Elder statesman urges Igbo leaders to reposition Ohanaeze

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CHRIS Okoye

By Anayo Ezugwu

CHRIS Okoye, an elder statesman, has urged Igbo leaders to begin the process of re-making Ohanaeze Ndiigbo as the coordinating council of civil society organizations and the conscience of the people. He said in that position, Ohanaeze would be the foundation upon which a disciplined modern industrial democracy would rise in Igboland.

Speaking at the Global Igbo Conference on the topic: ‘Ohaneze, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,’ Okoye said those who stand to profit from the present chaos would resist the tide of change, but all devoted Igbo men and women would exert every muscle to remake the Igbo nation. “The power of Ohanaeze is what you do in your community, your town unions, your professional associations, your women organizations, your chambers of commerce, your market associations, and your local government councils, to raise consciousness, to mobilize colleagues, to promote unity of action and to win converts to the development of a new Igboland.

“It is now realized world-wide that governments do not perform optimally until society is conscious, vigilant and mobilized to take them to task. In Europe and United States, new structures are being set up to make civil society the partners of governments. This concept of partnership has always been a part of Igbo political traditions. The prosperous and peaceful homeland we want can be built, not only in Igboland, but throughout Nigeria, if only our communities would stand shoulder to shoulder with our governments to lay the foundations and raise the structure,” he said.

Okoye regretted that at the moment, Ohanaeze is more or less an elite club of selected notable personalities of Igboland. According to him, the organisation is a behemoth of sorts, albeit a floating one because it is not structurally connected to the grassroots. “Membership is virtually appointive and undemocratic, and the members appear in this regard to represent themselves instead of the myriad Igbo towns or ‘village republics’ that make up the Igbo nation.

“However, the process of achieving the latter objective of connecting Ohanaeze with the grassroots is already on although there has been a lot of foot dragging. However, some people say that the effort is in fact gathering momentum! As Prof. Ben Nwabueze has observed, it is “an irony that despite the widespread acceptability which the organisation enjoyed among Ndi Igbo, many Igbo either for shortcomings in its structure and activities or for personal objections to its leadership or for other reasons, disputed its mandate and authority.

“In terms of structure Ohanaeze is not yet the perfect organisation we all want it to be. But it must be realised that it is an organisation in the process of growth and evolution. Indeed, Ohanaeze is a quasi-reincarnation of the Igbo Union/Igbo State Union of pre-war Nigeria. I say quasi because to date, Ohanaeze has not been able to attain the heights that the Igbo Union/Igbo State Union attained in the affairs of the Igbo people in pre-war Nigeria. In the republican and traditional democratic system of the Igbo, the delegate system as an aspect of representation was sacrosanct.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that we need an organization like Ohanaeze to be a melting pot of ideas and a repository of Igbo history, culture, knowledge, and a reference point for our values and mores, including those pertaining to our cherished republican disposition, democracy, freedoms, collective gerontocracy and coordination of our viewpoints and interests. In order to be inclusive of all shades of opinion, it should be above partisan politics or at least those who head it should be seen as above partisan politics though they should be politically savvy, so that when there is a threatening schism, it can rally everyone around and seek a solution.”

Okoye said a restructured Ohanaeze is worth fighting for. “It will give us unity of purpose and unified collective leadership. The main thrust of the restructuring is to anchor the body on the republican disposition and democratic traditions of the Igbo by making the town unions the grassroots foundation of the body, which, we have already observed, is ongoing.

“Through this way, the issue of all-inclusiveness is settled, there will be a two-way flow of information, sanctions can be imposed and implemented easily as the organisation will have traditional legitimacy. There would be three levels of Ohanaeze – the local council, state and the core membership with Igbo adult, who belongs to a town union made to participate in its activities,” he said.

– Sept. 21, 2020 @ 16:45 GMT |

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