From Magnus Eze, Enugu and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has been under intense fire after he told the people of the South East that they should wait for him to become president first, promising to help facilitate an Igbo presidency after his tenure.
Consulting with leaders and stakeholders of the party from the five South East States in Enugu on Tuesday, Atiku had stated that his presidency would be a stepping stone for an Igbo person to become president.
Many have condemned the former Vice President for coming to Enugu to, in their words, “mock the Igbo.”
Immediate past president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, wondered how the South East PDP stakeholders were able to stay through and listen to Atiku, especially those of them that had led the push that it was the turn of the zone to produce a Nigerian president.
Speaking on the topic: “Igbo Nation and the rudderlessness of our ship: The big elephant in the room,” on Thursday night during the monthly virtual Town Hall hosted by IkengaOnline, the former minister asserted that the zone did not have to wait for Atiku.
Nwodo recalled that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, under his leadership, had in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, endorsed the PDP standard bearer with Peter Obi as his running mate, adding that the zone gave him massive support.
“Atiku has run for the president for two times. He was vice president. There was some other person from Kaduna who was vice president under Goodluck Jonathan. And Atiku thinks that we in the South East should wait for him until he finishes eight years as president before he would hand over to us.
“I pity people, like my brother, (Okwesilieze Nwodo) because he was one of the founders of the party working with Ekwueme. I wonder how they received the message. Okwy was there and I remember that he was in the forefront for the clamour for President from South East. I know they would have been swallowing their words at that function. I know you know my position on the issue, but we are free to hold different opinions,” he said.
For Ohanaeze, there was no going back on the decision of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) backing a president of South East origin.
According to its spokesman, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, the unwavering position of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has gained a global momentum and found expression, resonance and traction in the irrepressible power that is inherent in the Nigerian masses.
“While thanking Nigerians of all walks of life for their overflowing support and solidarity as we approach the 2023 general election, Obiozor charges all sons and daughters of Igbo land, both at home and in the Diaspora, that all hands must be on deck to ensure that our set goal and commitment for a Nigerian president from the South East of Nigeria is vigorously pursued to its logical conclusion,” Ogbonnia said.
He noted that the current Igbo travail was as a result of their support for an Atiku candidacy in 2019.
Also, Igbo National Council (INC) and Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) have flayed Atiku, noting that his statement was most inauspicious.
President General of COSEYL, Goodluck Ibem said: “It is very wrong for Atiku to have made such statement in Enugu when the people of South East (Ndigbo) are still unhappy with the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries that failed to zone the ticket to South East after many years of unalloyed support to the party.
“Whoever might have advised him to make such statement in Enugu did not advise him rightly. Enugu remains the capital of Ndigbo and it was not complementary for him to have made such comment in Enugu.”
The INC said it has demanded an immediate apology from Atiku for “insulting the people of the South-East in Enugu.
National President of INC, Chilos Godsent urged that Atiku should go and study history, noting that doing so might help guide his utterances at this electioneering period.