. . . Gives Reasons for Decision
By Jude Atupulazi
Those not happy with the decision of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohaneze, to adopt the Atiku/Obi presidential ticket will have to live with it as it is irreversible. The chairman of Ohaneze in Anambra State, Chief Damian Okeke Ogene, stated this in the aftermath of the condemnation of the decision by the Anambra State Government, reports Jude Atupulazi.
It will be recalled that following the decision of the Ime Obi Ohaneze, the highest decision making arm of the body, to endorse the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Peter Obi, the Anambra State Government had distanced itself from the decision on the grounds that it was not consulted.
At a press conference in Awka, the state government accused the Ohaneze of bias and said the state government was not going to be party to the endorsement.
But speaking exclusively to Fides in Awka, the chairman of Ohaneze, Anambra State Chapter, Chief Damian Ogene, said the decision which was arrived at following due process, was irreversible and wondered how those who had benefitted from such endorsement in the past could now turn round to oppose a similar decision.
Giving reasons for the endorsement of the Atiku/Obi ticket, Ogene said that it was Atiku, out of the major candidates, that was able to convince them of his commitment to the restructuring of the country which formed the basis of the Ekwueme Declaration in Awka last year.
Speaking about the due process that was followed, he also noted that a committee headed by Prof Chukwuma Soludo had made three recommendations viz: that Ohaneze should remain neutral; that it could join other ethnic bodies to support a candidate that would support restructuring and that it appeared that support was tilting towards a candidate that supported restructuring.
Based on that, Ogene stated, the Ohaneze decided to endorse the Atiku/Obi ticket, while he noted that Atiku’s choice of Obi and the fact that he had an Anambra wife, made it easier for the body to pitch tents with him.
He said that this was not the first time the body was endorsing candidates. He recalled that in the Second Republic, Ohaneze had endorsed Shagari whose running mate was the late Alex Ekwueme, despite the fact that the late Nnamdi Azikiwe of then Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, was running.
He also recalled that Ohaneze had endorsed Emeka Ojukwu against Obasanjo in 2003 and that though Ojukwu came third and APGA’s mandate stolen in Anambra, Ohaneze was part of the effort that recovered that mandate.
Ogene also said the Ohaneze under Uwechue, had endorsed Goodluck Jonathan and that after that, under Igariwei, the relationship between Jonathan and then Gov Peter Obi was facilitated.
He also recalled that ASATU had held a rally at Ekwueme Square, Awka, where they endorsed Gov Willie Obiano for second term and met with town unions to drum up support for zoning formula for senate and governorship.
‘So some people who benefitted from endorsement are today kicking against it,’ he said.
Ogene said that although Obiano was against the recent endorsement, he should respect it as the decision had been taken, while he called on him to let the voters decide who they wanted.
He corrected that impression that it was the president of Ohaneze, Nnia Nwodo, that took the decision alone, noting that it was taken by the entire Ime Obi.
Ogene recalled how the Ohaneze had obliged the minister of labour, Chris Ngige, when he pleaded with the Ohaneze to shift the time of their meeting to four O’clock so that they could be through with the commissioning of Zik’s Mausoleum.
He said that after waiting for over an hour, the elders at the meeting asked for the meeting to go ahead as some of them would travel back to their states. It was then that the decision was taken.
Ogene said the support for Atiku could be interpreted as a suicidal decision, as no one knew who would win the election. He said the Ohaneze was however ready to take whatever it happened, noting that Ndigbo had always not been happy with Buhari who had done little for them.
He therefore said the endorsement of Atiku would give opportunity to those close to Buhari to urge him for a change of attitude to the Igbos who were not happy with him.
He noted that Buhari had been silent on the issue of restructuring, while denying opportunities to the Igbos.
He said this was not the first time Igbos had rejected Buhari, recalling the two occasions Buhari had Igbo running mates in Edwin Ume-Ezeoke and Chuba Okadigbo but still lost votes in the Southeast.
‘The Igbos are not happy with Buhari and our support for Atiku should tell him that. Those close to him should ask him to change his attitude towards us. We are ready to take whatever comes,’ he said.
Ogene however sued for peace in Anambra despite the misunderstanding between Ohaneze and Obiano who he praised for coming to the rescue of Ohaneze in the past by hosting the Igbo Day and Southeast Summit.
While also thanking Rochas Okorocha for his support, Ogene said despite the support of the two men, the family could still disagree on issues, as in the present case.