A former chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition, Chief Ralph Obioha, has urged South-Easterners to ignore anybody calling for the boycott of the forthcoming elections in the region.
According to the pro-democracy activist, there is a rising fear that the Igbo votes might be suppressed by the call for election boycott emanating from the Finland-based disaffected member of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Simon Ekpa.
He noted that any call for election boycott in the region would affect the turnout of voters expected.
In a press statement made available to newsmen, Obioha said his stance “is necessitated by some major factors or issues that I consider significantly critical and germane to the 2023 general election and what the conduct or outcome of the election portends for the corporate existence of Nigeria as a unified nation”.
The first, he said, “is the epochal candidacy of Peter Obi which, by all credible accounts, has taken the entire nation by a storm. The Obi phenomenon is so revolutionary and swift that in just a few months, he has come to be seen by many as the candidate to beat”.
He continued, “On my part, as someone having the abiding authority of Igbo elder statesmen to speak on their behalf on issues like this, I make bold to say that, along with the vast majority of Nigerians, the Igbo elder statesmen are solidly behind Obi, not merely because he is Igbo but also because he unarguably possesses the high character and fitness to be a President.
“In the recent past, there had been innuendoes from certain familiar quarters that ranking Igbo elder statesmen such as myself were not behind Obi. Nothing can be further from the truth. The latent truth is that Igbo elder statesmen did not wish to be seen as jumping out to support Obi just because he is Igbo.
“We simply took our time to study all the major candidates before we decided that Obi is top- notch and thus should be supported without any equivocation”.
According to the former NADECO chieftain, “the second issue is the rising fear that the Igbo votes might be suppressed by the rhetoric on election boycott emanating from a disaffected high-ranking member of IPOB based overseas.
“I used the word ‘disaffected’ because it is my understanding that the mainstream IPOB led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is openly opposed to any election boycott.
“Yet, in combination with the rising violence in South-East, any rhetoric on election boycott in the South-East will likely dampen the maximum turnout of voters that is expected in the South-East on February 25, 2023.
“For this reason, I call on all Ndigbo to ignore or caution anybody calling for boycott of the 2023 elections and prepare themselves to come and vote despite any let or hindrance”.
He called on those pushing the self-destructive election boycott to retrace their steps, adding, “I also call on all Igbo leaders to unite behind the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu before the elections, not only because he deserves his freedom but also because his release will obliterate the only justification offered by those that are calling for election boycott.
The soft-spoken Obioha was a frontliner in the struggle to end military rule in Nigeria