Nwodo’s Unenviable Assignment

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As President-General of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, leading this foremost socio-cultural and political organisation in Igboland at such a critical time in the history of the nation means that John Nnia Nwodo has his job cut out for him,‎ writes Segun James

Leading Ohanaeze Ndigbo at a time when youth from the south east are venting their anger and dissatisfaction with the political arrangement called Nigeria must be one of the most challenging tasks John Nwodo had been saddled with. His election as president-general came at a time that the people are agitated and the youth have become restless.

The people, especially the youth are so annoyed that they are venting their frustration on the Nigeria nation which they believe has never been fair to them as a people and to their cause. They are now calling for a new republic of Biafra, a land of the rising sun out of the carcass of Nigeria.

It was in the midst of these restlessness and sometimes justifiable anger that Nwodo was elected the leader of the people. Nwodo, according to his own words, certainly does not share in the youth’s Biafra dream, but he surely does share their sentiment, fears and anger that the Igbo man has held the short end of the stick in the affairs of the nation despite being the economic power house and the most educated ethnic nationality in the national equation.

Worse still, his problems have not been assuaged by the federal government either. Most prominent is the continued incarceration of the leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOD), Nnamdi Kanu who has been in prison custody for almost two years. This incarceration has lifted the young man into almost a cult figure.

To the people, Kanu has done nothing wrong; and his continued incarceration is unjust and an abuse of office on the part of the federal government, most especially as a court had said that his continued incarceration is unjustified and had ordered his release before government filed fresh charges against him. He was of the view that Kanu had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be on trial.

According to him, Kanu has never carried a gun, maimed or killed anybody, let alone engaged the federal government or the armed forces in any battle or skirmishes. “So, why detain him for so long? And what is his offence anyway?” He queried.

Nwodo wondered why a call for a republic of Biafra should attract such punishment when so many others both in the north, southwest and the Niger Delta make similar calls for their regions almost on daily basis.

He stressed that the double standard employed by the federal government was annoying when other people had taken their demand into physical confrontation and military engagement. “What about those who have actually put their threat against the nation into test; like the Boko Haram and Niger Delta Avengers? What has happened to the Boko Haram men that were arrested? In fact they have all been released to go back into the forest and fight the nation. Worse still, the federal government has been engaging those people in negotiation. What has Kanu done? Why has the federal government not engaged him in dialogue in order to understand what is agitating the Igbo youth? Why is the federal government not engaging him in talks instead of jailing him?”

Nwodo admitted that the issue of Kanu and IPOB had made his job as leader of the Igbo nation a very daunting task. “How do you reason with the angry youth when the government has failed to see reason with you?” He queried.

According to him, the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria is more important than the agitation for Igbo presidency in 2019.

“The agitation for Igbo presidency in 2019 is a non issue as far as I am concerned. As the president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, I am apolitical; I am not a member of any political party. This is an issue for political parties; it has nothing to do with me. The issue of power rotation among regions is not new; it is somehow aligned with the doctrine of federal character which is in our constitution.

“No party has called for nomination. I don’t think agitation for Igbo presidency is important now; what Nigerians are asking for is restructuring of the country to be a true federation. It cannot continue to be a federation in name, the political lexicography for federation is an independent federating unit.

“The moment you have independent federating unit, being state or region and they have control over the resources they produce and they contribute on agreed proportion to the federation, it is ok. The question of who is president and where he comes from will die down. It is going to be a matter of who is competent.”

Leading a very fiercely republican people and nation like the Igbo is no easy task. One needs the energy of the youth and the wisdom of the elders. And if there is one person that is eminently prepared for the task it is Nwodo. This, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, admitted at a reception held for him by the Old Sigmites a group of former members of the Sigma Club of the University of Ibadan of which Nwodo was a “chief scribe” at the Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island recently.

No doubt, John Nnia Nwodo is not new to challenges and has certainly broken a lot of records and barriers in his almost 65 years on earth. Born on December 11, 1952, the third son in the respected family of Nwodo in Ukehe, Igbo Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State. John had his primary education at St. Patrick’s School, Iva Valley, Enugu – 1957-1960; Holy Ghost Primary School, Enugu from 1961-1962 and St. Mary’s School, Uwani, Enugu in 1963. For his sec­ondary education, he attended the presti­gious College of Immaculate Conception, Enugu from 1964 to 1970.

Thereafter, he gained admission into the University of Ibadan graduating with a degree in Economics in 1976 and later the London School of Economic where he graduated as a lawyer. He was a Research As­sistant, Federal Cabinet Office Lagos -1975; General Manager, Chief J.U. Nwodo & Sons Ltd 1978; State Secretary, National Party of Nigeria, Anambra State Branch from 1978-1980. He was Special Assistant to the Presi­dent of Nigeria on Information – 1980-1981; Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on Special Duties- 1981-1983; Minister for Civil Aviation, 1983; Partner, Dr. J.N. Nwodo & Co. 1989-1992; Chair­man, Urban Development Bank of Nigeria Plc. – 1993; Principal Partner, Nnia Nwodo & Co. 1993 till date.

He was also a part time Lecturer in Constitutional Law- Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) 1996-1999 and Minister for Information and Culture – 1998-1999. He is married to his Lordship Hon. Jus­tice R.O. Nwodo of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, a union blessed with five children.

At the University of Ibadan, he was the first president of the Students’ Union government of Igbo origin when against all odds, he emerged as president. That was when politics even at the students’ union level was ethnic in colouration.

Although John Nwodo is the President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in the words of Dr. Faye Iketubisin, Nwodo as an old sigmite “believes in creating an oasis of sanity in the desert of insanity,” hence his emergence as the head of the socio-political organization at this critical period in our national polity.

The challenge of leading Ohaneze Ndigbo will be tough many agreed, but they are confident, Nwodo has all it takes to succeed in his new unenviable assignment.

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It was in the midst of these restlessness and sometimes justifiable anger that Nwodo was elected the leader of the people. Nwodo, according to his own words, certainly does not share in the youth’s Biafra dream, but he surely does share their sentiment, fears and anger that the Igbo man has held the short end of the stick in the affairs of the nation despite being the economic power house and the most educated ethnic nationality in the national equation.