Participants at the Igbo International Christmas Retreat organised by Igbo Think Tank and Nzuko Ndigbo have said that the election of a Nigerian President of South East extraction in 2023 would not only restore peace to the zone but quell the rising agitation for self- determination being championed by youths from the zone.
This is contained in a communique issued at the end of the retreat held at the Aguiyi Ironsi Conference Centre, Umuahia, Abia State.
According to the communique jointly signed by the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Igbo Think Tank, Professor Madubuike Ezeibe; and the President of Nzuko Ndigbo, Chuks Ibegbu, supporting the South East to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 will be in the overall interest of the country.
The communique urged Nigerians to vote for a competent presidential candidate from the South East in line with the zoning policy which was adopted to have peace during the unrest in the South West occasioned by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election believed to have been won by Late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
”Electing a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023 will make it impossible for agitators to convince young ones to join them and give us peace in the South East as happened with NADECO in the South West in 1999″, the communique read.
The retreat noted that zoning of the presidency was aimed at ensuring fairness and equity for peaceful existence, wondering why the two hitherto leading political parties in the country suddenly decided to jettison zoning when it was the turn of South East to produce the next President.
It noted that since every geopolitical zone in Southern Nigeria except South East had produced the president, equity and justice demand that power should go to South East when in 2023, it leaves the North which has held it for eight consecutive years.
“It was expected that the 1999 scenario of leaving presidential contest to only people from deserving zone should have been repeated for the South East in 2023 but the retreat still went further to examine current presidential candidates on merit and came to the conclusion that the only Igbo man among the front runners is still the best based on verifiable character, age, intellectual capacity, physical health and past record.
“So, if he is denied opportunity to lead his country, it would suggest that the Igbo are not being seen as equal Nigerians”, the communique further read.
The retreat which adopted the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, enlisted the support of all progressive Nigerians of all ethnic, religious and political backgrounds to vote for him in 2023 for a new Nigeria where production will replace consumption.
It further urged stakeholders of various states to declare support for Obi, urging voters to vote for various competent candidates from other parties in any state which adopts Obi in other elections.
“Labour Party candidates who may lose because of this appeal should be rewarded with appointments by Peter Obi”, it suggested.
The retreat further advised Obi if elected president in 2023, to form a Government of National Unity instead of the usual winner takes it all.
The communique also called for the immediate creation of additional state for the South East as recommended by the 2014 National Conference to bring the zone which has only five states at par with others with six, except North West with seven states.
“Leaving the South East with only five states and 95 LGAs amounts to marginalisation and it’s helping the agitators in their campaign”.
The retreat noted that the frequent attacks on Igbo living in other parts of Nigeria and their business interests were due to jealousy made worse by the attitude of some Igbo who are arrogant and boastful.
It, therefore, resolved to pursue policies that would make most Igbo remain at home while attracting other Nigerians to Igbo land for investment.
In his remark, former National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, appealed to the G-5 governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) currently meeting in London to adopt Obi.
“Obi has a track record of achievements and has shown capacity and competence above other contestants”, he said.
Isiguzoro argued that it would be unfair to have a Northerner succeed another Northern in a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
“We cannot afford to have a transition of a Northern to another Northern President or from a Muslim to another Muslim while others have not been given their fair share”.
The retreat, the fourth edition, was attended by people from Igbo-speaking states including Delta State.
The first edition was hosted by Dr Ogbonnaya Onu in Uburu, Ebonyi State; second edition hosted by Professor Pat Utomi at Igbouzor, Delta State and third edition by Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze at Abagana, Anambra State.