Maduekwe, Nwachukwu clashover Obasanjo at WIC 2002

Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston

USAfrica Special report by CHUKS ILOEGBUNAM and CHIDO NWANGWU(at the 2002 convention) 

The largely fraternal warmth and frank exchanges among the Igbopolitical activists and political leaders was dislocated at theclosing hours of the 8th annual convention of the World Igbo Congressat the five-star Adam's Mark Hotel in Houston, Texas.

Apolitical fireball hit the well-attended convention when Chief OjoMaduekwe, Nigeria's Transport Minister who serves, also, as one ofNigeria's president Obasanjo's staunch Igbo defenders took on SenatorIke Nwachukwu (a retired army General and one of the 2002 electionspresidential aspirants) in a direct verbal assault questionedNwachukwu's "integrity."

The Minster called the Senator dishonest. According to Maduekwe,Nwachukwu was not long ago a constant visitor to Aso Rock where hetirelessly lobbied retired Gen. Obasanjo to enthrone him as SenatePresident and over the head of another Igbo incumbent.

Healleged, without mincing words, that Nwachukwu who aspired to removehis boss to lead Nigeria as president was without ethics. But whenChief Maduekwe looked Senator Nwachukwu in the eye and called him aliar, the convention could take it no more. Hundreds of voices rainedabuses on Maduekwe, calling him 'stooge', 'puppet', 'turncoat' andsome other names that are unprintable. Nwachukwu maintained his calm,and later spoke against the allegations made by the Minister.

It all started when Senator Nwachukwu, former External Affairsminister, laid into President Olusegun Obasanjo with uncommon animus,during his detailed presentation on his candidacy. Obasanjo (wavingin picture, right) did not attend the convention.

Nwachukwu, who hails form the same senatorial district asMaduekwe, pronounced Obasanjo's administration a failure,dictatorial, tribalistic, lacking focus and fairness to allNigerians. He accused Obasanjo of gross marginalization of Ndigbo. Hebuttressed his allegation with the would have been NEPA power stationin Alaoji, in Abia State which, months ago, the Ohanaeze Ndigboaccused the Obasanjo administration of relocating at Ota, in OgunState.

Nwachukwu received a standing ovation for his efforts andarticulation. It was a congress with outright antipathy for theObasanjo administration, and any swipe at the political leadership ofthe country ignited instant celebration. But out came Maduekwe wholit into Nwachukwu, denying that Obasanjo was anti-Igbo. He locatedthe problem in General Nwachukwu who he, in effect, described asunscrupulous. Maduekwe said it was not true that any power stationwas relocated from the Igbo country to Ogun State.

Some of the Minister's supporters demanded that he be given moretime to continue his arguments. About 90 minutes earlier, he hadaddressed the convention . For some moments during the disagreementsand shouts, Maduekwe resumed his seat on the front row, momentarilyand finally walked out of the convention at an end.

Before the rumpus, Aviation Minister Dr. (Mrs.) Kema Chikweaddressed the audience. She also defended her largely commendedrecord in improving Nigeria's aviation infrastructure. Although, shefaced mounting demands to make Enugu an international airport.

The convention, which had the theme of Agwo No N'akrika or CrunchTime For Ndigbo, started on August 29. It was the most attended sincethe inception of the World Igbo Congress in 1994. General AlexanderMadiebo, the commander of the defunct Biafran army who gave thekeynote address, called on Ndigbo and Nigerians to "focus on the taskof rebuilding Nigeria on the principles of equity and fairness toall."

Five of the known Igbo presidential aspirants, namely, Dr. KaluIdika Kalu, former Senate president of Nigeria, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo,Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Chief Rochas Okorocha and Senator Nwachukwuand were in attendance, as was Chief Chekwas Okorie, the nationalchairman of the newly registered All Progressive Grand Alliance,APGA. Apart from Chief Maduekwe, Professor A.B.C. Nwosu, the HealthMinister were in attendance. Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, the nationalsecretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was also present. Theonly South East Governor to make it was Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju ofAnambra State who was embroiled in a conflict with some members ofthe Anambra community. He watched as one of his commissioners wastaken out of the Anambra Forum by the police for disrupting the peaceof the assembly.

The communique presented a ten-point resolution which called for"true federalism that allows each state to develop at itspace,provides security to its people, gives it right to control itsnational resources, and reduces its fiscal dependence on the federalgovernment." It endorsed the Ohanaeze Ndigbo position on the "rightand turn of Ndigbo to produce the next Nigerian president in 2003."

Nwangwu,an analyst on CNN International and CNN's Inside Africa, is Founderand Publisher of (first African-owned U.S.-basedprofessional newspaper to be published on the internet), USAfrica TheNewspaper, NigeriaCentral.comand TheBlack Business Journal. He is the recipient of theJournalism Excellence award (1997) and appears on the VOA, NPR, CBSNews, NBC and ABC news affiliates. (Iloegbunam, an experiencedNigerian journalist, is a contributing editor)
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