By Itaobong Etim
Politics is often seen as a game of numbers. Therefore, any region clamouring to clinch the number one seat in the country should play national politics because a geo-political region that is in the opposition would need to work harder to ascend the plum office. Political permutations in a multi-party democracy are not based on whipping up of sentiments but by participation and building the required bridges across all imaginable dichotomies. The South-East may be blessed with good business acumen but its shortage of political sagacity is the bane of its political progress.
There are two situations of reference which are erroneously being canvassed in the region to advance its course on the need to be given a chance to produce the president of the nation. The first is that, the protest over Yoruba’s perceived political marginalisation following the aborted June 12, 1993 presidential election which was believed to have been won by one of their own – the Late Chief Moshood Abiola – was the reason for the concession of the presidency to the region in 1999. But, the development which saw the three major political parties of the time – PDP, APP and AD – zoning their presidential slots to that region was orchestrated by the powers that be. While PDP adopted Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the alliance of APP and AD threw up Chief Olu Falae as their candidate.
The PDP candidate, Chief Obasanjo, won that election not because his kith and kin wanted him but the party with a more national outlook and spread was behind his candidature. He carried the day with well over 62 percent of the total vote casts, compared with the 32.22 percent votes garnered by Chief Olu Falae, who was the preferred candidate of the region.
Secondly, the rise of insurgency and militancy in the South-South region was largely seen as the reason for conceding the VP slot to that region during the twilight of Obasanjo’s administration in 2007. But, it was the death of President Yar’Adua in 2010 that adventitiously paved way for the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the substantive president. It was this development that placed the region among regions that have produced the number one citizens in the country.
In the scenarios under review above, it was the influence of the dominant party of the day that led to the emergence of the president from those regions. The case of South-West in 1999 where the candidate that the region wanted did not make it further reiterates the point that, the election of the president of the nation is far beyond the decision of a single geopolitical region. So, the belief that a chance would be given to the South-East to produce the president of the country even where it chooses to play the politics of exclusion is fallacious.
The Igbo in the South-East talk about being marginalised because they have not been given a chance to produce the president of the country, as if it is a turn by turn affair. Many do not seem to know that the much-vaunted rotational presidency is not even enshrined in the nation’s constitution. It is a matter of political exigency occasioned by wide consultation, participation and obvious national imperative, and not whipping up of sentiments, that can lead to such consideration or concession.
Ndigbo, from the inception of this republic, have been in mainstream national politics until the present political dynamics that confined them to the opposition. The region is not known for opposition politics and its tumultuous past does not even favour such a posture.
The secession bid is not even a better political gimmick as it would further narrow their confidence quotient and widen the suspicion gap. Someone once opined that if the Igbo should apply their inherent transactional business skills in politics, then they would equally succeed in it. Even in the secession bid, consultation would still be required.
But, in flying the card of secession as a way of arm-twisting other regions to concede the number one political position to them, they might have unwittingly shot themselves in the foot as this may end up making other Nigerians to doubt their sincerity in handling the affairs of a corporate Nigerian state. When it comes to trading, an average Igbo man is a free mixer who makes friends with less difficulty but in politics, he is quick to distance himself from others.
For instance, the reference to a national party like APC which controls the central government and majority of states in the country as a Hausa party by some Igbo political elite is inexpedient to the cause of the South-East geopolitical zone. One may wish to ask: which is the Igbo party that can provide the platform that can win the presidential election? Is it APGA and UPP that are yet to fully stamp their feet even in that region?
The Igbo presidency can still be realised within the political framework of PDP but building such consensus around a political platform that is not aligned to the government at the centre may be a herculean task, but it is not an impossibility.
The speech recently credited to Odumegwu Ojukwu Jnr. while defecting to APC that he chose to make such move in order to protect the interest of Ndigbo and the alliance Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NPP formed with NPN in the second republic, including similar other moves by a few others in the past, might have been salient attempts made to project Igbo’s interest beyond the parochial political prism.
The question here is: can Igbo presidency ever be realized with parochial political mindsets?
Etim writes from Cross River