The apex-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on Tuesday shrugged off the current crisis plaguing it and endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan for next week’s presidential election.
At a well-attended meeting held at its national secretariat in Enugu, the organisation said that the interest of the Igbos would be more protected under the presidency of Jonathan, insisting the achievements of the president in the past four years had placed him in better stead to continue in office.
The meeting was attended by former governors of Ebonyi State, Sam Egwu and Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Dr. Jow Nworgu, Senator Hope Uzodimma, traditional rulers from all the states of the zone led by the Chairman, Eze Cletus Illomuanya, among others.
Moving a motion for the endorsement, the organisation’s President-General, Chief Gary Igariwey, said the move was the outcome of several months of consultations with the council of traditional rulers, the leadership of major Igbo organisations both at home and in the Diaspora.
He said it was based on the pragmatic reasons of continuity and a sense of solidarity as well as the need to maintain an unbroken chain of allowing each of the six zones to hold the presidency for two terms that Igbos have decided to file behind President Jonathan.
“As a people, we believe in the principles of fairness, equity and justice which are essential ingredients of peace and stability without which our country cannot advance or survive as a united entity.
“President Jonathan hails from a minority group in South-south. It is a known fact that this is the first time a citizen from minority group has risen to the presidency through a democratic process.
“It is also note worthy that his zone has sustained the economic development of this country through its natural endowment and has also paid a price through serious environmental degradation. This led to militant insurgency and serious disruption of the nation’s major revenue source.
“The emergence of Jonathan has dramatically calmed tension and offered a sense of belonging to our fellow citizens from the South-south. This is a lesson to Ndigbo. The fact that we have remained largely marginalised in the affairs of this nation over the last four decades doesn’t mean that we are condemned to a destiny of perpetual exclusion. The solidarity we show today is the solidarity we shall legitimately expect tomorrow,” Igariwey said.
He said though Ndigbo may not have realised all their expectations in the present administration, there had been considerable improvement in their infrastructural development and general sense of belonging in the present administration.
Igariwey said after weighing the options in the present circumstances, Ohanaeze resolved to take the decision in the collective interest of the people.
Other speakers at the meeting, including Ezeife, Egwu, Iwuanyanwu and Ilomuanya, said the endorsement of the president was the most appropriate thing to do at this point in time.
Egwu specifically lampooned the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, for choosing a running-mate from the South-west which he observed was a clear indication that the Igbos would be relegated if he is elected.
But in a swift reaction, the chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the organisation set up by its elders’ council , Chief Ralph Obioha, dismissed the endorsement as worthless.
Stating that “it is a bogus endorsement that is clearly worthless,” Obioh,a who betrayed anger as he spoke in a telephone interview said: “It was surprising that the executive that no longer exists would be doing this and it is the first time they are calling such a general meeting. If the president still wants to attach value to such a worthless endorsement, well, good luck to him.”
He explained the reason for resisting an outright endorsement of Jonathan or any other presidential candidate, saying that “its high time people realized that Igbo is a serious race for its leaders to make a blanket endorsement of someone who does not take our interest seriously is a disservice to the people of the zone.”
He stated: “We have asked him (Jonathan) through the media come and explain to our people what happened to the support our people gave him in 2011 when we voted massively for him and how he would handle the scourge of unemployment among our youths but we have not had any response yet.”
On why he scorned the endorsement by the Igariwey faction, he said: “Getting an endorsement from an executive that does not exist is worthless.”
On why the caretaker committee has not been able to gain access into the Ohanaeze secretariat in Enugu and Obioha reacted to the development thus: “we don’t want to breach any law but in due course, we will seek legal means to get them to leave the secretariat.”
In the interim, however, to tackle the immediate development, he projected into some unfolding actions billed to tackle the alleged factional endorsement of Jonathan, saying that the youths would meet today on the matter while the caretaker committee which he heads would meet before this week runs out.
He did not divulge information on what the billed meetings portended.