Wilfred Eya, Chukwudi Nweje and Sunday Ani
The quest for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction got a major boost at the weekend with many prominent Nigerians insisting that the South East should be supported for the plum position in the 2019 general elections.
Those who spoke to Daily Sun all agreed that for equity, justice and unity of the country, the right thing to do is to support the South East zone to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2019.
Leading those in support of Igbo presidency was former Head, training and Doctrine Command(TRADOC), Nigerian Army, Major-Gen Ishola Williams who said President Buhari’s successor should come from the South East after his second tenure in 2023.
Reacting to reports making the rounds about former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s alleged presidential ambition, the retired military general said the APC national leader has a right to contest but insisted that the Nigerian leader that would emerge from 2023 poll should come from the South East.
He said: “Obasanjo has gone for two terms; Yar’Adua, who did not complete his two terms, had Jonathan who did it for him. In addition, he (Jonathan) had one term, and Buhari making two terms now. We have been rotating it. Secondly, a Yoruba man as Vice President, two terms. Why don’t we have an Igbo president and somebody from the Middle Belt as Vice President? That is what I am looking for? Any ethnic group in this country can produce one very good leader.”
Also, former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said power should rotate at least among the four basic zones – the North, South-South, South West and South East.
The elder statesman said that considering that the South East is the only major zone that has not occupied the presidential seat, the 2019 general elections appear the ideal time to balance the power rotation between the North and South.
He said: “the North has had it so many times; the South West had it twice, the South-South had it once and South East is yet to have it. So, for the sake of justice, and giving them a sense of belonging, the South East should have its time.
“There is no sentiment attached to that. Let the South East have it so that Nigerians can compare what the South East will do with what the North, South West and South-South have done. We have great people that Nigeria can be proud of from the South East. “As far as I am concerned, for the sake of justice, national unity, peace and progressive development in the country, the South East should have the presidency in 2023. Anybody who is preventing the South East from having it is definitely unpatriotic and is endangering the unity of the country.”
Another elder statesman, and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic (PDP), Chief Ebenezar Babatope also re-echoed the position of the former Kaduna governor that the next president after Buhari will be from the South East.
His words: “The North has occupied the position of presidency, the South West has occupied that same seat as well as the South South. So, if all others have occupied that position, why not Ndigbo. If Ndigbo are serious, they should be supported in 2019 presidential poll.”
Venerable Funso Awe, the 2019 Lagos State governorship candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) also believes that supporting a candidate of Igbo extraction will be a way of reintegrating the Igbo into Nigeria after the civil war.
“If the present set up remains in 2023, it will also prove to us that our foundational set up is faulty. The Igbo has not been forgiven for what is assumed to be their sin of fighting the Civil War, which I don’t see as so. Somebody cannot just wake up and start killing my people and I will keep quiet and allow it to continue. I will stand up and say this must stop, that is what the Igbo did and unfortunately up till now, the rest of the country are not ready to trust the Igbo with the leadership of the country.
“Before the election, they were saying after them, it will be the South East, now what they are saying is that the South East didn’t vote for them, that it will go to the South West and a lot of gladiators are already positioning themselves”, he said.
Former president of Aka Ikenga, the think- tank arm of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said the South East believes in power rotation and sharing and that it is the turn of the zone (South East) to produce the president in 2023.
He said: “The South East believes that whatever comes around should go around. Nobody should think that the South East is not interested in 2023. We are interested and we have people. South West has had its chance from 1999 to 2007. The North has also had its chance; the South South has also had its chance, so the South East deserves its chance too.
“So, not withstanding our demand for restructuring, the South East also wants the Presidency because the region is entitled to it just like other parts of Nigeria. Let no body deceive us that we don’t need the Presidency until we restructure.”