*Talks held under the sun amidst heavy security
*Igbos insist on presidency in 2015
By Ochereome Nnanna & Tony Edike
OWERRI — SECURITY operatives, yesterday, chained the Banquet Hall of Hotel Concorde, Owerri venue, of the Igbo Political Stakeholders Conference 2010 and prevented Igbo political leaders led by former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, from entering the venue.
They said their action was based on “orders from above” just as the management of the Imo State Government-owned hotel said they had instructions not to allow the conference to hold at the venue.
Vanguard learnt that the organizers had paid N100,000 two weeks before the scheduled date of the event.
The lock-out marked the climax of a series of intrigues which started on Friday, September 24, 2010 when the Secretary of the Igbo Political Forum, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu, was whisked away by security operatives at the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri and was allegedly detained at the State Security Service, SSS offices for five hours before being allowed to go.
Although the security operatives prevented the summit from holding in the Banquet Hall, the Igbo leaders decided to hold the summit on the hotel’s lawns under the blazing sun.
Among those present were Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Senator Ken Nnamani, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Senator Ben Obi, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Professor George Obiozor, Professor A.B.C. Nwosu, Rtd AVM Canice Umenwaliri, Rtd AVM Luku Ochulor, Prince B.B. Apugu, Prof. Mrs. Chinwe Obaji, Chief Dubem Onyia, Dr. Chris Ngige, Chief Achike Udenwa, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Udenta O. Udenta and former Speaker House of Representatives, Chief Agunwa Anaekwe.
Others were Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa of the Anglican Province on the Niger, Chief Willy Ezeugwu, National Secretary of CNPP and Chief Theodore Nwanne.
Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, in his speech, said that the purpose of the meeting was to enable all Igbos to speak their minds freely and not to support any candidate or political party after which a decision would be made for the Igbo nation.
He expressed dismay that Igbos would be denied their rights to discuss their political future in Igbo land, saying the development portended great danger to the declared commitment to a free and fair election in 2011.
Prevailing political atmosphere
Chairman of the Igbo Political Forum, Chief Simeon N. Okeke traced the activities of the forum in shaping the prevailing political atmosphere to when former President Umar Yar’Adua became incapacitated.
He observed: “When at the heat of the controversy and debate as to whether Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan would be sworn in as Acting President or not and our South East Governors responded negatively, again using the South East Consultative Forum, we came up once again to counter their view and held on to our conviction that Nigeria will not be ruled from Saudi Arabia and that Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should be sworn in as Acting President.
“Using this same vehicle of South East Consultative Forum, our delegation comprising Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Rev. Dr. William Okoye and myself, went to the then acting President requesting for strategic ministries to our Igbo ministers; a halt to the worrisome trend of replacing our chairmen and directors_general of Federal parastatals and appointing non_Easterners in their places.”
Okeke said the summit was not for one person to speak for all but for everybody to speak their mind on what is the best for the Igbo people 50 years after the independence and 40 years after the civil war.
Noting that some Igbo supporters of the Jonathan for Presidency project held their summit in Enugu in August without any harassment, Okeke wondered why a summit of the Igbo people would be an exception in which the full weight of the state power would be mobilized to thwart them in their bid to assert their rights to discuss and take a common position on their political future.
Others who spoke at the occasion included Chief Jim Nwobodo, Prof Mrs. Chinwe Obaji, Dr. Chris Ngige, Chief Chyna Iwuanwanwu and others.
Efforts to contact Governor Ikedi Ohakim and other state officials on the development were unsuccessful as the governor and some of his officials were away to Abuja.
However, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Henry Ekpe, who exonerated the governor from the lockout of the Igbo leaders, said: “I learnt that the security agencies moved in to safeguard lives and property based on numerous petitions they received from the various factions of the group that held the summit. The security agents may have taken that step to prevent breakdown of law and order. I can say categorically that the so-called order from above did not come from the government.”
Igbos quest for presidency in 2015
However, in the communiqué released at the end of the summit, the Igbo leaders vowed “we will not be deterred” in their determination to ensure that an Igbo man must be president of Nigeria in 2015 and that they are open to ideas and offers from any part of Nigeria that would lead to the emergence of an Igbo man as president of Nigeria in 2015.
The forum arrived at the following resolutions at the conference:
1.The conveners of the conference condemn the attempt made to abort it, frown at this creeping culture of arbitrariness and impunity, and warn that Nigeria’s democracy is under grave threat if this kind of undemocratic and intolerant attitude is not reined in quickly.
2. Conveners of the conference have also resolved to bring the current unsavoury situation to the attention of the relevant Nigerian authorities, and all regional and international organisations Nigeria belongs to (ECOWAS, AU, UN, etc). The conveners have also resolved to draw the attention of the major diplomatic missions in Nigeria to this development, as well as the international agencies supporting Nigeria’s democratic transition.
3. The conveners of the conference have also resolved that the Igbo 2015 presidency project is non_negotiable and maintain that the equality of the zones must be achieved through the creation of a sixth state in the South_east under special constitutional regime as was done in the case of the Doctrine of Necessity that elevated Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to the position of Acting President and as may be accomplished given the INEC’s request for extension of time to conduct the 2011 general elections.
4. The conveners of the conference also resolved that Political Action Committees be set up in all Igbo states, local governments and wards that will educate our people, popularise Igbo political emancipation and survival ideas and drive the key agendas captured in resolution 3 above.
5. The conveners of the conference further call on Ndigbo to seize the opportunity provided by the upcoming voters registration exercise to ensure that over 20 million Igbo voters are registered. The achievement of this objective will be a clear message that a demographic majority in Nigeria will never be reduced to a political minority. Not ever.