The Organization of Nigerian Nationals, D/FW, Inc., came as a result of an amalgamation of two fledgling Nigerian organizations in Dallas in 1990: namely The Nigerian Forum headed by Jerry Sunny Ugokwe and the Nigerian People’s Union (NPU) headed by Tony Nwanne.
The Nigerian Forum was for "elites" and entry was by application that was subject to approval, while the Nigerian People’s Forum was mostly cab drivers and small businessmen, and application was not necessary. The Nigerian Forum was having its meetings at Sheraton Hotel Park Central in Dallas, while the Nigerian People’s Union was having its meetings at late Christian Onyejiaka’s grocery business store.
The irony was that both organizations were for Nigerian interest, and both were lobbying for membership.
Thus, when each of them approached Richard Nwachukwu, the publisher of the then Good Hope News (now African Herald), he refused to join either of them, insisting that both organizations must merge as one.
Nwachukwu started negotiating with Jerry Ugokwe from Nigerian Forum and Tony Nwanne and Herbert Nwankwo from Nigerian People’s Union. Finally, a deal was struck. A "unification" meeting was scheduled on Saturday, July 21, 1990 at Attorney Obinna Duruji’s office, then at Abrams Bank Building - off LBJ Frwy & Abrams, Dallas, Texas.
Attorney Duruji was relatively new in Dallas then, but he was very dynamic and promising. Hence, his office was chosen.
On that faithful day, Jerry Ugokwe extended invitation to other parochial organizations like the Nigerian Cultural Association (which later became Igbo Cultural Association of Nigeria (ICAN), which later changed to Igbo Community Association of Nigeria - ICAN), Rivers State Foundation, etc. Right there and then, it was agreed that Nigerians in Dallas should have only one umbrella organization. To make it enforceable, Attorney Duruji drafted a binding resolution which those who were present signed.
Although Herbert Nwankwo (now Dr. Nwankwo) opposed the merger when the proposal was brought to their meeting by Richard Nwachukwu, he came to the July 21, 1990 meeting with 22 possible names for the new organization. Before everyone left that day, the new name, Organization of Nigerian Nationals was chosen over a runner-up Organization of Nigerian Congress.
There and then, Jerry Ugokwe (now Dr. Ugokwe) was chosen as the Interim President, Mr. Akande as Interim Secretary and Herbert Nwankwo as the PRO. Subsequently, other positions were filled.
The first organized Nigerian Independence celebration in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex was held at the Dallas Convention Center by ONN on October 6, 1990. It was very successful and Nigerians in the Dallas area were very proud of that.
However, unaccountability of the finance after the 1990 Independence nearly destroyed the new organization. The Good Hope News (now African Herald) wrote a strong editorial against unaccountability of Jerry Ugokwe’s administration. With that momentum, the administration was ousted and a Caretaker Committee formed. Thanks to Ambi Nzeakor (now Dr. Nzeakor) who supported and facilitated the process.
The members of the new Caretaker Committee were Rev. Frank Ekejija, Chairman; Richard O. Nwachukwu (now Dr. Nwachukwu), Vice Chairman; Robert S. Elleh, Secretary; Kehinde Ladapo, Financial Secretary; Phillip Anyiam, Treasurer; Herbert Nwankwo, PRO; Dr. Obinna Duruji, Legal Adviser; Sidney Okeke, Provost.
The 1991 ONN sponsored Nigeria’s 31st Independence Anniversary, whose committee was chaired by Nwachukwu was done at Hughes-Trigg Student Center, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas, Texas. The keynote speaker was Dr. Julius Ihonvbere who was teaching at UT Austin. The night party was at the Serengeti Club owned by a Kenyan.
After the event, a full account was given by the organizing committee, and a new account was opened for ONN.
Herbert Nwankwo became the first ONN elected president in November 1991. However, he was not considered for second term.
In November 1992, Robert Elleh was elected President of ONN. He was re-elected in November 1993. It was during his term that ONN hosted the Nigerian Green Eagles in Dallas during the World Cup Tournament in U.S. in 1994.
In November 1994, Sir Eddie C.Osuagwu, who was secretary under Mr. Elleh was elected President. In November 1995, Victor Emuakhagbon who was secretary under Sir Osuagwu was elected President. He was reelected in November 1996. In November 1997, Mr. Sam Adeola who was secretary under Mr. Emuakhagbon was elected President.
However, in 1998 November, Attorney Obinna Duruji was elected President of ONN. In November 1999, Sir Peter Okafor was elected the President of ONN.
Then, in November 2000, Dr. Richard O. Nwachukwu, the ONN Board Chairman, resigned his position to be elected President of ONN. He was reelected in 2001.
In November 2002, Mr. Godwin Ihegboro was elected ONN President. He was reelected in 2003.
In November 2004, Mr. Joejim Alaboso was elected ONN President. He was reelected in 2005.
In November 2006, Mr. Femi Owoseni was elected ONN President. He stayed on till November 2008 when Mazi Felix Okereke was elected President. Mazi Okereke was reelected in November 2009. His term ended November 2011.
Mazi Okereke, due to circumstances beyond his control in November 2011, handed over to the ONN Board of Directors headed by Dr. Richard O. Nwachukwu to carry on as Caretaker Committee.
The Board is now handling the organization until things are sorted out and membership straightened.
The ONN Board was inaugurated in late 1993 with Rev. Dr. Johnson Omoni as the Chairman, Dr. Magnus Kpakol as Vice Chair and Dr. Richard O. Nwachukwu as the Board Secretary. He was Chairman for three years.
Dr. Nwachukwu was elected as ONN Board Chairman in 1996. He was chairman through reelection till 2000 when he resigned to become the ONN President. He later became chairman again in 2008.
As it can be seen, ONN, like Nigeria has gone through a checkered history. It has had good presidents; it has had bad presidents. But ONN still stands because of the solid foundation we laid since 1991. The mission of ONN since 1990 still stands as follows:
To protect and preserve the image of Nigeria.
To protect and preserve the interest of Nigerians.
To serve as a watch-dog for Nigerians for sole purpose of executing the above functions.
To serve as a rallying point for Nigerians in the D/FW Metroplex.
To serve as a mouth-piece for Nigerians.
We have done the above functions in numerous and various times.
ONN fought back against Mike Snyder of Channel 5 (NBC) when they tried to air bad news about some Nigerian elements in the U.S. The flamed news was finally watered down.
ONN had met the Dallas Police Chief(s) to position Nigerian community’s interests.
ONN had met with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in many occasions to address Nigerian Community’s concerns.
ONN had met with the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board concerning Nigerian issues.
ONN had always invited the Nigerian Consulate Officials to Dallas to renew and re-issue D/FW Nigerians passports.
And ONN has always sent delegation to represent Nigerians in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex on events affecting Nigeria/Nigerians, especially those affecting Nigerians in the D/FW area.
Without elaborating more, it is obvious that ONN has served Nigerians well and will continue to serve Nigerians and Nigeria.
In 1997, ONN organized and had resolutions for Nigeria’s Vision 2010. The resolutions printed in a book-form was sent to the Nigerian Government in June 1997.
It is a privilege that I was there in 1990 to make it happen and still active in ONN today - the Year 2012.
Happy 22nd Anniversary, ONN!
Happy 52nd Anniversary, The Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
Thank you all and God Bless.
Richard O. Nwachukwu, Ph.D.
ONN, D/FW, Inc. Board Chairman
October 13, 2012, Dallas, Texas