The leadership crisis rocking the apex Igbo socio-cultural Ohanaeze Ndigbo, assumed another dimension at the weekend as its new factional leadership headed by Chief Ralph Obioha set up a probe panel to investigate financial dealings of the organisation from 2009 to 2014.
The period covers the administration of the late Ambassador Raph Uwechue and the incumbent, Gary Igariwey who has served for two years.
The probe panel which is to be headed by Col. Ben Gbulie (rtd.), will be inaugurated today in Enugu. One focal point in its terms of reference is to investigate an alleged scam in the sums of N350 million and $150,000 said to have been given to the organisation by unnamed friends of President Goodluck Jonathan for two specific projects earmarked for execution to better the lot of Ndigbo.
Also listed for probe is the disbursement of the N25 million donated to the organisation by the Anambra State Government for the hosting of the 2014 Igbo Day Celebration held in Awka, capital of the state.
Meanwhile, the Chief Gary Enwo Igariwey-led national executive of Ohanaeze Ndigbo said to have been replaced by the caretaker committee has not handed over to the committee appointed by the Elders’ Council of the Organisation headed by Chief Mbazulike Amechi, which had taken the action based on the expiration of the two-year tenure of past executive.
Documents made available to the panel included the bank statement of the Ohanaeze Foundation at Diamond Bank, former president-general’s report on Ohanaeze Foundation and Ohanaeze Centre for Effective Leadership and the issue of a N25 million donated by Anambra State Government and how it was disbursed.
Obioha, who spoke on the development, said the Igariwey-led executive was “a sit-tight one. They are sit-tight and they have not handed over to us even after the Elders’ Council at a meeting in Zodiac Hotel, Enugu, directed the setting up of this caretaker committee.”
Our sources yesterday hinted that the alleged N350 million scam is connected with the alleged ill-fated Ikenga Transport outfit meant to ease up transportation problems in the South-east zone and make the organization earn revenue for other projects but which fizzled out after its first set of fleet of vehicles were procured and launched.
On the $150,000, we gathered that the money would have gone for the execution of a noble plan of Ohanaeze to begin a leadership training platform for the middle age people of the area selected specifically for grooming future Igbo leaderrs for the presidency and Chief Obioha, during the interview yesterday, revealed that it was allegedly misappropriated since it was shared by certain leaders of the apex body.
A document signed by the late former president-general of the organisation, Ambassador Uwechue, clarified how the $150,000 was shared by persons including the principal officers at that time as well as the women and youth wings of the organisation with the highest individual recipient getting $15,000 and the least member of the National Executive Committee getting $5,000.
On the crisis created in the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo following attempts to endorse a presidential candidate, especially President Jonathan, for next month’s general elections and counter moves by certain elements in the organisation, Chief Obioha stated that the development “has created a huge crisis of confidence for Ohanaeze and the effect of the government interference creating confusion in the normal running of the machinery of Ohanaeze.
“Let us insulate Ohanaeze Ndigbo from outright partisan politics. It is a purely socio-economic and cultural organization and not a socio-political one,” he said.
He said however, that any of the candidates of the of the parties contesting for presidency who wants the support of Ndigbo should come forward now and discuss details of his plans, with specific reference to time frame, on how to realise Igbo presidency after his own time.
He maintained that it was risky and dangerous for the leadership of the Igbo nation to endorse any candidate at this point in time without extracting such a solid assurance from such a candidate, especially now that the electioneering so far has thrown up two leading candidates in President Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Meanwhile, the caretaker committee so far has not been able to conduct its business in the at the national headquarters located in GRA, Enugu and even the inauguration of the probe panel taking place today would rather hold at the Pan Afric Hotel instead of the headquarters.