“Igbos should not spend time fighting themselves but rather forge a common front for their future in Nigeria.”
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State says there was a “deliberate attempt” by some unnamed persons to deny Igbo-speaking people of the South-east an opportunity to produce a Nigerian president in 2023.
Mr Ikpeazu stated this on Wednesday when he met with the leadership of Nzuko Umunna, a pan Igbo political organisation, according to a statement by his spokesperson, Onyebuchi Ememanka, on Thursday.
The delegation of Nzuko Umunna was led by Ozichukwu Chukwu and Josephine Anenih.
The governor argued that the Igbos had made “immense contributions” to national development given that they reside in every part of Nigeria, but regretted that the conspiracy around them was “very grave.”
He stressed that it was time for Ndi Igbo to “leverage on their unity, compromise and understanding to craft and construct a pathway towards their political liberation” in next elections.
“Igbos should not spend time fighting themselves but rather forge a common front for their future in Nigeria.
“…That time has come for Igbos to become intentional about their strategic disposition in Nigeria and therefore, should expand conversations around the issue with a view to strengthening their relationship with other ethnic groups across the country,” Mr Ikpeazu said.
Speaking earlier during the gathering, the leader of the delegation, Mr Chukwu, said their visit to the governor was to further discuss the way forward for Ndi Igbo, and the need for them to come together and plan ahead, adding that although Nzuko Umunna is a political organisation, it is non-partisan.
He equally lauded the governor for congratulating the Abia State Governor-elect, Alex Otti, on his victory as well as for urging other candidates not to “distract him with court litigations.”
Before the 2023 presidential election, there had been calls from South-east leaders that the region should be allowed to produce a Nigerian president for the first time in 2023.
Hope of many residents of the South-east was dashed when the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two dominant political parties in Nigeria, picked their candidates outside the region during their separate presidential primaries in May, last year.
But the hope was later rekindled after a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, dumped the PDP and defected to the Labour Party (LP) where he later emerged the party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 election.
Although Mr Obi was not the only presidential candidate from the South-east, the LP candidate enjoyed swelling support across the country ahead of the election, mainly in South-east and South-south regions.
But the former governor later lost in the 25 February presidential election, after coming third in the exercise with a total of 6,101,533 votes.
Bola Tinubu of the APC was declared winner after polling a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest challenger, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP who scored a total of 6,984,520 votes.
Mr Obi and Atiku are currently challenging the victory of Mr Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in Abuja.
Meanwhile, Mr Ikpeazu was a member of G-5, a group of five aggrieved PDP governors, opposed to the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku, and its then national leadership.
Led by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, the group had also campaigned unsuccessfully to have a southerner replace the then PDP’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, in order to achieve a “regional balance” since both Atiku and Mr Ayu are from the north.
The G5 said their opposition to Atiku was majorly because of their belief that the next Nigerian president ought to have come from the south, since the current President Muhammadu Buhari is from the north.
Governor Wike backed the APC’s Mr Tinubu, now Nigeria’s president-elect, while Governor Ortom of Benue State supported the LP candidate, Mr Obi.
It is unclear who Mr Ikpeazu supported in the election. He had said he would not support Mr Tinubu.
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