From Magnus Eze, Stanley Uzoaru and George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Former Nigerian ambassador to the United States of America, George Obiozor, yesterday, emerged president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in a peaceful and open election at Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Imo State.
He polled 304 votes while his closest rival, Valentine Oparaocha, got 15 votes. Another candidate, Uju Okoro, who had stepped down shortly before the election, however, scored three votes.
Three other contenders, Goddy Uwazuruike, Chukwunyere Nweboh and Uju Saviour, withdrew from the race.
Joel Kroham from Rivers State was returned unopposed as the deputy president general, while another renowned diplomat, Okey Emuchay, from Abia State, defeated his opponent, Onuma Kalu Ireke, with 265 to eight votes, to emerge secretary general.
Joe Nworgu, Chris Asoluka and Chidi Osuagwu had all pulled out of the contest a day to the election.
Before the commencement of the election, Uwazuruike had stepped down for Obiozor.
Also returned unopposed were Beatrice Eze (treasurer) from Ebonyi State, Bartholomew Okere (national financial secretary) and Alex Ogbonnia (national publicity secretary).
Former chief judge of Imo State, Paul Onumajuru, later administered on them oaths of office.
Outgoing president general, Nnia Nwodo, said his administration tried to battle the marginalisation of the zone in the country, and expressed happiness that achievements were recorded in that regard, but urged the incoming administration to do better.
He said: “Today marks the end of my tenure which started four years ago in January 2017. We addressed skewed political structure of Nigeria, getting lowest federal revenue services and positions. We urge you to continue from where we stopped.”
Nwodo announced to the organisation of his new position as the coordinator of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum.
Imo Governor, Hope Uzodimma, said: “I can see a new order, new attitude, new beginning. I am happy not because of hosting the election, but because the Igbo nation has been challenged. I assure you that from today things will change in Igbo land.”
He recalled that Igbo had been leading in all endeavours, but noted that it lagged behind because “the spirit is no longer there, we must go back to find our root to find out where we have gone wrong to know how to correct it.”
Uzodinma also extolled Nwodo’s leadership qualities that he brought to bear during his tenure.
Ebonyi Governor, David Umahi, also thanked God that the election held despite what he described as the distraction by detractors. He said the zone will continue to play vital roles in the unity of Nigeria.
“In spite of few numbers of detractors who don’t wish Alaigbo well, a day like this came. Igbo man plays vital roles for the unity and continuity of Nigeria,” he said.
Umahi said the South East governors will organise a get together for Nwodo to show appreciation for his service.
In a brief acceptance speech for himself and other members of his new team, Obiozor pledged to serve the Igbo diligently with all his heart as an authentic Igbo patriot.
He thanked the governors and other Igbo leaders that did not allow some unnamed people to truncate the process.
Prominent Igbo sons and daughters present at the election were the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe, Ogbonnaya Onu, Sam Egwu, ABC Nwosu, Chris Ngige, Adolphus Wabara, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Ben Obi and Andy Uba.