opinionBy Mac Odu
I had written an article published in the media titled: 'Ezuruezu Mbaise: Shipwrecked on Lust'. The Mbaise nation was jolted by the fatality implied in that historical appraisal of our condition. Many of our eminent sons and daughters were upset by the appraisal. A number felt that I was precipitate in my stance. Others felt that the issues the essay raised were germane for serious re-appraisal of the powers of the president-general of Mbaise's sacred institution.
With the repeated failures of institutions in Nigeria stemming from lust of their leaders, our people justifiably felt a need for a conference to examine issues raised by the conduct of the executive of Ezuruezu. I was at a meeting of Mbaise Di in Lagos, where another high-contracting party to Ezuruezu, Mbaise Peoples Congress (MPC), attended with a handsome delegation on the issue and it was consensual that a meeting should be summoned promptly to examine our status afresh. (Incidentally I have written an apology for omitting MPC as a stakeholder in the formation of Ezuruezu in 1997. The memory lapse is regretted).
At that meeting, it was resolved that we should not contemplate scrapping Ezuruezu without establishing its failures. I had in my essay advocated a scrapping of the well-formed vehicle for our development, which history I was firmly connected with. But my position was rejected wholesomely by the assembly with the wiser counsel that we should not consider scrapping Ezuruezu as an option led by Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, current deputy president-general of Ezuruezu Mbaise and president of Mbaise Di, Lagos. I had laboured under mistaken belief that our destiny as a people had been compromised away from the will of the founding fathers and had to lash out.
I returned from Lagos and made contacts with leaders of Ezuruezu with a view to convening a meeting for the purpose of understanding all issues that led to the general feeling that we had compromised our sacred institution. I called the secretary-general of Ezuruezu and he was forthcoming with a view that we should hold a meeting with the president-general and fully apprehend his position in all issues concerning the presumed politicisation.
I was educated by the narrative of our president-general about his history of relationship with the former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim. There had been a relationship struck between Dr. Okechukwu Aguwa, president-general of Ezuruezu Mbaise, and benefactor of Ohakim long before he became a governor. Ohakim was ingratiated by this kindness and sought eagerly for an opportunity to reciprocate. His position as governor offered him an opportunity. He requested to reward Dr. Aguwa giving his younger brother appointment since he had sound environmental studies background which he needed in his cabinet. The appointment was made. That appointment tended to give the impression of loyalty to Ohakim. Snide remarks from his younger brother in social gatherings sold the impression of loyalty to Ohakim. This was the foundation of my concept of politicisation of Ezuruezu, as Ohakim's regime wore our people's patience thin with every passing day of hoax in terms of development dividends after another.
There was an unsolicited appointment made by Ohakim without appropriate consultation with the appointee to Directorate of New Face Organisation at the inception of campaigns of Ohakim for a second term. Aguwa's name was manifested undeservedly as an after-thought at the bottom of a series of names. This scandalised Mbaise and polarised her sharply. It was not apparent that no prior consultation was made before that appointment on the pages of newspapers. No letter issued in authentication of the appointment. Aguwa consulted widely on what he was to do about the appointment. Wise counsel established that he should just ignore the appointment. He did. On second thought, he summoned a meeting of Ezuruezu Executive Committee to apprise members of the jam in which he had landed. The meeting was not fully attended. I did not receive any invitation to the meeting and naturally I did not figure that any dust had been raised on the seeming leaning of our sacred institution towards Ohakim. A few other members of the executive did not attend that meeting. Dr. Aguwa made his case robustly and the meeting accepted that nothing was amiss in the mission of Ezuruezu. No communication on the resolution was published. Naturally, there was a deleterious communication gap as I contemplated and crafted my article on Ezuruezu.
Meetings were subsequently held at various Mbaise fora at which the disturbing vibes of compromise with tradition of avoidance of politicisation of Ezuruezu was addressed in the wake of my essay on Ezuruezu. Most fora resolved to sue for a meeting of the Governing Council of Ezuruezu to examine all issues and perhaps seek dissolution of the executive committee. I had to request all swords to be sheathed until I had the benefit of dialogue with all stakeholders back home after an Mbaise Di meeting in Lagos on the same subject. I called the secretary-general of Ezuruezu on my return from Lagos. My meeting with secretary-general, Mazi Lawrence Nwahiri, led to another tripartite meeting at which Aguwa was present. I vocally wondered why I was not invited to the meeting at which the matter of Aguwa's listing as member of New Face Organisation was discussed. Certainly, the secretariat was to blame. I represent Nguru clan in the executive committee and had only attended one meeting through one year. I would not have written my article on Ezuruezu had I been invited to that meeting. It was not wild to presume that no other meeting had been held since our maiden meeting after our inauguration last year following the re-election of the current executive committee for another term of five years.
The current executive committee was re-elected to complete the gigantic project of Civic Centre it had embarked upon during the first term and which had formed the central plank of their mission. The philosophy of the project is impeccable. There must be a neutral forum at which Mbaise people would meet their friends and foes and thrash out issues. Mbaise Di had thought that security was equally important and concentrated on that while not neglecting the Civic Centre project. The reasoning was that safety of guests was preponderant over reception of guests. Guests would not dare unsafe territories except when they seek to destroy such territories. The safety of our people was more important, Mbaise Di resolved.
Now, it is crystal clear that no shipwreck is imminent. No lust was evident in the conduct of the president-general of Ezuruezu. But there are lessons to be learnt. An Ezuruezu president-general is the embodiment of the common will of Mbaise people at home and in the Diaspora. He is a father figure who shelters all the diverse political, social and religious persuasions of his homogenous constituency which is held together by a common ancestry. He must not polarise himself in favour of any persuasion, even when his life is threatened. Like institutions in advanced societies, the constitution of Ezuruezu should be sacred as passed and as properly amended. Our duty now is to consider such amendments to the existing constitution as shall regulate the involvement of presidents-general in the future in partisan politics of the overt kind while steaming ahead with protecting the overall welfare of our people and seeking increasing betterment of the living condition of our people with every passing day.
Institutions should survive the people who set them up. Institutions survive on the basis of clear rules of conduct contained in constitutions and bye-laws, and sanctions that follow breaches of such constitutions and bye-laws. If Mbaise is to occupy its pride of place among enlightened nations of the world, it must have leaders who keep records adequately; and make rules and regulations at every nebulous turn of events to ensure clarity of direction is passed on from one generation to another in its trajectory of relevance.
Mbaise has scaled a landmine with this encounter with defective communication between leadership and its constituency. Rules should now be made on modalities for communication when matters of national significance arise. No matter of the type just discussed should be regarded as insignificant in future. Ezuruezu is fast heading to its second decade of existence and should no longer be handled as an institution for pedestrian leadership game. It is a damn serious business upon which the relevance of over two million people shall depend for their welfare far into the future.
Mbaise has not fared well in comparison with her neighbours in Imo. Our population eminently qualifies us for at least five local governments. We had five courts in colonial Nigeria and most people who had far less now have more local governments in their name. Our people have not been focussed on this because we have not developed a rallying point for pressure on the executive and legislative arms of government. Yet we have men on the corridors of power to bring our corporate will into a blazing reality. They are contented with the status of local champions or folk heroes of small enclaves of diminishing productivity. Our sons on the corridors of power are not sufficiently circumspect about our geo-political realities. Granted, we are populous, we are not beneficially and corporately significant. We are sickeningly divergent in our preoccupation with survival commercialism. We bask in fake popularity, losing consciousness from time to time with what is most valuable for our majority. Ezuruezu should live to drive this linkage between Diaspora Mbaise and Homestead Mbaise.