In just a few days the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo would hold an election of a new leadership as the Nnia Nwodo-led leadership comes to an end on the 10th of January, 2021.
However, just like in the larger Nigerian political environment, the election seems to be a wholly male affair. No woman is contesting for either the President General or the Secretary General positions, two of the most influential positions in the leadership of the 44-year-old organization that was a child of necessity at the end of the civil war. The umbrella socio-cultural group was formed as a forum representing all Igbo communities both locally and in the diaspora.
Even though the group is a socio-cultural organization, it is not by any means insulated from the usual politics either within the region or at the national and global levels. It cannot however be described as a political organization or affiliated to any political party. However, with the whirlwind-like evolution of national and global politics, the organization is not insulated from certain core political dynamics.
The run-up to the elections has been as controversial as it has been suspense-filled. From debates over consensus candidacy to that of the venue for the election, no Ohanaeze election in the past had attracted this amount of media and national attention. This goes to show that technology and the advent of the internet and social media have all changed the dynamics of associations of any group of people whether overtly political or otherwise.
However, The Roundtable Conversation observed that like in the larger political field in the country that women’s presence in this socio-cultural organization remains largely peripheral. No woman is among the five male candidates for the post of the President General that has Prof. Chidi Osuagwu, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, Prof. George Obiozor, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu and Dr. Chris Asoluka in the race. The post had according to the organization’s constitution, been zoned to Imo state.
The Roundtable tried to find out why the organization seems almost bereft of an active female presence knowing that in pristine times, the present male only leadership amongst Ndigbo was not the norm.
Regina Amadi-Njoku, the Chairperson Board of Trustees of Nkata Ndi Inyom Igbo, a socio-cultural group of Igbo women by ancestry and or marriage, a former Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations and gender/development expert observes that the predominantly male membership is a fallout of the changing dynamics of African culture especially given the effects of colonialism and its impact on gender relations and development.
She recalls that prior to the colonial period, Ndigbo practiced dual sex governance where women played their part even though they did not exercise the same level of authority with the men in the society. There were queens, the amazons, priestesses and varied titled women with leadership duties in the past she says. She points out what we are seeing in Ohanaeze is traceable to the colonial administrative style in African colonies having come from a background of male-only governance.
They gave the African men more power but the African men also lost leadership eminence in what can be seen as a double-edged knife with its white administrative gains and the fragmentation of the leadership styles across Africa.