The presidential election, with the two main political parties,Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, and All Progressives Congress,APC, has proved to be one which will be keenly contested by both parties. As things are, no political pundit can beat his chest as to which party will emerge victorious at the polls.
Against this backdrop, the candidates have been falling over themselves to get the endorsement of various socio-cultural groups to boost their chances come March 28. In this interview, the General Secretary of the apex Igbo group,Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Joe Nworgu, speaks on why there is seeming crisis rocking the body even as reveals the reasons behind President Jonathan’s endorsement. Excerpts…
BY FRANCIS IGATA
What is the problem with the splinter group, led by Chief Mbazuruike Amaechi, over Ohanaeze leadership?
Their grouse has nothing to do with Ohanaeze leadership. Chief Amaechi is an insider in Ohanaeze. He has been consistent with the workings of Ohanaeze. So he knows the correct position on the tenure issue because he partook in the three meetings that led to the amendment of the Ohanaeze constitution where the tenure was amended from two to four years.
I am talking of the meetings of the Imeobi (the Elders Council) of 14 August,30 October and the General Assembly all in 2010 under the former President General,Chief Ralph Uwechwe. He was an active participant for tenure change from two to four years. So his stance now has nothing to do with Ohanaeze or the interest of Igbo.
The other two characters in their acclaimed Caretaker Committee of Ohanaeze,Ralph Obioha and Zed Chukwujama, are totally outside Ohanaeze. It is true that every Igboman is a member of Ohanaeze. But they have not been active participants in the activities of Ohanaeze. In the last 15 years, I cannot remember of any committee they served Ohanaeze in, apart from the Reparation Committee,which is ad-hoc. That Reparation Committee is where these three people belong to.
We gave Amaechi the free hand to choose some of the people he wanted to be the committee’s members, with him as Chairman. It was at the meeting leading to the just concluded Confab, that their interest became known. He pressurised us to go to the governors and query why they should be the people to appoint Ohanaeze slots. We said no,we will not confront the governors. It would mean that we are setting out as a divided group. Whoever went there should not be the concern.
We already have the document of what the Igbo people want. We had successfully presented that document to the Advisory Committee Chairman led by Senator Okunrounmu. Every person hailed the content of the document because it contained all the necessary ingredients for the convocation of a National Conference. Amaechi has been very angry because he did not participate in the Confab. We did not want to show division in the Igbo flanks. All the things you hear them say about Ohanaeze is hearsay. What they are saying is from a position of total ignorance.
Now that it is clear that Ohanaeze has endorsed the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan, can you tell us the reason behind his adoption?
We endorsed President Jonathan’s re-election. You have to go back to 2010 when we first endorsed him to understand our stance.
The reason for the endorsement then was the presidential election and zoning. Therein, we argued that there are two zones in the federation of six geopolitical zones. The South-South and South-East, which had never occupied the plum seat of the presidency. There are zones in this country which have produced presidents three to four times. We said that it was the turn of those who had not produced, to produce based on equity, justice and fair play.
Since the South-South and South-East were the two zones yet to produce the President, in 2010 we backed the South-South because the oil resources that sustains the country come from them. So they should be allowed to occupy the seat in an unbroken succession. It will equally give room for minority tribes to have a chance of occupying the seat. Based on that,since Jonathan was already a sitting President from the South-South,we said we are going to support him for re-election.
But after the South-South,it will be the turn of the South-East that has never produced a President in an unbroken succession based on equity and fair play. We believe in justice and equality of all zones in the country. That is the reason for his endorsement. This time around, we endorsed him further because he was able to convoke a proper National Conference which no past President has done in the history of the country. Jonathan had the will-power, forthrightness to convoke a proper Confab.
That is one of the legacies his administration has left behind. We want that Confab report implemented. Ohanaeze stands on the implementation of that report. Jonathan in the firmament is the only person that can implement the report because his integrity is tied to it. That is the legacy he must leave as a man of history. He must implement that report.
To us, between the APC candidate and that of PDP,we think Jonathan is more likely to implement it. At the Confab,all political parties had two slots, it was only APC that did not send a representative. Certain zones during the build up did not want the Confab to hold. Their position is nefarious and anti-other zones.
They wanted the status quo to remain which is the cause of all the frictions in the country. The present structure breeds corruption and tension. The Confab addressed all these challenges and there was consensus which is the first step towards building a formidable Nigeria. Based on that, Ndigbo believes in one Nigeria, fair play, justice. Ndigbo think that Jonathan, having convoked the Confab,is in conscience,bound to implement the report.