Several weeks to the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for second term, debates and discussions as to where his successor should come from in 2023 have begun, with Igbo leaders insisting that it would be the turn of the South East, for the sake of equity, justice and fair play.
President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, had let the cat out of the bag last month that the North might compete for the position in 2023. Last weekend, former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal and former federal lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, joined Shettima to say that south should forget about 2023.
However, prominent Igbo leaders including former health minister, ABC Nwosu, President of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, National Chairman of United Progressive Party (UPP) and Chief Goddy Uwazurike, lawyer and former President- General, Aka Ikenga have reacted, with apex Igbo body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo asking Southeastners to discountenance the statements.
Ohanaeze said the conspiracy against Igbo would collapse like pack of cards.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chuks Ibegbu, advised Igbo not to be jittery whenever some persons speak in the country claiming to be speaking for their people.
“Which North are they speaking for; there is no monolithic North again? Are they speaking for the people of the Middle Belt who are calling for restructuring; those who have been repeatedly killed by terrorist Fulani herdsmen or are they speaking for the over 10 million Talakawas or 10 million Almajiri? The political dynamics would determine who will become what in 2023. Four years is long enough for anything to happen,” Ibegbu said.
Prof. Nwosu also dismissed the 2023 talk as mere provocation unworthy of response from serious Igbo leader.
“They can invite a Chadian or Nigerien to become the president. What we are fixated on is restructuring. We want the Federal Government unbundled with greater power to the federations units. The Igbo’s preoccupation is to be allowed to develop at our own pace through restructuring. ”
Speaking on the matter, Uwazurike, said: “The constitution says power must go around. This means nobody or group should monopolise power. It is unconstitutional for a section of the country to say we are in power and we will continue to be in power. I know the All Progressives Congress (APC) is talking about the rotation of power between the North and South. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is talking about rotating power among the six geo-political zones. Since 1999, the South West has had a chance, the North West has had two chances, the South-South has taken a chance too. As it is, it remains the South East, the North Central and the North East which have yet to take their turn. The rotation arrangement is between the North and the South. So, when power comes back to the South in 2023, it should naturally go to the South East for equity and justice. It does not make sense to say because I have more people than you, we will continue to rule. It is not fair that after eight years of a northerner being president, a political party will be talking about fielding another northerner again in 2023… So, in 2023, we expect them to take a stand and respect the agreement and reciprocate.”
The Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) also weighed in on the matter, and said the plot to scheme Igbo out of 2023 presidency shows how other groups in Nigeria hate the region.
According to leader of MASSOB, Mr. Uchenna Madu: “Igbo should forget about being president of Nigeria. Hausa Fulani and Yoruba are always seeing Igbo as Biafrans, Igbo should better behave, think, act and focus as Biafrans. They do not want a Biafra as president of Nigeria.”
For national leader of Ohanaeze Youth wing, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Arthur Obiora, Igbo presidency in 2023 is non-negotiable.
He said anybody who loves Nigeria must ensure that the South East produces the president for the sake of equity, peace, fairness and justice.
Reacting, the Coalition of South East Civil Society Organisations, flayed the comment, which it said is capable of sparking national unrest.
Co-convener of the group, Ibuchulwu Ezike said: “When there is no fairness, justice and respect for human rights in a society, there is likely to be tension, which may lead to confusion that may blow nobody any good.”
President of Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) Prof, Uzodinma Nwala, toed the line of ABC Nwosu that the presidency is not the region’s primary issue.
“We don’t want to engage in idle debate. What is important for us now is how we can organise ourselves to protect our interest – economic, social, and political and other interests- in view of the pressures and forces against us. That is very primary for us. As things stand now, you get the presidency at their behest anytime they think we get presidency. The meaning of the statement is to tell us that we have no future in Nigeria. Therefore, if we want a future, we must work hard and create our own future, forge our own future and protect our own interest. That is the message they are giving us.”
For Okorie, the South East has to fight to get 2023 presidency, adding that every section of the country has the legitimate right to vie for the presidency in 2023.
“I have always maintained that nobody gives any person power on the basis of the milk of human kindness of the giver. In other words, political power is contested for and won or lost. For the Igbo presidency to work, it means that we have to win in a contest. Buhari never waited for the presidency to be zoned to either the North or to himself before he contested four times and eventually won. But the truth remains that the South East needs to get its act together. If they are waiting for the presidency to be micro zoned to the Igbo people, I do not see such possibility.”