Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, on Saturday called on Nigerians to vote for the presidential candidate of any political party that believed in the unity of Nigeria.
Jonathan made this call on the lecture series to mark the 80th birthday of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, which took place in Owerri, with the theme “Igbo Quest for Nigeria’s Unity.
He added: “Ahead of the election, politicians must cut and deemphasise on our differences. Especially, the youths should come out and vote for those who believe in the unity of Nigeria. Let us work as one and everybody will have a sense of belonging.”
In his speech, the chief host and the governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodimma, said: “Ndigbo loves Nigeria and the evidence is everywhere. The Igbo love Nigeria fervently with all their heart. The problem is that the Igbos saw that Nigeria don’t reciprocate that same love the Igbos have for Nigeria. Despite the harsh policies and negative effects of the civil war the Igbos rose and embrace a united Nigeria.
However, the governor said: ” The Igbos have flaws. We are weak in negotiations. We always believe we can do it alone. The Igbo can achieve presidency through negotiations.”
Former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has acknowledged the contributions of Igbos to the corporate existence of Nigeria, saying they had always believed in and stood for the unity of the country.
Speaking yesterday at a lecture organized by the Imo State Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in honour of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu on his 80th birthday celebration in Owerri, Jonathan maintained that the misconception among a few in Igboland does not any way deter the fact that a vast majority of Igbos hold a special place in the unity and cohesion of Nigeria.
He said; “If you look at statements by the different leaders and use Zik as a representation of the Igbo intellectual vision for Nigeria at that time, it shows clearly the Igbos stand on the unity of Nigeria. Today, if people see things differently, it only indicates that there are fundamental issues that, as a nation, we need to address.”
The former president warned against differences, saying, “Incoming Nigerian leaders must make efforts to whittle down the antics and spread of divisive politics. They must de-emphasise our differences and emphasise things that bind us together. We have over-ethnicised our politics to the detriment of our country and our collective growth, we need to stop this.”
Jonathan described Chief Iwuanyanwu as a father, bridge builder, role model for young and emerging leaders in Nigeria.
Guest lecturer and former president-general of Ohanaeze N’digbo Worldwide, Chief Nnia Nwodo, speaking on the topic; “Igbo’s Quest for Nigeria’s Unity” recounted the lifelong ideology of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s commitment.
He warned that Igbos cannot be forced out of political reckoning in Nigeria.
“Igbos watched with grief and desolation as Igbo candidates in the PDP and APC were disgraced out of their presidential conventions. The point must be made loud and clear that no attempt should be made to force Igbos out of political reckoning in Nigeria. We are as qualified as any other Nigerian to be president of Nigeria. We have shown by our relationship with other Nigerians, our feel-at-home attitude in any part of Nigeria and our warm welcome to other Nigerians in Igboland that we mean no harm to our fellow countrymen.”
He condemned the varying cut-off marks into federal schools and blamed it as the cause of the degradation of educational standards in Nigeria, even as he advocated for special schools to address less educationally endowed states.
Nwodo said; “Special schools should be provided in those states retarded educational standards. This is the American approach and it has yielded tremendous dividends for low income classes and coloured Americans.”
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State stated that Igbos were weak in negotiation even as he maintained that they remained critical to Nigeria.
The event attracted several dignitaries including former senate president Adolphus Wabara; Senator Matthew Nwagwu; Senator Ike Nwachukwu; Senator Samuel Anyanwu, the PDP National Secretary; and several others.