The apex South-East socio-cultural group’s admonition is in reaction to a statement issued by an Igbo youth group under the auspices of the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL).
The group had in a statement, “warned groups and individuals promoting the presidential ambition of Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu to stay clear of the zone.”
But in a statement issued by its spokesman, Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze said “it is a political self-immolation and indeed highly unreflective for COSEYL to embark on a misstep that may diminish the Igbo patina for inter-ethnic friendliness.”
While acknowledging the inalienable rights of individuals and groups to express their views on national issues, Ohanaeze however advised that such rights should not infringe on the rights of other Nigerian citizens.
“Clarification is made that each of the presidential candidates has every right to campaign and canvass for votes in all parts of the country.
“In other words, since the presidential candidates of the South-East or Igbo extraction enjoy untrammeled access and mass followership in other geopolitical zones of the country, it is a political self-immolation and indeed highly unreflective for COSEYL to embark on a misstep that may diminish the Igbo patina for inter-ethnic friendliness.
“Emphasis is further drawn that the statement by the COSEYL is at variance with the Igbo character of liberality, hospitality, frontier spirit and accommodation of diverse interests. The Southeast constituency has sufficient political awareness or enlightenment to assess the presidential candidates as they visit the Southeast to market their manifestos and canvass for votes.
“As we celebrate the International Youth Day with the theme- generational solidarity; it is necessary that as leaders of tomorrow, instead of an archaic and implacable adherence to prosaic ethnic indulgences, it is much better to develop an inter-ethnic solidarity with an encompassing national ideology into which the productive energies of the youths from diverse parts of the country will coalesce. This is the ideal”, Ogbonnia said.
He added that it is a subversion of democratic process and indeed a potent source of national crises for candidates to perceive threats or hostility from groups within the country.
“While we share in the passion and grievances of the Igbo youth, maturity is still needed in our political activism to eschew ultra-ethnic chauvinism,” the Ohanaeze spokesman counselled.
Ohanaeze National Vice President (Southeast), Ichie Damian Okeke -Ogene, also condemned the controversial statement. He said as a socio-cultural organization, they are for everyone.
He said they were not politicians and do not delve into it, adding that every presidential candidate would get the blessings of Ohanaeze, if they sought it.
He said, “ Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of APC, Mr Peter Obi of LP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP and others are our sons and respected leaders in Nigeria and any of them are free to come to Igbo land to campaign without any interference .
“It is wrong for anyone or group to pronounce that they are banned from entering their father’s land. Such a statement is unfair and should be condemned.”
Okeke -Ogene, said the national body of the Igbo group had not and would never instruct any of its members to issue such a statement, adding that whoever did so was on his or her own and did not represent Ohanaeze Ndigbo.