The leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos has urged Igbo residents in the state to put the events of February 23 behind them and support the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

The apex Igbo cultural group threw its weight behind the APC candidate at a town hall meeting that held at MUSON Centre in Onikan. The Igbo residents gathered to discuss the outcome of the presidential election in which some Igbo residents were allegedly prevented from exercising their franchise.

Igbo leaders in Lagos pledged their support for Sanwo-Olu, noting that the APC candidate stood by the Igbo people during the event that trailed the presidential election in the state.

Sanwo-Olu and his running mate, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, were invited to the town hall meeting.

President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos, Chief Solomon Ogbonna, said the Igbo and Yoruba were brothers, stressing that politics would not strain the relationship between the two ethnic groups.

Chief Ogbonna dissociated Igbo residents from a divisive campaign being spearheaded by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is playing up an ethnic card to sway voting pattern in the Saturday governorship election in the state.

He said the Igbo apex cultural group does not share the sentiment that Lagos has been in bondage. He observed that Ohanaeze Ndigbo would always subscribe to healthy debate that would address the well being of the people.

He said: “The event of the February 23 was regrettable but we have put that behind us. We don’t want the issue to define the template of our relationship with our Yoruba brothers. Our relationship is beyond politics and differences of political opinions cannot separate the two ethnic groups.

Ohanaeze Ndigboin Lagos represents the best interest of Igbo residents in the state and going forward, we have resolved to support the candidacy of Mr Sanwo-Olu, because we are convinced he is the best for the interest of our people in Lagos. Election of Mr Sanwo-Olu is tied to healing the wound and the future of our people living in Lagos. We are not part of an agenda playing the card of ethnicity to win election. We are convinced Sanwo-Olu will be a governor for all.”

The Deputy President of the Igbo group, Chief Vitus Uzoh, promised the APC candidate that what happened in the presidential election would not repeat itself in the coming governorship election, describing Sanwo-Olu as “a detribalised technocrat”. He said Igbo residents needed assurance from the APC candidate to guarantee the safety of their lives and property in the state.

Sanwo-Olu said his purpose to contest for the governorship seat was to make the state habitable for all residents and not to become a tribal leader. He said those whipping ethnic sentiments to win election did not consider the resultant effect of their action, adding that it was unfair for politician to divide the people they wanted to lead.

The APC candidate said: “The coming governorship election is not about me, but about the collective wellbeing of our people and the development of the state. We must not allow those exploiting our ethnic fault line to divide us and derail our future. I have consulted widely among all ethnic groups living in Lagos. I am not aspiring to become a tribal leader. I will be the governor for all residents, irrespective of language, religion or cultural background.

“I am in the governorship race to bring more development to all Lagosians. A vote for APC is a vote for unity and shared prosperity. I will run an all-inclusive government that will not discriminate against any person, whether Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa or Ijaw.”

An Igbo leader, Chief Joe Igbokwe, reminded the Igbo residents that the APC government in the state had protected their rights in the state and created a platform to succeed in their chosen businesses.

In the communiqué issued at the end of meeting, the leadership of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo endorsed Sanwo-Olu and called on their members to vote for APC in the Saturday governorship poll.

Some of the Igbo leaders at the event included Eze Ndigbo of Lagos, Eze H.N. Ohazurike, chairman of Council of Ndieze, Eze C.U. Nwachukwu, and Eze Ndigbo of Ikeja axis, Eze Uche Dimgba, and Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Lagos, Chief Ernest Ozonneke, among others.