NNAMDI MBAWIKE, captures the intrigues arising from the recent meeting between Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, his running mate, Peter Obi and Igbo leaders in Enugu State.
Last Wednesday, prominent Igbo leaders including elders, traditional and religious leaders from the South east geo-political Zone gathered in Enugu and endorsed the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Peter Obi for the 2019 presidential election.
The endorsement was instructive as renowned constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, not only endorsed Atiku’s presidential ambition but also, urged Ndigbo to support it. He argued that his success remained the visible means of political survival for the people of the region. He surprised many when he stated that the Atiku Abubakar project was his last wish “before I join my ancestors.”
In a five-point resolution issued at the end of the summit with the theme “Ndigbo 2019 and Beyond” held in Enugu, the leaders said that the position was based on the restructuring agenda put on the table by Atiku/Obi, which four zones of the country had agreed on.
“The Igbo people of Nigeria held a one day non-partisan and inclusive summit convened by Elders, Traditional and Religious leaders on Wednesday 14th November 2018 to consider Ndigbo’s place in the polity especially in light of the forthcoming 2019 elections.
“The summit deliberated on the State of Ndigbo in Nigeria today especially after years of exclusion from the centre. This country has never been so divided as it is today. We Igbos have always yearned for a level playing field with justice, equity and fairness.
“The Summit recognised the nomination of His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State as the Vice Presidential Candidate of the PDP and fully endorses this nomination. It was acknowledged that this nomination puts Ndigbo back in the centre of governance. It is therefore important that Ndigbo should rally behind the Atiku/Obi ticket.
“We identify with the Atiku/ Peter Obi ticket on the restructuring agenda as has been reiterated by 4 zones of the country namely: South South, South West, North Central and South East. We believe that as long as the federating units remain weak the centre will continue to be weak. We equally move to appreciate the position of the Atiku/Obi ticket in promoting national unity.
“In conclusion, the summit reiterated that the time is now for Ndigbo to mobilise and organise effectively to realise the Atiku/Obi ticket.
We are not campaigning against anybody, we are simply campaigning for our very survival. Igbo votes must count wherever Ndigbo live in Nigeria.”The resolution read by Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) concluded.
Addressing the full house of Igbo leaders , elated Atiku told them that he and Peter Obi would correct all the anomalies visited on Nigeria by the Buhari administration.
He pointed at the security apparatus in the country and decried the situation where all the security chiefs were from one part of the country.
“It aches my heart when I receive texts listing the lopsided appointments of security chiefs. The appointments do not reflect federalism. This is not federalism,” he said.
The PDP candidate promised to bring back to life the coal industry, regretting that coal which use to power the whole of Eastern Nigeria before the war was abandoned.
He promised to give all it takes to make Nigeria a united and progressive country.
“A combination of Peter Obi and I, you can trust will fix the economy.” he stated.
Expectedly, the endorsement by the Igbo leaders has begun to generate mixed reactions and concerns as many believe that the decision was taken without elaborate consultation with the masses.
While some Igbo political pundits who have been monitoring political happenings in Igbo land and Nigeria in general are of the view that the endorsement will end perceived marginalisation of the South geo-political Zone if Atiku wins the presidential election, others believe that the endorsement might be a suicide mission if the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC)and
incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari or candidates of other parties win the election.
Those who are against the hasty endorsement of Atiku by Igbo leaders in Enugu, are arguing that the Igbo leaders ought to have learned a lesson from what they described as the mistake made before the 2015 general election by apex Igbo Social Cultural Organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo by endorsing former President Good luck Jonathan.
They believe that Ohanaeze Ndigbo goofed when it openly endorsed Jonathan even when the organisation was fully aware that Buhari and other candidates were in the race.
Besides, those against the endorsement believe that the chances of Ndigbo producing a president of Igbo Extraction in 2023 might be scuttled if Atiku wins probably because he may say for eight years.
It could be recalled that the then Secretary General of the Igbo apex body Ohanaeze Ndigbo Dr. Joe Nwaorgu had prior to the 2015 Presidential Election, explained that Ohanaeze endorsed Jonathan because he is the only one of the two major presidential candidates who will implement the National Confab report.
“We made input in that report and a lot of Nigerians agreed harmoniously, by consensus on the way forward for Nigeria. And between Jonathan and Buhari, Jonathan is the one likely to implement that report,” he said.
But in a swift reaction then, an ardent supporter of Buhari and now the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) Mr. Osita Okechukwu, insisted that Ohanaeze endorsement of Jonathan was on selfish grounds and a gross deceit of Igbo people and cannot be justified.
“Methinks Chief Nwaorgu and his cohorts either did not thoroughly digest the outcome of the confab or sincerely do not appreciate what are the germane or true interests of Ndigbo.
“Joe Nwaorgu, Igariwey and their supporters are trying to pitch the destiny of the great Ndigbo on a sinking ship; they are not kind, they are very fraudulent; they are thinking about themselves and their pockets; I should regard them as food-is-ready politicians. Are they happy that if Jonathan is voting back to office, the 2nd Niger Bridge will be the only federal toll bridge? Must our cow be the only one being milked?
“Buhari wrote them a letter saying let’s discuss; what do the Igbo’s really want in a new dispensation lets categorise. I delivered that letter and I thought that the letter alone could have been a platform to tell Jonathan ‘please what is your checklist for the Igbo’s. They went out of their way; the only thing I have read from what they have said is that the only condition they are supporting Jonathan is because of Confab and I said if it’s the only condition then its fraudulent. As our leaders I challenge them to show us the Ndigbo Check-List. If they are truly Igbo leaders and not Food is Ready, why can’t they prepare a check list of Igbo demands and present to the two major contenders? “ Okechukwu stated
Towing the same path with Okechukwu during the 2015 Presidential election, some Igbos under the auspices of the Zikist-Buharist Movement advised Professor Ben Nwabueze “ & Co” to learn from Zik and desist from putting their eggs in one basket by opting for Atiku in 2019 presidential election.
In a statement through the acting secretary, Godwin Onwusi, ZMB recalled that when a similar situation arose in 2015, Ohanaeze Ndigbo opted for Goodluck Jonathan of PDP and it turned out to be a fatal decision for Ndigbo as a nation to put our eggs in one basket.
“History will not forgive Igbo leaders if we willfully put all our eggs into only Atiku basket and drop the more fruitful Buhari basket,” ZBM stated.
“In deep reflection we asked ourselves, what option in a scenario where two Fulani Muslim brothers – Buhari and Atiku are front liners in the 2019 Presidential Election, who could the great Zik choose if he were alive?
“In answering this germane question, we said two major critical issues will readily come to Zik’s mind – one whom between the two of them has the support of the North, two what are their programmes?
“As a Pragmatist the great Zik would readily choose President Muhammadu Buhari who has uncommon cult followership in the northern belt. This choice is based on the pragmatism that for us to achieve the Igbo presidency, we need Buhari’s supporters not only in the north but nationwide. If we want additional state, Buhari stands a better chance to persuade his people.
“On the second issue, the great Zik would be attracted by His Excellency Atiku Abubakar’s promise to restructure the country in six months in office; but as a pragmatist he will reason that it cannot be achieved by Fiat-Executive-Order. We cannot fathom why eminent Igbo leaders like Professor Ben Nwabueze fail to reason with the great Zik?
“Whereas the Atiku restructuring mantra is appetizing, the truism is that it cannot be done by Fiat-Executive Order, but by the amendment of the rigid 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All that glitters is not gold, the sage says, for Atiku cannot restructure without the core North.”
ZMB stated that APC and by extension President Buhari was not against restructuring, per se, but wants an orderly restructuring; otherwise they could not have set up the Malam El-Rufia Committee on Restructuring and its report receiving attention.
On the issue of four years, Buhari’s remaining 4 years after 2019 is cast on constitutional stone, while Atiku’s is at best pledge. In sum, we call Ndigbo both at home and abroad, to join the ZBM to actualize this noble objective,” it stated.
In a retort however, the PDP described the meeting as spontaneous and overwhelming adding that it is a manifestation of the trajectory that awaits him in all the geo-political zones across the country.
A statement by the national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the acceptance “demonstrates the settled resolve of Nigerians across board to vote out the incompetent President Muhammadu Buhari administration because of its manifest failures in governance.
“The PDP is aware of how this acceptance has sent jitters to the APC and President Buhari having belied claims that Mr President and the APC were making inroads into the Southeast.
“With the assemblage of all leaders of note in every sector from all the five states of the Southeast receiving our candidate, it is settled that President Buhari and the APC do not have any support in the zone.
“This acceptance could not have been less significant because the Buhari-led APC administration has no achievement, of any sort, in the entire zone.
“The PDP commends the people of the Southeast and Nigerians in general for their courage in collectively resolving to rally with Atiku and our other candidates to rescue our nation from shackles of the Buhari administration and return her to the path of good governance, national cohesion and economic prosperity.”
As the endorsement continues to generate concerns, the question on the lips of many is, will the decision of the Igbo leaders be a blessing to Igbos or source of marginalisation in 2019? Perhaps only posterity has an answer.