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Ohaneze Vs Nnamdi Kanu Who has your mandates, Igbo Biafrans?

Izukamma Nneji
Lagos, Nigeria.

In light of the recent move by the Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo’s press release and utterances distancing themselves from the Biafra quest for referendum and their pledges of support  for “One Nigeria”, and choosing Restructuring as their official stand, I decided to take a look at  the organisation. who are they, who has the mandate to talk for the Igbos. Is their decision wise? I will also examine the IPOB and her leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and why they are such a force that everyone is talking about them. Why has the Ohaneze chosen to disparage and question the authority of the IPOB  leader?
Who are they?
 Ohaneze Ndigho is an Igbo Socio cultural group. She claims to represent all Igbos inside and outside Nigeria. They aim at fostering unity among Igbos and to better the lives of the Igbos. Their catchment area is the states of Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra State. This is despite the fact that there are Igbos in other states like Rivers, Kogi, and Benue.

The origin of this organisation can be traced to the end of the Nigeria civil war when the Igbos were scattered and terrified from the occupying Nigerian forces.  An organisation was formed named Igbo National Assembly (INA). This was formed by highly focused and patriotic Igbo leaders, and had the interest of their people at heart. It was their intention to rebuild and refocus the war ravaged South-East and harness the abilities of the people (which shone during the war) in order to make them a formidable force again. Soon after formation, it was banned by the then military government, who some Igbos claim were worried about the risk of the Igbos being economically strong again. Holders of this view say that the acceptance of a watered down version of this body in 1976 called Ohaneze Ndigbo is a part of the total package drawn by the conquerors to hold the Igbos down. According to Chief O. E. Anazodo I Spoke to,

”The organisation has been managing to stay afloat, tilting from time to time from the heavy burden of power crises, exactly the way Nigeria wants”.

It is widely believed that unlike Igbo National Assembly (INA), Ohaneze is more like a social club like People Club, Rotary Club etc. A far cry from what they are repositioning themselves to be today. They have always been and to many, still is, a social group that looks after the interest of their members.

IPOB, on the other hand, is a highly structured organisation that aims at bringing together indigenous Biafrans - a wider geographical area of which Igbo is part of. The body is made up of millions of members in Biafra homeland and diaspora. All over the world they have what they call “families”  to which they join, make inputs and receive feedback and orders on the way forward. What fascinates me most about this body is the fact that they fund the organisation collectively! Another is the fact that they harness all these resources and put them into use wisely (unlike the Nigeria state). They are used in prosecuting their cases, bailing detainees, supporting bereaved families, and running their radio. This transparency and proof-based leadership is the catalyst that fuels the astronomical growth of their membership.

Who has the mandate?
Even though Ohaneze Ndigbo claims grass-root participation including youth and women’s wing, my interviews could not confirm that. 99.9% of the people I polled for this write-up made up of youth, old, men and women seem not to be able to mention anyone they know personally that is a member of the group apart from the leadership. That leads me to wonder if thre has been a change in the meaning of the word grass-root. Most of them however were able to mention Chief John Nnia Nwodo, whom they claim they found out he was the Ohaneze leader when he seemed to speak against IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu’s detention.  The impression I get is a very top-heavy organisation, as far removed from the grass-root as possible, but coming into its busiest season during election periods so as to broker voters to whoever is interested. There have been allegations of money changing hands and promise to make their hungry and impoverished citizens vote for the highest bidder.  
On the other hand, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu started from the grass-root to build his IPOB. He sold himself to Biafrans all over the world, they bought into his project, and even swear to die for him. He commands the respect of the highest demography of Biafrans (women, youth and children).  In my view, anyone thinking he will fizzle away should think again. This is because, most of the people opposing to his authority are of the older demography and few. This means they are the ones that will fizzle away, leaving a population that stands for everything the IPOB leader believes in. Any politician or so called elite doubting who holds the mandate to speak on behalf of the Igbos (a subset of larger Biafra) should find his/her way through the millions of people that beseech the IPOB leader and put his/her question to any of them and risk being lynched.  The person should tell us the last time he/she walked in the company of “normal” people as against flying and roaming in company of few rented crowds. Even when they do, they stay far away because of distrust resulting from unclear conscience.

Who should speak for Igbo Biafrans? Is it the so-called elites that feel they have the right to think for you? Who tells you what is good for you and ignores what you think you really want? Or should it be one who you put forward to bargain what you told him/her you really want? A person who leads few elites or one that leads millions of people?

Is Ohaneze right to take this stand?
Do you remember the South-East Development Commission Bill that was thrown out without any reason? Recently, a bill that was introduced in the Senate by members trying to amend the constitution ushering the way to restructuring was rejected and killed by Northern members. This should be a lesson to the Ohaneze and anyone else in Biafraland who still think they have the solution to the Nigeria problem. Those who think they have the magic pill (which they have not used since one hundred years of amalgamation) to think again. How many more times will you fail before you realise that "a new blacksmith makes new and better gongs?" as a famous Igbo-Biafra adage says?
There is still time and way out from the mess you got yourself into and salvage some of your pride. Another adage says that "it is backwards that an elderly runs away from a marauding elephant". You can be more honorable if you for once, accept you are wrong and give the people what they want. Tell your masters you are just presenting what your people want. A stitch in time, saves nine.

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