George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Chief Emeka Diwe is the national president of Association of Southeast Town Unions (ASETU), which recently declared support for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Shortly after, there were moves to break their ranks following invitation for them to join some other Igbo groups to visit President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa; an offer they declined.
He speaks on the issue and why the Igbo rooted for the Atiku Abubakar/Peter Obi Presidency. Excerpts:
Your organization seems to be in sync with the position of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which prefers restructuring to the presidency?
To us restructuring is far better off than the presidency because restructuring will ensure equity, fairness and justice. The presidency is a one off thing. The presidency can come to the Southeast and the people will still be worse off. But when the country is restructured; every section of the country will get its fair share and things would run its natural course.
ASETU, which you lead endorsed the Atiku\Obi ticket. Was it primarily because of his promise to restructure the country?
Ndigbo and other tribes have continuously advocated for restructuring as a fundamental policy reconfiguration that will generally douse political marginalization anxiety across the country. Buhari is looking the other way while Atiku promises to restructure the country if elected as president. What reason would we give our people not to align towards restructuring of the country? It is an instinctive natural drive. Having followed the political development since 2015; our decision to back the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party was taken at our extra-ordinary enlarged exco meeting held in Enugu on January 27 , 2019 after extensive deliberation on the political situation in the country today. The Igbo man’s forced, but unaccepted status of marginalization under the present administration of APC has not improved at all. In fact, it has tremendously worsened as evidenced in the policy, appointments and body language of the present APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is actually the sole reason of the intensified Biafra agitations by some Igbo youths. We are close enough to the grassroots to feel their pulse and heartbeat. It is only natural that we try an alternative option that gives us hope of equity and justice. Even the belated promise of policy shift to guarantee equity in their campaigns (APC) appears more deceitful than realistic as they didn’t keep to their previous promises. Again, the smart and wise selection of Peter Obi as a running mate has irresistibly sealed the support of the Igbo, especially the community, grassroots and the town unions. Not because Peter Obi is an Igbo man, after all so many Igbo front-runners would have repelled our support. Peter Obi rekindled and restored the sanctity of Igbo man through the rejuvenation of town union inclusiveness in governance, rapid and aggregate development across the state while he was the governor of Anambra State. He rejigged Anambra economy from the bottom to top five in the country without a drop of crude oil, his integrity profile and management acumen have been practically confirmed. He is a true representation of Ndigbo in all ramifications. He cannot fail Nigeria. We are not doing him any favour by supporting him. In fact, it is a payback time. Nigeria economy actually needs a touch of Peter Obi magic hand.
APC and PDP are actually the two most viable options Nigeria has, especially because of resource capacity and structural capacity and spread thus limiting our choice horizon. A critical look at the two presidential options, without ethnic, religion or partisan bias, will clearly vindicate our position if we really want Nigeria to move forward.
But some politicians from the Southeast have faulted the endorsement of Atiku by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. What is your view on that?
We have seen and noticed some Igbo in high position taking some embarrassing positions because of selfish reasons. The truth is that those who are attacking the leadership of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo for endorsing Atiku\Obi as the choice of the Southeast in the forthcoming presidential election are not true sons and daughters of Ndigbo, they are doing so solely to retain their appointments which is for self-serving reasons and are, therefore, against the collective interest of the entire Ndigbo.
It was said that your organization was sometime invited to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa for a meeting with Mr President. Did the meeting finally hold?
In the town unions; we are definite, we don’t play politics, we say as it is, especially when we are acting as a megaphone on what is on the ground. We don’t have the authority to add or subtract when we report to the grassroots the way it is. So, before we took our decision, there was wide consultation across all the organs of ASETU and it was not a position that was taken overnight. Yes, we were invited. Before that time; some people started bombarding us with calls to come to Aso Rock to see Mr President to join other people to counter the endorsement of Atiku by Ohanaeze; that was the message. But we told them our position, especially as it concerns the position of Ndigbo. Today in Nigeria, the position of Ndigbo is not hidden and if we represent Ndigbo, especially at the grassroots how can we go to Aso Rock to misrepresent their feelings, sentiments; it is not possible. We said that if we are coming to Aso Rock; it will be to affirm our position because under Mr President, we have been more like slaves which is unacceptable to Ndigbo. But we told them that we will come to Aso Rock if properly invited, but that it will not be to come and counter the position of the leadership of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo on its endorsement of Atiku\Obi ticket which we were in agreement with, as doing so would to not only be to ridicule Ndigbo, but also ourselves. Ndigbo have been totally shut out of this APC administration like no other before it to the extent that no Igbo man is qualified to head any of the security agencies. So, how can we counter the Ohanaeze’s position?