By Samson Ezea
As the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spoil for a major electoral offensive next year, the Southeast geopolitical zone appears be in a bit dilemma.The setting is quite unlike in 2011 and 2015 general elections, when the zone gave former President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP, 4,985, 246 and 2,464,906 votes respectively.
In the buildup to the 2019 elections, however, there have been cacophonies of voices, suggesting a lack of synergy among the leading groups in the zone. While the leadership of the umbrella socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is insisting on the restructuring of the country, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) is agitating for the declaration of Biafra Republic through a referendum.
The leadership of Ohanaeze Youth Council Worldwide says that Igbo presidency 2023 is not negotiable. At its meeting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital recently, the group threatened that any attempt at denying Ndigbo the Presidency come 2023 will spell doom for the nation.In a statement issued at the end of the meeting by the Secretary General, Okwu Nnabuike and Deputy National Public Relations Officer, Ado Osaka, the group stressed that 2023 Igbo Presidency was not negotiable, adding that handing over power to Ndigbo was for justice, equity and fairness to reign in Nigeriaís political arena. On the hand, APC leaders and member in the zone have been insisting that the easy way for the zone to produce President in 2023 is by supporting Buhari in 2019. Their position was supported by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha who said at a rally in Owerri, Imo State capital that 2019 will determine the future of the Igbo people and APC would support the region when the need arises. He said that the South East people have the right to govern Nigeria because they are part and parcel of the nation.
The Southeast will overtake others after 2019. Buhari is a man of compassion and good heart and the people of Southeast know that Buhari would do more for them if given the support in 2019. 2019 will make or mar the aspiration of Igbo nation. I am calling on the Igbo to make a paradigm shift and think seriously of their position. ìThe presidency of Nigeria is negotiable and can only be done on position of strength and the strength of the Igbo will be determined by 2019 support for Buhari.
This development is unlike in 2011 when the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo under the leadership of Sir Ralph Uwechue, now late took, advertorial, on behalf of Ndigbo to declare support for President Jonathan and the PDP. The PDP government and APGA government in the zone toed the same line.
It would be recalled that the then Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili, now late changed President Jonathanís Ebelo to Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. The support for PDP and Jonathan in the zone was massive, but suffered a setback in 2015, due to some wrong political decisions taken by President Jonathan ahead of the 2015 elections, coupled with his governmentís failure to fulfill his 2011 campaign promises in the zone.
The Guardian investigation reveals that apart from the cacophony of voices among major groups in the zone over which party to support in 2019, the recent disclosure first by Abdulmumin Jibrin, a House of Representatives member representing Kiru/ Bebeji Federal Constituency in Kano State that power will return to the Southwest zone after Buhariís second term in 2023 and that of Senate President, Bukola Saraki that what informed ex- Lagos State governor and APC leader, Bola Tinubuís massive support for Buhari ahead of 2019 is because Tinubu wants to succeed Buhari in 2023 have heightened the apprehension of Igbos on the possibility of Igbo Presidency in 2023.
Also compounding the fears of Igbo is the APCís recent inroad to the Southsouth region with the defection of ex-Akwa Ibom State governor, now senator, Godswill Akpabio and his Delta counterpart, Emmanuel Uduaghan to the APC. It was disclosed that the move became necessary for APC leadership and Presidency, when they realised that the Southeast governors and senators they have been pressuring to join APC were not forthcoming, rather the governors prefer to remain PDP and work covertly to give President Buhari 25 % votes in their votes, provided the Presidency will not deploy federal might to shortchange them during elections.
A member of the APC National Working Committee from the Southeast zone, who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian that the majority of the Southeast people don’t understand the dynamics of Nigerian politics.Southeast zone doesnít have the numbers. Politics is a game of numbers. APC leadership and the Presidency have persuaded our people enough for support in 2019. Everything is not about appointment. The government is carrying out some infrastructural projects in the zone. These projects were abandoned by the last administration. This was despite the massive support they gave the government. Where are the appointees of the last government and what do they do with the money given to them, apart from self-enrichment? The ongoing projects in our zone are enough for our people to support Buhariís government to avoid the mistake of 2015. It appears our people are too static and lack political sagacity. Now that APC is making a huge inroad in the Southsouth region, Southeast may hold the short end of the political stick after 2019 elections,î NWC member said.
Speaking on Tuesday in Abakaliki, the Southeast Governors Forum Chairman, Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi, said the region will only back a presidential candidate, who has experience and a track record of governance in 2019.Umahi spoke when a former governor of Sokoto State, and Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirant, Attahiru Bafarawa, took his campaign to Ebonyi State. Umahi said the zone would meet to harmonise and come up with a consensus candidate who has an understanding of issues especially as it relates to governance and the economy.
He said all those aspiring to be president under the party are all eminently qualified, but experience should be a critical factor in choosing the partyís candidate. He told Bafarawa that Southeast PDP will sit and agree on whom to support in 2019.I want to say, we accept your person, and spiritually you are dear to our hearts. The Southeast as a region, especially the PDP states are going to work together. We are also going to talk together and we must take a position. We must take a position in the sense that we need to bond together. We need to agree and tell whoever is going to be our next President, this is how you are going to govern us. This is how we will like you to remember us and this is how we want you to carry us along,î he said.
So, worrisome is the fact that Umahiís public statements on 2019 presidency have not only remained inconsistent and unclear, they have created more confusion than direction for Igbo. The same Umahi had in April this year in Abakaliki said: ìWhen it comes to presidency, we no dey do party. It is the man that will help us to develop this state, thatís the man we will support. But for governorship, national assembly and state assembly donít go there. Nobody will touch it. For presidency, we will negotiate, we will like the person to discuss with all our stakeholders including traditional rulers.
To the President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo (Jnr) the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation will engage all the presidential candidates of the political parties and support any of them that will restructure the country, not those mouthing it.We must see genuine commitment to that effect before we declare support for such a candidate. We stand for urgent restructuring of the country. We cannot continue like this as a people. We are not making headway and we cannot pretend about it. We need restructuring of the country.
Also speaking, Ohanaeze leader, Chief Guy Ikokwu told The Guardian that Biafra ìRepublic is the last alternative for Ndigbo. But if the country is not restructured in the next year, it means that everybody has to go his own way.When reminded that restructuring is not feasible before 2019 elections, Ikokwu said: ìWho told you? The country must be restructured. They are all issues that need to be urgently solved. If the country cannot rise above restructuring, it may go down for it. Enough of this nonsense, Nigerians cannot take it anymore. Look at the Electoral Bill 2018, President Buhari has refused to sign it. Why? Is it because signing it will stop election malpractices especially in the North? Can anybody give Nigerians a genuine reason for President’s rejection of the bill?
APC chieftain and Anambra Central senatorial zone aspirant, Chief Chibuzor Obiakor told The Guardian that given that APC is the ruling party with its governors in more State Government Houses, has majority in both Chambers of the National Assembly, greater number of majority in State Houses of Assembly and more Local Government chairmen and councillors at the third tier of government, it is reasonable to say that what happens in APC now affects the goings-on in Nigeria.
It is not news that the politics within APC had crossed so many red lines, therefore, there are fights, skirmishes, gamesmanships, and even all-out wars across the political landscape in the country. However, what seems to be missing is the presence of Ndigbo in any of the fights.I make bold to say that this deafening absence is because of the lack of vision and guts by the so-called Igbo leaders. They are all too busy occupying space, shoring up their stomach infrastructure mechanisms and engaging in little turf wars at home rather than acting the ëBig Boysí they want us at home to believe that they are. In their shortsightedness, they are not seeing that the fallout of the happenings today in APC is Igbo Presidency: a President of Nigeria who would be of Igbo extraction.
It would be weak to cry ëmarginalisationí or ask for the Presidency to be given to us for sake of fairness and equity. What fairness? What equity? And who cares about marginalisation in a state of war? Is all not fair in war? And is politics not war by another means? Is power given or taken? Then why the positioning for a weak outcome by staying away from the ongoing fights?† We need to engage and join the fights. Even if we earn some punches on the nose, eyes and mouth. So what? A little swollen lip or black eye has never killed anyone.
He continued: ìHating and railing against Buhari is not a winning strategy. If anything, it is a guaranteed route to defeat and weakness. We have been here before: Self-inflicted positions of weakness and loss. And it is beginning to seem to be our preferred position.
One thing that is very clear is that whatever the Southeast people do right or wrong in 2019 elections will determine their place in the polity ahead of 2023 elections. As being seen in the zone since 2015, their failure to see beyond giving President Jonathan massive support against President Muhammadu Buhari has remained their political albatross. Even at that, the political alignment and atmosphere in the zone few months to 2019 polls is not showing otherwise, but it is still too early to predict what will happen.