Since the emergence of Dr Emmanuel Chukwuemeka Iwuanyanwu, CFR, OFR, MFR (Ahaejiagamba of Igboland) as the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo a few months ago, there has been a potpourri of reactions from across Igboland. While some fault the process of his emergence, a lot more others applaud his emergence as the best thing that has happened to Ndigbo at this critical moment in Nigeria’s history. It will be recalled that on April 20, 2023, Chief Iwuanyanwu was pronounced as the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide. His emergence was consequent upon the invocation of the principle of “Doctrine of Necessity” by the National Executive Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which directed the people of Imo State to find a credible replacement for Prof. George Obiozor, who died last December 2022. Chief Iwuanyanwu was subsequently nominated as a consensus candidate by the people of Imo State and presented to the Imo State Government by the Imo State Council of Elders.
Despite the conversations surrounding his emergence, Dr Iwuanyanwu is not oblivious to the task ahead of him. He inherited an Ohanaeze Ndigbo that has been bogged down by a lingering crisis between the authentic Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by the late Prof. Obiozor on the one hand, and the Igbo Archbishops and Anya Ndigbo on the other. There is also the group of Mr Chidi Ibeh and Isiguzoro who parading themselves as President and Secretary respectively of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. This group, regarded by many as a renegade group, has pulled no punches in issuing press statements that are at cross-purposes with Igbo positions on several socio-political issues in Nigeria. All these issues have been distracting to Ohanaeze Ndigbo such that while other ethnic nationalities are busy consolidating their positions and gains in the Nigerian project, Ndigbo appear to be content with the pursuit of trivia and inanities rather than substance. Any group of people caught in this kind of historical trap must of necessity exist without a future. We cannot afford to become examples of such societies which litter the pages of human history.
This is the type of organization that Iwuanyanwu inherited. One does not actually envy his position because only a man with a large heart, courage, calmness, composure, even-mindedness and stability of mind can confront such a daunting task. Without much ado, methinks that Chief Iwuanyanwu fits into this mould. What we need to do now is to put aside our narrow pursuits and rally around the new PG to drive the Igbo agenda in Nigeria.
Since his emergence, Dr Iwuanyanwu has left no one in doubt about his vision and mission to rebuild and transform Igboland through robust policies and investments within the period he has to complete the tenure of Imo State. His actions thus far indicate a man imbued with focus, zest, and gusto to galvanize Ndigbo to make a stake in the Nigerian project. For example, only a few days ago, Chief Iwuanyanwu invited the leaders of different Igbo groups at Enugu to find common ground for the problems of the Southeast region. It is a thing of joy that the leaders of the various Igbo groups pledged their support to work with the Ohanaeze PG and his team for the development of the southeast by stemming the tide of insecurity and making the region attractive to investors.
In pursuing this vision, Chief Iwuanyanwu promised that his team would create new towns to enable Igbos outside their zone to come home and invest as well as set up a Council of Business Leaders. The PG, on that occasion, appealed to those using the name of Ohanaeze for merchandise to the peril of the Igbo nation to desist from doing so. One is minded to note that there are people outside Igboland that feel threatened by a united Igbo and would go the extra mile to fund fifth columnists to foment trouble in the southeast. Those who have fallen for this trap do not mean well for Ndigbo. For me they cut the imagery of Achebe’s “efulefu”; a worthless person who sold his matchet and wore the sheath to battle.
It is indeed cheering news to know that Dr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu has waded into the misunderstanding between Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Igbo Archbishops as well as Anya Ndigbo with a view to fostering peace, understanding and unity of purpose. It will be recalled that in the meeting, which was held on the heels of his meeting with leaders of various Igbo groups, Iwuanyanwu appealed to the Archbishops and leadership of Anya Ndigbo for calm and understanding in the knowledge that the Igbo cause in Nigeria by far outweighs our individual aspirations. To the glory of God, Iwuanyanwu’s peace moves appear to be yielding positive results as both the Igbo Archbishops and Anya Ndigbo pledged to work in concert with Ohanaeze Ndigbo in the overall interest of the Igbo nation.
Chief Iwuanyanwu’s track record is awe-inspiring and his patriotism and love both for Nigeria and the Igbo nation have not been in doubt. He believes in a restructured Nigerian federation where the Igbo would have the latitude to unleash their fecund ingenuity and creativity. This is why he has been so vocal and assertive on issues concerning the welfare of the Igbo. In his recent outings, he has pulled no punches in condemning the skewed allocation of principal officers in the National Assembly by the ruling APC, which does not favour the southeast in any way. While dismissing the allocation of the position of Deputy Speaker to the southeast as galling, manifestly unreflective, disgusting and provocative to the Igbo, Chief Iwuanyanwu has courageously advised and directed all Igbo lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly to vote according to their discretions irrespective of state, political party, religion or ethnicity.
Chief Iwuanyanwu, within a couple of months he has been in office, has demonstrated enormous capacity, altruism and uncommon courage. The way he has been going indicates that he is not a chance occurrence in the leadership of Ohanaeze. There is no evidence, both in his practical involvements with charting a course for Ndigbo in Nigeria and his utterances that he was ever compelled or imposed to lead Ndigbo at this critical period. In the past, he had helped others into the leadership of Ohanaeze until he stamped his feet as the leader of Ohanaeze. And the way he has been moving, with a complicated mastery of Nigerian political structure, its tempo and pulse are indicators of the fact that his arrival was not accidental.
That he has been able to provide a platform for Igbo leaders to jaw-jaw and agree on a peace framework within two months has a direct relationship with his scientific grasp and grappling with the odds and oddities of the Igbo people as a system. His capacity for weathering the central and side effects of people who use Ohanaeze’s name for selfish reasons derives from the same source that a man on a historical mission is on the seat of Ohanaeze leadership. Whether he succeeds or fails in the end (and of course, he should succeed) is not my immediate concern. My proximal concern relates to what we as a people will do to support him.
Chief Iwuanyanwu deserves our collective support. In his mission statement, he has promised to reintroduce inter-state sports and cultural competition, establish Ohanaeze Cultural Centre/Museum with headquarters at Enugu, the Celebration of Igbo Day, resuscitate of Nkalagu Cement Factory, revitalise the Enugu Coal Industry, initiate the comprehensive review of the school curriculum in the Southeast to meet the modern educational needs, and other various programs in agriculture and other sectors. Iwuanyanwu is accomplished in various fields of human endeavour. He boasts of a resume befitting a presidential stature that stands above the influence of governors. In him, I see a new dawn for Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Malachy Chuma Ochie is a Research Consultant and Human Rights Activist writes from Enugu
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