The plot here is to get the South East to vote for APC in 2019 if it wants the party to reward it in 2023. But that ploy does not appear to be working.
This question would have been redundant if the South East were a settled region. But the question is germane and compelling owing to the fluidity of the politics of the region. The South East is something of a babel. It is a land, an enclave, where everyone is lord unto himself. Everybody has an opinion and a say on everything. And each feels sanctimonious about his position or point of view. This disposition, more often than not, leads to fractiousness. The region hardly moves in a predetermined, predictable direction.
But somehow, the people of the region differed radically from this famed or infamous disposition of theirs in 2015. Since the beginning of post-Civil War politics, the Igbo have never stood in one accord over their voting pattern. But they achieved near unanimity in this during the 2015 presidential election. President Goodluck Jonathan was the beneficiary of that turnaround. The reverberations that were to follow showed that many outside the region were anything but comfortable about the development. In fact, it was an issue that the Igbo voted the way they did. But it was considered normal for other regions to vote as a bloc because they have always done so. Many were curious about what may have led to the resurgence that underlined the Igbo voting pattern at that time.
Since then, the issue has remained on the front burner. President Muhammadu Buhari trivialised it when he chose to dish out appointments based, ostensibly, on the percentage of votes cast for him region to region. Whereas he frets over his rejection by the South East, he is not making an issue over the fact that the South South did not vote for him either. This goes to reinforce the point earlier made that what Nigerians found curious was that the Igbo, for the first time since 1979, voted in a predictable manner as against their individualistic and cavalier attitude to power struggle.
So, what will the picture look like in 2019? That is the focus of attention now. Since the 2015 general election was won and lost, very serious efforts have been made and are still being made to balkanise and truncate the political cohesion that the South East achieved four years ago. The powers that be do not want a repeat of that ensure that the Igbo return to their fractious and unpredictable voting pattern, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has stopped at nothing to break into the region. Even Buhari, the President that excluded the region from the commanding heights of his government, is pretending to be at one with them. He wants their votes in his effort to actualise his return bid.
Significantly, the people of the region have not made it possible for anybody to know the way they would likely vote. A few prominent Igbo politicians have joined the APC train in order to bolster the reach of the party in the region. But that has not brought about the expected shift in allegiance. And those who do not want a united Igbo arrangement are not giving up. They are employing all manner of subterfuge to break the ranks of the Igbo. That was the ploy employed by Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Yemi Osinbajo, who have petulantly told Nigerians at various times that power would return to the South West in 2023 under the APC presidency. The plot here is to get the South East to vote for APC in 2019 if it wants the party to reward it in 2023. But that ploy does not appear to be working.
Concerned organisations are also speaking. A few days ago, an organisation that calls itself Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) tried to hack into the politics of the South East. They flew a kite on the way they think the Igbo should vote in 2019. In a statement, the group held that South East governors were working for Buhari’s reelection. The group included the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, as being in cahoots with the South East governors to ensure that the region votes for Buhari in 2019. There has not been any serious rebuttal of this assertion by BMO except the feeble one from a chief press secretary from one of the South East states. The rebuttal in question was not and cannot be taken seriously by anybody because it came from wrong quarters. The received impression at this time is that the accused are maintaining a studied silence over an issue that they should have treated with urgency.
But why did the BMO decide to stir the South East over 2019? Watchers of our politics will readily have an answer to this. They will tell you that it is so because the region appears to be fishing for the big fish. The bigwigs in the region do not seem to bother about having a common position and galvanising the rest of their people into toeing the preferred line of action. What is going on instead is a rat race. The people that matter in the region are pursuing and advancing their personal and selfish interests. Group interest has been subjugated to the backwaters.
This dangerous trend is easily found among the South East governors who have been accused by some pro-Biafra groups, particularly the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and now BMO. The governors always like to play safe when matters that concern the survival of their people are concerned. What they play up instead is the self-preservation instinct in them. They crossed the red line when they joined forces with the federal government to outlaw IPOB. They failed the people as well when they said nothing and did nothing about the military invasion of Afaraukwu, Umuahia, in which many IPOB members were killed. All these have since petered out and quite a number of people have continued to patronise the governors regardless of these shortcomings.
However, it was thought that the choice of one of their own as the vice presidential running mate by a major political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would get the governors and other South East leaders to adopt a common agenda on how to face the presidential race. But that is hardly the case. The people are still running from pillar to post without a discernible sense of direction. The Igbo are not about to embrace PDP whole-heartedly because they have a big stake in the coming contest. They do not seem to be interested. This contrasts very sharply with the South West’s disposition over the same matter. Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State was quoted the other day as saying that it is only a bastard Yoruba that will not vote for APC because, according to him, 2019 is a contest between Hausa-Igbo and Hausa-Yoruba. The Yoruba, Ajimobi is saying, must embrace their own. By that, you can easily determine where the Yoruba are headed in 2019.
But you cannot say that of the Igbo. They have no common position on 2019. If you expected the governors to take a clear-cut position, you would wait for eternity. They are playing behind the scenes. They cannot make a declarative pronouncement. Such will not favour the agenda some of them are secretly pursuing.
But whatever the governors are doing, the Igbo as a collective owe themselves a duty to put on their thinking cap and approach 2019 with high-level circumspection. This election year holds so much for the future of Igbo politics. The people must not fall for cheap baits.