The five states in the South-east geo-political zone voted massively in support of candidate of the PDP in the 2015 presidential election, then President Goodluck Jonathan, against the incumbent and candidate of the ruling APC, Muhammadu Buhari. This narration may be different in 2019, as many leaders from the zone are drumming-up support for Buhari’s re-election bid. This according to them is a strategy to achieve the much anticipated Igbo Presidency by 2023, writes ADEBIYI ADEDAPO
A former president of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife, recently advised Igbo politicians planning to contest the presidency in 2019 to perish the thought.
Ikedife’s advice came a few days after the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, declared that the he was considering the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, as its presidential standard bearer in the 2019 general elections.
Ikedife, who spoke in his Nnewi home said the odds favoured the northern part of the country for the 2019 presidency.
“I won’t advise any Igbo to pick a form for the presidential race. It’s a waste to do so. APGA can go ahead and field any candidate from Igbo to vie for it. It has such an inalienable right to field anybody as its candidate in the election but I don’t know what makes them think that Obiano would win.”
The Igbo leader argued that it is after Buhari’s second term in office, that the South-east can start talking about presidency.
“The North has produced a president who has just done one term. But it is becoming a convention that any zone that produces a president does two terms. I don’t see why the APC should not want to go for two terms. When the North has had two terms following the convention, the presidency should come to the south, and south east, willy-nilly,” he said.
Ikedife’s logic in support of Igbo presidency is apt, since the South-west through former President Olusegun Obasanjo had spent eight years as president, coupled with the possibility that the zone would have also produced a vice-president for eight years if the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket wins again in 2019, and then, considering the South-south five years of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Therefore, the South-east narrative should be an easy sell when power returns to the South.
To this end, leaders of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) from the geo-political zone, penultimate week endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for second tenure. But the leaders also told the president to reciprocate the gesture by supporting aresident of Igbo extraction in 2023.
The party leaders reaffirmed the decision of the APC members in the zone in their meeting December last year to support Buhari’s second term bid.
National Vice Chairman of APC in the South-east, Emma Eneukwu who led other party stalwarts on a courtesy visit to the president, said that four years are not enough for the president to implement all his projects.
“It is our conviction that four years is not enough for you to complete this worthy journey hence the need for another four years to enable you make Nigeria truly great. We implore Mr President, as a just and fair-minded leader, to make history by supporting the zoning of the office of the President in our great party to the South East at the end of your second tenure in office as President in 2023,’’ Eneukwu said.
The delegation which was led by the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbbonaya Onu, lauded President Buhari for the several projects receiving attention of the Federal Government in the South East, including , 2nd Niger Bridge, Enugu-Port Harcourt road as well as the Enugu-Onitsha –Owerri road, among others.
Those in the delegation were the Governor of Imo State, represented by his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, members of the National Executive of APC from the zone and ministers. Other notable personalities in attendance were former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former Ebonyi, Martins Elechi; Senator Andy Uba; Senator Ben Uwajimogu; former governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo; Senator Nkechi Nworgu, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, and former minister of labour and productivity, Emeka Wogu.
Others are Senator Uche Ekwunife, Hon. Tony Nwoye, Okey Ezea; George Moghalu, National Auditor APC; Cosmos Maduba, Senators Chris Nwankwo, Chris Adighije, Anthony Agbo, and Emma Anosiki; former deputy governor of Abia State, Cosmas Akomas, Nnanna Uzor Kalu, Dr. Uche Ogar, Hon. Chike Okafor, Hon. Austin Chukwukere, Sam Nkire, Mac Nwabara, APC Deputy National Women leader Tina Ekwueme-Adike, Princess Gloria Akobundu, the Chief of Staff to Imo State Governor, Eze Nwosu and the Commissioner for Information in Imo State, Prof. Nnamdi Obiaraeri among others.
Although, President Buhari declined a precise comment on the 2023 Igbo presidency demand, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, a few days later, hinted Igbo presidency was possible after Buhari leaves office.
Mustapha spoke at a reception organised for the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Affairs Office, Barr. Georgina Ehuria, by the former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu.
While reacting to Kalu’s comments, which suggested that the Igbo have decided to give 75 percent votes to President Buhari in 2019, Mustapha said “You made allusions to the fact that the South East would support Buhari.”
“Let me confirm to you that for any thought of Igbo presidency, this is the shortest part. I have been in this game in the last 35, 37 years. I can attest to it. I know what it is, I know the permutations. I know what is on ground and I am an election manager.
“I know how you can commute, how you can fix the figures and how they come and arrive at the destination.
“And I can tell you without any fear, without any iota of doubt that the shortest path to an Igbo presidency is for Buhari to complete his tenure and now engage the Igbo nation in a decisive move.
“The act of negotiation that you have perfected in dealing with merchandise, in dealing with commerce, in dealing with entrepreneurship, must be brought to bear on your navigating your way to the presidency of Nigeria.”
Undoubtedly, some top Igbo politicians who have foreseen this opportunity, jumped into the fray of the APC. This is apparently to position themselves strategically for the presidential ticket on the platform of the party by 2019.
Aside the foundation members of the APC from the zone, including, Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, his counterpart in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ogbonaya Onu, some Igbo presidential hopeful such as former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani who were members of the PDP, civilians have joined the ruling party.
It is also expected that more Igbo politicians, particularly from the opposition People’s Democratic Party and APGA will in the coming weeks join the APC as body language of a state governor and Senator from the zone points to that direction.
While offering his perspective about Igbo presidency by 2023, Kalu who is also a perceived aspirant said it is the right thing to do, noting that Nigeria is built on a tripod.
He added that the South East presidency by 2023, will put a final end to successionist agitation.
He however dismissed insinuations that the zone will disintegrate Nigeria is allowed to get presidential power.
“No man has the capacity to divide this country, the country will fight such a man. It is not possible, so the fear in the minds of people that the Igbo are pushing for secession only amounts to imbalance in perception. Take a look at Lagos State, Igbo have over fifty percent of investment here. Go to Abuja, almost seventy per cent of its investment are owed by Igbo. So, where are the Igbos going to go outside Nigeria. All these kind of talks are just blackmail. We should stop the blackmail,” he said.
Kalu added that ; “An Igbo president will bring prosperity to Nigeria, because the Igbo man or woman had the capacity for business and investment in areas outside their homeland. So, Igbo presidency is a thing the country should do with joy and pride in showcasing an Igbo man as President.”
“If we don’t support Buhari, who has only four years left, then how can 2023 be a reality? Any fresh northerner on the seat would be there till 2027. President Buhari is the only northern candidate, who, if elected, must relinquish power in 2023, thereby paving the way for the South-East.
Interestingly, a Southeast Senator, elected on the platform of the opposition PDP, Hope Uzodinma has expressed the determination of Igbos to support the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in order to pave way for an Igbo President in 2023.
Uzodinma who represents Imo west senatorial district said it was imperative for the Igbos to produce the Presidency in order to fully put the nation back on the track of unity.
“It is supremely important because that will assure that the ugly events of the Civil war have been truly put behind. By 2023, the Presidency returns to the South and by acts of omission or commission it eludes Ndigbo, then that will only be a confirmation that the Igbos have not truly been accepted into the mainstream of Nigerian politics,” Uzordinma said.
He added that: “So, yes, for Igbo like me, I will most definitely support Buhari for second term and I think other right-thinking south-easterners should do the same.”
According to him, in 1998, former Vice-President Dr. Alex Ekwueme was coasting home to victory with the PDP presidential ticket. It took a high level of conspiracy to stop him and people believe it was because he was Igbo and because of the stigma of the civil war.
“So, if in 2023, Igbo is stopped again, the simple conclusion would be that the rest of Nigeria does not welcome them as equal stakeholders in the Nigerian project,” he stated.
Also, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani canvassed the same position. He argued that supporting President Buhari to win the 2019 election is the best option in order for an Igbo candidate to become President in 2023.
“This is because the President will only spend four more years in office and it is naturally expected that the next President, after his four more years, would be the turn of the South-East. So, 2023 appears more feasible and realistic on the above premise if we are talking about justice and equity,” Nanmani added.
But for the PDP, the dream of Igbo presidency come 2023, remains a mirage.
National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, had vehemently disagreed with proponents of Igbo presidency come 2023.
Secondus’s position is clearly against the thoughts in favour of President Buhari’s second term bid, as the PDP is working hard to unseat the incumbent.
The PDP Chairman also argued that the struggle to make Nigeria a better country should not be reduced to ethnic bias. According to him, it will be disastrous for Nigeria and Nigerians if Buhari is re-elected for another term of four years.
“The struggle to free Nigeria from oppressors, from economic stagnation, from corruption, from nepotism, from insecurity and all forms of executive recklessness goes beyond tribe and ethnicity.
“The founding fathers of Nigeria were never tribalistic and sectional. Nobody would have been agitating for a change in government if the President was doing well. Are people saying we should endure this darkness and pain for another five years when at the end of the day, there are no indices to say that things would be better? Are they saying that the killings, the kidnappings and economic insecurity should continue?
“The leader we want is a detribalised one, and not the one who would come and divide the country along ethnicity and religious lines. No, that’s not what we want as a country.”