Sunday, March 7, 2021, will remain ever green in the minds of Ozubulu people resident in Lagos. On that eventual day, they trooped in, in their ever radiant and enthusiastic mood, to the expansive Ozubulu Civic Centre in Festac Town, to elect new leaders that would pilot the affairs of the Lagos Branch of Ozubulu Development Union (ODU) for the next three years.
And at precisely 1pm, the accreditation began as the ODU members filed out to be screened, and after an orderly accreditation process, the voting proper started. And after about three hours of a peaceful exercise, voting ended on a remarkable note of true brotherhood and comradeship.
When the 2021 ODU Lagos Election Committee Chairman, Agbalanze Raphael Commanda Chukwuneke after announcing winners of seven other contested positions, finally declared Egwu U.K Charles as the elected ODU Chairman, there was thunderous ovation.
The hall exploded in spontaneous gyration as Egwu’s many supporters went into near drunken frenzy, and the melodious tune of Amalunwaeze ligoro na olu gioooo, ligoro na oche eze,….meaning, ”Amalunwaeze ascend the throne for you are fit for the throne, rent the air.
Yet undone, the new ODU helmsman’s supporters who had now became uncontrollably over joyous, sprang on their feet from every corner of the hall to where Egwu sat at an obscure corner. They readily formed a circle around him, and amid back slapping and banters, they song and hailed their new hero for the great feat achieved.
But the story was somewhat different for some supporters of Egwu’s main opponent; their mood was that of silence and disappointment, as heads shook in disbelief; others rose to leave as the day turned out a fateful one.
The day was also remarkable because, for the first time, election into the ODU’s executive positions was organised in a formal manner as against the usual informal tradition, which, according to them, has always resulted to some skirmishes after the process.
The election was so free, fair and credible such that even the ODU’s President-General, Amb Peter Ifeanyi Uzokwe, revealed to newwavereporters.com that he will recommend the members of the electoral committee to the Igwe Ozubulu to be honoured with the Ozubulu medal.
The PG, who also bears the title of Dikeudo Ozubulu, captured the tense atmosphere before the election when he said: “Preparatory to the election, it seemed as if it was a war but God took control of the whole situation as you can see, the election was very peaceful. Before the election, one would think that police would be invited but you can see that there was no police and everything went peaceful.”
He lauded the electoral committee for living above board and displaying a high level of neutrality throughout the process. He also promised to recommend them to the Igwe Ozubulu to be conferred with the Ozubulu medal, which according to him is the highest honour that could be given to anybody by the Ozubulu community. “It is not an award but an honour. It doesn’t make you above the law of the community but it carries certain privileges. During the medal event, you don’t give any donation; it is purely based on your past records. It is just to encourage you to continue doing what earned you the medal and I will surely recommend this electoral committee for that medal,” he insisted.
He charged the new leadership to hit the ground running, saying, “No matter what anybody says, the old executive tried their best, but the new executive must improve on those achievements.”
Uzokwe lamented that the Union was yet to institute a scholarship scheme for the indigent Ozubulu indigenes who want to go to school, threatening to tackle the new executive if after three months, a scholarship scheme was not activated. “We have money; so, why must indigent students be looking for money to go to school? Welfarism is the new catch phrase,” he said.
He summed his message to the new executive on three key areas – scholarship, wefarism, and improvement on the standards set by the immediate past executive.
In the same vein, while speaking to newwavereporters.com, the immediate past National Chairman of Nzah Village, Omekanna Chidi Megwatam, said that he was happy that the election was conducted peacefully and turned out huge success despite the initial fears and tension that characterized the process.
He says:” I am happy that the election went well, there was initial distrust and vested interests, and that created acrimony. The issue is that l wanted a transparent exercise whereby the executive should be neutral and not take sides. But there was an issue of vested interests and that almost marred the election, However, the election turned out successful and l am happy about that; at best the people have spoken by electing those they want. That is the joy of democracy, equality and fairness.”
Similarly , a middle aged man who simply identified himself as Peter told newwavereporters.com , that he was impressed with both the polls and its outcome, stressing that the 2021 ODU Electoral Committee has set new standards that future ODU elections must meet to ensure hitch- free and credible election.
He adds: ‘The Electoral Committee has done a very good job and this election cannot be faulted by anybody, both losers and winners. There was no fraud, no violence, in fact the whole process was open. I think our politicians need to learn a lot from the ODU election if the nation’s democracy is to get better”
However, Commander Chukwuneke, also attributed the success of the whole process to team efforts and support of the Ozubulu people.
“It’s only a few people that want to see chaos but very many are peaceful. And when they see that you want to do the right thing, they will give you all the support. So, I thank my team and also the immediate past chairman who gave me free hand to conduct this election. He never interfered and he gave us all the necessary support and that led to our success in this process,” he said.
He advised the new chairman to imbibe the culture of honesty, accountability and transparency.
Debunking insinuations in some quarters that he had a preferred candidate before the election, he said: “I didn’t have a preferred candidate because both candidates were qualified. You know people will always peddle rumour, but at the end of the day, the people have spoken and we have a new chairman. All I am asking for is transparency and we just saw it today in this election.”
For the defeated chairmanship candidate, Mr Udebuani Chukwunonso Josephat, he lauded the peaceful conduct of the election, echoing that he has taken its outcome in very good faith.
His words:”For me as a Christian, anything that happens to man is normally ordained by God. I am also aware that in any election, they are two options: you either win or lose. I equally believe that contesting an election is not a do or die affair; it is simply a desire to serve.
For instance, before vying for the chairmanship position, and even this morning, I asked God to let His will be done, and to His Glory, He has spoken”
On whether he won’t be discouraged to serve ODU with his not winning the chairmanship slot, Udebuani says:” how can l be discouraged in serving my community. I will never be discouraged, I will continue to do my best for the ODU. Don’t forget that l am the outgoing Secretary General of the Union, and the elected secretary now was my assistant. There will always be synergy and coordination among us he have served ODU and those now serving.
The outgoing executive handed over well above Eleven Million Naira cash to the new executive.
Speaking after his inauguration as the new chairman, Mr. Egwu Charles, expressed gratitude to the people of Ozubulu for the support and trust they reposed on him, saying, “It means they find me responsible and efficient to render certain services required of me to them.”
He admitted that the pre-election process was challenging as there were a lot of skirmishes but thanked God for giving them the wisdom, tolerance, patience and understanding to see that all ended well to the glory of God.
He charged the people to value one another as the only way to contribute to their community which is a growing town. “We must first love Ozubulu more than we love individuals or some factions among us. We must also be available to render service for the progress of Ozubulu, and in the course of doing that, we must forgive one another, accommodate our inadequacies and work with one another to move forward,” he said.
With the constitution of the new executive, the ODU came under the control of the new office holders as they presided over the monthly meeting .
Friends, supporters and well wishers of the new chairman instantly raised above Two Million Naira in pledges and donations in support of the new chairman
As is traditional with the monthly meetings of ODU Lagos Branch, birthday celebrants for the month of March were called out to cut their birthday cake as members danced to old skool music blasting from the speakers of the DJ who was on standby from the beginning. There was a lot to eat and drink.
However, as the new ODU leadership takes over, the real question in many lips is: will they hit the ground running to take the Union to greater heights? Still, only time will tell.