By Nnamdi Mbawike |
It is no longer news that South-East leaders including governors and other stakeholders are clamouring for the presidential slot in 2023. Perhaps, what is now news is the inability of the key agitators including the governors of the zone to speak with one voice.
Until recently, pundits who have been monitoring political happenings since the inception of democracy in Nigeria have held the view that Igbos lacked the unity that would have propelled them to the presidency.
It was even rumoured that some Igbo citizens frustrated the presidential ambitions of their fellow kinsmen in the past elections, a development that forced many to believe that Igbos cannot speak with one voice.
In the past, all attempts made by Igbo leaders to produce consensus candidates for presidential elections met brick walls.
In 1999, it was also alleged that some Igbos were instrumental to the failure of the Jos convention of the Peoples Democratic Party to support the presidential ambition of a founding member of the party, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
Surprisingly, recent developments regarding the agitations for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 appear to have re-enacted the ugly trend.
Barely 24 hours after prominent Igbo leaders from the different political parties shunned their party affiliations and met at Igbere in Abia State recently just to ensure that the presidential slot is zoned to the South-East, governors of the zone came hard on the initiators and conveners of the meeting and dissociated themselves from it.
The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting appealed to all the major political parties in the country to cede their presidential tickets to the South-East in 2023.
They maintained in the meeting which took place in the country home of the Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, that ceding the presidential slot to the South-East was in the interest of justice, equity and national unity.
The South-East leaders noted that the South-West and the South-South zones which together with the South-East make up the South, had respectively produced presidents in the persons of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The communiqué was jointly signed by Kalu, former deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu, former senate president Anyim Pius Anyim, deputy chief whip of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Nkeiru Onyejeocha, spokesman of the House of Representatives Hon. Benjamin Kalu and Chief Chekwas Okorie.
They appealed to Nigerians across all geopolitical zones and ethnic nationalities to support a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
“Political leaders of the South-East across all political persuasions met at Igbere, Abia State on January 5, 2021 to discuss the political future of the geopolitical zone vis-à-vis the 2023 general election.
“The meeting recalled that Nigerians across political, ethnic, and religious divides fought hard, long, and collectively to enthrone the current democratic dispensation as the surest way to engender national development and guarantee a just and equitable society where every section of the country enjoys a sense of belonging.
“The meeting observed that the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has rotated between northern and southern Nigeria and among the various geopolitical zones. Thus, the South-West and South-South geopolitical zones in the southern part of the country have produced presidents of Nigeria.
“Hence as power is expected to rotate to the south in 2023, the meeting noted that the South-East is the only zone in the south that is yet to produce a president of Nigeria in the current democratic dispensation.
“The meeting further observed that the people of the South-East have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the unity and development of the country. Not only has the geopolitical zone actively supported the emergence of a Nigerian president of other geopolitical extractions, the people are also known to be major agents of development and heavy investors outside their zone and often the next in population after the indigenes in any state of Nigeria. Our well-pronounced presence and investments in every nook and cranny of the country represent the firmest and most practical demonstration of faith in the unity, peace, and continued corporate existence of the country, for where a man’s treasure is, there his heart lies also.
“In view of the above and after exhaustive and incisive deliberations, South-East political leaders resolved to consequently implore all the political parties to cede their presidential tickets in the 2023 general election to the South-East in the interest of justice, equity and national unity. To make good our demand and reciprocate such good faith, we have decided, as a geopolitical zone with substantial presence in every part of the country to give a block vote and throw our full weight behind any major political party, particularly the APC and PDP, that zones its presidential ticket to the South East in 2023 general election.
“We resolved to work for such a party irrespective of our different individual political parties.”
But governors of the South East are arguing that if there should be such a meeting which they feel is very necessary, they must be seen to be informed and be part and parcel of calling such a meeting.
The chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi, made the position of the governors known during a virtual meeting with governors of the region.
“Today, 5th January, 2021, the South-East governors had their meeting and all the governors were in attendance and the meeting resolved as follows:
“There was a bi-partisan meeting called today and the initiator went ahead to use the names of governors without consulting them as part of the conveners of such a meeting.
“The governors of South-East frown at such attitude and would want to disassociate themselves from such a meeting. If there should be such a meeting which they feel is very necessary, the governors must be seen to be informed and be part and parcel of calling such a meeting. They strongly feel that Ohanaeze is in part position to speak on such issues.
“So, they want to say that the governors are not involved and they encouraged all their people to boycott such a meeting.”
On the issue of security, Governor Umahi said the governors were worried about the killings and kidnappings in the South-East.
“There are so many desperate politicians in all the political parties that are so desperate for power and they have aligned with some bandits in the South-East to destabilize the nation,” he said, adding that the governors of the zone would do everything possible to ensure that everyone is protected, including the security agencies and people from other regions.
“We have agreed that the South-East Security Committee will be expanded, we have agreed that this year we are going to have a common patrol. Our vehicles are going to be the same, the uniform will be the same and we will do this for our vigilante groups and will continue to work with the people of South-East to give them greater protection,” he said.
As the South East continue to agitate for the presidency in 2023, the question on the lips of many is, will the inability of the zone’s leaders including the governors enhance their chances or block it? Perhaps, posterity will provide the answer.