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Igbo leaders demand South East presidency, Kanu’s release

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Leo Sobechi, Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Nnamdi Akpa (Abakaliki), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka) and Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos)
06 May 2022   |   3:57 am
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, commenced his two-day working visit to Ebonyi State with the commission of some legacy projects, which will be concluded with a high-stake meeting...

[FILES] Leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafria (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and some of his family members during continuation of his trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Igbo apex body rules out VP slot for Southeast
• Obi’s presidential ambition non-negotiable, says support group
• Talk among yourselves, Obiechina urges Southeast aspirants
• NUPA: Igbo president will reduce tension in Nigeria
• Group urges APC, PDP to zone presidency to Southeast
• COSEYL threatens to sue APC, and PDP if the ticket is zoned to North

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, commenced his two-day working visit to Ebonyi State with the commission of some legacy projects, which will be concluded with a high-stake meeting with Southeast leaders today before returning to Abuja.

After arriving at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, around 1:00 pm yesterday, his state visit began with the inauguration of projects at the state-owned King David University of Medical Sciences, Uburu, including a twin flyover, 12-kilometre dualised federal road, from Mbu, Enugu State to Uburu, the University Building and the University Medical Hospital, facilities and equipment.

He was received by Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, and governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), including chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Governor Atiku Bagudu, of Kebbi.

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo and his counterparts from Jigawa, Abubakar Badaru and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, were on the delegation that welcomed the President to Ebonyi.

Dressed in Igbo attire (red Isiagu), with a cap to fit, he had waved severally at the crowd that gathered to receive him.

The President commended Umahi on the quality of projects in Ebonyi, saying he is not surprised at the standard of work because the two-time governor is an engineer of repute.

With the project commissioning done yesterday, all eyes are on the President’s enlarged meeting with Southeast leaders and stakeholders today.

Sources stated that the President would use the meeting of Igbo leaders to receive reports on the security situation in the zone as well as the sustained agitation by the youths.

Another source said that part of what the Igbo leaders would present to the president during the meeting is the quest by the zone to produce his successor in 2023.

Towards ensuring that the zone speaks with one voice today, a meeting of Ime Obi Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, was yesterday evening convened in Enugu, its secretariat.

Rising from its Ime Obi conclave, its President-General, Prof George Obiozor, called on President Buhari to seek political release of detained leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and other detained Igbo youths.

Obiozor said this would engender national healing, fairness and a sense of belonging to Nigeria.

The Ohanaeze leader, while welcoming other Igbo leaders to the conclave, regretted that this was the first Ime Obi since he assumed office on January 10, 2021.

According to him, “insecurity has pervaded almost all parts of Nigeria, but each geo-political zone has its own peculiarity. The advent of insecurity in the Southeast is both bizarre and dramatic. The Southeast had been adjudged the most serene and peaceful zone in Nigeria until April 5, 2021, when gunmen attacked the Correctional Facility in Owerri, Imo State and freed a total of 1,844 prison inmates. Since the April 5 episode, insecurity in the region has attained an unprecedented and unbearable crescendo.

“The Monday Sit-at-Home is a slur on the Igbo. It is strange for a group to face the barrel of the gun inwards. Many people have estimated the huge loss the Southeast incurs on a weekly basis as a result of the Sit-at-Home order. Ohanaeze Ndigbo has tried severally to persuade our youths to realise the consequences of their actions,” he said.

On the 2023 presidency, Obiozor stated, “the clamour for an Igbo to be elected as a president of Nigeria is morally and historically justifiable. It is a project every Igbo must commit himself or herself to. To this end, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has made contacts with several Nigerian leaders with respect to the right of the Southeast to produce a president. All the double-dealings about zoning and rotation of power are an orchestrated conspiracy to deprive the Southeast of the right to produce a president.

“I want to assure all of you that hard as they may try, they will surely fail. Ours is a right and just cause. I wish to use this opportunity to encourage all the presidential aspirants from the South East to remain focused, tenacious and optimistic. In fact, we are fully committed to the resolution by the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum (SMBLF) that no Southerner, in fact, a Southeasterner for that matter, should denigrate himself or herself with the position of a Vice President.

“The Political Action Committee (PAC) of Ohanaeze Ndigbo will still meet several eminent Nigerians to persuade them to appreciate the need for a South easterner to be elected a president of Nigeria. The renowned diplomat underscored the importance of participation in the electoral process.

“It is important that I underline the urgent need for Igbos wherever they reside in Nigeria to make haste to acquire their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). In this connection, I call on the association of Southeast town unions, traditional rulers, the leadership of Ndigbo in Diaspora, religious bodies, market associations and all other groups to take this message very seriously. It is a task that must be undertaken,” he submitted.

A group under the aegis of Peter Obi Support Network (POSN) has described the media reports that presidential aspirant, Peter Obi, is being considered a vice presidential candidate to another presidential aspirant as ‘arrant nonsense.’
  
The group also said the presidential ambition of the former governor of Anambra State is not negotiable.
   
The group, in a statement yesterday, signed by its spokesman, Sani Altukry, also warned the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against playing games with the unity of the country, saying that any attempt by the party to foist a Northern candidate on party members will adversely affect the future and fortunes of the party at the 2023 presidential elections and hurt the already shaky foundations of the country.
  
The group warned Nigerians not to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, which Obi’s presidential aspiration symbolises and warned the PDP not to play with the yearnings of Nigerians and the mood of the nation on the rotational presidency.

A PDP chieftain in Enugu State, Dr. Alexander Chukwuemeka Obiechina, has said the time has come for Southeast presidential aspirants on the major platforms of APC and PDP to talk among themselves and form a common front to reach out to other regions.

He said the argument in support of the principle of zoning the presidency to Southeast in 2023 was gathering national attention, stressing that it is for that purpose that aspirants from the zone should pool resources together to sustain the engagement with other geopolitical zones in the country.

Referring to the calibre of people and leaders that attended the recent Greater Nigeria Conference at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, Obiechina said the task before the next president would be how to unite Nigerians, pointing out that presidential aspirants should start demonstrating that capacity for peace-building among themselves.

While commending Chief Edwin Clark, Pa Ayo Adebanjo and Dr. Bitrus Pogu of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Afenifere and MiddleBeslt Forums (MBF) respectively, for their remarkable show of solidarity and statesmanship, Obiechina, who contested the governorship of Enugu in 2011 and 2015, said the elders have spoken words wisely.

He said: “I think this is time for aspirants on the two big political parties to start talking among themselves. There is a need to demonstrate that unity, which is what Nigeria needs at this point in time. Those who are yet to purchase the nomination forms should weigh their continued participation seriously and know whether it is best for them to play supportive roles.

“Zoning is very necessary for national harmony and a sense of belonging. Politicians should begin to show that they love this country more than personal ambition. From the way the conversations are going in the country, civilians can achieve a similar feat of the military in 1999, when two Yoruba Presidential candidates, Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae, became candidates of the two major platforms.”

Obiechina said he declined pressures on him to contest the 2023 governorship in Enugu to make things easy for Governor Ugwuanyi for him to know that it was actually the turn of Enugu East Senatorial District to produce his successor.

Another group, Ndigbo United Peoples Assembly (NUPA), has charged Nigerians to ensure that the next president of the country emerges from the Igbo extraction. The national leader of NUPA, Prince Bartho Igwedibia, made the call in Awka, Anambra State, yesterday while addressing journalists on the need for Nigerians to support the Southeast to produce the next president.

He argued that if an Igboman becomes the next president, it would help to reduce tension and problems facing the country.

According to Igwedibia, the South-South, Southwest and North have taken their turns and it is now the turn of the Southeast to produce the president.

He said: “I am advising Nigerians to make sure that an Igboman is made president of the country. This will assist to address most problems facing the country. About 75 per cent of Nigerians know that since the end of the civil war in 1970, no Igboman has been the number one citizen of the country, yet we claim to be a united nation.

Also, apex Igbo youth group, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), has urged the ruling APC and opposition PDP to ensure that they zone their parties’ presidential candidacy to the Southeast. COSEYL, made the demand in a statement issued yesterday by the President General of the body, Goodluck Ibem.

The group also threatened to sue any political party that zoned the presidency to the North, saying that it would be unconstitutional if such happens.

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