A major disagreement has broken out among Igbo leaders on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition.
Some Igbo leaders met on November 14, last year to “adopt” Atiku, who is running on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform.
But the apex Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has distanced itself from the alleged endorsement of Atiku for the February 16 election.
The one-day summit on November 14, last year, in Enugu, endorsed Atiku because of what it called his disposition to restructuring the country if voted into office.
At the one-day summit, elder statesman Prof. Ben Nwabueze, 86, called on them to “do me the honour of achieving the success of the (Atiku/Peter Obi) ticket before I am gone”.
“We must ensure the survival of the Igbo race in Nigeria and it is only through the success of that ticket that we can get it”, the law professor said.
Nwabueze, who chaired the meeting, explained that the ticket would “ensure our survival”.
At the meeting were: Ambassador George Obiozor, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, Ohanaeze President Chief Nnia Nwodo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prof ABC Nwosu, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Senator Theodore Orji, Senator Ben Obi and Chief Achike Udenwa.
Also there were Prof. Uche Azikiwe, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Chief Emeka Ugwu-Oju, Chief Garry Igariwey, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Ambassador Frank Ogbuewu, Prof Osita Ogbu, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Chief Lawrence Nwuruku, Prof Walter Ofonagoro and Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa.
There were also Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Commodore James Aneke (retd), Prof Elochukwu Amucheazi, Prof Uzodinma Nwala, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Air Comdr Allison Madueke (retd), Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, Prof. Anya O. Anya and Prof Chudi Uwazurike, among others.
In a five-point resolution issued at the end of the summit, with the theme “Ndigbo 2019 and Beyond”, read by Agbakoba, the leaders said the position was based on the restructuring agenda put on the table by Atiku/Obi, which four zones of the country had agreed on.
The resolution states in part: “We identify with the Atiku/Peter Obi ticket on the restructuring agenda as has been reiterated by four zones of the country, namely: Southsouth, Southwest, Northcentral and Southeast. We believe that as long as the federating units remain weak the centre will continue to be weak. We equally move to appreciate the position of the Atiku/Obi ticket in promoting national unity.”
In its reaction to the purported endorsement, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said Atiku and his co-travellers in the PDP have become shameless by trying to fool an entire nation to support her in spite of her several years of misrule.
National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu said the ruling party remained confident that a discredited party like the PDP would be confined to the dustbin of history by the Igbo’s.
“The APC considers Atiku and his PDP co-travellers as people who have lost any sense of shame. The purported endorsement of Atiku and PDP by some leaders of the South East for the 2019 general elections is an affront on the Igbo people who were frontline victims of the 16 years of the PDP misrule.
“It will be interesting to know what the PDP will be telling the Igbo people during the campaign. The South East people have three and half years of visible progress in terms of massive infrastructure and the thousands of common people who are benefiting from the social investment programmes under APC to compare to the PDP’s 16 years of retrogression.
“We in APC are confident that the Igbo won’t be fooled by any group, by whatever name, to sell a thoroughly discredited party like the PDP to the very discerning Igbo people”, he said.
The meeting was attended by the PDP leadership, including Atiku, his running mate Peter Obi, Senate President Bukola Saraki and others.
But the group clarified its position yesterday through its Deputy National Publicity Secretary Chuks Ibegbu at a news conference in Enugu.
It was at the second anniversary of the incumbent Ohanaeze executive led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo.
Ibegbu said the clarification became necessary following misconceptions of the event, adding that the said endorsement was done by the friends of Atiku, insisting that the organisation had not endorsed any particular candidate.
He said that Ohanaeze needed to be circumspect, “as our children are in all the political parties”.
Ibegbu said: “It is erroneous to say that we endorsed Atiku. Ohanaeze Ndigbo did not endorse anybody. That meeting at Nike Lake Resort was organised by friends of Atiku.
The group’s spokesman said: “Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been canvassing for our people to identify with candidates that will restructure Nigeria if voted into power.
“We still stand on that and in the next few days, we shall meet to take a holistic position on the elections. However, due to our peculiar circumstance in the country, we will identify with candidates that will restructure Nigeria if voted into power.”
On the achievements of the group in office, he said: “Within these two years, we have given our modest contribution to the re-jigging of Igbo leadership and leveraging of Igbo issues in Nigeria.
“Some of our modest achievements serially include: The restoration of the dignity of the Igbo race in Nigeria and across the globe, the building of bridges with other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
“The initiation and pursuit of the restructuring of Nigeria, a position that has now become a national mantra; the promotion of Igbo language culture and heritage
“The establishment and promotion of Ohanaeze Ndigbo activities at local, state, national and diaspora levels.
“The diplomatic and deft handling of such explosive issues as ‘Quit Notice’ to Ndigbo by Northern Youths, the pro-Biafra agitation, the Fulani Herdsmen/Farmers crisis in Igbo land, the Operation Python Dance issue and many other threatening issues that would have snowballed to a national disaster.
“This leadership was able to build synergy with its affiliate groups like IDA, IWA, WIC, Aka Ikenga, Izu-Umunna, Njiko Umunna, Igbo Media Forum and other Igbo organisations to leverage Igbo Unity and development.
“This leadership encouraged unity and synergy among Igbo Governors and political actors for the overall interest of Ndigbo.
“This regime has put in place a formidable Youth and Women Wings for the organisation.
“We want to thank the media for your support and assure Ndigbo that we shall in the rest of our remaining two years, do our best to give Ndigbo a committed leadership.
“The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Barr. John Nnia Nwodo, thank the media, our fraternal brothers, associations and organisations, our affiliate bodies, youths, women, students, governors, political leaders and all Nigerians and wish all a happy New Year and hitch-free election 2019.”
Ibegbu noted that within the two years in office of the Nwodo led Ohanaeze Ndigbo, “we have given our modest contribution by re-jigging Igbo leadership and issues concerning our people”
He said the leadership of the organisation had built synergy with its affiliate groups with a view to achieving unity in among the neighbours.