The apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on Wednesday denied claims it deliberately scheduled its Imeobi (Ohanaeze’s highest decision-making organ) meeting to clash with President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign rally in the South-East.
The group is expected to hold the meeting in Enugu on Thursday to decide Ohanaeze’s position on the February 16 presidential election.
Top Igbo political, traditional, religious and opinion leaders are expected on the occasion.
Buhari will visit Enugu and other parts of the South-East as part of his re-election campaign on Thursday.
There are insinuations that Ohanaeze intentionally fixed the Imeobi meeting to clash with Buhari’s visit to sabotage his campaign rally in the region.
However, the body in a statement on Wednesday by Chief Emeka Attamah, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President-General of Ohanaeze, described the insinuations as “false and unfounded”.
Attamah quoted the Ohanaeze President-General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, as saying he was not aware of Buhari’s campaign tour of the South-East when the meeting was scheduled.
He said in order to avoid a clash with Buhari’s programme in the zone, the meeting had been moved from 10am to 4pm.
The statement read in part, “Ohanaeze Ndigbo frowned on such an insidious allegation which was outside the disposition and character of the hallowed Igbo apex cultural organisation.
“The truth of the matter was that the National Executive Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo had chosen the date for the meeting oblivious of the campaign timetable of the ruling APC party.
“In deference to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, and the Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Dave Umahi, who both called his attention to the clash, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo shifted the time for the meeting from 10am to 4pm on the same day at the instance of Ngige.”
The group said the decision was taken “to give all Igbo sons and daughters scheduled for the meeting the opportunity to be there”.
The statement added, “Although Ohanaeze Ndigbo is apolitical, it could aggregate the collective interest of Ndigbo for a candidate that answers to their wish and inclination but won’t but be dragged down to the level of vile politicking.”
The group called on those insinuating that it was out to sabotage the President’s campaign rally “to desist forthwith as Ohanaeze Ndigbo under the leadership of Chief Nwodo will remain sterling and unimpeachable.”
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Ohanaeze had denied reports it had endorsed the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar and his running mate Peter Obi.
It was initially reported, after the Igbo leaders’ meeting in Enugu in November 2018 that the group had endorsed Obi.
However, Ohanaeze insists it will back any presidential candidate willing to restructure Nigeria.
The restructuring of the country is one of Atiku’s major campaign promises.