So Ohaneze Has Endorsed Atiku? Before Nko?

By Jude Atupulazi

Suddenly the polity in Anambra State is all heated up. The Anambra State Government of Willie Obiano is up in arms against the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohaneze Ndigbo.

Reason? Obiano is angry that the umbrella body of Igbo groups endorsed the presidential ticket of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar/Peter Obi of PDP, ahead of the presidential election of February 16 this year.

Obiano is miffed that the Ohaneze did not play a fatherly role which ought to have seen it not favour any particular candidate or party. In case you don’t know, Obiano’s party, APGA, which has been flaunting its ”Igboness”, has a certain General John Gbor as its presidential standard bearer. John Gbor is however from Benue State. But there are other candidates of Igbo extraction and they are Kingsley Muoghalu and Oby Ezekwesili.

So Obiano is angry, very angry, that Ohaneze, not only endorsed Atiku/Obi, but did not consult him before making that choice.

To show how angry he was, he was reported to have called the President General of Ohaneze, Nnia Nwodo, on the phone and ”told him off”, describing Nwodo’s action as idiotic.

To this, Nwodo had reportedly replied thus: ‘Your Excellency Gov Obiano, I was surprised to receive a call from you a few minutes ago in which you said the following words, “Nnia, I didn’t know that you were so idiotic”.

Nnia had then continued, ‘I am shocked that you (Obiano) can be so insolent. I am sure that I was not so idiotic when I addressed your State Assembly, asking Ndi Anambra to disregard the IPOB boycott of your election nor was I idiotic when I pleaded with the Commander-in-Chief to restore your security details.

‘History will judge who amongst us is idiotic. If standing with the popular wish of Ndigbo makes me idiotic, I am happy to be called an idiot.

‘I will make this communication public so that Igbos will know who is idiotic amongst both of us,’ Nwodo said.

We had also read that it was Ohaneze’s highest decision making body, the Ime Obi, that took the decision to endorse Atiku/Obi. It predicated its reasons for the endorsement on Atiku’s promise to restructure Nigeria; something Buhari had not promised. Another reason that reportedly swayed Ohaneze towards Atiku/Obi was Atiku’s choice of Peter Obi, immediate past Anambra State governor.

But these reasons cut no ice with Obiano, who, through the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Solo Chukwulobelu, announced to the world that they were not part of the endorsement. He described the endorsement as ”A divisive trajectory capable of destabilizing Ndigbo”.

The state government had alleged many other things but I will not want to go through all that. I just want to look at the propriety or otherwise of the Ohaneze endorsement against the backdrop of the current state of affairs in the country as far as the Igbo Nation is concerned.

If you recall, on this very page some two weeks previously, I had made a clarion call to all, including priests, traders, professionals, touts, and everybody, to join hands in ensuring that Muhammadu Buhari goes back to Daura.

My reason was hinged on the failure of the Buhari Government to not only deliver on his promises, but his success in splitting the country along ethnic and religious lines, much the same way as the First Republic politicians did.

Under Buhari, the Igbo Nation heard ”Nwii”; that is, we saw hell. The Igbo Nation was marginalized and made to look as though they did not belong to Nigeria. He made policies that affected the businesses Igbos are known to do. His appointments excluded the Igbos, except those that are statutory as in the appointment of ministers. But perhaps the most embarrassing was the Southeast being the only region in the country that was not included in the so-called National Rail Project.

To think that the Igbos control commerce in the country and have such important industrial and commercial enclaves like Nnewi, Aba and Onitsha; places where the rail project should have been prioritized, excluding the entire region and including Buhari’s home town of Daura, was a slap in the face, as well as a humiliating experience.

Under Buhari, Ibeto Cement was muscled out so that only Dangote became the sole importer/manufacturer of cement and thereby solely determining the market price of cement.

As if that wasn’t enough, Innocent Chukwuma, chairman of INNOSON Motors, the first indigenous manufacturer of vehicles, was hounded and harassed by Buhari’s blood hounds, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over what was clearly a private matter between INNOSON and GT Bank. Despite INNOSSON winning all the court judgements on the matter, Buhari’s Federal Government turned a blind eye to them and went on to hound INNOSON. Yet, this is a man that the nation should have been celebrating, encouraging and supporting. But then, being an Igbo man, he committed a sin by succeeding where others failed.

Now, Buhari who has openly been showing hostility and coldness in equal measure to Ndigbo, is today prancing up and down and shouting to the roof tops for commissioning a tomb in Onitsha; something he did not even start. He flaunts that as his greatest achievement for which some people want us to vote massively for Buhari here. Yet, the same Buhari, while on a campaign tour of Oyo State, assured them that both the rail and road projects connecting them with Lagos would be completed before the end of this year!

This is the same Buhari that Gov Obiano has been begging to refund money used in building federal roads in Anambra State. While he’s loath to refund the money, he’s speedily completing the road and rail projects in Oyo State.

This is the same Buhari whose Fulani herdsmen brothers killed and maimed our people in Nimbo, Enugu State, without a single arrest being made, not to talk of prosecution. Yet, the same police and other security personnel who have failed to arrest the herdsmen across Nigeria, are quick to arrest Buhari’s political ”enemies”.

Now, the major issue in the country today is restructuring. Under restructuring, it is believed that every Nigerian will have the freedom and latitude to develop optimally and at their own pace, unlike the present scenario where some people work and others eat.

But Buhari is yet to say yes to restructuring and the reason is obvious. He and his people are comfortable with the status quo of master/servant relationship. Recall that he did not honour his promise of implementing the recommendations at the National Confab which would have made Nigerians feel equal and happy.

But whereas Buhari is foot dragging on the issue of restructuring, Atiku Abubakar, whose running mate is Igbo, has unequivocally promised to tackle restructuring. It was this readiness and assurance of Atiku to do this that finally swung the support of Ohaneze his way, according to what Ohaneze told us.

Now, one may argue that there are other Igbo people aspiring for the presidency which made the endorsement of Atiku uncalled for. But then, between me and you, we know that it is easier for Buhari to declare the Fulani herdsmen terrorists than for anyone of Moghalu or Ezekwesili to become the president of Nigeria any time soon.

Their parties have neither the funds nor the reach to achieve that. A vast majority of Nigerians do not even know the names of their parties. It is simply one thing to aspire and another thing to win. Indeed, to believe any of them can win is like believing that Gbor of APGA will be the next president.

Thus, the Ohaneze, peopled with pragmatic individuals, took a hard look at the chances of the candidates and decided to cast their lot with the ticket that holds the most promise and that ticket is that of Atiku/Obi. Anyone who doesn’t know this is either mischievous or foolish; or even both.

To prove the unlikelihood of these two winning, Oby Ezekwesili recently withdrew from the presidential race and this was before the Ohaneze made their choice. Now, would she withdraw if she knew she had chances of winning? So what would have happened if she had been chosen by Ohaneze?

Yes, one could argue that that decision amounted to putting our eggs in one basket, as Buhari would deal with us if he won again. But does that hold any water? I don’t think it does and here’s why.

Experience has shown that Ndigbo are a people marked for marginalization. This seems to have been elevated to a national policy. Thus, despite the efforts of Ndigbo to develop other places in the country, what they have always got is death and loss of property. So endorsing Buhari won’t change anything, so long as Buhari remains the man we have seen in his first tenure.

Again, to show that supporting Buhari does not amount to being in heaven if he wins, the Benue people massively voted for APC in 2015 and even produced an APC governor who defeated the PDP candidate. But did that stop the Fulani herdsmen from decimating the Benue population? What did Buhari do during that time? On a day that 72 Benue people killed by herdsmen were buried, Buhari did not come. He did not talk either. And worse still, to date the killers are yet to be apprehended and made to face the law. After their raw deal under APC, their governor had since run to PDP to seek refuge. In this coming election, the Benue people will not need to be told to vote against Buhari.

I believe there comes a time when a people should take a firm stand and damn the consequences. Buhari has been bad news to us as a people and like the leopard, will not change his spots. Rather than act subserviently and pretend to be rooting for him, like some people here are doing, we should show him plainly that we are unhappy with him. It is left to him to prove us wrong.

I do not therefore think that Ohaneze has done something very terrible; after all, they had previously at some points adopted other candidates. Even Obiano was endorsed by ASATU in 2017 and that time I did not hear anyone from his side complain that ASATU did not act like a father. If anything, that endorsement was more contentious because there were other equally good candidates.

If the truth must be told, Obiano is going against the popular wish of Ndigbo by obviously supporting Buhari. Not that I blame him though; he’s obviously trying to hit back on Obi for not supporting him in his own election. But he should be plain about it without confusing us with Gbor whose aspiration is seriously laughable.

Atiku/Obi ticket remains the only one with a fair chance of stopping Buhari whose near four years have been a disaster and on that premise, I support the stand of Ohaneze.

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