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The South East leaders have asserted that Ndigbo before now were not known for killing one another and charged them to vote in the 2023 general elections, especially the presidential elections, scheduled for Saturday.
They requested for the people, including the Biafran agitators to come out and be part of the history to vote in the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi and his running mate Datti Baba-Ahmed to take the mantle of leadership and rebuild the badly divided country and save the boat from sinking. ‘We need your votes not bullets. In a democracy, your vote is your weapon, not bullet or sit-at-home,’ they said.
Led by the former chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Chief Simon Okeke, the Igbo elders bemoaned a situation where blood-thirsty miscreants have plunged the region into an arena of bloodletting. They further lamented that the “South East today is not what we are known for.’
In a statement signed by Okeke along with other Igbo leaders such as the former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Prof Ihechukwu Maduike, Fidelis Ozichukwu, Charles Nwokeaku, Onrou Arua, Austin Egwuagu, and Lincoln Ogunewe, both retired Generals in the Nigerian Army and Osita Obierika, a retired Air Vice Marshal (AVM) in the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), they warned those responsible for the killings in the name of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), that violence would never achieve their purpose.
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‘The state of South East today is not what we are known for. Our homeland had the tradition of peace and tranquility, industry, academic adventurism and culture of family wellbeing. Today, a small clique of misguided persons mostly youths, have inflicted mayhem and bloodletting to contaminate the orderly life of Ndigbo to the extent that one cannot freely go about one’s daily pursuits. People of the South East have been cowed into submitting to a sit-at-home order. This irregularity which has also been extended to the election day, when people are looking forward to using their vote to speak their mind, must not be allowed to happen,’ the group said.
The group said its combined voice was to state unequivocally the rejection of the situation in its entirety, adding that, ‘We must speak up against those who say there should be no elections. Elections in the South East must hold. We call on the people of the South East to come out en masse on the 25th February, to vote and vote in candidates of their choice.’
While assuring the safety of the people during the exercise, the body saluted the courage of Igbo traditional rulers for assuring all of their subjects of safety on the election day, 25th February, and subsequent election days and President Muhammadu Buhari for his recent broadcast in which he promised adequate security measures to allow everyone to come out and cast their votes freely without any intimidation.
‘This is quite re-assuring. The president of the country has given his assurance for safety. The Royal Fathers have followed suit in the assurance of your safety. The police and armed forces have been fortified to protect you all throughout the election period.
‘The police and other security agencies are now being positioned in strategic places all over the country including and particularly in various states of our South East Geopolitical Zone. This is aimed at providing adequate protection and safety for all to come out to exercise their civic right and to vote for candidates of their choice.
‘Therefore, come out and do the needful. Come out and vote in whom you think will make the change you want. If you don’t come out to vote on February 25, 2023, you have no one to blame other than yourself,’ they said.
On the agitation for Biafra, given as reason for the parlous situation, in which facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had been attacked and many people killed by those who claimed that IPOB would not allow elections in the area, the Igbo elders urged those involved not to forget that their fathers and grandfathers had demanded and fought to have that same Biafra roughly 52 years ago.
‘Millions died in action and out of sheer starvation. Some of us here participated in that bloody war. What makes you believe that you can win that war this time through extreme activism? That war was fought with guns, armoured tanks etc. We must think strategically in determining how to structure the future for our people, children and grandchildren.
“Yes, you may say that it is your fundamental human right to demand separate existence. But the quest for separate existence is not restricted to Nigeria. In Britain for instance, Scotland which is part of that country is seeking a separate existence.
‘So also, is the case with Spain where Barcelona is demanding same. None of them is demanding it by killing and maiming their fellow country men and women or by imposing a needless sit-at-home order or carrying out unspeakable acts of violence and destruction against their own people.
‘They do it by participating actively in their country’s general elections, where they sponsor candidates that will be their voice in their parliament, where they argue their case and push it via a referendum to decide which way to go. Why not borrow a leaf from them and pursue your demand in a civilized manner? You can never get Biafra through violence and slaughtering yourselves and sitting at home, when parents should be at work and children should be in schools. That system makes the world look on you as both unserious, or at best immature. Let us go the way of the wise.’
Arguing that Ndigbo had never had a better chance in the Nigerian project since Independence in 1960, the group stressed that the opportunity being presented by Obi emerging President of Nigeria is so immense that it would be suicidal not to support it.