- Apex group insists Ndigbo hasn’t decided to support any candidate
At a recent retreat for the South- East and South-South traditional rulers held in Enugu, prominent Igbo son, Engr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, openly stated that Ndigbo would not ascend the presidency after 2019, saying that the race is ill-prepared for it.
He, therefore, said that the Igbo should support President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, adding that when he leaves in 2019 power should return to the North. This has, however, not gone down well for Ohanaeze Ndigbo which has faulted him, saying that power must come to the Igbo after Jonathan in an unbroken succession.
The Secretary General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Joe Nwaorgu, who spoke to Saturday Sun after the inauguration of the women’s wing of the organisation in Enugu, said that when the time comes, the President-General of Ohanaeze would make pronouncement on who the Igbo should support in 2015 for the presidency. He also spoke with the duo of CHINEDU ASADU and IFEOMA IGWE about former Governor Peter Obi’s defection to the PDP and other national issues. Excerpts:
As the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Secretary General, how would you describe your experience so far on the activities of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisataion?
I am an old hand in Ohanaeze. I used to be the deputy secretary-general from 2000 to 2004, so I have undergone tutelage. Having been equipped with much experience, the road has been sailing smoothly but not always. No organisation is all rosy, even the human family. An organisation is a necessity, especially in a structure like Nigeria that comprises ethnic groups that were not consulted before they were clamped into a nation. Hence the Hausas have theirs, the Arewa Consultative Forum; Yorubas have theirs, Afenifere; the Igbos, Ohanaeze; the Ijaws have Ijaw National Congress; same with the Middle Belt. When we achieve nationhood, the influence will subside but under the present circumstance, it is a necessity.
Recently, at a forum organised by Igbo traditional rulers which Ohanaeze officials including you attended, a prominent Igbo son, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, stated that no Igbo man will contest for the presidency after Jonathan, what is your take on this?
Ohanaeze has not taken a different position. In 2011, we clearly stated that after the tenure of the South-South, it will be the turn of the South-East in an unbroken succession. It will take an Imeobi and a General Assembly to alter that decision and that has not been done. So, at the moment, the position still holds. When the South-South finishes its tenure, then it will be only the South-East that has not produced the number one person in this country. If Jonathan wins, since he has agreed to run on behalf of his party, PDP, it means he will spend four years, making it eight years the South-South has been in power. So, after the South-South, it will be the South-East in an unbroken succession, that is, our position.
When we get to the bridge, we will cross it; in the present circumstances we will wait for the South-South to complete its tenure.
The 2015 general election is just few months away, what is the view of Ohanaeze as regards the election year?
Generally, I like the developments so far. What we are emphasizing on is zoning so that all components will fill a part of the whole. Peter Obi did it in Anambra by zoning to the North that had not produced a governor. Governor Sullivan Chime has also taken such a good decision by saying it is the turn of Enugu North. Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi has also done the same thing, saying power should shift to the South. Governor Theodore Orji, who is the Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum, also did it. So, this is a welcome development in the South-East. That is what we have been emphasizing. That is why we said after the South-South, it should then become the turn of the South-East so that all zones would have produced a president. I thank the governors of the South-East for that and I want them to maintain that stand because we cannot be against zoning at home and argue about zoning at national politics.
Has Ohanaeze begun any mobilization for a candidate that it thinks will have the interest of Ndigbo in 2015?
We have not mobilised Ndigbo towards a candidate, but we have mobilised Ndigbo by asking them to register en masse during the electoral registration exercise. Recently, we were in the North asking all the leaders of the organisations and all the Igbo to stay where they reside and register there so as to enable them to vote. Finally, all Igbo will be ready for an election after we conclude consultations with the major Igbo stakeholders and Ohanaeze will take a stand on the candidate we should support. We did that in 2010/11 and the Igbo supported President Goodluck Jonathan en masse. We can’t make any pronouncement now because we have not finalised our consultations. We are following the trend. When the consultations are concluded, Imeobi will sit to take a decision. Once the general assembly takes a decision, the President General will make it known. Then Ndigbo should vote for the person during the presidential election. For the state elections, Ohanaeze Ndigbo will not take a decision because anybody who will arise next in the state is an Ohanaeze person and they are all our sons and daughters. We don’t take stands on states, local governments or even the Senate. They are basically Igbo, but at the national level, the Igbo will take a decision and back one candidate en masse.
Some people have posited that Obi’s defection to the PDP will rub off negatively on the interest of Ndigbo in the belief that APGA is the only strong Igbo party which even the late Ojukwu supported, what is your opinion on that?
First and foremost, Ikemba did not form APGA, he was brought into APGA by Justice Eze Ozobu; APGA was put together by the activities of Chekwas Okorie and Engr Chris Okoye. The entry of Ojukwu into APGA gave it a wider visibility to the members. That is the historical fact because I took part in the activities leading to APGA being an Igbo party. Nobody says APGA should not be, but we are discussing national politics. APGA is not strong enough to make an impact at the national politics. At this point in time, they should re-engineer themselves so that by the time it gets a strong home-base support, it can now be used as a negotiating tool. The party is not strong enough because there has been too much rancour in it. Peter Obi described it as ‘an empty shell’ now. He went ahead to say that the problem with APGA is the chairman, Chief Victor Umeh. Chekwas, the founder of APGA, has moved out of APGA and has a party known as UPP. What I think is that APGA and UPP should come together and remobilise and strategize their movement. Peter Obi, while replying Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca, said that he kept all the promises he made to Ojukwu. I don’t know the promises; I don’t want to get into the saga. At this point, I am interested in the Igbo interest in the national polity. Igbo interest is superior to the antics of one individual. Igbo interest is a collective will and in the future, any personal thing must subside in our corporate worldview. What affects all of us today and in the future is Igbo interest.
My advice to Ndigbo is that every Igbo man should read the political barometer clean and clearly. There should be no rascality. This is a very dicey time for Ndigbo because the nation is at crossroads. They must take a firm decision and push the political wheel where it should go because they have the strength in terms of population. So, when we find a candidate that will be in Igbo interest then we will vote en masse for the person. For now, we are yet to decide.