By Philip Nwosu
Tagbo Obidiaso is an Abuja-based lawyer. He makes a strong case for the country’s number one position to be zoned to the South-East in 2019 and other sundry issues.
What in your opinion can make the South-East region actualize its ambitious dream of having the presidency zoned to it?
Let me first of all correct that erroneous impression. The quest is not an ambitious one. For me, it is an insult to the Igbo race to classify as ‘ambitious’, the aspiration of a highly educated, industrious and patriotic people in this country, who want to serve and make Nigeria great. Now, to your question, note that the country was under democratic rule from 1979-1983.Recall that Alhaji Shehu Shagari who is from North -West (Hausa/Fulani) ruled from October 1, 1979- December 31, 1983 and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West (Yoruba) from May 29, 1999-May 29, 2007. Late Mallam Umaru Yar’dua from the North-West (Hausa/Fulani) ruled from May 29, 2007- May 5, 2010 and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan from South- South (Minority) ruled from May 5, 2010 – May 29, 2015. Now President Muhammadu Buhari from North-West (Hausa/Fulani), May 29, 2015 to date is on the saddle. From the foregoing, you can see that no Igbo man has tested the Presidency and Nigeria is built on a tripod; i.e. Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. So how can it now be referred to as an ambitious cause for the Igbo to aspire for the Presidency? From the above analogy, does the South-East not have the moral and political justification to demand for the Nigerian Presidency to be zoned to it in 2019?
As a lawyer, you know that one of the tenets of democracy is that it is the people who decide who governs them. Does your agitation for an Igbo Presidency in 2019 not tantamount to an imposition on the people?
I know that the bedrock of democracy is the constitution. That is why the constitution is always suspended whenever there is a military takeover. My argument is based on the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria which states inter alia: ‘for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedom, equity and justice and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people’. Now, we are talking about the consolidation of the unity of the country. Remember that it is about 47 years after the civil war where it was declared that ‘NO VICTOR, NO VANQUISHED’. Also, the constitution provides for federal character representation which confirms that the country is made up of components of regions. Is it therefore, morally/legally and politically wrong for one of these components that have never controlled the center since after the civil war to demand for its rights? I totally agree that you cannot impose leadership on the citizenry under democracy but the constitution specifically defines how a President can emerge. One, being that he must be sponsored by a political party. Therefore, if the major political parties in the country zone the presidency to the South- East and at the end of the day, the person wins the votes of Nigerians; will you call it an imposition? In the event a person from another zone emerges from any of the several political parties and win the election the Igbo people will take it in good faith knowing that the Igbo probably did not put their house in order.
Don’t you think the South -East lacks the political cohesion to take a shot at the Presidency?
That is not a problem. An average Igbo man knows how to overcome challenges. That is why there are several agitations going and many associations springing up for the sole purpose of unifying the South-East towards a common cause. For instance, the Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo, the apex South-East organisation has been energized and this goes to tell you that the Igbo people know when and how to act when the card is up.
Will your agitation not conflict with the agitation by the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the creation of the Biafran State?
I believe that the agitation for MOSSOB and IPOB is borne out of the frustration that since after the civil war, the region is still being seen as a conquered region while a diplomatic term ‘marginalization’ is being used instead, as an excuse for the agitation. Most people erroneously term this as economic marginalization but to me, it is political marginalization, so the antidote, is to comply with the constitutional provision that the unity of this country should always be consolidated. I believe the so-called stake holders of the Nigerian state should take this into consideration and work towards zoning the presidency to the South-East in 2019.
How feasible is your agitation considering that the incumbent President is entitled to run for a second term which runs till 2023?
I agree with you that the incumbent President has the moral and legitimate right to run for a second term but if you recall, a term was used to bridge a gap in our democratic circle which is ‘Doctrine of Necessity.’ This term can still be applied as an excuse for the political parties to zone the presidency to the South-East. The President has tried because looking at the state of the nation, you will understand that the cause of the economic downturn is about 50percent natural, and the rest man- made. I sincerely commend President Muhammadu Buhari for holding the country together. We, the Igbo people will appeal to his conscience to make it possible for an Igbo to take over from him. Just imagine the accolades he will receive if he (President Muhammadu Buhari) who played an active role in the civil war, hands over power to an Igbo man. His name will be written in Gold as a father to the New Nigerian state. Let’s look at it from the angle that should he decide to seek re-election and another northerner defeats him, won’t that person have every right to remain in office till 2027? With respect to any body with a contrary opinion, I believe it will be wrong if the South -East is not given a due advantage to go for Presidency in 2019.