2019 Presidential Endorsements tear Ohaneze Ndigbo Apart

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Apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is tottering on the brink of implosion amid the claims and counter-claims of the group’s endorsement in the presidential election. While the President-General, Chief John Nwodo, insists that Ndigbo’s endorsement of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard-bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Peter Obi, was in the best interest of Nigeria, the secretary-general, Uche Okwukwu, expressed a dissenting view by announcing the adoption of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari as the true Ohaneze candidate; who would be formally recognized as such, at a coming event at the Aso Rock Villa. “Ohaneze notes particularly that a major political party (PDP) by the nomination of our son Peter Obi as the vice presidential candidate has given Ndigbo an opportunity for inclusivity. Ndigbo must seize the moment,” Nwodo argued. Both sides are now at daggers drawn.

The President-General reaffirmed Ndigbo’s endorsement of Atiku yesterday in Enugu, arguing that those against the endorsement were “political jobbers or have lost touch with realities,” explaining that there was no better way of aligning Igbo interests on the 2019 presidency than backing the aspiration of Atiku and Obi; a former governor of Anambra State. Chief Nwodo who announced the endorsement of the Atiku/Obi in a political declaration said; the Buhari administration was not desirous to lead the country on the path of economic growth and development. He said the “Ime Obi” which is the highest decision making council of Ohaneze Ndigbo took the decision in Enugu after its meeting, on the day President Buhari visited the city to kick off a two-State campaign tour of Abia and Imo States; during which the Okwukwu faction endorsed the President at a campaign rally, where he also got a second endorsement from the Chairman of Aba Traditional Council, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Isaac Ikonne, Enyi 1 of Aba.

According to Nwodo, the Ime Obi took the decision after a “critical and dispassionate appraisal of the issues and the visible fault lines in the polity, including the analysis of the election manifestos of the various contesting parties, especially with regards to the restructuring of the federation and continued relevance of the people of the Southeast in the Nigerian geopolitical space.” “In its collective search for a polity that is just, egalitarian and inclusive, the Ime Obi Ohaneze Ndigbo met today Thursday 24 January, 2019 at the Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu, to further deliberate on the future of Ndigbo in the chequered history of a beleaguered country. Ohaneze notes particularly that a major political party (PDP) by the nomination of our son Peter Obi as the vice presidential candidate has given Ndigbo an opportunity for inclusivity. Ndigbo must seize the moment,” the Nwodo statement read in part.

“That the presidential candidate of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has made an avowed commitment to restructuring of the federation and reconfirmed same during his recent visit to the United States in his meetings high-level US officials. In consideration of the above and other relevant existential factors pertaining to the treatment of the Igbo in our polity, the Ime Obi Ohaneze, therefore, hereby ratify the decision reached at the Ohaneze National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held in Enugu on Tuesday 22 January, 2019, to adopt the Atiku Abubakar/ Peter Obi ticket in the 2019 presidential election. Ime Obi therefore endorses and embraces fully, this ticket without equivocation, especially with regards to the position of Ndigbo at the AWKA Declaration which insisted on a complete restructuring of the Nigerian polity,” Nwodo said; urging Igbos to see their PVCs as their most potent tool to ensure a restructured polity and for a better society.

There have been criticisms, especially from members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), over the decision. Chief Orji Kalu, ex-governor of Abia, expressed disappointment over the Atiku endorsement and berated the partisan role Ndigbo has assumed. Kalu told journalists that the Nwodo-led executive betrayed the people’s trust and exposed Ndigbo as partisan. “Ohaneze is a socio-cultural organisation and so should not be seen to be partisan. What the leadership did by endorsing Atiku was not in the interest of the Igbo nation. Kalu described the endorsement as wrong and capable of dividing Ndigbo into two factions, if not rescinded. “What they just did implies that we have two Ohanezes, or we are going to have another organisation in a different name. “I will be in consultation with Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra and other people of goodwill to decide what we will do next; we are not going to accept it. “These are card-carrying members of PDP, they cannot use Ohaneze platform to endorse any candidate. We want a level playing ground. I’m not even expecting them to endorse Buhari, we want them to be neutral because neutrality is the hallmark of every independent cultural association,” Kalu said.

But speaking as a guest on a live radio show in the Coal City, Nwodo submitted: “To prevaricate on matters of principle is to sacrifice the principle itself. There is nothing in diplomacy called Sidon look. Our interests are at stake. Ndigbo must stand up and be counted where their interests lie. If you are worried about the consequences of doing so, we are already down and he that is down needs no fear or fall. We are not known to be afraid to stand up for our conviction. I find no risk whatsoever in saying this is where our interest is and this is who represents our interests. We cannot miss both sides. The people ruling said they don’t want us and the other people are saying your interests are our motto and you want me to fold my hands. No, I am asking my people to stand up for their interests.”

Nwodo went on: “The 2019 election is like a war without weapons. It is a war to change our status in Nigeria. It is a war to change our economic stamina as a country. It is a war to banish unemployment and destitution among our youths. It is a war to be recognized as equal partners in the Nigeria project. It is a war to have sovereignty of our natural resources.”

However, the National Executive Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Wing has faulted the Atiku/Obi endorsement, urging reversal of the stance. Addressing newsmen yesterday after its meeting in Umuahia, Abia State, the body stated: “Igbo youths were not consulted before taking that position. We will not only mobilize for the upcoming election, but we will encourage President Buhari to do more for Ndigbo.” In a three-page communiqué read by national publicity secretary, Chief Osmond Nkeoma, the youths said the action was suicidal and capable of worsening perceived conflicts in the region.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo (Jr)

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