A crack has developed in the national leadership of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, with the emergence of a splinter group, led by Basil Onyeachonam.
The group, which said it has registered the apex Igbo organisation with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly with registration number RC: 144918, also made the traditional ruler of Igbariam community in Anambra East council of Anambra State, Nkeli Nzekwe, its board of trustees (BoT) chairman.
This is even as the national leadership of Ohanaeze, under Nnia Nwodo, dismissed the group, describing its members as a bunch of jobless individuals who were being used to destabilise Igbo land.
Nzekwe, who is also the BoT chairman of the newly registered Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly, said as one of the founding fathers of Ohanaeze in 1976, he deemed it important to join in the restructuring of the apex Igbo organisation and make it accountable to the people.
Nzekwe said: “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 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.
“On November 25, 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.
“Many of the founding fathers are late, remaining myself and few others. Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly has not been registered before at the CAC nor recognised by some notable international bodies as a corporate personality.
“I am glad to announce to the public today that Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly is now registered with the CAC, under the present leadership of Onyeachonam as the president general.
“The organisation, today, is recognised by the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Nzekwe said.
The monarch said there was no faction in Ohanaeze but the one he chairs as its BoT remains the main Ohanaeze now, “restructured to exist legally as a lawful organisation, represent the interest of Ndigbo and be accountable to our people.”
But reacting on behalf of the main Ohanaeze Ndigbo, led by Nwodo on the alleged inauguration of the splinter group, its President in Anambra State, Damian Okeke-Ogene, described members of the new group as jokers.
He said the Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and 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 he has registered Nigeria with the CAC 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 traditional rulers in Igbo land, governors of the Igbo speaking states, and other Igbo leaders like former Anambra State governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; constitutional lawyer, Ben Nwabueze and others are solidly behind the Nwodo-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo and, therefore, advised the new group not to allow itself to be used to destabilise Igboland.
Regardless, the newly inaugurated Ohanaeze said it will ensure there is security in the South East even as it will reach out to other Nigerians to consider supporting the Igbo to produce the president in 2023.