Communique of the
8th National Conference, Columbus, Ohio September 1 and 2, 2007
Given our historical circumstances and challenges as a neglected minority, coupled with our long history of (mis)governance, Igala sons and daughters in the diaspora have resolved to get more proactive in the political process that produces their elected representatives in the Nigerian political space.
This resolution, among others, was made at the Eight Annual conference of Igala Association, USA in Columbus, Ohio between September 1st and 2nd; two days during which the celebration of Igala life and culture was the main game in town.
The conference observed that even though we were a formidable force, operating at par with the best known political grouping of the era in pre-historic Nigeria, the advent of modern day Nigerian state and the selfishness of our own political leaders has meant continued fragmentation and weakening of the clout and political strength of the Igalas. This situation, the conference noted, started from our days in then northern region to present day Kogi state where we are numerically superior, but our geopolitical neighbors seem able to treat us as minorities.
With respect to accountability in governance, the conference resolved that while individual members are free to play any role they see fit, the association must be seen to be above board in its relationship with individuals in government, as well as with governments at all levels.
To remedy the political mis-steps of our past, Igala Association must now be quick to loathe all glaring instances of corrupt and unethical practices in ways that are transparent, fair and principled.
Drawing participants from its membership pool in fifteen states across the United States, Washington, DC, Canada and the Nigerian homeland, the conference commended members of Igala Association, USA for their steadfastness and perseverance, which saw the association grow from relative obscurity into a formidable socio-cultural organization, whose voice and impact now reverberate both in Nigeria and the United States.
In particular, the conference commended the outstanding leadership of the outgoing executive committee and the Ohio delegation for masterminding and organizing the most successful conference yet. The heroics of Dr. Samuel Alfa and Sister Teresa Abbah Edoja were singled out for honorable mention, as both individuals gave selflessly of their times, talent, money and other resources towards the organization of the conference. Besides the endless supply of food and drinks, and the flawless logistics, Ms. Edojah also ensured that the political leadership of the city of Columbus embraced and whole-heartedly bought into the goals and aspirations of the association.
Mayor Michael B. Coleman, through a representative, proclaimed the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and members of Igala Association, USA, honorary citizens of the city of Columbus, in a gesture the mayor described as only the beginning of greater collaborative efforts between his city and Igala community in the United States.
Among highlights of Columbus 2007, which stands it out from previous conferences were the adoption of a brand new constitution, which laid the framework for the election of a new Executive committee – a novelty in the life of the association; the scramble by regional affiliates to host the 2008 edition, a successful fundraiser and of course, the massive turn out of participants.
The election of a new executive committee, which climaxed a spirited campaign by several members for the various elective offices ended with the emergence of Mr. Alloysius Alhassan Ocheni (Maryland) as the new President, while Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim Opaluwa (Illinois) who finished in second placed with eighteen votes became the Vice-President.
Paul Ocheje (Canada) beat other contenders to the post of Secretary General, and he will be assisted by Mr. Joel Ijaja (Maryland). Other elected members of the new executive team include Mrs. Bridget Abuh (Florida), Treasurer; Mr. Michael Ibe Ogu (Massaschussetts), Financial Secretary; Mr. Sunday Onoja (Indiana), Public Relations Officer and Dr. Yahaya Abuh (Florida), Social Secretary.
The significance of the election is underscored by the fact that contrary to fears that the structure of the association was too fragile to withstand a rancorous election, the exercise, while characterized by boisterous campaigns, produced a stronger-than-expected team. And by the time the curtains were drawn on the events of Columbus 2007, participants returned home feeling that their association was prepared better than ever before to translate its mission and objectives into concrete practical achievements. The new constitution that was adopted and embraced by all, the pragmatic steps towards fund-raising, the preparedness for greater political participation at home, the collaborative initiative with entities like the city of Columbus and others, as well as the new-found enthusiasm of the members means that Igala Association, USA has just positioned itself for greater relevance, and to add greater value to life for Igala people.
In an emotion-laden remark, the outgoing President, Dr. Sam Alfa express his willingness serve in any capacity the new team may find him useful, while Mr. Ocheni expressed gratitude to both Alfa and the old team, as well as those who contested but lost in the election. Mr. Ocheni said he was open to suggestions and advise from all quarters, so long as they are geared towards the development of Igala land.
Also worthy of note is the significant stride the association made to broaden its base by bringing back into the fold members who had previously turned their back on grounds of not enjoying a sense of belonging.
To sustain the momentum from Columbus, the drumbeat was sounded for both the leadership and members to recognize and appreciate the importance of one another, since, according to the conference, we are acutely limited in what we can achieve for our community, no matter how highly talented or placed we may be, if we choose to go it alone. Rather, by complimenting one another, be it as Christians or Muslims; scientists or artisans, civil servants or private entrepreneurs, rich or poor, we will be quicker and more efficient in finding solutions to the myriad problems that living as an Igala man or woman currently entails.
To give urgency to the task at hand, the Ocheni-led team swung into action immediately with the setting up of four sub-committees with a view to translating the ideals enunciated at the conference into practical steps. The committees, and their frames of reference, which which will remain works in progress for the foreseeable future include: Education and scholarship, Welfare/Mobilization and projects/implementation.
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