Obinna Odogwu, Awka
There appears to be no end to the unfolding coup in Ohanaeze Ndigbo with the latest claims by the splinter group that the South East governors and other prominent Igbo leaders are behind them. They are also insisting that the governors stopped funding the Chief Nnia Nwodo-led group for this reason.
The new group of young men led by Mr Basil Onyeachonam Onuorah literally stirred the hornet’s nest last Monday when reports about their registration of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, with the Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC] were published in the newspapers. At a press briefing held at the palace of the traditional ruler of Igbariam ancient kingdom, Igwe Nkeli Nzekwe, the group said that Ohanaeze Ndigbo under the leadership of Chief Nnia Nwodo has been dissolved and that Mr Onuorah was now the president-general.
It said that it registered the apex Igbo organization with the CAC as Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly with registration number RC: 144918 adding that it also made the monarch of Igbariam in Anambra East council area, Igwe Nzekwe, its Board of Trustees Chairman.
Giving further insight on the development, the monarch said that a number of factors led to the move by some Igbo leaders to restructure Ohanaeze. He said that the leaders had visited him at his palace late last year to brainstorm on the way forward for the apex Igbo organization.
“On the 25th of November 2019, some notable Igbo stakeholders visited my palace to discuss way forward on how to restructure Ohanaeze Ndigbo and give it a corporate legal status instead of merely existing as a pressure group and a political tool in the hands of few individuals”, the monarch said.
Igwe Nzekwe said that as one of the founding fathers of Ohanaeze in 1976, he could not sit back and watch things go wrong in the organization which part of its responsibility is to provide leadership for Ndigbo all over the world.
“I am one of the founding members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in 1976. After the Nigerian civil war, I and some Igbo patriots came together to discuss the way forward for Ndigbo with the good intention to unite Ndigbo under a common umbrella body. This initiative was much welcomed by our people considering the maximum displacement of Ndigbo during the war and its aftermath.
“Our principal aim then was specifically to unite Ndigbo and speak with one voice. It was unfortunate that the organisation later lost its principal focus and degenerated to a political tool in the hands of some greedy politicians which created room for the formation of several Igbo organisations, due to lack of confidence in the affairs of Ohanaeze.
“Many of the founding fathers are late, remaining myself and few others. Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly has not been registered before at the Corporate Affairs Commission nor recognized by some notable international bodies as a corporate personality. The organization today is recognised by the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)”, Igwe Nzekwe said. But following the outrage that trailed the action of the Ohanaeze splinter group, which most Igbo saw as a course to destabilize the South East, the CAC, in less than 48 hours after the news reports, announced that it had deregistered the group. It went further to ask the members of the Board of Trustees of the group to return the certificate of incorporation as it was issued in error.
Earlier, the national leadership of Ohanaeze under Chief Nwodo had described the new group as a bunch of jobless individuals who were being sponsored to destabilize the peace and tranquility of Igbo land.
Reacting on behalf of the main Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Chief Nwodo on the alleged inauguration of the new group, its President in Anambra State, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, described them as jokers.
He made it clear that the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and Chief Nnia Nwodo remain the BoT chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and president-general respectively.
“There is nothing like new Ohanaeze. Ohanaeze is not a club. It is just like somebody waking up one day and say that he has registered Nigeria with the Corporate Affairs Commission as his own property.
“Those people are a group of jobless individuals ranting on the lines. How do you react to something that doesn’t exist? The hood doesn’t make the monk. Can you have an Iroko tree without a tap root?”, he queried.
He said that traditional rulers in Igbo land, governors of the Igbo speaking states, and other Igbo leaders like the former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife; constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, SAN and others are solidly behind the Nwodo-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo and therefore advised the new group not to allow themselves to be used to destabilize Igboland.
Okeke-Ogene said: “Ohanaeze does not need such registration they are talking about to function as an entity. The Igbo group has been in existence before they were born. Our people should ignore them. The young men are just being used to create confusion in Igboland.
“What they did was a hoarse, they are bunch of jokers and they have no such capacity to destabilize the strong Igbo presence that had been in existence before they were born. Ohanaeze is intact.”
Corroborating Okeke-Ogene, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chuks Ibegbu, added that the national leadership of the apex Igbo organization would meet soon to decide on how to address the situation.
Ibegbu, who demanded an apology from the Corporate Affairs Commission, called the security agencies to investigate the CAC personnel who carried out the said registration with a view to finding out what transpired.
He said that although the CAC has taken the right action by deregistering the new group, it was important the personnel who facilitated the registration be sanctioned. The Onyeachonam group, however, seemed unperturbed about the reported deregistration of their new Ohanaeze by the CAC. In fact, the leader of the group said that it would be a prayer answered if the story turns out to be true.
Onyeachonam, a lawyer, said that he would file a N1 billion suit against the CAC if it dares deregister its organization, insisting, however, that he met the requirements before the said registration.
He said: “Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC] has not notified us officially. I only saw it on the pages of the newspaper and on various social media platforms that CAC claims to have immediately withdrawn our certificate.
“And I will be very glad if CAC makes such costly mistake. Corporate Affairs Commission is a body under the law and not the law itself. I will shutdown Corporate Affairs Commission if it makes such careless mistake because Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly fulfilled all the statutory requirement before the certificate was issued. I have all the newspaper publications.
“There was name availability and the Corporate Affairs Commission approved it. They issued us certificate. And as it stands now, they do not have the power or right to withdraw that certificate. I have sent our team of lawyers.
“As I speak with you now, they are at the CAC to ascertain if that information circulating on the social media platform actually emanated from the CAC. And if that is the true situation, I will be happiest man today.
“It seems people have not taken the CAC to court and perhaps that body has presumed itself to be the law. It is a body under the law and not the law itself. So, I will be very glad if CAC makes such mistake.
“I will move to the court and I will secure damages that will not be less than N100 billion against the CAC. I’ll be glad. Let my lawyer ascertain that that particular write-up circulating in the social media actually emanated from the CAC and I will be a very happy person.
“Let somebody shutdown the CAC so that it will know that it is not the law itself but a body under the law.”
Asked his reaction on the allegations that he and his group were being used to destabilize Igbo land and play spoiler role in the 2023 presidential agenda of Igbo nation, Onyeachonam dismissed the allegation, describing it as untrue. He added that his group has secured the endorsement and supports of the South East governors who he said were not happy with the Nnia Nwodo-led Ohanaeze.
“That is a fallacy. As I speak with you, I have held meetings one on one with some of the South East Governors. They are solidly behind us. I have consulted with Igbo leaders and they are with us.
“Presently, I will tell you that Igbo leaders are no more with Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the previous one that has been dissolved that is being led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo. Presently, the South East governors have stopped the payment of subvention that they normally give to Ohanaeze under Nnia Nwodo. You can make your findings. You can ask Nnia Nwodo when last he was able to access the subventions from the governors”, he boasted.
Meanwhile, a chieftain of Ohanaeze in Anambra State, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, has knocked the Onyeachonam group, describing their attempt to form a new Ohanaeze Ndigbo as a coup against Igbo unity.
Ezeonwuka commended the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for deregistering the new group saying, however, that those who planned the coup deserved commensurate punishment in Igboland for engaging in what he called an insult to Ndigbo.
“It is an insult to Igbo nation for those people to have tried to form a parallel Ohanaeze Ndigbo even to the extent of registering it under the name of Ohaneze Ndigbo General Assembly.
“What they did is capable of destabilizing the Igbo but they misfired. Ndigbo should discountenance that. We need to be united to fight our common cause because united we stand but divided we fall. We know Chief Nnia Nwodo as the leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, no more, no less”, Ezeonwuka stressed.