AWKA- the recent endorsement of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Mr. Peter Obi by the leadership of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohaneze Ndigbo, is causing disquiet in the polity. Although some political analysts argued that Ohaneze should take a stand on who to support, there were those who felt that by aligning with a political party, Ohaneze was exposing itself to undue attack.
Legal luminary, Chief Ben Nwabueze and Atiku Abubakar when Atike visited Igbo leaders.
One thing that was clear was that Ohaneze had consistently said it was more at home with a political party that favours the restructuring of the country in such a way that every ethnic nationality would have a sense of belonging. Of all the political parties contesting the 2019 presidential election, only the PDP stated clearly that it would restructure the country once it assumes office.
It was, therefore, not surprising that Ohaneze chose to align with the party, in view of the fact that restructuring would favour the Igbo nation in all ramifications. To make its stand clear on the issue, the Ohaneze leadership, at its meeting at the Nike Lake Hotel in Enugu, decided to endorse the Atiku –Obi ticket of the PDP because it felt that was what would benefit the people more.
However, shortly after the endorsement, various interest groups expectedly, began to air their views on the Ohaneze decision. The first to react was the Anambra State Government which dissociated itself from the endorsement. As far as the Anambra State Government was concerned, members of the leadership that announced the endorsement were PDP sympathizers in Ohaneze.
The Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu and the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, who felt disturbed by the endorsement, said by the action of a section of Ohaneze leadership, it was obvious that there was a split in the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation.
Perhaps, what angered the Anambra State Government was the timing of the endorsement, which coincided with the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state for the commissioning of Zik’s Mausoleum in Onitsha.
To the state government, it was improper for the leadership of Ohaneze to sabotage an event where the great Zik of Africa was being honoured by the Nigerian president in Onitsha, describing it as the highest disrespect for the late first Nigerian president. According to the Anambra State Government, it was Zik that made Nnia Nwodo’s father a minister and Zik himself was the first patron of Ohaneze, adding that it was absurd for his son to lead a group to disrupt an honour being done to Zik by the Nigerian government.
Besides, the state government said, it was not proper for Ohaneze to endorse any candidate, even when there were Igbo people contesting the presidential election, recalling that all Ohaneze’s four past endorsements failed, which ought to have taught the body a lesson.
Recalling his experience on the day of the Imeobi Ohaneze meeting at the Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu, the Anambra SSG said: “The Imeobi meeting, which was billed for 7:00pm started before the scheduled time. I arrived the venue at 6.15 pm only to discover that the meeting had ended. Imeobi usually doesn’t take place on a working day, but that one took place on a working day. The usual thing was for Imeobi to hold its meeting on a weekend and the ratification of its decisions done on Monday.
“Because of the way the Enugu meeting was held, we were not given the opportunity to give Anambra State position during the Imeobi meeting and this is an organisation we pay our dues. Ohaneze should not dabble into partisan politics. It should not go into divisive adventure and doing things that can destroy the cohesion in Igboland. So Anambra does not support the endorsement of Atiku because it will not serve the interest of Igbo.
“Also, former governors and serving ministers are part of Imeobi and they were all absent at the Enugu meeting because of the President’s official engagement in Anambra State. If a member of an organisation is excluded from a meeting it is part of, nobody should expect that member to be happy, Anambra is a full-fledged member of Ohaneze and a decision was taken behind it. If the state delegation had been present, other delegates might have listened to the position of Anambra on the issue of endorsing a candidate.”
He said the reaction of the state government was not to favour anybody, adding: “Our basic interest is the dishonor done to Zik by a group in Ohaneze.”
He admitted that Governor Willie Obiano had to ask the President-General of Ohaneze, Chief Nnia Nwodo why he should go that far to sabotage the interest of the entire Igbo because what happened concerning the issue of endorsement was capable of splitting Ohaneze. According to him, the signs were already there that Ohaneze might be heading for a crisis because the secretary-general of Ohaneze did not sign the message released by Nnia Nwodo, as had been the case over the years.
Expectedly, the issue has been attracting reactions from interest groups. For instance, a group, the Igbo Reawakening Forum (IRF) disowned Ohaneze over the endorsement, saying the decision by the Igbo organisation on the choice of Atiku was not only unwise and ill-advised, but miscalculated.
Chairman of the National Working Committee of the group, Mr. Uche Ufearoh, wondered what led to the decision, saying it would backfire at the end of the day. He regretted that it was only the Igbo extraction that always played such kind of politics among the three major ethnic groups in the country.
He said: “Ohaneze Ndigbo didn’t start playing bad politics today. They started it ages. We won’t follow them on this. If they were to be smart enough, they would have known that supporting PDP will be an exercise in futility.
“South-West as a region has got so many juicy positions. They have the vice-president, super ministries, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Communications and several others. They just relinquished that of Finance.
“It is only the Igbo that can have all these positions in their pockets and will still be gallivanting all over. The Yorubas don’t play that kind of politics.
“I don’t know who and who the Ohaneze is aligning with to make Atiku the president. For us as a body, we have chosen to face the reality of the time.”
According to Ufearoh, the people of the region have been advised by several elder statesmen to vote for Buhari for easier and quicker shot at the presidency in 2023, explaining that the decision to support Buhari in the February poll was informed by his identification with the Igbo as evidenced in the numerous projects dotted across the region.
“Look at all he has been doing for us in the past three years, the Enugu-Onitsha-Port Harcourt expressway, the second Niger Bridge, Zik’s Mausoleum and others.
“Igbos are better off voting for Buhari. His first time in politics, he picked an Igbo man, Chuba Okadigbo as running mate, second time, Ume Ezeoke.