The death of Professor George Obiozor, last year, eclipsed a flame of hope lit in 2020 and was burning very brightly. He was elected President of Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo in December of that year but died in December 2022.
Imo state governor Hope Uzodinma announced Obiozor’s death in a statement he personally signed. It read, “A renowned academic, an exceptional diplomat and statesman and a tenacious patriot, Prof George Obiozor passed on recently after a brief illness. The death of this foremost Igbo leader and former Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States and the State of Israel is a big loss to Imo state, the South-east and the entire Nigeria. I have no doubt that both Nigeria and the international community will miss his profound intellectual contributions and wise counsel on national and global issues.”
The governor is absolutely correct. Obiozor’s passing due to illness, we have been made to understand, is a calamitous loss to not only his immediate Igbo speaking people but also Nigeria as a country. The Igbos are striving at being reintegrated into mainstream Nigeria after a failed secession attempt. Obiozor, everybody thought and believed, held out that torch of reunion.
In an August 3, 2021 People’s Daily editorial, we said, “It is true, in Obiozor, a well respected diplomat, the Igbo have found the right man to sell their ambition to produce Nigeria’s next president in 2023. He is the right hand to reach across the Niger for Northern solidarity if that sentiment must sell. But first, a badly politically splintered homeland must be reconciled to itself. Will Obiozor be able to pull that off? Only time will tell.
“The significance of the Obiozor victory goes beyond that narrow Igbo unity. It lies in what President Muhammadu Buhari said in his congratulatory message to Obiozor. The message sent by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, urged the ex diplomat to ‘deploy his immense experience within and outside to forge greater unity in the country.’” Our editorial continued: “The import of Buhari’s exhortation to Obiozor is in the background to his emergence as leader of Nd’Igbo. Under his predecessor, John Nwodo, Ohanaeze ceded its place to an ultra nationalist Igbo platform that stands to reenact the disastrous misadventure of Igbo secession that led to a civil war in 1967-70. Millions lost their lives in that failed attempt at breakaway.
“Ohanaeze and the Igbo political establishment were simply overwhelmed by the frenzy whipped up by a youngster called Nnamdi Kanu until the Buhari government applied the wedge by declaring it a terror group and banning it. Even so, the group still wields much influence in Igbo land through its reign of terror. Obiozor must stop it and push for greater Igbo involvement with the Nigeria Project.”
Obiozor did push hard but the adversity against him was just as tenacious. Last year, masked gunmen attacked his house and burned down a half of the spatial compound. Luckily, the Professor was out of the country. Gov. Uzodinma described the attack as “cowardly and the height of desperation” on the part of some politicians. He said at the time that the government was working with security agencies to identify and punish the perpetrators. “The time of those who unleash this kind of mayhem in the state is over. We shall hunt them down to face the full weight of the law,” he said.
Our next editorial ( March 25, 2022) on Obiozor condemning the attack on his property, said he must not underestimate the enemy. That job he had taken on came with a huge risk to his personal life and family. The attack on his house in his absence, we said in the editorial, was “a foretaste of the worst to come. Kanu, the leader of IPOB, made a show of condemning the attack but he was only shedding the proverbial crocodile’s tears. We know he had a hand in the burning of Obiozor’s home.”
However, we advised the Nd’Igbo President to not abandon the noble cause he had chosen to fight. “We implore the Nd’Igbo leader to stay the course, no matter what the enemy brings his way. His role is cast in that of the biblical voice in the wilderness, crying to prepare the “way of the Lord”. Obiozor, never you waver in your duty to your mother land.”
Yes, Obiozor did stay the course and paid with his life. But he hasn’t died in vain. His effort has put an Ibo man in the presidential race coming up in February. The greatest tribute Nd’Igbo will pay Obiozor is to complete the national reconciliation project he started.