By Chioma Gabriel, Editor Special Features
Just recently, the governors of the southeast and other political leaders in the region including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo met in Enugu where they discussed a myriad of problems confronting the Igbo including security and economic issues. They feared southeast could be under siege following recent movement of youths from the northern states despite the Covid-19 pandemic lock-down.
The meeting however ended with a loud silence on politics of 2023.
Barely three days after taking a position on regional security and an instruction to the Houses of Assembly to expedite work on the bill to give the initiative a legal backing, the governors reverted to working with the Inspector General of Police on community policing which was their initial position.
The Igbo man seems to be battling with decisive indecision, discordant concord and absolute confusion.
Although Buhari has spent only a year into his second term in office, issues of 2023 are already creeping up in the polity. Subtle campaigns for 2023 presidency have begun and the agitation for presidency to move to the south has begun.
The southwest is gearing up for another turn in the presidency with a complete disregard for the southeast and yet, the governors and political leaders would meet and keep mum on the issue.
Indeed, the controversy over which region should produce the next president in 2023 is already an issue and every zone of the country seems to have interest in the issue.
The north plans to keep the presidency after the two terms of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is gearing up with some people saying that he has an alliance with the ruling APC for power to return to the west through him in 2023.
There are also Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the current vice-president; Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, and former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun who are among those touted to have interests in the highest office in the country. There is also governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
These are from the southwest.
The South-south also seems to be interested in the position, on the premise that its son, Jonathan, was not given the opportunity to serve for two terms like others.
The Southeast zone, the only zone in the southern region that is yet to produce a president should be eyeing the position but it seems lacklustre about it.
Whenever the issue of presidency of Igbo extraction comes up, it becomes difficult to decide whether the southeast wants Igbo presidency, restructuring or Biafra.
Known for their individualism, most political leaders in the southeast are driven by selfish tendencies and this has affected the people over the years.
Will a president of Igbo extraction be realised when the people are not united and cannot speak with one voice and on top of it, they are perceived to play bad politics?
Apart from former Anambra governor, Mr Peter Obi who genuinely selflessly fights for the Igbo cause and Senators Ike Ekweremadu and Enyinnaya Abaribe, many other politicians seem to have nothing to write home about.
Politicians of the APC appear to be under the illusion that after Buhari would have completed his tenure in 2023, power would be handed over to the Igbo. But that is not the way politics is played in Nigeria or anywhere else.
The southeast has missed so many chances.
The people seem to be groping in the dark since the return to democracy in 1999. Some believe that Dr Alex Ekwueme was betrayed at the PDP Jos convention when Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo was brought out of prison and imposed as PDP’s presidential candidate. Others believe that it was akin to what they did to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the first republic when after he won an election in Lagos, the table suddenly turned and he was betrayed overnight.
Aside the great Dr Azikiwe and Dr Alex Ekwueme, the present crop of Igbo political leaders appear weak and lacking in what it takes to negotiate profitably for their people.
Most clearly seek selfish interests.
Buhari 2nd term
It should be recalled that before Buhari won a second term in office, a powerful delegation of Igbo APC leaders led by Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology had endorsed him for another term in office. They said the President did enough to merit a second term. That delegation comprised former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere, who represented Rochas Okorocha before the duo fell out; serving members of APC in the last national assembly, former governors, the former ministers from the south-east, members of the then national working committee and national executive committee of the APC. They had endorsed Buhari without negotiating the terms of endorsement. Many tagged them naive. There was no question of what Buhari would do for Ndigbo during his second term. The delegation was happy that the president received them.
That was not the first time Igbo leaders would play daft.
Since 1999, the southeast has been all out for the PDP. It supported former President Jonathan to the moon and back in 2015 but Jonathan lost the election. The south-east also lost.
Then the ‘Pharaoh’ who did not know ‘Joseph’ came into power and the fate of the south-east deteriorated from playing third and fourth fiddle to playing no fiddle at all.
That has been the situation till date.
To make matters worse, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, tend to be making things more impossible for the Igbo. Due to the activities of this group, many would not trust the Igbo and would rather not have anything to do with the people.
Of course, nothing was wrong with endorsing President Buhari for another term in office but what is there for the Igbo leaders in APC? What were their terms for supporting Buhari? He won another term in office and recently marked one year in office in his second term. Will he address the Igbo question? Will he care to do that when he knows that aside the APC members, majority of the Igbo did not vote for him?
Disregarding the Igbo
The presidential request for an approval of the senate for a loan of 22.7 billion dollars from China’s Exim bank recently received the nod of the upper legislative chamber. The loan, according to President Buhari, would be invested in the improvement of infrastructure in the country. He said the loan was to “ensure the prompt implementation of projects under the borrowing plan with specific emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation, poverty reduction through social safety nets programmes, governance and financial management reforms among others.
Details of the loan, when they were made public, revealed that the Southeast zone was excluded from the projects it is intended for. None of the projects captured in the loan for execution when it is eventually received falls within the zone, just as other zones will enjoy a measure of succour from it. Available details indicate that Southwest will get $200,000,000.00 while south-South, excluding Edo State, will get $4,270,000,000.00. North West will get $6,372,000,000.00, Northeast will get $300,000,000.00 while North Central will get $6,531,000,000 while $5,853,900,000.00 is reserved for general expenses.
This has set the Southeast zone grumbling.
The authorities appear indifferent to the Igbo question. Each time an issue about the Igbo comes up; the people will be talked down on.
In the midst of these, the self-serving nature of the Igbo has not helped matters. They work for their individual pockets. If the Igbo APC leaders who endorsed Buhari believed he would hand over to the southeast, did they discuss that with him? Or were they happy that the South East has the least number of states in Nigeria, the least number of Senators, least number of House of Reps members, the least number of State Houses of Assembly members, least number of Ministers at the federal level, least revenue allocation, least federal presence or investment, least local governments, least wards and the least of everything in Nigeria? The endorsers had commended Buhari on efforts he was making to ensure there is development in the south-east.
Railways were mapped out across states in Nigeria and south-east got none. The south-east was never given any position of consequence in the present administration. What projects have been cited in Igboland to create jobs? What developmental programmes have been considered for the South East? Or don’t Ndigbo have the resources and manpower to lead the nation? With the slow pace of work on the 2nd Niger Bridge, will it be completed soon or would 2nd Niger Bridge be used for another campaign in 2023?
In the past, it used to be Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo but now, its Hausa, Yoruba, South-South, then Igbo. Now, everybody denigrates, disregards and talks down on the Igbo and freely threatens them. They have slipped from being one of Nigeria’s largest and significant ethnic groups. After Azikiwe and Alex Ekwueme, the political influence of the Igbo has ceased to exist.
The Igbo still remain a defeated people since the past civil war despite the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ disposition.
Not long ago, General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s wartime Head of State, said he does not have any problem if power shifts to the Igbo for the 2023 Presidency as long as doing so would enhance peace.
Answering a question on the agitation by south easterners that the Igbo should produce the nation’s President in 2023, Gowon said, “If doing so will bring peace, it should be done; if the people so desire.”
The General added that, “There was a time the PDP started rotational presidency, if that was continued, maybe the Igbo would have produced a President but that didn’t happen. If that can be done now, I don’t have a problem with it. Anybody can govern. There are many people in Nigeria, if God gives them and they will govern with the fear of God and love for Nigerians, we will make the desired progress.”
This statement by Gowon was later construed to mean that the Igbo have hired Gowon to campaign for Igbo presidency which Ohanaeze denied.
The pronounced disunity and infighting among the Igbo would make it difficult for them to make any kind of progress in politics. The southeast APC leaders never showcased what Buhari promised the Igbo and from all indications, in the next 20 years, an Igbo man may not rule Nigeria. Other major ethnic groups have schemed to dominate political power.
When the pro-Biafra agitators started, the idea was to bring the Igbo question to the fore-front and many supported them but along the line, it was clear the agitation became a personal business enterprise. . Many believe the whole thing was mismanaged. Today followers of IPOB have done nothing about the herdsmen invasion of the southeast. This is where they ought to have been very effective because foreigners have invaded Igboland and IPOB has done nothing about it.
Presidency of 2023
As 2023 approaches, nationalities across Nigeria are once again strategizing and negotiating into the heart of the party under which platform they hope to realise their dreams. The Igbo whose position have remained precarious in the Nigerian political landscape don’t seem to be doing anything. They have not started talking seriously about 2023. They have taken it for granted that power should be transmitted to the Igbo.
Just like the delegation that met Buhari, the Igbo endorsed Jonathan in 2011. At the end of the day, Jonathan did nothing for them. He did not construct a single road in Igboland. If anything, he rolled back the Igbo presidency. Hence a politician like Chief Paul Unongo dared to say that Jonathan was the realisation of Igbo presidency.
From PDP to APC, the Igbo have been missing chances. It should be recalled that by the time Jonathan was warming up for another term in office, he made a million promises which he hoped would be fulfilled in his second term.
To support him, former Anambra governor, Mr Peter Obi decamped from All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, to the PDP. And for Jonathan’s second term in office, Igbo leaders made up of then Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; then Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; Senator Hope Uzodinma; then Minister of Labour & Productivity, Emeka Wogu; then National Publicity Secretary PDP, Mr Olisa Metuh; Mr Ifeanyi Ubah and former Governor Peter Obi stormed Dover Hotel at Lekki Phase 1 Lagos to woo Ndigbo Lagos for President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 presidential bid.
At Dover Hotel, they met eminent and prominent Igbo leaders, namely then President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey; President Ndigbo Lagos, Professor Anya. O. Anya; President Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike; former Chairman Diamond Bank, Chief Pascal Dozie; former Governor of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu(rtd); former President of Nigerian Stock Exchange, Dr Raymond Obieri; Eze Ndigbo of Ikeja, Eze Uche Dimgba and then President Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos, Fabian Onwughalu and many other eminent Igbos in Lagos. They campaigned support for Jonathan’s second term in office. But Jonathan lost the election.
The Igbo have been nowhere since then. Or don’t Ndigbo have the resources and manpower to lead the nation?
Unless the people are united, 2023 will be an illusion because the reckoning system has changed .
Igbo must succeed Buhari — Ohanaeze
Ohanaeze Ndigbo recently renewed its quest for Nigeria’s citizen of Igbo extraction to succeed Buhari in 2023.
The group’s Spokesman, Chuks Ibegbu said the demand for South East to produce the next occupant of the topmost office in the land was in the spirit of equity, justice and fair play as the move would strengthen unity and promote a sense of belonging.
Ibegbu said Ohanaeze would not relent in promoting issues that engender unity and development, as the current advocacy falls within the precincts.
He urged all political stakeholders nationwide to ensure the presidency was zoned to Igboland in 2023 as an indication of the seriousness in the claim of “one Nigeria.”
According to Ibegbu : “In 1999, the ticket was Olusegun Obasanjo versus Olu Falae; In 2007, it was the late Yar’Adua versus Muhammadu Buhari; and in 2019, it was Buhari versus Abubakar Atiku. So in 2023, it should be Igbo versus Igbo. With this arrangement, Nigerians can then make their choice among the array of Igbo candidates.”
He also assured that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is fully committed to the restructuring of Nigeria, adding that such would be the ultimate panacea to its multifarious challenges.
It’s turn of Igbo Presidency in 2023, —Yakasai
Alhaji Tanko Yakasai was amongst those that declared unequivocally that it should be the turn of the Igbo to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023.
Yakasai based his declaration on the logic that other regions and zones in the country, except the Igbo of the South-east.
Yakasai, in an interview said: “Nigeria had three major blocks. Two of these three namely, the North and the West have had the opportunity of producing the President. Therefore, Igbos have a good argument because out of the three siblings, two have already succeeded at producing the President but the Igbos have not.
“They (the Igbo) deserve the sympathy of all Nigerians for them to get it in 2023 or later. My opinion is that this is not a matter that one will lie down and think that it will come to him. Effort is needed. How do you go about it? This can only be done by persuasion to convince other Nigerians about the need for an Igbo to emerge the President of Nigeria.
“I for one – I am in support of it. I did it before in the era of NPN (National Party of Nigeria) when we had the arrangement that the next president after late President Shehu Shagari would come from the East. We would have settled this problem long ago if not for the military intervention.
So, I spoke in support of Igbo presidency. I did not want to fix a date because I am not in position to do that. I said that the Igbo should go out and lobby other Nigerians and try to get their concern and support to produce the president in 2023 and where they are not able to do that in 2023 they will put a trajectory for them to produce the President next time.”
Ambassador George Obiozor
In his own reaction to the Igbo question, former ambassador to the United States, George Obiozor said: “The Igbo thing is not about the Igbo being president. Who told you that if an Igbo man becomes president, there will be no more problems? If the Igbo man is partial, if the Igbo man is parochial, if the Igbo man is biased, then the people will also vote against him. What Nigeria needs is a great leader, a good leader. In fact, Nigeria has reached a point where the leadership of the country is not determined by where you come from but your ability in terms of what you can offer to the country, what you can do. If a leader is good, you don’t even ask where he comes from. Countries that have good leaders don’t even bother about where the leaders come from. But when a country has a problem such as we have and nothing is being done as quickly as possible as a response to the national crisis, then what do you think the people would do? “Everything is lopsided in Nigeria. Take a look yourself at any institution you like and examine the level of equity in it. Look at the issue of federal revenue allocation. Look at the issue of revenue from oil and how it is shared. The details will shock you. Go and find the list of appointments in Nigeria in different areas. The list will shock you. Go and see even the list of retirements in Nigeria in some of the agencies. The list will shock you. So, the issue we are talking about is emanating from the failure of leadership and insensitivity in the way we do things. “Every zone has six states but South-East has five. Is that good? And if they speak ,you’d say they are talking about marginalisation. A just leader will not leave things that way. If that visible difference is not marginalisation, then what is it? It affects everything else: revenue sharing, membership in the federal house, membership in the senate and everything affecting the south east. When the people are complaining, a good leader should look into what is going on and redress injustice whether it is real or imagined. “The average Igbo knows he is suffering because the civil war of over 50 years ago never ended. There is no doubt that the war didn’t end. It continued in other ways. People are asking what Igbos want in Nigeria and I tell you, Igbos want justice. People who ask what Igbos want are so prejudiced and narrow-minded. What the Igbos want is unity but not unity of slaves and masters. “The leaders are failing the people, they are not speaking with one voice. People are putting the blame on them but you have to see that even these are victims of the system. And what voice are you looking for? A people cannot speak with one voice when they have been intimidated and frightened as the people of South East. The South-East people have been frightened by the system. How can they control what they didn’t create?? The Igbo and their leaders are victims of the system they find themselves. That is the lopsidedness of the federal system. The citizens of South-East are in near-permanent disadvantage. So, you have to look at the situation in a wholistic way.”
Igbo are treated as conquered people —Mbazulike Amaechi
First Republic politician, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi had this to say: “More than any other race in Nigeria, the South-East, the Igbo have been dealt with especially since the end of the civil war. They were treated at all times as a conquered people. The Igbo have been treated as slaves. During the Shagari era, the South-East got a reprieve. But simply because of a feeling that the South-East might get into power, they staged a military coup and took over the government. Everybody knew it at that time. So, the Igbos have been treated as slaves in this country and it is time to put a stop to it because the other areas are beginning to sympathise with Igbos. Look, if we don’t come to terms with the Igbo question, there will be a terrible implosion or explosion. The people are collectively suffering. They are collectively being punitively treated?They are victims. Even those who go to Abuja to collect hand-outs are all victims. They are suffering together.”
Our problems started from not having free, fair and credible elections—Maria Okwor
An associate of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the second republic and leader of the Igbo Women Assembly, Maria Okwor had this to say: “What we had in the past worked better for us. I’m talking about regions and the time people like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Awolowo held sway. Every region developed at its own pace and contributed to the centre. Now, reverse is the case. They just gave you anything they liked from the centre. This presidential system that we operate today, I have always maintained that it is too wasteful and encourages corruption. See what is happening in our country: imposition of candidates and leadership failure. Nigeria has not got it right with leadership. Nigerians are not allowed to choose the people they want to lead them. They just impose people on the electorate and when they assume office, they don’t care about anybody except themselves, their families and friends. Some will even tell you that whether you vote or not, a winner must emerge. We have been battling with square pegs in round holes. That is the origin of our problems. The South-East is on the spot. The situation is dicey. Igbo cannot continue being slaves in this country.”
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