Apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday denied endorsing the presidential aspiration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Rumour had made the rounds that Ohanaeze Ndigbo was part of the Igbo groups that met in Enugu late last year at a meeting presided over by Constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze to endorse Atiku. It was further said that the purported endorsement was a way to show gratitude for Atiku picking Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate.
But at a press briefing in Enugu to mark its second year in office, the leadership of the Igbo socio-cultural organization said it was yet to adopt any candidate.
“We did not endorse Atiku Abubakar, neither have we adopted any presidential candidate. We made it clear that we are committed to ensuring the restructuring of Nigeria for the benefit of the people. We have said that we would identify with candidates whose restructuring agenda tallies with our views. We also made it clear that Ohanaeze would meet sometime this month to ventilate the issue and be able to arrive at a conclusion.
“The president general, who was away to the United States of America, flew in that same day of the meeting in Enugu and was able to go for the meeting based on the invitation extended to him. When he got in there, resolutions arrived at were foisted on him, but it does not mean that Ohanaeze Ndigbo endorsed Atiku and he made it clear that day that Ohanaeze was going to meet at a later date on the restructuring issue and the party that answers to the call of not just Ohanaeze Ndigbo but even the southern leaders forum which Ohanaeze is a part of. So it is erroneous to say that Ohanaeze Ndigbo has endorsed Atiku”, the group insisted yesterday.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, and the Special Adviser on Media to the president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emeka Attamah stated that there was no basis yet for the endorsement of any candidate in the election until a meeting that would comprise governors, senators, traditional rulers, among other Imeobi members, is convened before the end of the month.
Ohanaeze said it would use the meeting to review the programmes of the various candidates to know the one that tallies with the issue and make its stand.
Ohanaeze Indigbo stated that within the last two years, it had been able to build bridges with other ethnic nationalities in the country, initiated and pursued restructuring to make it a national mantra, restored the dignity of Igbo race in Nigeria as well as handled explosive issues like quit notice issued to Igbo in the north, pro-Biafra agitations, Fulani herdsmen/farmers crisis in Igbo land and Operation Python Dance.
The group listed lack of understanding among Igbo people and funding as the greatest challenges it had faced, noting that Ndigbo would achieve more if they were united.
“But you have so many groups rearing their heads to be recognized without recourse to the fact that Ohanaeze Ndigbo remains the umbrella body of Ndigbo and should be respected as such. Go to Yoruba, go to Afenifere, their people still respect their views. But unfortunately, in our case, it is still our brothers who try to undermine the body. We have been managing the situation and been able to contain the situation. Some of our brothers have been trying to create trouble where there should be none.
“The problem of funding is still there. Ohanaeze should be properly funded. We need to get our messages down to the grassroots, we have staff to be paid and we are calling on stakeholders to support the organization.”