Enugu – Chieftains of Ohaneze Ndigbo are split over the purported endorsement of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Abubakar Atiku by the organisation.
It would be recalled that an arm of the organisation known as ‘Ime Obi’ arising from its meeting on Thursday, declared support for Atiku on the grounds that he was running with an Igbo man, Mr Peter Obi.
This endorsement is in clear contrast of earlier stance of the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation of not endorsing any of the presidential candidates.
However, a former Secretary General of the organisation, Chief Obiora Ozobu, described the move as a hoax and personal invention of the President General of the organisation, Chief Nnia Nwodo.
Ozobu, who disclosed this in Enugu on Thursday during a media briefing appealed to the people of the area to ignore the endorsement.
He described it as a mischievous act aimed at causing division among Ndigbo.
He said that Nwodo lacked the capacity to summon a meeting of ‘Ime Obi’ because his tenure as president general had lapsed.
He also wondered why such meeting was held on a day President Muhammadu Buhari was in Anambra and Enugu States for his presidential campaign when the Zik mausoleum was inaugurated.
He said that the leaders of the organisation were expected to participate actively in the inauguration ceremony of the project which was started 23 years ago but completed by Buhari.
Ozobu said that the meeting could be best described as a meeting of friends of Atiku and did not represent the wishes of the people of the area.
“The meeting is an attempt to perpetuate Nwodo in office. Granted that there were attempts to extend the tenure of Ohaneze executives to four but such has not materialised,” he said.
Also speaking, the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige described the move as unfortunate, adding that the endorsement of presidential candidates had never done anything good for Ndigbo.
Ngige said that Ohaneze as a socio-cultural organisation had no business endorsing a particular candidate.
The minister said that it was obvious that Nwodo had divided the organisation along party lines, adding that “we will fight this out.”
Former Enugu State governor, Mr Sullivan Chime noted that the said endorsement was done by those that had left office.
“It was not a meeting of Ohaneze Ndigbo but a meeting between Nwodo and his friends. Ohaneze has no business doing what that group did,” Chime said.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Geoffrey Onyeama, similarly said that it was inappropriate for such a meeting to hold at a time Buhari was in the South East for his campaign.
Onyeama described the purported meeting as a calculated attempt to exclude a significant number of the people from such gathering, assuming it was a meeting of Ohaneze.
“A significant number of the membership was not present at the meeting assuming it was a meeting of Ohaneze. So it is inappropriate to have a meeting of such magnitude,” Onyeama said.
Former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani, said that such position made no meaning to the people of the area.
“Our sons and daughters belong to many political parties and our people have never voted as a block but according to their conscience,” he said.
Nnamani said that such position was not in the best interest of the people and would not stand.
In a reaction, the Personal Assistant to the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Mr Emeka Attamah, said that everyone was entitled to their opinions.
Attamah said that Ohaneze Ndigbo had endorsed who they wanted, adding that the people kicking against it were members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said that it was misleading to say that the tenure of the executive members of the organisation was two years, adding that the constitution had been amended to reflect the current four-year tenure.
“The tenure is four years and they should go to court to contest,” Attamah said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that other chieftains of the organisation at the briefing are the Minister of Science and Technology, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu and Chief Osita Okechukwu among others.