By OBINNA EZUGWU
Prominent Nigerians and notable Igbo leaders have continued to hail the emergence of Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United States, Israel and Cyprus, Professor George Obiozor as the new president-general of apex Igbo sociocultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, even as the pioneer chairman of Nigeria Economic Summit Group, Professor Anya O. Anya, among others, have called on all and sundry to rally behind the new president in the overall interest of Ndigbo.
Obiozor who also served as Chairman of the Business Hallmark Newspaper Public Policy Forum, as well as the Director General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, was elected president-general of the foremost Igbo group on Sunday, January 10, 2020 to replace Dr. Nnia Nwodo, whose tenure came to an end on January 9, an election that many have continued to hail as a great choice.
In his congratulatory message to the new Ohanaeze leader on Monday, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari urged the “eminent diplomat and scholar to deploy his immense experience within and outside government to forge greater unity of the country.”
According to President Buhari, “Given Prof. Obiozor’s rich background, especially, in international affairs and pan-Nigerian commitment, I have little doubt that his election is well-deserved and will serve not only the interest of Ndigbo, but also that of his fatherland.”
The president added that, “We need all hands to be on deck for this country to move forward in peace and unity.
While wishing Obiozor a successful tenure, President Buhari enjoined him to be a “unifying force beyond his immediate constituency.”
Similarly, Nigeria’s former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who facilitated with Obiozor on his election in a statement on Monday, described him as tried, tested and figure, noting that by his election, Ndigbo have demonstrated their readiness to play the frontline role expected of them in Nigeria
“I congratulate Professor George Obiozor on his election as President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo. By electing such a tried, tested and reliable figure, Ndigbo has demonstrated their readiness to play the frontline role expected of them in Nigeria,” Atiku said.
“Congratulations also to all those who midwifed the transparent process through which he and others emerged.”
The country’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in its congratulatory message on Sunday, signed by the National Secretary of the party, Senator John Akpan Udoedehe, in Abuja, noted that, “Going by his distinguished service to the nation, Obiozor’s experience and suitability for the strategic position of President-General of Ohanézè Ndígbo is not in doubt. The Party hereby urges Ndigbo to support Obiozor to fulfil the mandate of the organisation.
“While the APC is ready to partner and work with the new leadership of Ohanézè Ndígbo towards our shared development, we are also confident that the new leadership will be a bastion for the unity and tolerance all Nigerians should imbue for the peace and progress of the nation.”
On its part, the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), extolled the leaders and the people of the Southeast for their democratic credentials evinced in the successful election of a new leadership of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization.
The party in a statement on Monday by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, described Prof. Obiozor as “a seasoned administrator, excellent diplomat, courageous nationalist and a firm voice in the fight for the entrenchment of democratic tenets of the rule of law, social justice, equity, fairness, mutual respect, true federalism and a credible electoral process in our country.”
The party noted that “the choice of Prof. Obiozor to lead the Ohaneze Ndigbo at this critical time in the history of our nation, particularly given his doggedness in fighting for constitutional all-inclusiveness as well as elimination of all forms of social injustice, divisiveness, nepotism, sectional marginalization, constitutional violations and disregard for the sensibilities of the Nigerian people.
“Our party therefore urges Prof. Obiozor to use his new assignment to further rally compatriots in our collective determination to rescue our nation from misrule and return her to the path of peace, national cohesion, mutual respect, adherence to the rule of law, social justice credible elections, economic prosperity and political stability.
“The PDP commends the outgoing leadership of the Ohaneze Ndigbo led by Chief John Nwodo, for a very fruitful tenure and urges the new leadership to continue on the path of success already laid by successive leadership of the organization.”
Igbo leaders praise choice, rally support
Meanwhile, notable Igbo leaders, have continued to praise the choice of Obiozor, while calling on all and sundry to give him support, especially in view of the precarious situation the country has found itself.
Describing the choice of the new president-general as auspicious, Prof Anya noted that there couldn’t have been a better time for a highly experienced individual like Obiozor to emerge Ohanaeze president.
According to him, these are not normal times, and the need for quality leadership in Igbo land, has become more important.
“If this times were normal times, I would say that Obiozor is more than qualified, probably over qualified. He has has vast experience in international affairs, which of course, involves a bit of security and so on,” Anya said.
“We have a security challenge in the country. And for him who has been the representative of Nigeria in Israel and to go from there to be the representative of Nigeria in the United States, shows that he has the experience that goes with knowing how the world is run.
“This is the one thing that has been lacking so far. We don’t know how to engage the world. But with him, that should change.”
Prof Anya noted that he has utmost confidence in Obiozor’s ability to lead Ndigbo, even in the face of challenging situation.
“Of course, I’m not unaware of the fears, which I raised with him, that his relationship with some people may be a little problematic. But the important thing is what he does. People will judge him by the results. We thank God that he has emerged. At least, we have a tested hand, we have somebody who has the experience. Let us hope that he will be given the right opportunity to perform,” he said.
“Nigeria is not a normal situation now. And the dangers are still to come. So, we need people who are well versed in the way the world runs. We can’t afford amateurs who will be trying this and trying that; who would be learning on the job.”
In the same vein, president of Lagos based Igbo think tank, Aka Ikenga, Chief Oscar Onwudiwe, noted that Obiozor is a very experienced diplomat, whose vast knowledge will come in handy for Ndigbo at this point.
“He is experienced and has all it takes to deliver on the job,” Onwudiwe said. “In Nigeria today, I can’t think of anybody who is more experienced and more versatile than him. He has been Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States, Israel and Cyprus. He has all it takes.”
Onwudiwe called on those not satisfied with the choice of Obiozor, to consider the overall interest of Ndigbo, especially at this time, and join hands with him.
“I call on them to rally round Obiozor. They should support him. There is hardly any perfect election anywhere. They should support him and stop fighting. They are not sending good signals to the younger generation by so doing. It is for the unity of Ndigbo and for the public image of Ndigbo,” Onwudiwe said.
Also hailing the choice of Obiozor, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe Obiozor said the Ohanaeze president, has has track record of integrity, honour, courage and Intellectual capacity to deliver.
Abaribe who equally applauded the emergence of Ambassador Okey Emuchay as Secretary General of Ohanaeze, said the choice of the duo is indeed most heart warming and will no doubt sustain the progressive trajectory, which the immediate past executive built.
He said Professor Obiozor who is widely acknowledged for his track record of excellence, honour, intellectual capacity and courage in public service, qualities that greatly qualifies him as the preferred choice to lead the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, will no doubt inject such attributes to further reinvigorate and build an actiist-driven Ohaneze in the face of current realities in Nigeria.
“I am confident that the new executive, known for their consumate love for the Igbo race, particularly the President General who has been at the frontline in articulating interest of Ndi-Igbo, would continue to exhibit courage and forthrightness in not only pursuing our collective interest in Nigeria, but also weave Ndigbo as a nation bonded in love, peace and unity”, said Abaribe
Nonetheless, the Minority Leader advised other contestants who are also eminently qualified to accept the outcome of the election and look at the bigger picture with regards to the importance of unity in the pursuit of the interest of Ndigbo.
He cautioned those bent on using falsehood to engender disunity among Ndigbo to desist forthwith.
On his part, the founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and secretary, Eastern Consultative Forum (ECA), Evangelist Elliot Uko, called on those aggrieved to shield their swords and work with Obiozor to advance Igbo interest.
“The election has come and gone. It’s time for everyone to rally round Obiozor. Everyone should support him. There is hardly any perfect election anywhere. Those who lost should support him and stop fighting,” Uko appealed. “They are not sending good signals to the younger generation by so doing. It is for the unity of Ndigbo and for the public image of Ndigbo.”
Equally commending the choice of Obiozor, Chief Anselm Njoku, leader of Southeast APC caucus, Lagos, said that Ndigbo could not have made a better choice.
“I’m glad that Ambassador Obiozor emerged as Ohanaeze president-general. He has the experience, he is an elder statesman and Ohanaeze leadership is supposed to be reserved for people like him who have worked in different fields and retired. He is indeed the ideal person to lead Ndigbo and I’m very happy with the decision of Ndigbo to elect him. I’m confident that he is going to take the association to greater heights. He is very much experienced and versatile,” Njoku said.
“He is a man who can play the game. He knows how to put things together to achieve results. With him as Ohanaeze president, we are more confident that despite the challenges, we will achieve results.”
Meanwhile, Obiozor who has a five-year mandate to provide leadership for Ndigbo, had said is the need for proactive leadership at this trying moment that prompted him to offer himself for the Ohanaeze leadership.
“My most compelling necessity was service, a timely and crucial service at one of the most critical times in Nigerian history with dire consequences, particularly for Ndigbo as a national entity,” Obiozor said.
“Indeed not only has governance become both difficult and complex in Nigeria, but down right an existential threat to Ndigbo in particular. The Igbo dilemma in Nigeria has come home at last. And the time requires a very careful and delicate skilled manager in the relationships between Ndigbo and other Nigerian nationalities especially the national power elites.
“This requires a mature and experienced person with a capacity to build enough consensus to define and defend the interest of Ndigbo.”