Renewed calls for return of power to Southwest threatens Igbo Presidency in 2023, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO writes.
Four serving ministers recently stormed the ancient city of Ibadan where they appealed to the people of Oyo State and South-west geopolitical zone to vote for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 elections.
Specifically, they told the gathering that the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari will allow the Southwest to regain the presidency after his tenure in 2023.
The minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola made this statement at a special town hall meeting on infrastructure organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture in conjunction with the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
In his company were the minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi, and his counterparts in Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, and Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Fashola’s declaration that power will return to the Southwest has however unsettled the polity, as the claim threatens the long term dream of Igbo presidency come 2023.
It is worthy of note that the Southeast is yet to produce a president for Nigeria since the country returned to democracy in 1999, and had only produced a ceremonial president under a parliamentary system of government in the second republic.
Whereas, the southwest produced the first president during this democratic dispensation when President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged president in 1999.
Fashola at the town hall meeting disclosed that Buhari’s second term in office will automatically guarantee the return of power to the region by 2023.
“Yes, this town hall meeting started before politics, but now we are in a politically ready arena, we have to make choices. The purpose really is to choose whether what you have chosen has worked for you, so I will be speaking around that area because we have to choose.”
The minister, who spoke in Yoruba language, said: “Did you know that power is rotating to the Southwest after the completion of Buhari’s tenure if you vote for him in 2019?
“Your child cannot surrender her waist for an edifying bead and you will use the bead to decorate another child’s waist.
“A vote for Buhari in 2019 means a return of power to the Southwest in 2023. I am sure you will vote wisely,” the minister said.
Fashola’s statement gives credence to the revelation by Senate President Bukola Saraki to the effect that national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is supporting President Muhammadu Buhari’s second-term project because he believes power will shift to the Southwest in 2023, which will give him the opportunity to become President.
While responding to Tinubu’s comments on this from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Saraki said; “During those meetings (between Tinubu and Saraki), the point of disagreement between Tinubu and me is that while I expressed my worries that there is nothing on ground to assure me that the administrative style and attitude would change in the next four years in a manner that will enable us to deliver the positive changes we promised to our people.
He expressed a strong opinion that he would rather ‘support a Buhari on the hospital stretcher’ to get a second term because in 2023, power will shift to the Southwest. This viewpoint of Tinubu’s was not only expressed to me but to several of my colleagues. So much for acting in national interest,” Saraki said in a statement personally signed by him.
The statement further reads; “It is clear that while my own decision is based on protecting the collective national interest, Tinubu will rather live with the identified inadequacies of the government for the sake of fulfilling and preserving his presidential ambition in 2023. This new position of Tinubu has only demonstrated inconsistency, particularly when one reviews his antecedents over the years.”
Saraki also said his “uncertain and complex relationship with Tinubu” has been continually defined by the event of 2014 when he and other leaders of the APC “opposed the Muslim-Muslim ticket arrangement about to be foisted on the APC for the 2015 polls”.
“It should be noted that he has not forgotten the fact that I took the bull by the horns and told him that in the interest of the country, he should accept the need for the party to present a balanced ticket for the 2015 General Elections in terms of religion and geo-political zones. Since that time he has been very active; plotting at every point to undermine me, both within and outside the National Assembly,” he added.
This political calculation seemed to have dampened Igbo’s hope for the presidency owing to the fact that Fashola’s revelation came at a time when many Southeast supporters of the President campaigned that a second term for Buhari was the surest and quickest route for an Igbo to become president in 2023.
Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had recently advised Igbo leaders who paid a solidarity visit to the President to go home and support President Buhari in 2019 so that it would be easy for them to take over from him.
Some ministers in the current administration and aides to President Buhari have as well been canvassing for votes in the South-east geopolitical zone, saying the president will hand over to one of their own when he leaves office.
Apparently responding to Fashola’s declaration, apex pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo speaking through its national publicity secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, stressed that the disposition of Ohanaeze was not in favour of who becomes the president, his vice and other political positions but on the restructuring of the country.
Achi-Okpaga insisted that without restructuring, an Igbo residency will only enrich a few privileged individuals and not the generality of Igbo nations.
The statement read in part: “On the contradicting pronouncements of the present government and other consequential revelations, promising the South East and the South West of the 2023 presidency, permit me to encapsulate that to truth, the present government is to build on sand.
“For the umpteenth time, the disposition of Ohanaeze is not in favour of who becomes the president, his vice and other political positions.
The stand of Ohanaeze is hell bent on restructuring. Without restructuring the much an Igbo president or vice could do is to enrich few privileged individuals. “Even if he desires he would not have the leverage, opportunity or manifest impetus to impact on the generality of the people.
“The way in which the constitution is designed is not favourable to the less privileged regions. The only soothing balm, as it stands now, is restructuring the political system. “In a country running a federal system of government and yet the respective states cannot legislate on virtually everything is unacceptable. This is because even in the concurrent list the federal policy preponderates over those of the States, while the residual list is virtually empty and insignificant.”
Meanwhile, amid the seeming rivalry by the Southwest and Southeast for 2023, prominent member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has hinted that the north may not be ruled out of the presidential race come 2023.
Secretary General of ACF, Elder Anthony Sanni observed that 70 out of the 76 candidates for the 2019 presidential election were southerners, thereby ruling out thoughts that northerners will not contest in 2023.
Sani while expressing his personal opinion said the northern socio-cultural group would not dabble into the issue of power shift in 2023, saying it was for the political parties to decide.
“The answer to that question is not within the purview of ACF. It is matter for political parties.” He, however, made a revelation which could justify the outflow of Northern presidential candidates in 2023 against the assumption by the South that it would be the turn of either of the three regions at that time. Take for example, of the about 76 presidential candidates, about 70 are from the South,” he stated.
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