Mr. Osita Okechukwu, a member of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, tells IHUOMA CHIEDOZIE why the organisation should not endorse President Goodluck Jonathan
A motion for Jonathan’s endorsement as the Igbo candidate in the 2015 presidential election was scuttled at the Ime-Obi (leadership caucus) meeting of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on January 3. As one of those who kicked against the motion, why do you think Jonathan should not be endorsed?
Actually, it was on the 9th of November 2014 that they first mooted the idea to endorse President Jonathan. In that Ime-Obi, which is like a caucus meeting of the Ohanaeze, we said Ohanaeze was like a polygamous father with many children and many wives. A polygamous father has to consult more than a father that is married to only one wife. Ohanaeze is a father that is running many households: we have the Peoples Democratic Party, we have the All Progressives Congress, we have the United Progressive Party that even has an Igbo as the presidential candidate in Chief Chekwas Okorie; we have other political parties that also have Igbo people. We said it didn’t make any political sense, strategically, to endorse President Jonathan.
We had to insist on a counter motion. In the shouting match that ensued, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s motion could not be passed and it wasn’t even seconded. It will be stupid for the Igbo nation to endorse President Jonathan because as it stands today, nobody knows who will win. It is not like in 2011 when General Muhammadu Buhari was running with the Congress for Progressive Change which did not have much spread nationwide. Today, the APC now has broad movement and followership in all the nooks and crannies of the country, just like the PDP. So we said it didn’t make sense to support one party.
Is this why you want Ohanaeze to withdraw its support for Jonathan?
Again, there is the checklist of expectations by the Igbo, which President Jonathan, in the course of the campaign before the 2011 general elections, agreed to fulfill. We talked of revamping the Enugu coal, but six years down the line President Jonathan has not done so. They even promised the Enugu coal will be used for a coal-fired power plant to supply at least 1000 mega watts of electricity. That had not been done. We had expected that six years after Jonathan became President the power plant would have started; it could have helped the Igbo and other Nigerians. Even the international airport he claimed to have built cannot actually be called an international airport because the British Airways, Lufthansa, can’t come there. If there is a hub driven by coal, with the ancillary industries that will follow the production of coal, it will energise the place. He failed.
We talk of the second Niger Bridge. That is because President Jonathan, in February 2013, after visiting Imo State where he had received politicians who defected to the PDP, hopped into Onitsha to see the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe. Luckily for the Igbo people, the Obi went through his diary and remembered that Jonathan promised the Second Niger Bridge and queried him there. President Jonathan was on the defensive. We said, with all the unprecedented oil money, why did it not occur to the president to remember the second Niger Bridge earlier?
But some have commended Jonathan for favouring the South-East with political appointments.
Yes, he gave us secretary to the government of the federation; he gave us minister of finance, and other ministers but we are saying those ones are supposed to be constitutional matters —the constitution says if you become the president, you must appoint at least one minister from every state of the federation. The issue of doing us a favour does not arise and the fact that we have our son, Dr. Pius Anyim, as the SGF, and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the minister of finance does not confer any advantage on us. We are not saying that the individual families have not been improved but we are not talking about families, we are talking about the generality of the Igbo race. We do not see any benefit from the Jonathan regime to warrant endorsement, and we felt it could be suicidal, given the fact that General Muhammadu Buhari and the APC were lurking in the wings, nobody could weigh who would win the presidential election. Why should we endorse one and leave the other? That was how we shut down the motion.
But an Ohanaeze chief has boasted that Ohanaeze will eventually endorse Jonathan.
Unless they do so by sitting in their houses and issuing a press statement. Ohanaeze’s constitution is very clear —even if the Ime-Obi had endorsed him, going by the constitution of Ohanaeze, it requires the ratification of the General Assembly that includes every Igbo person. It will require the General Assembly for endorsement.
What plans does Buhari have for the Igbos, has he reached out to Ohanaeze Ndigbo?
On the 7th of November, Buhari wrote to the Ohanaeze, saying he would like to have a discussion with us because he was consulting various groups and he felt the Ohanaeze was very important for him to consult. In the last paragraph of the letter, he said he would not claim to know everything that was of importance to the Igbo, that after the discussion, he would know what to say. Before the elections, he will have time to discuss with Ohanaeze.