The promise made by some Igbo leaders on Wednesday to support the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, in the forthcoming 2019 election has split the South-East.
The Igbo leaders spoke in Enugu after a meeting where elder statesman, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, urged on them to do him the honour of achieving Atiku’s success.
“In conclusion, the summit reiterated that the time is now for Ndigbo to mobilise and organise effectively to realise the Atiku/Obi ticket,” a communique issued after the meeting had read.
But the leadership of Igbo World Union on Friday said the people of the South-East had yet to decide on which direction to vote in 2019, while the United Progressives Party and an Igbo group called Igboezuo also announced the adoption of President Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate for the 2019 polls.
The National Chairman, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, spoke with State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
Okorie, who doubles as the coordinator of Igboezue, said the group had adopted Buhari because it believed that doing so would pave the way for the emergence of an Igbo President in 2023.
“It is not good that the Igbo nation has put all their eggs in one basket for 16 years. In spite of this, Buhari has not stopped development in the zone. This is the time to get them to earn Igbo Presidency by voting for him in 2019,” he added.
Asked whether the adoption of Buhari did not conflict with the Enugu declaration, where some Igbo leaders already adopted Atiku, Okorie replied that it was not the Ndigbo that declared support for Atiku.
He claimed that there was no time the Ohanaeze Ndigbo met to endorse Atiku.
Okorie said, “Only four founding members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo are alive today and we have never met to endorse Atiku.
“We are poised to change the narrative. Just as Zik and Igbo leaders led Igbo people into coalition in the First and Second Republics, that is what Igboezue is determined to do now.”
Meanwhile, Buhari who is the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, said he would win the election in the South-East despite Atiku’s endorsement.
Buhari, who spoke through the spokesperson of his campaign organisation, Mr. Festus Keyamo, told one of our correspondents that the South-East had been benefitting from the infrastructure renewal programme of the present administration.
He spoke ahead of the campaigns towards the 2019 elections scheduled to begin on Sunday.
Buhari said some people from the geopolitical zone who took the decision to go against the President must have based their decision on lies being peddled against the administration.
He said once the campaigns start, efforts would be made to make the people of the zone to understand the truth.
He said, “Most of the things the respected Prof. Nwabueze must have used as a foundation to make that statement, the narratives are not correct when faced with hard facts.
“For instance, President Buhari has injected a lot in infrastructure in the South-East within a short time more than any of the previous presidents.
“I have been saying it that there is no President that has concentrated development in the South-East as much as this President within a short time.
“Within this short time, for instance, they got a fair share of the N100bn Sukuk bond. Each zone was given over N16bn each and the South-East got its fair share.
“Again, the President had to create special funds for the Second Niger Bridge which is the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund. They are funding the Second Niger Bridge from a special fund and that’s the kind of heart he has for the South-East. But the PDP on Friday described Atiku’s endorsement in the South-East as “a manifestation of the trajectory that awaits him in all the geopolitical zones across the country.”
But the President-General, IWU, Mishak Nnanta, told journalists in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital on Friday, that both Buhari and Atiku stood the chance of winning bloc votes from the zone if any of them met their demands.
Nnanta said, “Ndigbo have not decided on which direction to vote in 2019, be it the PDP or the APC presidential candidate, and no fewer individuals or stakeholders should mortgage the political future of Ndigbo as they did in 2015.
“So the Igbo World Union as the dependable body of Ndigbo in general did not support the stand of our elders who gathered in Enugu on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 and unanimously endorsed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the preferred presidential candidate of the people of the South-East in the forthcoming election.
“We distance ourselves from such stand and categorically want to use this opportunity to state that Ndigbo have not endorsed any presidential candidate be it President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC or Alhaji Atiku of the PDP. At the right time, we shall gather and make our stand known to the whole world.”
Nnanta said people of the zone were ready to negotiate either with the President or Atiku, adding that any of them that met their demand would get their bloc votes.