- As Ezeife, Okorie, Ikedife, others reject 2023 presidency offer
- Ohanaeze, Okechukwu, others insist on 2023 Igbo ticket
During the 2015 presidential election, the people of the South-east region threw their weight behind former President Goodluck Jonathan.
They were to be paid back in their own coins when President Muhammadu Buhari made his key appointments without considering any Igbo fit for the positions.
An ostensibly angry Buhari had said he would not take what he would use to compensate those who supported him overwhelmingly to give to the people who gave him only five per cent votes at the polls.
For some of the Igbo, the support for Jonathan then was anchored on the belief that it would be easier for him to support a president of the Igbo extraction after serving out his eight years in office in 2019.
The Igbo who believe in the tripod nature of the country have been crying of marginalization in the country, particularly as their zone has not had a shot at the presidency, which probably was responsible for their always seeking for a way to actualize the dream.
And as if the other parts of the country know the desire of the Igbo, they always raise the hope of the people of the South-east by telling them to support them so as to get power thereafter.
Therefore, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some of the people of the South-east are again thinking that it would be easier for them to accomplish the desire after the eight years of the Buhari presidency since the South-west had served for eight years under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Indeed, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, believes that the Igbo should better wait for 2023 when the coast would be clearer for the South-east zone to contest for the presidency.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who spoke through his Media Adviser, Chief Emeka Atamah, said the North should be allowed to serve its eight years after which it would be the turn of the South-east.
He pointed out that the eight-year tenure of the North was truncated when former President Umaru Yar’Adua died and power shifted to the South-south, saying that the North would have been adequately compensated if Buhari is allowed to complete eight years.
Then in 2023, he said, it would have become statutory for the Igbo to take a shot at the presidency, which has eluded the zone for many years.
But Sunday Sun findings revealed that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo position notwithstanding, the South-east zone might again deny President Buhari their votes in the 2019 elections.
This was also despite the concerted efforts being made by Buhari’s loyalists to convince the people of the South-east to support his re-election bid so as to have a better chance of producing his successor in 2023.
A cross section of Igbo leaders interviewed by Sunday Sun expressed divergent views concerning the proposal with many of them saying that 2023 promise was conceived to mislead the people again.
Recently, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustafa, had told a delegation of the Ebonyi State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who visited his office, to “preach to the other South-east states that the shortest way to Igbo presidency is to support Buhari in 2019.”
Since that pronouncement by the SGF, many APC chieftains in the South-east have been unrelenting in marketing the offer to the people of the zone.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr Osita Okechukwu told Sunday Sun that supporting Buhari in 2019 would, among other benefits, bring Ndigbo back into the mainstream of the Nigerian politics.
Hear him: “President Buhari’s victory in the 2019 presidential election presents 2023 as a landmark year for Ndigbo who genuinely want to end sulking, lamentation and agonising over decades of marginalisation. This is the antidote and will showcase our hard work and enterprise. The alliance with Buhari is surreal and realpolitik. Realpolitik, for more than any other event, 2023 will consolidate not only our fledgling democracy, but will Bring Back Ndigbo into the Mainstream (BBNM) of Nigeria politics. This is why I’m one of those who would like to ask, what would the Great Zik have done in the circumstances we find ourselves?
“I sincerely believe that Zik, a foremost nationalist, if given our present scenario, would have mobilised Igbo votes for President Buhari so as not only to benefit handsomely from the massive Roads, Rails, Agric and Power (RRAP) projects; but also to position one of our own for president come 2023. This is better than alliance with Afenifere that today doesn’t control even one local council in the South-west.
“The golden opportunity for a president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction is predicted on the truism that since 1999, a zoning or rotation convention is subsisting, between the Southern and Northern regions. The South-west ruled from 1999-2007 and the South-South ruled 2010-2015. So, the South-east is the only geo-political zone in the southern zone, which is yet to benefit from this treasure.
“Ndigbo should shake off ancient prejudices and stereotypes for equity and natural justice is on our side. In the political domain, there is the law with its legal teeth and there is convention with its moral weight. The zoning convention is meant to cement unity and that’s why its utility for Nigeria is realpolitik.”
Also Imo State-born business mogul and philanthropist, Chief Chukwudi Ezeji, urged the people the South-east to put sentiments aside and join the mainstream politics as it would pave way for the actualization of Igbo presidency in 2023.
“Generally speaking, it is his (Buhari’s) constitutional right to seek re-election, but as an Igbo man, I see it as a welcome development because his re-election would guarantee the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction in 2023,” he said.
But speaking with Sunday Sun, a former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, differed with the duo of Okechukwu and Ezeji as he believes that the 2019 elections would present a better possibility for the Igbo to produce the president of the country than 2023.
“I don’t see the possibility. Indeed, we may be very negative and we may be timid also, otherwise the circumstances of now make 2019 a better possibility for Ndigbo. And I don’t believe that we should be begging people for Igbo presidency. It is my view that we should go and pray to God now because He knows that if we take over the presidency of Nigeria, the Fulanis will be happier, the Yorubas will be happier and every part of Nigeria will benefit when we handle the economic development of Nigeria. Therefore, my recommendation is that we should pray to God. Talking about 2023, it is mission very dicey and anybody selling that to people is trying to deceive them.”
Ezeife faulted the belief in some quarters that the power equation of the country at the moment does not favour the South-East to produce the president in 2019, maintaining that those who beat the drum for power equation only do so when it’s convenient for them.
“What is the power equation you have? How many times have they rotated power to the South-east? What is important for me is that Igbo people should go and pray to their God to forgive them everything they may have committed and give them a chance to save Nigeria. To give Ndigbo a chance to save Nigeria economically is what I’m talking about. When we take over power and I hope the right person takes over, the economy will experience explosive growth and instead of looking for petty things to fight over, people would prefer to be at the frontiers of the economy,” Ezeife added.
On his part, the Convener of South-East Elders Forum (SEEF) and former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife, said the Igbo had been victims of unfulfilled promises in the past and would be circumspect this time around.
“There are so many unfulfilled promises and our people often fall victims to lies. If someone has deceived you for about two or three times, if he comes the fourth time you will have a second thought. One is just tired of this country. What bothers me is how to realise Biafra through legal and diplomatic processes, and through dialogue without fighting or abusing anybody. That’s my position,” Ikedife said.
Like Ezeife, the National Chairman of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, saw the 2023 presidency offer to Ndigbo as the “worst form of deceit”, stressing that only the unintelligent would fall for it.
“It’s a very unintelligent proposal by mostly Igbo politicians in APC because it’s not an APC agenda. Buhari or his close aides have never alluded to anything like that; you always hear of it from Igbo people who do not know what they want from APC. They believe that the only way they can get Igbo votes is to make this kind of promise that is not based on logic or any political thinking. It is the worst form of deceit and it’s only the unwary, especially those on the lowest rung of intelligence quotient, that will buy into that kind of story.
“I say this very clearly because President Buhari has a vice president and they have been working very closely together from the observation of many Nigerians. This is a man that held forth when the president was away for over 100 days on sick leave. And if for any unfortunate reason Buhari comes back in 2019 (I put it that way because I’m one of those that don’t think he should come back) and decides to run with this same very loyal vice president, what makes anybody think that after eight years in office, he will reward him and his political zone, with abandoning them and going for the South-East? What is the attraction from the South-east that will make Buhari to go in that direction? And what has Buhari ever said or done that will give the people of the South-east the impression that he loves them that much? As a matter of fact, he has used every opportunity to tell them that he doesn’t like them. Even when Igbo leaders went to see him, he reminded them that he had only 198,000 votes from the South-east in 2015. He hasn’t forgotten the support that the South-east gave to former President Goodluck Jonathan. So, how he would turn around and reward them with support for presidential position against those who first of all made up the number for him to become president and gave him a loyal vice president beats my imagination.
“I see the people who are canvassing it as exceedingly mischievous, dishonest and untrustworthy, because they know what they are doing. I don’t think it’s stupidity; they know that they are trying to mislead the people. But the people are too sophisticated to be led by the nose, not in this time and period when some of us are still alive,” Okorie said.
Asked what the Igbo should play for as they go into the politics of 2019 elections, Okorie, who was the presidential candidate of UPP in 2015, said the minimum they should aim for is to produce the number two position in the country.
“That’s the minimum, otherwise nothing stops them from going for the number one position and later negotiate. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe went for the number one position and they went into a coalition with the NPC in the First Republic. In the Second Republic, he went for number one and later went into an accord with the NPN. So, it’s either you follow that route or you negotiate for the number two position ab initio and work for it, because the South-West negotiated for the number two position and they are working for it. And if they continue to work for it and it pays off in the end, that is the benefit of political consistency and loyalty. No political prostitute has ever benefited from politics. Just like in normal life, prostitutes are not known for their virtue, they are known for their vices,” he pointed out.
According to him, the Igbo can’t negotiate for the presidency in 2023 with Buhari because they have nothing on the table.
His words: “What will be the basis for the negotiation? What have you brought to the table to actually negotiate? Before you negotiate there must be something on the table. I talked about the First and Second republics and our people went into those arrangements with something to offer. In the First Republic, they were able to assist the NPC to form the government and they got what was given to them in return. In the Second Republic, the NPP assisted the NPN to form a stable government and they got the Speaker of the House of Representatives and so many other things in return.
“So, if you are going to negotiate, you must go with something and not with an empty hand. You don’t go and just tell the people that they should vote for him and he would give us 2023 presidency. Since they started saying that, has the president corroborated it? Has any of his close aides corroborated it? Have you heard it from anybody other than a handful of Igbo ambitious politicians?”
Reminded that the SGF has been echoing the proposal at every given opportunity, Okorie laughed and quipped: “When people are canvassing for votes, they can say anything. When the time for election comes and the president comes to the South-east to campaign, he might make an allusion to that just to win their votes. Have people forgotten so easily that the late Dr Alex Ekwueme was promised to be PDP’s presidential candidate in 1999? And the promise came from all the people that mattered at that time. They referred to his loyalty to former President Shehu Shagari as the reason he earned it. The presidential election came last and because of the promise, which was based on something people could say was bankable, the entire South-east voted for PDP. The governors of the South-east went to the PDP convention in Jos as governors-elect. But when they went there, Ekwueme was shortchanged at the last minute. What did we do about it? We just went sulking and licking our wounds.
“So, we need to be more proactive and a little more calculative; we need to project things based on hard facts and reality. We can’t be doing things on sentiments and mere promises. That is the reason 419 people succeed, because when they make a promise to you and you fall for it, they will go away with your money and call you a fool.”
Speaking in the same vein, President of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, said the proposal was insulting to the people of South-east.
He said: “All the people glibly mouthing Igbo presidency in 2023 are alienating themselves from Igbo votes. Ndigbo find it so insulting that some people think that we are so stupid to believe that a man who hates Ndigbo so much that he refused to appoint an Igbo man into the security council will suddenly hand over power to Ndigbo. It’s the most idiotic narrative ever sold to humanity. It would have been better not to say anything than to say that. So, anytime they say that they offend the sensibilities of Ndigbo. That’s one.
“Secondly, Igbo people are not interested in the presidency as much as they are interested in enthroning equity and justice through a structure anchored on true federalism. The most important thing to Ndigbo is to have a restructured Nigeria where every zone grows at its own pace. That is more important than a Kanuri president in 2042, a Nupe president in 2058, an Itshekiri president in 2071 and a Berom president in 2084. All those narratives are so idiotic and very unintelligent.
“Someone holds unto an unwieldy military structure and is nepotistic in his appointments and you are telling those that he sidelined to wait for their own turn for the presidency so that he will sideline others. That doesn’t give room for harmonious co-existence.
“So, what we are working on is how to restructure Nigeria by whittling the powers at the centre so as to return the country to the way it was in the First Republic under the 1963 constitution.”
He posited that the Igbo are highly intelligent people and independent minded, noting that “in 2019, they will look at the presidential candidates and choose the one that best protects their interest. It has always been that way.”