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In a few days’ time, the World Igbo Congress (WIC) shall convene its annual convention in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, USA. This year’s theme caption “Onye Kwe, Chi Ya Ekwe”, translated ‘If One Believes, One’s Guardian Angel Will Affirm”, connotes a sense of optimism with which the hosts of this get-together and WIC leadership regard the eventual outcome of this annual ritual of the apex Igbo Diaspora organization. But no one expects this year’s event to replicate the excitement that highlighted the preceding year’s outing in Houston, Texas, USA. The Houston event was a magnet for a long list of home-based Igbo politicians who schemed to exploit that public gathering to publicize their plans to vie in the last April general elections. The sense of euphoria that was evident in 2002 convention has been swept away by inability of the WIC to implement a key component of its resolve to spearhead the actualization of Igbo presidency during the April 2003 general elections. This is an election year for WIC leadership. Compounded by repeated failures of the WIC to deliver on most of its self-assigned tasks in the recent past and widespread calls for a fundamental rethink of the organizational structure and operational agenda of the WIC, the need for a change in leadership at the Nashville convention is clearly evident.

But the WIC is not alone in its failure to deliver, particularly as far as the Igbo presidency project is concerned. The Ohanaeze Ndiigbo, to which the WIC defers on matters of central import, glaringly displayed its impotence and incompetence in shepherding strategic political interests of Ndiigbo when it failed to present a unifying presidential candidate for the Southeast as many expected. The consequence of Ohanaeze’s non-performance has manifested in the emergence of a rival Igbo National Assembly whose leadership has sworn to upend the former as the Igbo apex organization. In like fashion, the WIC has encountered frontal challenge from Diaspora pan-Igbo groups which have sidestepped the umbrella organization and pursued independent programs of activities aimed at addressing perceived interests of Ndiigbo in their own ways. One of the most visible failures of incumbent WIC leadership is its unwillingness or inability to articulate and project the stance of average Diaspora Igbo in the presence of declining fortunes of our people since the debut of current democratic dispensation in Nigeria.

Leadership, per se, is not the sole issue that plagues the WIC. Some believe that the very structure of this umbrella group could be the actual cause of the main problem that persistently maligns the WIC. Its founders had the right instincts by undertaking to build a large pan-Igbo organization that can act as a clearing house for the multitude of groups that abound in all nooks and corners of big population centers of Europe and America. In theory, it was thought that pooling resources of many parochial Igbo bodies together, with the WIC as the mouthpiece, would lend gravitas and traction in pursuit of Igbo collective vital interests inside Nigeria and elsewhere. In apparent bid to streamline the emergent WIC, its founders thought it wise to lay emphasis on affiliate membership structure whereby individual membership is relegated. It was conceptualized that any Igbo who wishes to make input into the affairs of WIC must first get an affiliate pan-Igbo group, to which he belongs, to become the conduit if such effort shall ever reach and be heard by the main body. A Board of Directors, selected from various affiliating groups, virtually runs the WIC. During the annual conventions, delegates from affiliate organizations congregate to receive account of stewardship from the Board which incidentally is responsible for electing all the WIC officers.

No one would have justifiable cause to query WIC’s current structure if things have worked out as intended. There is an insular Board that is beholden only to itself and appears unperturbed about what critics may have to say within and outside the ranks of the WIC. The old-boys’ club mentality within the WIC leadership cadre engenders secrecy even in the intentions and plans of action of its top officers. Even leaders of WIC affiliate groups are kept in the dark about what the umbrella body is up to at any given time. As a payback, the WIC is starved of grassroots support and vibrant resource base for raising necessary funds to meet its obligations. The WIC still has ample goodwill of the average Diaspora Igbo and many still believe that it is possible to salvage its positive aspects if the right things are done now to foster a renewed and reinvigorated Diaspora Igbo organization. We wish participants in the Nashville convention happy deliberations as they converge to take stock of what have gone well and wrong for Ndiigbo in the last year. Let’s be humble enough to admit our shortcomings where they exist but nevertheless, remain determined to bring about change to ensure brighter prospects for our collective hope and aspirations from now on.

The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo

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