It is yet another election time for the Igbo nation. This weekend, precisely, on Sunday, January 10, Igbo people will go to the polls to elect a new leadership for its apex mouthpiece, Ohanaeze. The election will be hosted by Owerri, the Eastern Heartland. It promises to be intriguing as it will be interesting. But one thing is obvious, the process of electing a new leadership and outcome of the process will be a statement on the seriousness, and preparedness of the Igbo nation towards the 2023 national political leadership process.
Imo State is primed to produce the next President-General of Ohanaeze, while Abia State produces the next Secretary-General. The new executive of the Igbo nation will take over from Chief John Nnia Nwodo, whose leadership of the body is ending on high applause. It is believed that the interest generated thus far, in who picks the baton from Nwodo, is directly connected with the high pedestal which Nwodo had elevated the leadership of the Igbo nation, placing it on a pedestal from which it must never revert.
Therefore, all eyes, internal ad eternal, will focus first on the candidates –Amb. (Prof.) George Obiozor, Chief Joe Nwaorgu, Chief Chris Asoluka, Chief Goddy Uwazurike and Prof. Chidi Osuagwu. Secondly, eyes will be on the electoral committee. Ndigbo across the world are deeply interested in this election because, for most of them, it signals the beginning of a journey towards a more emphatic political statement. For this reason, delivering a seamless election will be a win for the Igbo people. Also, accepting outcome of the election will be another winner for the Igbo nation. It will signal a unity of purpose and mission. It thus means that the candidates must be true to themselves as Igbo sons to accept the general will of the Igbo people expressed through the voting delegates.
The Igbo nation has, for too long, endured the critical bashing of different groups, within and outside Igboland, who accuse the Igbo of never being able to speak with one voice. Indeed, it’s been argued that the republican nature of the Igbo makes it a little more difficult for them to pursue any vision as a united front. No doubt, this has been true to the extent that the Igbo seek diverse opportunities for their wellbeing. This reality defines who the Igbo are –a people who disagree to agree.
Even in the run-up the January 10 election, the candidates have been ‘at war’ with critical stakeholders in Imo State for their decision to narrow the search for a competent, capable and strategically positioned candidate to Prof. Obiozor as consensus candidate. In spite of this, public opinion indicates that the candidates would prefer a level playing field for all. However, whatever the opinion is, there is nothing wrong with critical stakeholders of the state narrowing the search for the next leader of the Igbo nation to one person. What this entails is that, while no candidate is disenfranchised, the delegates still hold the ace.
For the Igbo nation, therefore, the outcome of the election will be a statement on where the Igbo want to be, going forward. Already, the preponderance of opinion is that the next President-General of Ohanaeze will be strategic to the quest by the Southeast geopolitical zone to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023. If this be the goal, it thus means that the Ohanaeze election is a stepping stone towards a greater good. For this reason, the delegates must ensure that the Igbo nation does not enter the next match with a second eleven team.
As it is, the delegates are now the team selectors. It is for them to pick a team that is capable of representing the Igbo nation in the comity of Nigerian nationalities. It is for them to sieve through all contending interests to see the vision that best suits the general good of the Igbo people, going forward. This is imperative because, for most Igbo people within and outside Igboland, there has to be an end to the politics of exclusion adopted by the country’s leadership since 2015.
Further to this, the Igbo people have shown that they fare better in environments where they are free to do business. They express themselves very well living among other nationalities within their country. However, they have attracted negative attention because of their ability to explore unexplored frontiers, reclaim swampy marshlands for estates, conquer infrastructural odds and still excel. All the negative attention they have attracted in this regard stem from deep misunderstanding of what the Igbo people, as an ethnic nationality and geopolitical zone, stand for. To mitigate this, the January 10 election becomes a tool that will create the much needed platform to drive a new understanding of the Igbo nation through strategic networking and diplomatic engagement of other nationalities. This sort of understanding is needed to safeguard Igbo investments outside Igboland and also drive the move towards better integration of the Igbo in national leadership for mutual benefits.
This is why it is imperative that those who had picked up the gauntlet, and are fighting to scuttle this important date in the Igbo calendar, must bring themselves back to reality. They must begin to see the reality that January 10 is not about any particular individual’s interest but about the general good and wellbeing of the Igbo nation. This is why it is equally important that the umpires guard the process jealously, against external interests. January 10 is about the Igbo nation. All Igbo eyes, including mine, will be watching.
It is heartening to know that the Igbo Diaspora is eminently represented at the election. This goes to show that electing a leadership for the Igbo nation is not something a few individuals agreed to do for themselves. No, it is something huge for the Igbo nation world over. This shows the extent to which the Igbo nation has grown, and is still growing. It, therefore, goes to prove that, whatever the outcome of the election, it will be one which the Igbo nation will embrace with expectation that it helps them to deliver on critical mandates, which include re-working the Igbo nation for direct inflow of investments and regeneration of trade inputs that will spur the Igbo people into giving life to the think-home philosophy popularized by the Nwodo leadership.
The candidates must, therefore, commit to respecting the popular will of the Igbo people expressed through their delegates to the election because it will be added impetus to the growth of the Igbo nation through security, investment drive and promotion, integrated development and revitalization of education among the Igbo people. If the Igbo miss this opportunity to make a statement on how organized and serious they are, no one else will take them seriously.