The names above for those who don’t know belong to two key organizations in the South-East of Nigeria inhabited mainly by the race called Igbo. Ohaneze is the umbrella cultural association of the entire Igbo people worldwide. While the Independent People of Biafra, IPOB, is a vanguard comprising mainly the new generation. They are seriously agitated by the marginalization which has been the lot of the people of south-east since after they fought an almost three-year-long intense civil war and lost in 1970. Their answer to marginalization is secession; they want a Federal Republic of Biafra.
Last weekend they were in the news and not for good reasons. IPOB went public with its warning to Ohaneze not to hold any summit on restructuring in any part of Igbo land or face disruption. Ohaneze in return threatened to invoke the strong arm of the law if IPOB goes ahead to disrupt any of its conferences. That is where they are. I must say the altercation does no one any good. It is not good for Ohaneze, it leaves it with an image of an organization that is not astute and lacking in the ability to put its component parts under control. Ohaneze president, Chief Nnia Nwodo, has done well this time with his admission that he doesn’t see any reason to go into any public war of words with the IPOB people and that is a right approach to take, I must commend that.
But I wished Chief Nnia Nwodo had followed this line of action before now. It must be stated that some of his actions and utterances have been responsible for the discord that is brewing between both organizations, which ought not to be in the first instance. Nwodo lost grounds with his posture during the open agitations led by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB. It was tactically wrong to see Ohaneze struggling with IPOB over which of them is the pre-eminent Igbo organization. From my little knowledge of struggles for emancipation elsewhere that should not have been the focus at a time the atmosphere was charged rather it was time those in leadership should show those special attributes that make true leadership what it is. I understand that Nwodo held several meetings with the leadership of IPOB and most of which ended on a deadlock and for that reason Nwodo was infuriated. Those in such sensitive positions have a right to be angry but it is not good to allow such anger to boil over and becloud sound rationalization and dent legitimate processes.
Nwodo allowed his anger to overrule him and it became a big concern for the entire Igbo race. As is common with Nigerian leaders, Nwodo may not have known what was happening but a huge level of disenchantment was building up over his open berating of IPOB actions and his threats to proscribe them even before the thought of doing so came into the mind of South East governors. It was wrong for Nwodo to have visited the Sultan of Sokoto and some Northern governors at the very moment Nigerian soldiers led by northern commanders shot and killed his people at home. That tour was suggestive as it appeared very condescending. Nwodo has not helped matters by his utterances. Each time he speaks he sounds like a spokesman for the northern establishment, who the Igbo think are principally responsible for their woes. Nwodo for instance is categorical that the Biafra republic quest is a mirage, it will never be gotten and that agitations could result in war. He is never tired to remind Igbo that they have 11 million people in the north and another four million in Lagos alone, a blackmail often deployed by the a section of the northern elements.
So when Nwodo speaks many Igbo see him as a brother who physically is with them but his soul has since left them. Some others on the extreme part even think he may have been compromised. That is the dilemma Nwodo faces. Nwodo could be right in some of his positions but discretion which sages have said is a better part of valour should have taught him that as president of Ohaneze it is not in his place to champion such positions. If he felt strongly about them he should have used proxies to voice whatever he wanted and by so doing retaining the sanctity of his office as an impartial arbiter. Ohaneze leadership should pick useful lessons from the South South, Yoruba and the core north. I watched PANDEV of South South hold a rally in Yenagoa. The governor and every other important personality were there and one of the speakers was Asari Dokubo who lampooned the Nigerian state and even called for the creation of Ijaw Republic and everybody clapped. If it were in the South-East Asari would not have gained recognition let alone appearing there to become a key speaker.
In the South-West, Gani Adams and his OPC has been there and recently Chief Adams was conferred with the title of generalissimo of Yoruba race. Adams has never been harassed by Afenifere, equivalent of Ohaneze neither have we heard their governors nor other political leaders demand that OPC be run out of town. Arewa Youths Consultative Forum has been talking and Boko Haram on the other side causing trouble. Many Nigerians hardly hear their leaders condemn them let alone to call for punishment. By the last time I checked some members of Boko Haram have be recruited into the police and army.
The question Nwodo, his Ohaneze and the generality of Ndigbo should answer is: what do the Igbo want? Is it Nigeria, restructuring, Presidency or Republic or Biafra. What the Igbo want will determine the posture and the strategy. It is wrong for outsiders to tell the Igbo what they want or how to go about their issues. It is an insult when outsiders do so especially when they have the effrontery to step into Igbo territory to do so. It is also time Igbo leaders be very selective of events they attend. Ohaneze president and some of our first class traditional rulers should not be seen in every event, they ought to know the mystery of rare appearances.