The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor has implored the youths in the Southeast of Nigeria to shun ethnic chauvinism as the 2023 general election draws closer.
The top Southeast socio-cultural group’s advice is in reaction to a press release issued by an Igbo youth group under the aegis of the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL).
The group had in a press release, “warned groups and individuals promoting the presidential ambition of Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu to stay clear of the zone.”
But in a communique issued by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze said “it is a political self-immolation and indeed highly unreflective for COSEYL to embark on a misstep that may diminish the Igbo patina for inter-ethnic friendliness.”
While admitting the inalienable rights of individuals and groups to show their views on national issues, Ohanaeze however urged that such rights should not affect the rights of other Nigerian citizens.
“Clarification is made that each of the presidential candidates has every right to campaign and canvass for votes in all parts of the country.
“In other words, since the presidential candidates of the Southeast or Igbo extraction enjoy untrammeled access and mass followership in other geopolitical zones of the country, it is a political self-immolation and indeed highly unreflective for COSEYL to embark on a misstep that may diminish the Igbo patina for inter-ethnic friendliness.
“Emphasis is further drawn that the statement by the COSEYL is at variance with the Igbo character of liberality, hospitality, frontier spirit and accommodation of diverse interests. The Southeast constituency has sufficient political awareness or enlightenment to assess the presidential candidates as they visit the Southeast to market their manifestos and canvass for votes.
“As we celebrate the International Youth Day with the theme- generational solidarity; it is necessary that as leaders of tomorrow, instead of an archaic and implacable adherence to prosaic ethnic indulgences, it is much better to develop an inter-ethnic solidarity with an encompassing national ideology into which the productive energies of the youths from diverse parts of the country will coalesce. This is the ideal”, Ogbonnia said.
He noted that it is a subversion of democratic process and also a potent source of national issues for candidates to perceive threats or hostility from groups within the country.
“While we share in the passion and grievances of the Igbo youth, maturity is still needed in our political activism to eschew ultra-ethnic chauvinism,” the Ohanaeze spokesman counseled.
Ohanaeze National Vice President (Southeast), Ichie Damian Okeke -Ogene, also berated the controversial remarks. He noted that as a socio-cultural organization, they are for everyone.
He said they were not politicians and did not delve into it, stating that every presidential candidate would get the blessings of Ohanaeze, if they seek it.
He said, “ Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of APC, Mr Peter Obi of LP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP and others are our sons and respected leaders in Nigeria and any of them are free to come to Igbo land to campaign without any interference .
“It is wrong for anyone or group to pronounce that they are banned from entering their father’s land. Such a statement is unfair and should be condemned.”
Okeke -Ogene, stated that the national body of the Igbo group had not and would never direct any of its members to make such a statement, adding that whoever did so was on his or her own and did not represent Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
In his words, another Igbo leader, Nze Modestus Umenzekwe, told Newsmen in a telephone interview that such statements should be berated in its totality.
Umenzekwe noted that such divisive statements should be avoided by persons or groups.
He emphasized that Nigeria is for everybody, noting that every presidential candidate for the 2023 election is free to visit all the six geo-political zones in the nation.
“No sound mind can make such a statement against the finest Nigeria leaders. Those presidential candidates are well respected and therefore, have every right to visit any state or zone in the country “ Umenzekwe said.
Secretary-General of the factional Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide,Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, cautioned against campaign of calumny, violence, and provocative menace against the presidential candidate of the APC, Sen Bola Ahmed Tinubu. His words: “Ndigbo has an unrestricted culture of accommodation and warm receptions for neighboring states and visitors from far and wide. As travelers, we welcome our visitors with open arms and politics will never change our ways of reasoning and reflections.
“We appeal to the southeast youths and supporters of presidential candidates to eschew violence and shun attempts to take laws into their own hands by issuing empty threats or using health issues as an instrument of blackmail in the presidential campaigns against anyone.
”We speak in the background of threats of the commotion and violence issued against Sen Bola Tinubu. We are aware of the fact that Igbo youths have been shortchanged by the way the Federal Government has empowered youths from other zones excluding the southeast youths, and it’s an open secret that southeast has been at the receiving end of Federal Government’s policies and programmes since 2015, and we appeal for a truce and allow peace to reign.”
He advised that the 2023 campaigns should be issue based and not on blackmail and trivial matters, “ Ndigbo is open to receiving all presidential candidates. We will receive all of them unrestricted, and interface with them and take decisions before the elections. We will weigh all options in the eyes of being sidelined for seven years by the Federal Government. Presidential candidates should not be parochial with any zone or ignore any region during their campaigns.”
Also speaking, a former president of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, in Imo State, Dr. Ezechi Chukwu disclosed that nobody has the right to prevent any presidential candidate from campaigning for votes in any state of the country.
He said: “Nigeria no matter how anybody looks at it, is a democratic nation whether it is in principle or in practice. You can see that the Constitution of Nigeria provides for a democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of association. So, nobody has the right to stop any Nigerian from going to any part of Nigeria to campaign and also to win the presidency of Nigeria. Any candidate who stands for an election at that level and succeeds with the Nigerian presidency must have the requisite capacity to transcend all over the country.
”So, asking any presidential candidate not to, canvass for votes in the South East is tantamount to anti democracy and politically reductionist fallacy. I don’t know the group in question, but I reiterate that nobody has any right to stop any Nigerian from going to canvass for vote in any part of the country. So, embarking on such is tantamount to anti democracy. Of course that cannot lead to any desired goal.
”So if a group or some groups of Igbo youths are saying the APC candidate should not come and canvass for votes in the South East, indirectly, they are also sending signals that the other ethnic nationalities are not to also accept any Igbo candidate who is canvassing for their votes elsewhere, so they need to understand that politics is all about give and take. Politics is all about common goals and mutual goodwill.
”So, barring the APC candidate from campaigning in the South East is doing a disservice to democracy itself and by implication they are also sending signals to other ethnic groups in the country not to allow any Igbo candidate from various political parties to come and campaign in their own states too.
”I think such a decision or such thinking is not in the interest of the Igbo nation. Igbo nation is not anti-Tinubu, anti-Atiku, Igbo nation is not anti-anybody”.