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This year's WIC annual convention in Los Angeles, California, is special because it is an event that shall culminate in a clarification of what stakeholders of the Diaspora premier organization envision for this entity as it enters its second decade of existence. A lot of sweat, time and money have already been committed since 1994 by a broad segment of Ndiigbo in putting together and positioning the World Igbo Congress (WIC) to become the umbrella organization for Igbo Diaspora. Looking back, it has not been an easy accomplishment to make such a large entity to survive where many of its predecessors came and succumbed in their infancy. The founding leadership duo of Dr. J.O.S Okeke and Mr. Ken Okorie, who were Chairman and Secretary-General of nascent WIC respectively, ought to have some sense of fulfillment that the baby they helped to midwife has come of age after overcoming many dangers of early childhood. Till date, these Igbo patriots have kept a close eye on this organization as it grapples with its teething problems and the challenges of transitioning to adolescence. One thing is clear. The WIC was created at the right time to fill a gaping void in the organizational practices of the Igbo Diaspora which, before its debut, emphasized splinter parochial and provincial groups that were too small to effectively represent anyone’s interest, not to mention the large Igbo Diaspora as a community.

When all issues in this campaign are taken into consideration, the need to open up the WIC to its primary constituents, the Igbo Diaspora mainstream, is by far the most crucial factor that shall define future success or failure of this entity. The old-boy clique that is currently used to control WIC affairs is reluctantly yielding to the inevitability of change in the status quo even though most of them are unsure about the benefits of attempting to fix something that is actually not broken from their perspective. Opening up the umbrella group for wider participation, though it has the potential of broadening WIC’s revenue base, presents great challenges, particularly to those who lack the ability to operate effectively under close scrutiny from a discerning public. Anticipated change in a re-invigorated WIC must start first with choosing a Chairman who has demonstrated a credible capacity to operate in the open and still remain accountable to popular sentiments of the Igbo Diaspora. This is the single most important factor in convincing a critical mass of opinion builders in this community to actively identify with and support the emergence of a new consequential WIC.
The WIC grew as expected in early infancy but has since begun to exhibit signs and symptoms of retardation which are making many pundits to question its effectiveness and to doubt its long-term viability. An umbrella organization for Igbo Diaspora, which claims to represent interests of hundreds of thousands of Ndiigbo in the US alone, is still run out of kitchen counters with no steady contact address or administrative staff of any type. The vast majority of Diaspora Igbo population are still unaware of WIC’s existence and thus have not provided the essential support base for funding the organization’s operations and programs. Whatever resources that have sustained it so far emanate from pockets of good Samaritans and committed stakeholders who are, as expected, very few in number. Shortage of necessary operational funds has sometimes pushed past WIC leadership to seek favor and sponsorship of home-based political operatives through donations that often come with a lot of strings attached. Throughout its first decade of existence, WIC has no completed project to credit to its name either in Nigeria or in the Diaspora. The much talked-about toilet paper factory project for disabled Biafran soldiers in Oji River camp has been on the drawing board for several years, spanning two consecutive administrations, without any visible thing to show for it.

WIC has faced an ever intensifying deluge of angry criticisms from mainstream Diaspora Igbo most of whom now seriously doubt the utility of a do-nothing umbrella organization that claims to be the purveyor of their interests while the lot of the average Igbo continues to plummet in every aspect one cares to look. Critics have proffered many solutions on how to restructure WIC’s organizational and operational strategies to enable it to mobilize abundant manpower and material resources that abound within the Igbo Diaspora for the betterment of Ndiigbo worldwide. WIC affairs are currently shrouded in secrecy and are exclusively controlled by a reclusive Board of Directors who account to no other superior body beyond a handful of affiliate leaders that belong to it. Some have gone as far as to declare the WIC to be a moribund entity that ought to be disbanded to clear the stage for formation of a more nimble and proactive Diaspora organization. Majority viewpoint, at the moment, still supports mending the WIC instead of ending it as the best practical way forward. Work has already been commenced within the WIC to modify its current constitution to reflect some changes but nothing, so far, has been concretized. This tide of change luckily corresponds to election season for selecting new cadre of leaders to pilot WIC affairs as it enters its second decade of existence. Elections billed for this year’s convention shall hopefully help to choose the best talents to put WIC, once more, back on the path to greatness and effectiveness as envisioned by its founding fathers.

Osondu Editorial Board, in acknowledgement of this important election in annals of WIC, created a platform that would help all leadership aspirants to introduce themselves as well as explain their visions and plans for making a positive impact in lot of the average Diaspora Igbo. All the four chairmanship candidates and one candidate for General-Secretary were promptly invited to Osondu Interviews for an interview as soon as their candidacies were made public. All the four chairmanship candidates responded favorably initially but only two of them, Ichie Onwuchekwe and Dr. Ugorji, diligently took their time to respond to all questions. Their interviews were immediately published in full as promised. Both Mr. Joe Eto and Dr. Chuka Obiesie are still to respond even though the election is already at hand. Dr. Obiesie publicly pledged in Igbo e-forums recently about his determination to fully answer to all questions posed to him weeks ago regarding his track record, vision and plans for WIC if elected to lead it at this time of transition. The Osondu Editorial Board has carefully reviewed performances as well as track records of WIC Chairmanship candidates and has made certain conclusions on who is best suited to lead the apex Diaspora group at this critical stage of its development.

When all issues in this campaign are taken into consideration, the need to open up the WIC to its primary constituents, the Igbo Diaspora mainstream, is by far the most crucial factor that shall define future success or failure of this entity. The old-boy clique that is currently used to control WIC affairs is reluctantly yielding to the inevitability of change in the status quo even though most of them are unsure about the benefits of attempting to fix something that is not broken from their perspective. Opening up the umbrella group for wider participation, though it has the potential of broadening WIC’s revenue base, presents great challenges, particularly to those who lack the ability to operate effectively under close scrutiny from a discerning public. Anticipated change in a re-invigorated WIC must start first with choosing a Chairman who has demonstrated a credible capacity to operate in the open and still remain accountable to popular sentiments of the Igbo Diaspora. This is the single most important factor in convincing a critical mass of opinion builders in this community to actively identify with and support the emergence of a new consequential WIC.

Present WIC looks like an organization of aging middle-aged Diaspora Igbo, run exclusively by them and tailor-made for perpetuating their take on today’s world that, unfortunately, moves at the speed of light. What an anachronism! For WIC to endure beyond the generation of its founders, it must begin now to open up its doors to bring in youthful talents and women who possess what it takes to take this body to the next level. The ultimate success or failure of any living entity is the ability to refresh and replenish itself to ensure continuity in a fast-changing competitive world. Good grasp of how to deploy modern information management and dissemination tools is an invaluable asset for whoever aspires to provide effective leadership for 21st Century Diaspora Igbo. The manner in which ongoing WIC Chairmanship campaign has unfolded thus far, to a great extent, has revealed the inclinations and abilities of each candidate to the notice of the discerning public. When the chips are down, WIC stakeholders must pinch themselves first before they finally cast the deciding vote which shall decide the direction that this umbrella group will veer after all ballots have been tallied.

Osondu salutes and congratulates WIC Chairmanship aspirants for running a campaign that is unprecedented in organizational history of Igbo Diaspora. We believe that Dr. Ugorji and Ichie Onwuchekwe demonstrated unique sensitivity to dignity of those they aspire to lead by cooperating with Osondu Interviews to better tell mainstream Igbo who they are as well as their vision and plans for effective leadership if elected. It is also noteworthy that some candidates have devoted valuable time to travel and interact with Igbo communities in small caucuses where they could better sell their agenda at grassroots level. On the other hand, we denounce those who convene secret meetings of only qualified voters for sole purpose of brokering backdoor deals that are specifically designed to circumvent the process of selecting leadership for Igbo Diaspora in an open transparent manner.

We particularly commend Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji for running a vigorous campaign that shall leave an indelible mark and permanent impact on how business of organizing Igbo Diaspora shall be conducted in the foreseeable future. From a first declaration of his intent in January 2005, candidate Ugorji has granted revealing interviews, conferred with various Igbo communities and has also written extensively, by himself, to convey the passion and zeal he has for leading a revitalized WIC at a time when someone with his talents are needed at the driver’s seat. He is an amiable guy with compelling presence who has demonstrated unique ability to reach across man-made boundaries that divide us to forge working alliances in a quest to pull in new talents and resources for building WIC into a formidable powerhouse once elected. Based on performance, track record and natural talents, Dr. Ugorji is clearly the best candidate in eyes of mainstream Diaspora Igbo. Feedback confirms that Ugorji attracts popular support amongst youths and women, a fact that makes him the best tool for immediate revitalization of the WIC. He goes to the election in Los Angeles next week with a popular mandate which must be respected by those who may be tempted to manipulate the voting process to achieve a predetermined outcome.

If the people’s will is allowed to prevail in Los Angeles WIC Convention, Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji shall definitely emerge as the next Chairman of the Board. Greater vigilance and transparency are hereby called for to be the watchwords for all concerned to ensure that no potentially damaging acrimony shall follow the conclusion of 2005 convention. We wish WIC a very productive annual convention in Los Angeles.

Osondu
The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo
 

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