on in Igbo land over the years. The organisation ignored the financial recklessness and impunity, and the high-level embezzlement in Igbo land by South-East leaders, especially governors, most of who converted public resources for their private endeavours and needs. Since 1999, over seventy percent of the federal allocations to the local government councils in the region have been stolen by the governors.

On the other hand, how has the organisation promoted the collective interest of the Igbo people within and outside the country? Apart from the yearly World Igbo Congress which takes place in America, its not clear to me if there is any other programme through which Ohanaeze Ndigbo reaches the Igbo population across the globe. Even years of the so-called World Igbo Congress have not resulted in the articulation and proposition of any coherent and concrete policies and programmes for the benefit of Ndigbo. It has been reduced to an annual jamboree where some corrupt and poorly informed Igbo politicians go to show off. But above every other failing is the fact that Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been so divisive and pugnacious, and has now led the Igbo nation into a horrible form of political isolation, evolving from the politics of hate, antagonism and greed. Rather than build bridges of friendship, trust, accommodation and cooperation with other ethnic groups, it has instead built walls of isolation, hostility and antagonism which is very unhealthy for an organisation that has about half of her own people outside their homeland. More worrisome is the failure of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to address the monumental corruption that went on in Igbo land over the years. The organisation ignored the financial recklessness and impunity, and the high-level embezzlement in Igbo land by South-East leaders, especially governors, most of who converted public resources for their private endeavours and needs. Since 1999, over seventy percent of the federal allocations to the local government councils in the region have been stolen by the governors.

Today we have a vibrant town union system in Igbo land. And in each state, the presidents-general of the town unions have a leader among themselves. Since this can be replicated at the regional level, who still needs these so-called Ohanaeze leaders? Either way, this can serve as a platform for the new Ohanaeze leadership, or for continuously electing credible and accountable leaderships for Ohanaeze Ndigbo. In this way, the financial challenges and legitimacy crisis facing the group will become a thing of the past. We will also have a reputable council of elders. This I believe will inspire a new level of moral and cultural revolution in Igbo land. The Igbo nation must now rise and go after that out-of-control masquerade which is currently wandering in the cities and bring it home to rest.

When a nation lacks leadership, it also lacks purpose and direction. The failure of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has inspired thugs like Mr. Ralph Uwazurike and others to front themselves as leaders of Ndigbo. Its my sincere hope that when Ohanaeze Ndigbo is finally reformed, it’s leaders would be too busy, too glorified to ever find the time for wandering like vagabonds from one corridor of power to another begging for alms.

Chris Chukwubuzor Azuka is National Coordinator, Save the Dream Nigeria- Project, and can be reached through azucomms2000@gmail.com.

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