By SKC Ogbonnia
The Ohaneze Ndigbo has faced criticism over its endorsement of Atiku Abubakar, the 2019 presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). The most jarring rebuke came from the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, who referred to the President General of the Ohaneze, John Nnia Nwodo, as “idiotic”. However, while other critics—not named Obiano—may appear reasonable, they are creating more problems than solutions.
What must not escape the minds of pundits is the reality that any decision by the Ohaneze Ndigbo typically mirrors the wishes of its members, not the masses. Most of these members owe affinity to the PDP, which runs deep in the political veins of the Igbo from time. Recall that, with the possible exceptions of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Hyde Onuaguluchi, and Ogbonnaya Onu, who chose the All Peoples Party (APP); most of the Igbo political heavy weights at the beginning of the Fourth Republic helped to float the PDP. Since then a majority of the Igbo has continued to entrust their votes to the presidential candidates of the PDP—regardless of performance, tribal or religious affiliations. Even in face of acute marginalization of the Igbo at the time, the people still queued behind the PDP in 2003, not minding that prominent native sons, particularly Ojukwu and Jim Nwobodo, were presidential candidates of APGA and UNPP, respectively.
Today, besides Anambra and Imo States, which are technically under different parties, the Igbo political panorama remains vastly PDP. This apparent political hegemony not only extends to the entire Southeast and the Igbo speaking areas of Delta and Rivers states that fall into the Ohaneze province, it has also engulfed the entire old Eastern Region. Therefore, the raison d’être for endorsing PDP has nothing to do with “restructuring” or “the nomination of our son Peter Obi as the vice-presidential candidate”; it was basically the group’s second nature.
The point is that decision making at the Ohaneze Ndigbo is influenced by logic rather than reason. As such, even as the apex Igbo socio-cultural group is duty bound to toe the wishes of the majority of its members by endorsing Atiku; it does not negate the fact that past PDP national governments failed woefully in Igboland. Let it be echoed, and very loudly, that the renewed agitation for Biafran republic, if its history is properly situated, owes the origin to years of neglect during the PDP regimes. This goes without saying that there has always been a huge opportunity for dramatic shift in the Ohaneze. Yet, it was not the sole responsibility of Nnia Nwodo, the messenger, to counter the argument of the PDP or sell the message of the All Progressives Congress (APC) within the Igbo assembly. This point, in of itself, exposes more problems.
Let us forget the zillion excuses and focus on the objective facts for the greater good of the party. To start, President Muhammadu Buhari has not always shown the desired eagerness in coveting endorsements by ethnic groups. To make matters worse, the APC does not command potent presence within the Ohaneze. To rub salt in the wound, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, effortlessly stunted the growth of the party in Igboland by stuffing it with political turncoats who are more preoccupied with post-victory influence at the national level rather than the success of the party in their local constituencies. It is not a new story that some of them are even ashamed of promoting Buhari openly, let alone defending his vision or record at the Igbo assembly. Imagine the case of the governors of Ebonyi and Anambra States, David Umahi (PDP) and Willie Obiano (APGA), respectively, who are said to be hoarding votes for the president. Make no mistake about it, any support for the ruling APC is welcome, but the clandestine posturing of Obiano and Umahi is not only infantile, it is also politically primitive and imprudent. Such style does not exude hope for the party faithful. There is no law in the land that forbids those two governors not to have decamped to APC and join in promoting Buhari fully. The true Igbo are not political whited sepulchers; they stand firm for their beliefs. That is precisely the trait Rochas Okorocha, then a sitting APGA governor, demonstrated in 2013 when he decamped to help form APC and still won re-election.
There are good reasons to question the decision of the Ohaneze; but desecrating the apex Igbo socio-cultural group or disparaging its leader is sheer political eye-service. It does not bode well for the party nor the Igbo as a nation. True sympathizers of the APC should expend the energy on promoting the party’s visions and visible records in Igboland that have not always received the desired publicity. For example, often lost in the Buhari appointment saga is the critical influence in national government of the super quartet of Ohaneze sons, vis-a-vis Chibuike Amaechi (Super Minister); Geoffrey Onyeama (Minister of External Affairs); Ibe Kachikwu (Minister of State, Petroleum) and Godwin Emefiele (CBN Governor). Combine it with the reality that Buhari’s government has recorded the most practical infrastructural development in Igboland in recent times, with real work ongoing in the then-PDP money-spinners, such as 2nd River Niger Bridge, PH and Enugu Airports, Enugu-Onitsha and Enugu-PH Express Roads, to name just a few. Thereafter, ponder the undeniable completion of Nnamdi Azikiwe Presidential Library (Zik Mausoleum) after successive governments failed to do so. There and then emerges a profound vindication for queueing behind the APC, regardless.
The Ohaneze endorsement of Atiku Abubakar is by no means a death sentence for the All Progressives Congress in Igboland or elsewhere in the country. The notable defections into the APC is a good indication that the Igbo are finally realizing that PDP has kept them in bondage for long. With the presidential election a couple of weeks away; there is a wide opening for the APC to take its rightful place in the region, including within the Ohaneze. It calls for every party man and woman to demonstrate the passion and commitment towards the visions and the success of APC in the Igboland.