*Berates S’East governors queuing behind election not backed by law
*To ask why Police, DSS looked other way while purported election held
By KEMI KASUMU
The election said to have been conducted on Sunday 1 January 2021 of new President General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been described as a mockery of the law and disrespect for the integrity of Nigerian nationhood.
This was said by Director General, Strategic Planning and Implementations of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide, Ambassador Obizoba Chiemelu, in a telephone conversation with The DEFENDER Monday morning.
According to Ambassador Chiemelu, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide remains the only socio-cultural group with proofs of legal capacity to speak for the Igbo people and, therefore, any other group claiming such rights is illegal, “no matter who and who are involved”.
In a purported election on Sunday, Ambassador George Obiozor was elected after polling the highest votes winning the contest with a total of 304 votes following expiration of the Chief John Nnia Nwodo-led executive of the group.
The election was attended by Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi, as well as other Igbo top members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) including the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and some National Assembly members.
The National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Sen. John J. Akpan Udoedehe, also joined the APC officers who gave their backing to the controversial ethnic group’s election when he issued a press statement he claimed he did on behalf of the National Chairman, “H. E. Governor Mai Mala Buni and the entire APC family, our great party”, to congratulate the former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, Prof. George Obiozor, who emerged from the process.
According to Udoedehe, “We”, in the APC, “also congratulate the outgoing Chief John Nwodo executive for its mature and patriotic leadership of Ohanézè Ndígbo.”
He said: “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.
“The APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) under the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni is determined to consolidate on the ongoing efforts to further mainstream the South East geo-political zone in the workings of the governing APC and place the zone in its deserved political standing in the country.
“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.
“The APC wishes the Obiozor-led Ohanézè Ndígbo a successful tenure.”
Election non and void
Reacting to the developments, Director General, Strategic Planning and Implementations of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide, Ambassador Obizoba Chiemelu, said it was unheard of that officers of APC would be allowed to be lured into believing that by queuing behind an Igbo group as unrecognized by law as the one led by John Nnia Nwodo to bring about Sunday purported election would give the party popularity in the region.
It added that, “If you look at the way they even conducted their election, you would see that it is the style of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and it is of no use to start labouring oneself to show how that group has been anti-Nigeria in collaboration with Afenifere and another group of the Middle Belt and how they have been strongly behind all efforts to destabilize Nigeria particularly under President Muhammmadu Buhari. I do not, therefore, see any reason APC officers and governors of South East, particularly Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, and National Assembly members, who earn and live by Nigeria’s resources, would queue behind such people.”
According to him, the election said to have been conducted on Sunday 10 January 2021 of new President General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo is describable as compromise and mockery of the law and territorial integrity of the Nigerian nationhood.
The DG, Obizoba Chiemelu, said the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide remains the only socio-cultural group with proofs of legal rights and capacity to speak for the Igbo people and, therefore, any other group claiming such rights is illegal, “no matter who and who are involved”.
He said, “Those who queued behind the Sunday purported election do not know the direction of the nation because, if they know, they would have not done what they did. If the APC knew what happened leading to the so called election, none of its officers would want to be counted in it.
“We are not going towards their direction because, we are queuing behind the Federal Government and we believe and are profoundly committed to unity of Nigeria particularly now under President Muhammadu Buhari and in the future, which those that organized Sunday so called Ohanaeze Ndigbo election do not believe in.
“There is no way an organization, which is not recognized by law not even recognized by any local law, can speak for the people. There is no other Ohanaeze Ndigbo other than this one that has been issued all the instruments of the law, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide.
Disappointment by South East political officers
“Seriously, to say I am disappointed is understatement. Not all the governors are well educated anyway. It shows that those governors, who align with people without legal backing to speak for their regional people, do not really show education.
“Whatever they did on Sunday is non and void,” he said.
“That is another question because, those who are constitutionally charged to take care of the security of the nation, we need to ask them question as per what happened, despite our writing letters to them to this effect, they still allowed this illegality to happen. We will need to find out because, this government is not known to be support illegality. It is one known for its commitment to the rule of law. We will find out, why an organization that is not backed by law will lay claims to the same rights of one that is recognized by law and the security look the other way despite our alerting them.”
The DEFENDER’s whatsapp messages to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Department of State Services (DSS), Dr. Peter Afunanya, and Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), DCP Frank Mba, were yet to be responded to, as at the time of filing this report.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide’s Director General, Ambassador Obizoba Chiemelu, has however said his organization’s full reaction will be made known through a press conference within the week.
On November 28, 2020, the Igbo socio-cultural group with legal instrument backing its operations, Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide, made a declaration that John Nnia Nwodo-led group (which picked new leader on Sunday 10 January 2021) is illegal in separate letters it wrote to DSS, Police, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and South East governors through the South East Governors’ Forum and dispatched to them individually up to Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and others.
According to the letter, Assembly told its addressees that the group claiming to be Ohanaeze Ndigbo representing the Igbo tribe is illegal, calling for arrest of any person laying such claims now or in the future, adding that it had initiated moves to disband the illegal group.
To achieve this, the Igbo socio-cultural group, registered on 28th February 2020 with its Certificate of Incorporation issued to it by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) Abuja, said it had written to heads of various security and anti-corruption agencies particularly the Inspector General of Police, the Director General, Department of State Services, and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, with a view to, among other things, stopping the group from further transacting businesses on behalf of the Igbo, arresting erring members, investigating and probing their past and present activities and accounts of donations they got from various donors including governors of the South East.
Others addressed with the letter by its lawyers included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and each of the five South East governors including the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, Engr. Dave Umahi, as well as Governors Nyesom Wike and Okowa of Rivers and Delta states, respectively.
It demanded disbandment of the illegal Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which it said had operated as association of Igbo leaders for two decades without being registered by the CAC, adding that all its activities including the conduct of election it had scheduled to hold in December be stopped. The election, however, held Sunday 10 January 2021.
The DG Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly told this online newspaper that should the illegal group hold meeting anywhere in Nigeria, all those involved would be arrested for holding illegal meeting as, according him, there is no other group capable of convening such meeting except the one recognised by law.
Copies of the petition, sent to different addressees with their respective covering letters, were obtained by The DEFENDER particularly those to Igbo governors seeking the group to be disregarded henceforth.
Written on behalf of the Assembly by its Abuja-based lawyers, Amobi Nzelu & Co, dated 26th November 2020 and signed by Amobi Nzelu Esq, the letter carried a unified title:
“RE: A CALL TO DISBAND, INVESTIGATE, PROBE AND PROSECUTE CHIEF NNIA NWODO LED ILLEGAL OHANAEZE NDIGBO: STOP ALL ACTIVITIES OF THE GROUP INCLUDING THE PURPORTED UPCOMING ELECTION SCHEDULED FOR DECEMBER 2020/JANUARY 2021.”
To Governor Umahi, other South East and the two South South governors, the letter read, “We act for and on behalf of OHANAEZE NDIGBO GENERAL ASSEMBLY WORLDWIDE (hereinafter referred to as our client) on whose instruction and authority we write this letter to you.
“Kindly sir find attached as Annexures A to F letters to various security agencies of the Government of Nigeria, the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation, The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Inspector General of Police, regarding the status of Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by CHIEF JOHN NNIA NWODO.
“The purport of this letter is to inform you sir that the said organization (Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by CHIEF JOHN NNIA NWODO) is an illegal association having not been registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and to also let you know that any transaction with them stands on the pedestal of illegality.
“Furthermore, registration of association is a sine qua non for valid representation because it aggregates its members under one umbrella.
“All correspondences in respect of this matter should be channeled through our office here in Abuja or reach our principal partners, Amobi Nzelu Esq on the telephone numbers at the bottom of this letter headed paper or his personal private telephone numbers.”
In the other letters one of which was addressed to the National Security Adviser (NSA), detailed background was given why Nwodo’s group should not be allowed to stand.
The lawyers said: “Our client is registered under Part “C” of the Companies and Allied Matters Act and issued with Certificate of Incorporation No. 144918 on the 28th day of February 2020 by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). By virtue of the incorporation of our client, it is now saddled with the responsibility of piloting the affairs of Igbos as contained in the Articles and Memorandum of Association filed at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on their behalf.
“For more than two decades, a group of people of Igbo extraction branded themselves as “Ohanaeze Ndigbo” and this group or association at various times have been led by prominent people in some of the states that constitute Igbo speaking areas.
“However, it has been discovered that the said “Ohanaeze Ndigbo” now being led by CHIEF NNIA NWODO was not duly registered in accordance with the extant provisions of the law nor was any Article and Memorandum of Association defining or circumscribing functions filed and registered on their behalf with the relevant authorities.
“The only import from the evolving scenario or better still the only inference to be drawn is that “Ohanaeze Ndigbo” being led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo is not a registered organization and as such is an illegal association and cannot transact any business they are transacting now,” the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide gave background information to make clear why any such claims by Nwodo-led group is counterfeit and be treated as such.”
Going forward the NSA was put on notice that his office has within its competence the duty to nip in the bud anything that will result to breakdown of law and order and/or advise the Government of the day on what to do.
To this end, the authentic “Ohanaeze Ndigbo” declared to him that the group led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo is an illegal association having not been registered with CAC.
“It is a common knowledge that this association has held out itself at different fora to represent the interest of the Igbos. To allow such an illegal association to transact businesses of such magnitude apart from being a threat to democracy, could lead to insecurity and the likelihood of breakdown of law and order.
“It is within the purview of your office as the National Security Adviser to take necessary steps to forestall infringement on the security architecture of this country. To allow the government of the day to deal with an illegal association speaks volume especially where the association has held out itself to represent a people.
“Registration of association is a sine qua nom for valid representation because it aggregates its members under one umbrella.”
It then went ahead to tell the NSA what to do with the illegal group:
“1. Stop the activities and operations of Ohanaeze Ndigbo being led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo for being an illegal association;
“2. Stop “Ohanaeze Ndigbo” bering led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo from conducting any election whatsoever into the offices of the illegal association in any of the States of the Federation since the association is an illegal body;
“3. Investigate the accounts and activities of Ohanaeze Ndigbo being led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo and all monies collected from individuals, Governors and Highly exposed political personalities;
“4. Arrest, interrogate and prosecute the principal officers of the said Ohanaeze Ndigbo present and past, for running an illegal association;
“5. Disband the said Ohanaeze Ndigbo being led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo as being illegal.”
Standing its feet on the ground, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide, according to the petition by its lawyers, said:
“In a country like ours, to allow someone or a group of people to operate an illegal association of such magnitude smacks of impunity no matter how long they have been in existence, same cannot confer legitimacy on the association and its activities,” especially as it said the Nwodo-led group lacks the capacity by law to represent the Igbo people of Nigeria as doing so amounts to threat to security of the nation.