A sharp division on the Biafra agitation and the demand for a President from the Southeast opened up on Tuesday between the highest Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
By Nwanosike Onu, Awka and Chris Njoku, Owerri
For IPOB, the Igbo will not trade the demand for independence for a President in 2023.
But Ohanaeze Ndigbo said its focus remains on ensuring that the next President comes from the zone.
The organisation said it was not part of the demand for a sovereign state of Biafra.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo and IPOB resolved their differences this month when a truce was brokered by a First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazuluike Amechi.
Both groups vowed to work harmoniously in the interest of the Igbo.
But IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, told The Nation in Owerri, the Imo State capital, that the group would not relent in its pursuit of freedom for Biafrans despite Ohanaeze’s contrary position.
He was reacting to the statement by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Sunday.
The governor backed the demand for someone from the South to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
El-Rufai’s comment followed last month’s controversy sparked by the President’s cousin, Mamman Daura, who said the next President could come from any part of the country.
Powerful said Biafrans would not succumb to what he called a bait as being dangled by El-Rufai.
According to him, a President who will serve for a maximum of eight years cannot be compared to freedom for life.
He said: “We want freedom, which is forever. The presidency is just for eight years. We are not prepared to trade freedom for just eight-year term of a president.”
Ohanaeze President in Anambra State, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, while briefing reporters after a meeting, said the organisation was not for Biafra actualisation but is interested in a President of Igbo extraction.
He noted that some youths within the territory that make up the defunct Biafra Republic were calling for its restoration because of the marginalisation of the zone.
He said Ohanaeze was committed to ending such marginalisation and ensuring that the Igbo get a sense of belonging in Nigeria.
Okeke-Ogene said: “We are pursuing Igbo President because the executive of Ohanaeze, led by Nnia Nwodo, has the mandate of Ndigbo to negotiate the Igbo position in Nigeria.
“He was not given a mandate for the sovereign state of Biafra. That’s why we are saying, give us what is due to us. Nigeria’s President of Igbo extraction is what we are looking for.
“Our children seem to believe that Nigerians are not ready to give us what we want. They are saying: ‘if you’re not going to answer my father, I am going to tell my father that I am going to be myself.’ They are two different things.
“Let me tell you: it is coming to a point that an Igbo President is becoming a right, no more privilege because it is only the Southeast that has never tasted the presidency and we have been voting for everybody.
“So, the younger ones are concerned that Nigerians appear not ready to answer us. If they are sure that Nigerians will answer us, I believe that they will calm down. Nigeria is for all of us.”
A legal luminary, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), backed El-Rufai’s suggestion that the South should produce the next President.
He said the governor spoke the mind of Ndigbo, adding that it will lead to equity if realised.
Ahamba said the next President should specifically come from the Southeast.
He told our reporter: “Reasonable people in the North are all agreeing that the President should go to the South in the interest of peace and nobody can say the South cannot produce a competent person. The search must begin from the Southeast.
“So, if a majority of the people said it should go to the South, it now behoves the Southeast to produce competent people to present to Nigeria.
“I agree with El-Rufai and support Daura that whoever emerges must be a competent person. We have them in surplus in the Southeast.
“We want somebody who has a good reputation so far in public life. It is not time for moneybags. Competence is the primary things.”