By Ben Agande, Tony Edike,Vincent Ujumadu, Inalegwu Shaibu & Victoria Ojeme
ABUJA—SENATORS from the South-East and other aggrieved Igbos, yesterday,condemned the lock out of former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme to abort the summit.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who briefed Senate Correspondents in his office Abuja described the lock out as anti-democratic and an infringement on the fundamental human rights of Dr. Ekwueme and other leaders affected.
Senators Nkechi Nwogu, Eyinnaya Abaribe, Ayogu Eze, Ayim Udeh, Emmanuel Onwe,Alphonsus Igbeke, Chris Anyanwu, and Osita Izunaso also condemned the kidnapping of school children in Aba, Abia State and called the abductors of the children to release them.
Senator Ekweremadu said: “This morning we were awakened to two disturbing news from the South_east. We are here to practically condemn those two matters.
“On the issue of lock out of political leaders who were at Owerri from what we consider a legitimate meeting, we found it very disturbing in a democracy.
“We have our Constitution which gives power to people to assemble freely and for us that is the hallmark of democracy. People must assemble freely and speak freely. A situation where people cannot assemble freely to articulate their views in a democracy is quite unacceptable in the South-east and any part of this country. We condemn it and we want to assure our people that we are going to find out the details of what happened.”
Ekweremadu said the South-East senators were working to unravel those behind the lock out adding: “This is just an interim measure. As we speak now we are getting in touch with the people to know what happened and we are assured that this won’t happen next time around. Not just that it wont happen in South east, we will ensure that it wont happen in any part of Nigeria. We will find out those behind it and we will make sure those behind it are brought to book.”
Ekwueme, others condemn attempt to abort summit
Former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, condemned the disruption of the Igbo Political Summit held in Owerri, by security agents saying all citizens of Nigeria should be free to express their opinion on any issue that affects them.
Ekwueme who was visibly embarrassed by the action of the security agents,declared that the nation was seriously threatened by the refusal of the Igbos to hold a dialogue session on their political future and to chart a way forward.
He said: “As citizens of Nigeria, every person has the right to express his or her own point of view on any political issue. Igbos gathered here to brainstorm in the interest of Ndigbo and how we can unite and work towards the 2011 election. We did not come to endorse Okeke or Okafor as presidential candidate. So I can not understand why anybody should be against our gathering today.”
Former civilian Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, described the shabby treatment meted out to the Igbo leaders as very disturbing saying if other summits held elsewhere in the country were allowed, there was no reason to stop the Igbo summit which was convened to decide the political future of
”No reason for insult’
Nwobodo said: “Other summits had been held and nobody disturbed them. We see no reason for this insult,” adding that the insinuation that the Igbo leaders were there to endorse a candidate for presidency was an insult to the sensibility of Ndigbo.
He noted: “How can we come out to endorse a candidate? Are we mad? They are insulting us by saying that we want to endorse a particular candidate, that is not the purpose for this forum. The whole thing shows that something is wrong.
There have been many summits and rallies and nobody has been disturbed. If others are free to do their own thing, they should allow us to sit down and discuss.
“The security men said they were acting on orders from above. It is unfortunate that this should happen at the present stage of our democracy.”
A former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige said: “On my way to this function I got a text message from somebody in Abuja that I am trying to attend an anti_Jonathan summit. That everybody you see here are people who are saying that Jonathan will not win the PDP primaries. I now decided to continue my journey because I know I don’t belong to the PDP, I am of the Action Congress of Nigeria. So there is nothing I can do about Jonathan’s primaries.
“We are here to deliberate on how to save our people from the looming slavery.
We are here to distill ideas that will liberate our people. Our people have no future in the political structure of Nigeria as presently constituted.”
Ezeife condemns the lock out
In his reaction, former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemaka Ezeife, described the situation as “unfair treatment and wrong doing on this great people”, adding that they have the right to stand by what they feel is good for the region and the country.
Ezeife said: “I see no reason why the Imo State government should stop prominent people of the region from participating at a function that was meant to take decisions for the benefit of the Igbos. Those that were locked out were going to attend a conference called by the supporters of president Goodluck Jonathan.”
He explained how he and political leaders of the region made efforts to take a stand on their choice of presidential candidate for 2011 election, and how their efforts were frustrated by those who felt that Jonathan should not continue in office.
Chief Osita Obi who is the chairman of Environment Watch, told Vanguard that agents of President Goodluck Jonathan were behind what he called the Owerri show of shame, adding that the President has been causing confusion and tension in the country because of his 2011 presidential ambition.
He urged the President to step down for a candidate from the North to complete their tenure which would end in 2015.
Obi who held that the Jonathan presidency would jeopardize the chances of Ndigbo in 2015, added that by the zoning arrangement that had been put in place by the ruling party, the hitherto confused situation and marginalization of some sections of the country was being addressed until the ambition of President Jonathan surfaced.
He said: “The Igbo leaders were in Owerri to chart a new course for their people and there was nothing wrong in that because for a long time, they had been bench warmers in the nation’s politics. They were not there to endorse any candidate as was being speculated.
“This unwarranted treatment was very unfortunate and the Environment Watch will continue to fight for the cause of Ndigbo until anomalies in the system are properly addressed.”
Chieftain of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Pius Okoli, told Vanguard, it was regrettable that the development came at a time the people of the South East region were beginning to see a ray of hope in the attempt to correct imbalances that had existed over the years.
He observed that there had been similar meetings in the country since the issue of the 2011 elections took the front burner and wondered why the Owerri meeting would be different.
Presidency denies involvement
Meanwhile, the Presidency “strongly repudiated” perceptions in certain quarters that it was behind the alleged disruption of the Igbo Political Stakeholders Conference in Owerri on Monday.
Mr. Niboro, in a statement said: “It is hard to know what purpose could be served by such an action, only hours after the governors of the zone had across party lines, solidly endorsed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as their candidate in the 2011 elections.
“It is instructive to note than only a day before, Speakers of the zone had similarly endorsed Dr. Jonathan for President. It is intriguing that the President is being accused of disrupting the event, when in actual fact; key members of the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign Council were there in high profile attendance.”
The statement said the Presidency placed on record that “the President frowns at any and every abridgement of the fundamental rights of Nigerians, “adding: “It is also important to urge a measure of circumspection on all of today’s gladiators. The president seeks politics of issues, and of healthy debate; notof name calling and unfounded allegations.”