Ohanaeze, Ndigbo, 2023 and Beyond: Options and realities, By Professor Echefuna’ R. G. ONYEBEADI

Posted by News Express | 17 December 2020 | 821 times

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It is no news to state that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is the apex socio-cultural and, I add “political” organ of the Igbo nation. The word political is used here very discretely and in a measured tone in the sense that, “whereas Ohanaeze is also somewhat political, it must remain non-partisan and embrace all the diverse political tendencies of Ndigbo.”

The word Ohaneze is a compound word coined from “Oha Na Eze”, meaning the common people (commoners) and their leaders (rulers).

So, Ohanaeze is ipso facto the bringing together of both the ruled (followers) and the rulers (leaders).

Ohanaeze was meant to be and still is, the melting pot of the Igbo nation.

Ohanaeze is thus, the convergence institution of Ndigbo whose decision should be respected and binding on Ndigbo.

The topic: “OHANAEZE, NDIGBO, 2023 & BEYOND: OPTIONS AND REALITIES” I am presently addressing is essentially a political angle of the of the Ohanaeze discussion.  


Historically, Ohanaeze Ndigbo was formally established sometimes in 1976 following some lull that had engulfed the old Igbo Union which was the highest decision making body of Ndigbo long before the Nigerian civil war.

After the Nigerian civil war, some prominent Igbos gathered to proclaim the need to unify Igbos under a common umbrella body.

This initiative was much well received considering maximum displacement of the Igbos during the war and its aftermath. An organizational assembly was created, referred to as the Igbo National Assembly (INA).

This organisation (INA) was later banned by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria at the time, probably due to the Government’s fear of a grand suspicious agenda being cultivated by the Igbos via the organization; hence, the creation of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in 1976.

Professor Ben Nwabueze, a foremost constitutional lawyer, assembled prominent Igbo leaders to form the organisation of which he eventually emerged the Secretary-General of the organisation spanning a period of about 20 years.

The organisation was effectively championed and supported by many Igbo sons including but not limited to Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe, Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam, Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, Dr. Pius Okigbo, and Chief Jerome Udorji (who served as the first Secretary General), among other notable Igbo personalities. (Wikipedia)


The essential elements that can influence the outcome of the yearnings of Ndigbo in Nigerian politics come 2023 including the role of Ohanaeze Ndigbo are briefly reviewed below.


That Ohanaeze is the apex organisation of Ndigbo presupposes that there is a relationship between Ohanaeze and the Igbo nation.

This relationship is essentially symbiotic – that of the people of Igbo nation and a representative body/institution.

Ohanaeze is thus the symbol and pride of Ndigbo which must not be toyed with.

However, events, particularly in the recent past suggests the need for a clearer understanding of this relationship. Certain critical criteria and modalities needs to be further amplified and the consequences for recalcitrance should be given proper attention.

For instance, it was reported that some misguided, ill informed, ‘gold diggers’ and political opportunists recently plagiarised the name and franchise: “OHANAEZE” and unlawfully registered same with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Abuja; and, they seem to be getting away with their act of treachery and betrayal of Ndigbo. What an abomination!

The question is: Who really needs Ohanaeze registration with CAC?

Are bodies like Afenifere, PANDEF, Middle-Belt peoples association, Arewa, among others, registered with CAC?

It is also on record that some miscreants even took the alter ego of Ohanaeze, the pride of Ndigbo and other notable Igbo leaders to court for a very frivolous, treacherous and highly selfish motives thus tarnishing the image and hard earned reputation of Ndigbo and their umbrella organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

These types of deviant occurrences should as much as possible be discouraged in the future. Such actions shouldn’t be allowed to ever happen again and if it does, there should dare consequences.

Those who desecrate the holy temple of Chi Ndigbo must be made to face the displeasure of Chi Ndigbo! 

Ohanaeze Ndigbo should not only be seen to bark but also be able to bite in the regard! How to, is better left for the general assembly of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to handle.

However, there should be an inbuilt internal conflicts resolution mechanism to resolve whatever conflict that may arise from within Ohanaeze instead of washing the dirty linings of NdiIgbo on the streets.


There is no gainsaying the fact that Ndigbo have paid their dues politically in this country, Nigeria no matter how others may perceive them.

For example, Ndigbo whose arrow head then was the Right Honourable Chief Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe played prominent roles in birthing the independence of Nigeria in 1960.

There is no denying the fact also that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe led NCNC, having won the highest number of votes in the pre-independence election, made critical and substantial sacrifice in conceding the executive position of Head of Government as Nigeria’s pioneer Prime Minister at Independence for the unity of Nigeria.

Whereas other regional leaders then were more interested in their regions, it was only Ndigbo that had the large heart to embrace the entire country called Nigeria as their constituency.

In fact Igbos are everywhere. It is on record that apart from the indigenes of anywhere in Nigeria, Ndigbo constitutes the largest ethnic group everywhere in Nigeria.

For example, whereas other regional leaders named their pre-independence political parties after their tribes and/or regions, only Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe led political party that carried the name “Nigeria” in it.

For example, whereas Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe founded the pioneer autonomous and indigenous University which he named after Nigeria – the “University of Nigeria”!, other regional leaders founded theirs and named them after their own places and/or names like the “University of Ife” now renamed after Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the “Ahmadu Bello University”.

Whereas the pre-independence federal election didn’t produce a clear winner in terms of numbers of parliamentarians needed to form government, it was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe led NCNC that collaborated with a sectional northern party (Northern People’s Congress – NPC) to form government for the peace, good governance and unity of Nigeria.

Again, the first post-civil war presidential election didn’t produce any clear majority to run the affairs of government. It was only Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s party, the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) that teamed up with a predominantly Northern Party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to form a Federal Government.

Notice also that the second republic political party led by the Rt. Honourable Chief Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe also had the word ‘Nigeria’ in its name.

Therefore, it is crystal clear that the nationalistic tendencies of Ndigbo and the fact that Ndigbo remains the major rope that binds Nigeria together to date is not in doubt.

However, despite the fact that Ndigbo has always been supportive to other stakeholders political aspirations, Ndigbo had continued to bear the brunt of keeping Nigeria one with their natural endowments, money and even their blood with almost nothing but woes to show for it!

Ndigbo has continuously been maligned, marginalised and sometimes outrightly excluded from key government positions as being witnessed presently and denied developmental projects in a supposedly “Federation” to which the Igbo nation is one of the major “federating units”.

This is occurring despite the devastating effect of the genocidal “mass murder” called the Nigerian “civil war” and Ndigbo’s meaningful contributions to national development among others.

Meanwhile, many people seem to have conveniently forgotten and/or glossed over the fact that, the event which eventually led to the first coup of January 15, 1966 in Nigeria, which was and still is wrongly tagged as “Igbo Coup” and which ultimately led to the Nigerian civil war, started in Western Nigeria in what was known then as “operation wet ę” (wherein people perceived to be in opposition were soaked in fuel and set ablaze in public); as a fallout of the election in Western Nigeria at that time.

That first coup which purpose was mainly to install Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Prime Minister by military fiat, had forever been twisted, misconstrued and had wrongly continued to be an albatross dubiously hung on the neck of Ndigbo which has also continued to demonise Ndigbo to date for no just cause in their own country.

It is therefore, long overdue to change the wrong perception of Ndigbo and to debunk this false narrative on Ndigbo by Ndigbo themselves. Nobody will do it for Ndigbo if they fail to do it for themselves!

Ndigbo must begin to speak up lest the wrong perception and the often repeated false narrative about them be perpetually taken for the truth.

Ndigbo must begin to tell their own stories by themselves as against their own stories as told by others for the world to know the truth. After all, the Holy Book says: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!”

So, let Ndigbo make the world know the truth about their situation in Nigeria and be free indeed!

Obviously, Ohanaeze as the foremost umbrella organisation of Ndigbo has a very important role to play in this regard.

The task is daunting but it has to be done and the time to do so is NOW!


The discussions of where and who should be the President of Nigeria come 2023 has since commenced.

Let’s quickly look at the pattern that has emerged since independence in 1960.


Out of the 63 years projected to 2023 of self-governance of Nigeria, Northern Nigeria alone would have ruled for over 45 years while the Southern Nigeria has ruled for just about 17 years out of which, Ndigbo had a miserable emergency tenure of just 6 months.

By 2023, other geopolitical zones would have had their substantial turns and terms as Heads of Government in Nigeria safe for the South East geopolitical zone as follows:


(i)  General Murtala Mohammed - 7 months (July 1975 - February 1976).

(ii) Alhaji Shehu Shagari - 4 years, 3 months (October 1979 - December 1983)

(iii) Major-General Muhammadu Buhari - 9 years, 8 months (December 1983 - August 1985; 2015 - 2023).

(iv) General Sani Abacha - 5 years (1994 - 1998)

(v)  Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua - 2 years (2007 - 2009)


(i)  General Yakubu Gowon - 9 years (July 1966 - July 1975)

(ii) General Ibrahim B. Babangida - 8 years (August 1985 - August 1993)

(iii) General A. Abubakar - 10 months (1998 - May 1999).


(i)  Alhaji Tafawa Balewa - 5 years, 3 months (October 1960 - January 1966)


(i)  General Oluwasegun Obasanjo - 11 years, 8 months (February 1976 - October 1979; May 1999 - May 2007)

(ii)  Chief Ernest Shonekan - 4 months (August 1993 - November 1993)


(i)  Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan - 5 years, 10 months (July 2009 - May 2015)


(i)  General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi - 6 months (January 1966 - July 1966)


As at Independence in 1960, the Federal Republic of Nigeria was made up of 3 regional federating units namely: Northern, Western and Eastern Regions.

By 1963, the federating units increased to 4 namely: Northern, Western, Midwestern and Eastern Regions.

Each region comprises of Provinces (States), Divisions and Districts (Local Government/Council Areas)

Before the military struck in January 15, 1966, the Regions had Provinces as follows:

NORTHERN REGION - 12 PROVINCES (namely: Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Bornu, Ilorin, Kabba, Kano, Katsina, Niger,  Plateau, Sokoto, Zaria.)

EASTERN REGION - 5 PROVINCES (namely: Calabar, Ogoja, Onitsha, Owerri, Rivers.)

WESTERN REGION - 4 PROVINCES (namely: Abeokuta, Ijebu, Ondo, Oyo.)  

MIDWESTERN REGION - 2 PROVINCES (namely: Benin, Warri.)

Above stated regions have since been split into 37 states including the FCT, Abuja and 774 LGAs.


As previously stated, the old 4 federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had since been split into 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory with 774 local government areas by a skewed military fiat.

Let quickly look at the portions of these military creations per Geopolitical Zones.

The former Northern Region had been split into 20 States including the Federal Capital Territory with a total of 418 LGAs.

The entire former Western, Midwestrrn and Eastern Regions put together were split into only 17 states with a total of 356 LGAs.

 The former Eastern Region was split into 9 States sandwiched between two geopolitical zones with Ndigbo retaining only 5 states in the South East Zone and the remaining 4 states subsumed in South-South zone.

The former Western Region was split into 6 monolithic South West geopolitical zone.

The former Midwest Region was eventually split into two States and subsumed in another strange geopolitical configuration called South-South zone.

How the former Eastern Region has fared in this regard is better examined as follows:

(i) North West Zone - 7 States and 186 LGAs as follows:

States                          LGAs

Jigawa                         27

Kaduna                        23

Kano                            44

Katsina                        34

Kebbi                           21

Sokoto                         23

Zamfara                       14

Total                           186

(ii) North Central Zone - 6 States and 114 LGAs as follows:

Benue                             22

Kogi                                21

Kwara                             16

Nasarawa                        13

Niger                               25

Plateau                            17

Total                              114

(iii) North East Zone - 6 States and 112 LGAs as follows:

Adamawa                       21

Bauchi                            20

Borno                              27

Gombe                            11

Taraba                             16

Yobe                               17

Total                             112

(iv) South West Zone - 6 States and 137 LGAs as follows:

Ekiti                                  16

Lagos                                20

Ogun                                 20

Ondo                                 18

Osun                                 30

Oyo                                   33

Total                               137

(v) South-South Zone - 6 States and 124 LGAs as follows:

Akwa Ibom                        31

Bayelsa                               8

Cross Rivers                    19

Delta                                  25

Edo                                    18

Rivers                                23

Total                                  124

(vi) South East Zone - 5 States and 95 LGAs as follows:

Abia                                    17

Anambra                            21

Ebonyi                                13

Enugu                                 17

Imo                                      27

Total                                    95

From the foregoing geopolitical configuration, the South East Zone is the most disadvantaged Zone in terms of number of states and LGAs.


The final register for the 2019 general elections stands at 84,004,084 voters.

The North-West currently has the highest number of registered voters at 20,158,100. That hands the North-West 24% of the registered vote total.

The South-West region comes second with 16,292,212 registered voters (19.39%).

The North-Central has 13,366,070 registered voters (15.91%).

The South-South has 12,841,279 registered voters (15.29%).

The North-East zone has registered voters with 11,289,293 (13.44%)

The South-East zone comes last with the total number of 10,057,130 voters (11.97%).

From the aforementioned registered voters, the South East Zone is again the most disadvantaged Zone.

Here is the breakdown of total number of registered voters across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).


1      Abia              1,932,892

2      Adamawa     1,973,083

3      Akwa Ibom    2,119,727

4      Anambra        2,447,996

5      Bauchi            2,462,843

6      Bayelsa             923,182

7      Benue             2,480,131

8      Borno              2,315,956

9      Cross River    1,527,289

10    Delta                2,845,274

11    Ebonyi             1,459,933

12    Edo                  2,210,534

13    Ekiti                    909,967

14    Enugu              1,944,016

15    FCT                  1,344,856

16    Gombe             1,394,393

17    Imo                    2,272,293

18    Jigawa              2,111,106

19    Kaduna             3,932,492

20    Kano                 5,457,747

21    Katsina             3,230,230

22    Kebbi                1,806,231

23    Kogi                  1,646,350

24    Kwara               1,406,457

25    Lagos               6,570,291

26    Nasarawa        1,617,786

27    Niger                 2,390,035

28    Ogun                 2,375,003

29    Ondo                 1,822,346

30    Osun                 1,680,498

31    Oyo                    2,934,107

32    Plateau              2,480,455

33    Rivers                3,215,273

34    Sokoto               1,903,166

35    Taraba                1,777,105

36    Yobe                   1,365,913

37    Zamfara             1,717,128

Total                          84,004,084

By a combined effect of sections 2.3.1, 2.3.2, 2.3.3 and 2.3.4 above, it is crystal clear that the geopolitical and voters strength configuration of Nigeria presently puts South East Zone at great odds against the quest for South East zone to produce the next President of Igbo extraction come 2023.


From the preceding information and data in the entire section 2.3 above, it needs not be over-emphasised that, the task of producing the next President of Nigeria of Igbo extraction is a highly challenging one if not ‘impossible’ safe for the fact that, “with God Almighty, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!”

Not a few Nigerians outside the Igbo nation are wondering what Ndigbo really want from Nigeria at this time.

They note that with one side of the mouth, some people of Igbo origin have somehow declared and are pursuing their agenda for self determination and/or secession from Nigeria, particularly, from the angle of IPOB; and, from the other side of the mouth, Ndigbo want the Presidency of Igbo extraction from South East Zone come 2023. What does Ndigbo really want?!

In an attempt to answer the question above, we need to know or be reminded of where the rain started beating us as a Country!

So, what are the options available to Ndigbo come 2023? Secession? Restructuring? Presidency?

For me, secession of Ndigbo from Nigeria now is clearly out of the equation.

Ndigbo tried it before some 54 years ago and failed. Repeating same mistake at this moment in 2020 is not only unintelligent, glossing over history and jumping before looking, it is somewhat suicidal to contemplate despite the global affirmation of human rights to self-determine.

I think what will benefit Ndigbo more in the present circumstance just like all the other ethnic nationalities that make up the present geopolitical area called Nigeria, is to make a tactical retreat to the Federal system of government handed over to us by the founding leaders of Nigeria at Independence in 1960 which we have tried and proven to work well for us. What we need is just to fast-forward it to where we are now in 2020 and beyond!

The operating 1999 Constitution in Nigeria is inherently defective and no amount of amendments can cure its defects. There are a lot of mines embedded in the 1999 constitution that makes it very difficult for Nigeria to transit from a mere country to a nation.

Therefore, the most pliable option for Ndigbo is to first seek for a restructured polity like the one handed over by the founding leaders of Nigeria at Independence in 1960 come 2023.

With the restructured polity can then come the Presidency by whatever name of Igbo extraction.

Ndigbo cannot go it alone. A collaborative interface with other stakeholders in Nigeria is a sine qua non!


Since this retreat is organised for the newly elected executives of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Abuja; let me use this opportunity to advise that they should endeavour to avoid a shameful outing as experienced in recent past.

To this end therefore, they should focus more on:

  1. Restoration of the dignity and honour of the Igbo race particularly in the FCT, Abuja.
  2. Reconciliation of the various tendencies of Ndi Igbo in the FCT, Abuja.
  3. Promote, defend and protect the ideals of the Igbo race including the constitution of Ohanaeze.
  4. Be transparently accountable to Ndi Igbo that elected them into office.
  5. Canvass and promote Igbo culture and tradition.
  6. Be the rallying point and the melting pot of the Igbos in FCT, Abuja.
  7. Interface with all strata of government on behalf of the Igbos in FCT, Abuja
  8. Effectively liaise and interface with Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo Worldwide
  9. Effectively coordinate and interface will all Igbo organs in the FCT, Abuja.
  10. Respect constituted authorities.


A journey of a thousand miles, they say, begins with a step. The geopolitical, population and the economy configuration of Nigeria presently is greatly at odds against producing the next Head of Government of Igbo extraction come 2023.

It is not enough to just wish it away that it is the turn of Ndigbo to produce the next President of Igbo extraction as power is hardly ever given but taken.

As previously stated, the odds weigh heavily against South East to produce President of Nigeria at this time because the geopolitical configuration of Nigeria at this moment seems not to favour Ndigbo despite all the sacrifices being made by Ndigbo to keep Nigeria going.

The South East zone does not have sufficient electoral voting power to dictate the pace safe for collaborating with key stakeholders many of which feel skeptical considering the different tones and signals emanating from South East particularly from the IPOB angle.

There was never a time in the past that candidates of Igbo extraction didn't contest presidential election against others despite a general gentleman’s agreement on zoning.

So, what then specially qualifies Ndigbo for any special concession for 2023 presidential contest safe for good conscience and moral persuasion that virtually all the other geopolitical zones have had the opportunity to serve the country as President?

The time is thus long overdue to start reaching out to other stakeholders in the country to garner support for Nigeria Presidency of Igbo extraction from the South East zone.

Appeals, persuasion, diplomacy, tact including propaganda where necessary but anchored on EQUITY, FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE may just do it and, the earlier the better!

Ohanaeze Ndigbo should galvanise support for Nigeria Presidency of Igbo extraction come 2023 to address the imbalance in the tripod upon which Nigeria stands to avoid a collapse of the polity.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other Igbo groups must rally support from other stakeholders in the Nigerian project to cede the Presidency to South East Zone.

Whereas Ohanaeze should be the arrowhead to galvanise support for Igbo extraction Presidency, Ohanaeze must not be seen to openly show preference for any candidate(s) or any political party. Ndigbo and indeed Nigeria should decide who better suits them!

Contacts and mobilisation committee or group comprising of at least two people each from the seven Igbo states should immediately be set up to start interfacing with other key stakeholders in Nigeria to actualise the Presidency of Igbo extraction come 2023.

A stitch in time saves nine!

•Being a presentation at the retreat organised for the newly elected executives of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Abuja, at Bolingo Hotel, FCT Abuja, on December 15, 2020.

Source: News Express

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