From Jude Chinedu, Enugu
As confusion continues to trail the leadership election in Ohanaeze Ndigbo, an Imeobi of the body has been scheduled to hold on Thursday, December 31, in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
This is coming weeks after a similar one chaired by Ohanaeze President-General Chief John Nnia Nwodo was held in Enugu. This time, the Imeobi is being convened by Barr Uche Okwukwu, Ohanaeze Secretary-General, who had earlier described as null and void the Enugu meeting.
Okwukwu insists that according to the Ohanaeze constitution, he alone possesses the power to call for an Imeobi, brushing aside claims that he was on suspension.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Okwukwu said:
‘On 31st December 2020, the Imeobi of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide will hold in Imo State in the house of a very prominent and eminent Igbo. We chose this private residence in line with the true cultural meaning of Imeobi.
‘Ime means inside and Obi means the private hut for hosting meetings. Imeobi is not supposed to be a public meeting. Its whole essence is for leaders recognised by the Ohanaeze constitution to gather privately and discuss the way forward for Ndigbo.
‘You might wonder why Ohanaeze is hosting this Imeobi in a private place rather than in a hotel. My answer is that what transpired on Sunday, 20th December 2020, in Enugu, when before the full glare of the public, both Igbo and non-Igbo, Professor George Obiozor collapsed and was talking incoherently, was both unfortunate and avoidable.
‘If he had collapsed in the private house of an Igbo, the incident would have been properly managed without the press reporting it. Whether we liked it or not, it was a huge embarrassment. The question being whispered now is, can a man who collapsed in public and talked incoherently lead Ndigbo for the next four years? The answer, of course, is no. To avoid that kind of embarrassment, we favour hosting our Imeobi in a private place.
‘Agenda for the 31st December 2020 Imeobi is to nominate members of the Electoral Committee, of the 2021 Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Election. The Electoral Committee will have the power to determine the date and guidelines for the election.
‘It will also cover other matters pertinent to our people, particularly poverty in Igboland occasioned by the COVID-19-19 pandemic and general insecurity. Ndigbo are prepared to have a credible election that will produce competent officers to man our affairs. By the divine grace of God, we will achieve that.’
The Secretary-General added that: ‘Oha is bigger than Eze in Igbo culture; the latter does what the former agrees. But what we are seeing under Chief Nnia Nwodo is a situation where Eze owns Oha. We must be bold stopping the Nwodo excesses. Ndigbo must come out and support the process that will lead to a credible, free, fair and impartial election capable of ushering in a new Executive in January 2021.
‘There is nothing sacrosanct holding Imeobi in Enugu. For the avoidance of doubt, no Imeobi in the last four years was held in the secretariat of Ohanaeze in Enugu. It always held at Nike Lake Hotel; about ten kilometres from the secretariat. In the past, both Imeobi and Ohanaeze general elections were also held in places outside Enugu.
‘The choice of holding the Imeobi of 31st December 2020 in Owerri is because the capital is central in Igboland. Again, the sorry state of our roads also favours Owerri. If you consider the cost of transportation this Christmas period, Enugu is going to be expensive for a person coming from Port Harcourt or Azumili in Abia State, for instance. But Owerri appears to be central and cheaper to access. Only recognised statutory members, namely, serving and former governors, ministers, serving and former heads of the judicial and legislative arms of government, elders, intelligentsia, traditional rulers and the clergy will be in attendance.
‘A notice of venue for the Imeobi of 31st December 2020 will be given. This will enable participants to adequately prepare in addition to minimising publicity. Unlike the venue for General Assembly, venue for Imeobi is “Mkpuke”, or private, where Ndigbo gather to secretly consult and take far-reaching decisions.
‘What happened to Obiozor went viral because it happened in an open bazaar nicknamed as Imeobi. If it was in an Imeobi, none would have heard about it because those present would have protected the Ndigbo interests. We promise to sanitise things.’