Since the agitation over the leadership of the 9th National Assembly started, I have been waiting to hear what top Igbo members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as individuals and the South East caucus in the party, as a political group, would say. At a time when the APC leadership has zoned the positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to the North East and South West, I have been longing for the reaction of the Igbo bigwigs in the APC and other people from South East, who may not be members of the ruling party but have sympathy for it and President Muhammadu Buhari.
Yes, there are many political top shots of Igbo extraction in the APC. They include, but to limited to former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former governor of Abia State and Senator-elect, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; former governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime and Senator Anyogu Eze.
Other South East APC members are Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama; Minister of Commerce and Industries, Okechukwu Enelamah; Minister of State for Education, Anthony Anwukah; Senator Sonni Ogbuoji; Senator Ben Uwajimogu; Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu and many others. There are others who are not members of the APC but have shown sympathy, directly or indirectly, to the political party and President Buhari. In this category are the likes of Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano and Dr. Ralph Obioha, among others.
I had expected these notable politicians to speak up over what is looking like the exclusion of the South East in the sharing of political power in the country, in the APC government. Unfortunately, majority of them have kept quiet. There appears to be a conspiracy of silence among them. They are keeping mute, while Rome figuratively burns. They are saying nothing as APC is sharing top political offices among geo-political zones in the country without giving the South East any consideration. At present, the North West occupies the office of president (President Buhari). The South West has the vice president (Yemi Osinbajo). The South South occupies the office of National Chairman of the APC (Adams Oshiomhole). The office of Senate president has been zoned to the North East. The South West will produce Speaker of the House of Representatives. And there is the rumour that the post of deputy Senate president has been zoned to the South South or North West. This means that the five top political positions in the country, including the highest office in the APC, have been shared among four geopolitical zones – North East, North West, South West and South South. The South East has been excluded and nobody is offering any apologies. The North Central is also excluded.
Apart from Senator-elect Kalu and perhaps, Osita Okechukwu, no other top politician from the South East, in the APC, has condemned the exclusion of the Igbo from political power in the coming government. Kalu had strongly objected to the arrangement, insisting that if the post of Senate president must be zoned to the North East, the position of Deputy Senate president should naturally be conceded to the South East, for balance. He said the South East merits the position, being an important component of the Nigerian State and among the tripod of Nigeria (Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo).
In the midst of all this, my question is. Where is Ken Nnamani? Why has he not said anything? Why is Onu, Ngige, and Okorocha not saying anything about the non-zoning of any important political office to the South East? Why is Obiano, who made so much fuss about Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s endorsement of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) and openly canvassed votes for President Buhari in the last presidential election, is now silent when the spoil of war is being shared after the battle has been won? Are these people too shy to speak? Or are they mortally afraid to do so? Or both?
Whatever is the case, these South East APC members are doing a great disserve to their geo-political zone by keeping quiet. They should fight for their zone to get its due. The South East is entitled to benefit from APC’s victory. The 25 per cent votes in three South East states contributed in making President Buhari president-elect in 2019. It is not only the number of votes that made Buhari president. Twenty-five per cent of votes cast in two-third of the 36 states is a constitutional requirement to win presidential election. The South East contributed 25 per cent in three states and therefore, should not be excluded in the government.
Kalu should be commended for speaking up over the emerging marginalisation of the South East in political power sharing. Kudos should also be given to others, who have equally spoken out against it. The South East is part of Nigeria. The zone is entitled to the commonwealth of the nation. The zone has made contributions to the socio-economic and political development of the country. In the APC, there are South East members who have individually done far more than some people from other geo-political zones for the acceptance of APC in the country. We were in Nigeria when, Kalu, for instance, took it upon himself to go round the country to press it upon leaders the need for re-election of President Buhari. He toured the North and met traditional and political leaders, wooing them for Buhari. He was in the South West, even when former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, said he was not welcomed in his state and the zone.
Kalu is an Igbo and a South easterner. He and others from the zone worked tirelessly for APC in South East. And their efforts paid off. In Abia, there is an APC senator-elect, in the prson of Kalu and House of Reps-elect. In Imo State, there are some Reps-elect also. These are improvement APC recorded in South East. This did not just happen. Igbo members of the party worked for it.
The APC should, in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice, zone the post of Deputy Senate president to the South East. Ordinarily, it ought to have been the post of Senate president, but since the party has announced the North East as zone to occupy the post, the right thing to do is for the South East to produce the deputy. And the South East has Kalu, who is not just an elected senator but also a ranking member of the National Assembly, having been in the House of Representatives in 1992, to assume the office. The South East caucus of the National Assembly and the South East APC caucus should press for the zone to produce the deputy Senate president. If the post is not zoned to them, they should, irrespective of political affiliation, fight for it by sponsoring someone to contest for it. They should also lobby others for support, not being cowed or intimidated.
Votes have never determined appointive political office a zone should get in Nigeria. That Action for Democracy/Action Congress/Action Congress of Nigeria played the opposition from 1999-2015 did not deny the South West zone what was supposed to be its due. Under the PDP government, which the South West did not support much, the Yoruba still produced Speaker of the House of Representatives (Hons Patricia Etteh and Dimeji Bankole). Therefore, the South East should produce an APC Deputy Senate president in the emerging President Buhari’s second term. Their votes for APC should not be the determining factor.