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IPOB, Igbo canvass support for Southeast presidential aspirants

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
08 May 2022   |   4:09 am
What appears to have gained traction as the 2023 general elections draw close is the place of the southeast region in the scheme of things. For quite some time, the zone had alleged marginalization, insisting that...

Peter Obi

Kick Over Wike’s Romance With Region’s PDP Govs
What appears to have gained traction as the 2023 general elections draw close is the place of the southeast region in the scheme of things. For quite some time, the zone had alleged marginalization, insisting that, despite its contributions to the growth and development of the country, it had continued to be denied opportunity to ascend to the highest political office in the land – the presidency.

To this end, politicians, especially in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), began showing interest with vigour in replacing the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, who exits office next May.

While the political class began to mount the campaigns, several other socio-political groups in the region, led by its apex body, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo maintained that there has been a rotational arrangement in the country that has ensured the movement of power between the north and south.

The Igbo groups held that since the incumbent president emerged from the north, power should move to the south. They had adduced that within the south, which is made up of southwest, south-south and south east; the southwest has had its turn in Olusegun Obasanjo (eight years); South-South, Goodluck Jonathan (six years) while the region (southeast) was yet to taste power. They therefore argued that it was the turn of the region to produce the next president come 2023.

Indeed, the tempo of the campaigns has increased in the PDP. Currently, no fewer than six people from the zone are gunning for the number one office from the party, notable among whom are a former Anambra governor, Peter Obi; a former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim; and former Pfizer Chairman, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa among others.

Anyim

However, much as the zone wants the number one office, there are concerns that the low level of commitment being shown by the leadership of the party in the region could be a clog in achieving the region’s goal.

In a statement at the weekend, an Igbo group, Equity for Ndigbo, raised the alarm over what it described as the “cold feet being shown in the struggle for presidency in 2023” by PDP governors in the region.

In the statement by its Coordinator, Nnamdi Ozoeze, the group accused Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state and his Abia state counterpart, Okezie Ikpeazu “of dancing different tunes from the rest of Igbo over the presidency project in the PDP.”

“These governors are busy supporting the presidential aspiration of Nyesom Wike of River state over those of their brothers in the PDP. It is a sacrilege that should not go unpunished. This is because, the southeast had supported the south-south when it was their turn and when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power. We did that not minding what it could result in. Today, however, rather than return that same affection, people of the south-south are contesting and our people are supporting them. It is sad commentary,” he stated.

Wike is the governor of Rivers state and has signified interest to contest the presidency on the platform of the PDP. His aspiration is said to have received the sympathy of the two PDP governors in the southeast region who are said to have contributed to his campaigns, jettisoning those of their brothers in the zone.

The Equity for Ndigbo had gone further to accuse Governor Ugwuanyi of “joining Wike in his campaigns within the southeast and outside the region”, adding that, “he has on two occasions received the same governor in Enugu and led him to Ebonyi to canvass for support. In the same vein, he has not openly received any presidential aspirant from the region. This shows opposition in a cause in which the generality of people have accepted that it was Igbo’s turn.”

For Ikpeazu, the group accused him of contributing to the campaign of Wike “even when many ministries and parastatals are owed several months of salaries, explaining that the governor had declined to receive “Ohuabunwa who is from Abia state and contesting the election. It shows how we have become our brother’s keeper”.

The group claimed that lecturers of the state polytechnic in Aba are being owed more than 30 months of salaries, same with nurses of the state teaching hospital who are owed 24 months; pensions of several years as well as those of lecturers of the state university in Uturu.

Buttressing the development, the Igbo Youth Assembly (IYA), which expressed disbelief and anger with the entire thing, said it was painful that people who ordinarily should be “regarded as members of Ime Obi Ohanaeze Ndigbo could betray the cause of Igbo in such sensitive matter.

Coordinator of the group, Cajetan Njoku, who disclosed that the Igbo had come to a point where its destiny should be decided “if it must continue to survive,” stressed that the present situation required the collective support of all and sundry.

What Role For IPOB    
While they continue to brood over the development, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), added a fresh dimension in the whole saga last week when it asked Nyesom Wike to steer clear of the southeast region in his campaign for presidency.

The development followed the visit of the River state governor to the Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty, Nnaemeka Achebe in continuation of his campaign to solicit support for his aspiration.

It was not the first time the Rivers governor was visiting the region. He had earlier visited Enugu where he met with party delegates from the state and intimated them of his intention. In a similar fashion, he visited Ebonyi state where he also asked party faithful to support his dreams.

If the IPOB had closed its eyes to those visits, that of the Obi of Onitsha could not be allowed to go unchallenged. The group had pointedly told Wike that he could engage other regions in the country in his presidential campaign bid but not the southeast.

They went further to threaten to deal with any southeasterner that would henceforth receive the presidential aspirant in his residence or found to relate with him.

Wike. Photo/ facebook/GovernorNyesomEzenwoWikeCON

Giving reasons for their action, IPOB’s media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful, insisted that the Wike had earlier denied being an Igboman.

He said, “IPOB will not take it lightly with any person who intend to host Nyesom Wike in the hinterland after the genocide in Obigbo after which he declared that he is not an Igboman. We are warning him. He had claimed that he is not Igbo and today he became an Igbo man because of political interest and votes he needs from Igbo land. Wike refused to understand that a time like this would come in his life.

“Is Wike coming to urinate on the graves of the Igbo youths slaughtered in Obigbo during the EndSARS protests? His visits to any Igbo state are highly provocative because some of the Igbo youths taken into several security cells in the Northern states are yet to return. Wike and his advisers should stop daring IPOB and Igbo youths.”

IPOB branded the governor a “hater of the Igbo”, insisting that he should retrace his steps in his own interest.

“Considering all his wickedness to Igbo youths at Obigbo in Rivers state, we declare that Wike has no moral ground to even contemplate to want to visit any part of Igbo land. He is, therefore, not welcome to any Igbo State. Wike cannot be coming to Igbo land to spit and dance on the graves of those unjustly slaughtered,” they said.

But Wike last Monday, rose in defence of his actions when he stated that he supports the agitation by the IPOB, but quickly added that he objects to the violence associated with the group.

“I support the agitations in the Southeast, whether anybody likes it or not, I do.” We should sit down and discuss it. I am a governor and you are telling me what has never happened and I should accept? Do you need to kill everybody in my area simply for me to say I am with you? And I say no, I won’t do that.”

The governor also faulted critics who berated him for saying he wasn’t supporting IPOB. He wondered where they were when he publicly supported the cause of their agitation against injustice in the region.

According to Wike, there is injustice and division in the country. He, however, insisted that the best way to protest against injustice wasn’t by killing innocent souls in the country.

When asked if IPOB poses a threat to him, the governor neither affirmed nor denied it. He said: “Why will they be a threat to me? It is because of the division in this country today. What pains me is that people take politics to think that I want to use this opportunity to fight this person.

There came a time IPOB was singing praises of Wike. This Nnamdi Kanu was singing praises (that) Wike is our son.”

At the moment, the River state governor has not made further campaign trips into Igboland. In the same vein, the southeast PDP governors who had accompanied him previously in his campaigns have not embarked on further campaigns since then.

Advancing Cause Of Igbo Presidential Aspirants In PDP
The uproar that has followed Wike’s presidential aspiration and the support it seems to be garnering in southeast does not, however, seems to have changed anything for the presidential aspirants of the PDP from the zone. The aspirants have continued with their campaigns, especially in other zones as if nothing has happened.

For instance, apart from the visits Obi, Anyim and Ohuabunwa made to the various chapters of the party in the zone earlier before now, nothing is on ground to suggest that the party is upbeat about their aspiration.

The party in the zone has only met once this year. That was, however, when Governor Ugwuanyi who is currently the zonal leader hosted the leadership at the government house, Enugu. The meeting, which though supported power shift, basically centered on ways of resolving their crisis in Anambra state as well as consolidation in Ebonyi state PDP.

A chieftain of the party, Jeremiah Nnamchi, told The Guardian that, “this is the best opportunity for Ndigbo to produce the next president of the country,” adding that “there should be a lot of activities to support the aspiration of our sons who are vying for the office in the PDP.”

Asked why it seemed that their consultations are being made outside the region than in the region, he stated that, “this is what it is supposed to be.

They are needed more outside than here at home but we should generate activities to support their efforts by telling the rest of the country that it is a collective aspiration.”

Apparently to raise the ante, last Friday, a foremost campaigner for Igbo presidency, ‘South East for President 2023 Movement (SEFORP2023)’ met in Enugu and adopted Ohuabunwa as its consensus presidential candidate in the PDP, and asked other aspirants from the party to support him.

National Coordinator of the group, Rev. Obioha Okechukwu, stated that the group would do same for Igbo aspirants in the APC, adding that ‘much later we shall gather to select the best from the two and present to Nigerians as Igbo consensus candidate.”