Ohanaeze: Whos the next Secretary-General we can trust?, By Ernie Onwumere

In every modern society that is not autocratic, elections are a standard pathway to fostering requisite leadership.

When properly elected, the right leaders help promote a progressive society. Elections come and go, but they possess the decisive leverage to steer societal trajectories towards either transformation or deformation. So, as the top unifying Igbo body, Ohanaeze, conducts elections this January to produce its next executive leadership team, Ndigbo cannot afford to fritter the opportunity to elevate our collective competitiveness as a people.

This is because the crucial Ohanaeze elections are coming at a very critical time in the journey of Ndigbo within the bumpy space called Nigeria. The stakes are indeed high.

For instance, there is the dismal infrastructure deficit in our homeland, which draws back our regional development. Also, Ndigbo have for long held the short end of the national power stick. Our shrieks of political ostracism have waxed loudest and are yet to be mollified. And now, we are even being caught up in the web of sinister intrigues against an overdue Igbo assumption of Nigerian presidency in 2023.

What is more, the ensuing polarizing partisan politics mixed with inordinate self-seeking individualism among Igbo leaders is also not helping Igbo unity and competitiveness.

Therefore, with the stakes raised so capriciously high for Ndigbo, the leadership quality of our apex rallying front, Ohanaeze, must be raised even higher. One of the key positions that are up for contest in the imminent elections is that of the Secretary-General. It is a fact that the position of the Secretary-General is organically pivotal to the effectiveness of Ohanaeze in prosecuting Ndigbo interests.

That position would normally be the think-tank and, in fact, the action driver of ideas, plans and progammes of an organization like Ohanaeze. It then implies that the right person who should occupy the position, without sentiment, is someone we can trust to provide on-the-ground direction, expression, clarity and dexterity to Ohanaezes strategic agenda.

It is the considered opinions of many well-meaning Igbo leaders of thought that Prince Okechukwu Nwadinobi fits the bill perfectly. He has long been, quietly and steadily, primed for the role of a Secretary-General for extraordinary times like now. It is little wonder that the proven technocrat and staunch Igbo organizer from Abia State has thrown his experienced hat in the ring. Several opinions that were sampled concur that Prince Nwadinobi has all the functional experience and first-grade attributes required of a Secretary-General to propel Ohanaeze to greater effectiveness.

Are those opinions rooted in reality? Let us find out what makes Nwadinobi tick all the right boxes.
Generally, Ndigbo boasts a legion of accomplished sons and daughters who distinguish themselves in diverse fields of human endeavor in Nigeria and the world. But while we have many who excel professionally, few are able to blend private professional excellence with outstanding selfless service to Igbo causes the way Nwadinobi does.

As an accomplished professional, he in 1985 set up Dawn Functions Nigeria Limited, an Advertising and Public Relations Agency that became the biggest and most successful Agency outside Lagos, with offices in Enugu, Port Harcourt and Lagos. His profound experience in running such a big business network made him a shrewd management expert who could get the best out of men and resources to attain set goals. His management acumen also exposed him to serving on a wider range of business, industry and national leadership platforms.

Thus, in the course of time, he became the 10th President of Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; Chairman, South East Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture Forum; Council Member, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; Pioneer Chairman, South East Economic Summit Group (2010-2014) during which he successfully organized annual economic summits; Representative of the Private Sector in Nigeria @ 50 Planning Committee; Member, Board of Trustees, Dr. M.I. Okpara Foundation, which sharpens his visioning acuity; and South East Representative in the Code of Conduct Bureau, The Presidency, from 2010 to 2017.

But the humble, cultured Nwadinobi is not one to indulge in the complacency of his outstanding professional feats alone.

As a consummate Igbo professional, he has been playing several selfless roles to project and defend Igbo interests over the years. This is not a surprise as he is already imbued with the blood of royalty running in his veins as a prince. His father, the late HRH Eze Ikechi Nwadinobi was one of the notable traditional rulers in the 1960s and served until he joined his ancestors in 1999. Interestingly, HRH Eze Ikechi Nwdinobi was also himself a foundation member of Ohanaeze. Is it any wonder that a prince would follow in the steps of his father king?

Today, Prince Nwadinobi is a member of the 50-man Alaigbo Stabilization Fund set up by Ohanaeze and the South East Governors.

Also, in 2003 at the commencement of the democratization of Ohanaeze based on its Constitution, he was elected as the first President of Ohanaeze, Abia State. As Chairman of Ohanaeze Abia State, he inaugurated Ohanaeze Executives in 15 out of 17 Local Government Areas in Abia State.

Judging from the Needs Assessment study carried out at the time Nwadinobi was chairman of Ohanaeze in Abia State, education ranked as the number one priority. Arising from this study, he led a team that organized an Education Summit with the theme Revitalizing Education which brought together key stakeholders over a period of 3 days to discuss matters in the past and present, and make recommendations for the future. The presentations have since been collated and printed as a book which is rich in content and makes a good reference material.

Never tired of serving, Nwadinobi was made the Chairman of the Planning Committee for Igbo Day celebrations in 2004 and 2005. He was also Chairman of Ohanaeze World Igbo Summit, held in 2005.

He played an active role in planning and developing materials for the Igbo representatives at the 2006 National Political Reform Conference. Patriotic as ever, he once provided a platform that promoted the candidature of the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme for the presidency, and would later be appointed as the Coordinator for Alex Ekwueme at 70 years celebration book. In celebrating Hon. Justice Iguh retirement from the Supreme Court, he organised a befitting book launch containing essays in his honour.

This man who wants to be Secretary- General also coordinated the publication of scholarly works of over 10 professors at Abia State University, thus promoting their academic works and facilitating more research opportunities.

Indeed, Nwadinobi has been playing several other supportive roles for Ohanaeze as allowed by the constitution.

This space is not enough to tell the full story. Suffice to say that his cosmopolitan finesse and professional accomplishment combined with relentless pro-Igbo engagements easily position him as the best man to serve as Ohanaezes next Secretary-General.

It is also exposed by those who know him that he is an easy-going, listening, patient team player and strategic bridge builder who is the ideal Secretary-General we need. Above all, Prince Okechukwu Nwadinobi is found to have a functional advantage to serve most effectively if elected: he has both his current business and residential bases in central Enugu locations. This means that he is already on ground in Enugu, the official headquarters of Ohanaeze. So, Nwadinobi wont just hit the ground running, as they say. He is solidly already on ground, serving, working, and running tirelessly. He is only waiting to be elected to keep running errands for Ohanaeze and Ndigbo, faster and better than he ever did.

Onwumere, an Igbo public intellectual, writes from Arochukwu.

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