‘How Igbo pres­i­dent can emerge in 2019’

There have been sug­ges­tions by some Nige­ri­ans, in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dent, Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo, that the Ig­bos in Southeast Nige­ria should pro­duce the next Nige­rian pres­i­dent. Our cor­re­spon­dents gauge the mood from across the na­tion.

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Hamza Idris (Abuja), John kennedy Uzoma (Ow­erri), Tony Adibe (Enugu), Li­nus Ef­fiong (Umuahia), Nabob Og­bonna, (Abaka­liki), Emma Elekwa (Awka)

Shortly af­ter Obasanjo’s pro­posal for an Igbo pres­i­dency in the fore­see­able fu­ture, a group, the Southeast Youth Van­guard (SEYV), was un­equiv­o­cal in de­scrib­ing the ex-pres­i­dent’s call as “a mis­chievous cru­sade.”

The group’s na­tional co­or­di­na­tor, Ja­son Njoku, in a state­ment, said the com­ment was aimed at caus­ing ten­sion, ill-will and con­fu­sion in the coun­try.

The SEYV said the call by the for­mer pres­i­dent would have been seen as an act of a friend, bene­fac­tor and states­man if he had dealt well with the Ndigbo when he held the pres­i­dency for eight years be­tween 1999 and 2007.

The group said Obasanjo’s in­sis­tence on a sec­ond term in 2003 at a time when their son, Sec­ond Repub­lic vice pres­i­dent, Alex Ek­wueme, wanted to get the job, jeop­ar­dized the chances of the South-east and other zones in the coun­try.

On his part, the founder of the Na­tional Demo­cratic Lib­erty Party (NDLP), Al­haji Umaru Mo­hammed Maiz­abura, said Obasanjo was not sin­cere on the mat­ter.

“Please we should all for­get about what Obasanjo said, he is caus­ing un­nec­es­sary ten­sion in the polity,” Maiz­abura, who is the na­tional chair­man of NDLP and its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, said.

“Obasanjo was right to have ad­vo­cated for an Igbo pres­i­dency, they de­serve to pro­duce the pres­i­dent but he fully knows that in the in­ter­est of peace­ful co­ex­is­tence, there is this ar­range­ment that the North and South would be ro­tat­ing the pres­i­dency af­ter ev­ery eight years and so, why is he cry­ing more than the be­reaved at this ma­te­rial time?” Maiz­abura asked.

With this in view, the Nige­rian po­lit­i­cal cli­mate had for over a week or so been be­clouded with an in­tense de­bate as to the de­sir­abil­ity or oth­er­wise, of the call.

Obasanjo, who urged Ig­bos to con­test for the pres­i­dency in 2019 when he hosted the lead­er­ship of the Chris­tian As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (CAN), Ogun State chap­ter at his Abeokuta Hill­top res­i­dence on Tues­day, Jan­uary 27, said he was in sup­port of the return to regional gov­er­nance, as it would solve the prob­lem of marginal­iza­tion.

“Ir­re­spec­tive of the think­ing of the peo­ple ahead of 2019, I per­son­ally think that the South-east should have a go at the pres­i­dency too,” Obasanjo said.

It is un­der­stand­ably cor­rect for the Ig­bos with six states in­clud­ing Anam­bra, Enugu, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi in the po­lit­i­cal balanc­ing, to ask for fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion, in­clud­ing pro­duc­ing the pres­i­dent

Clar­ion call at a con­tentious mo­ment

Many be­lieve that his “en­dorse­ment” of Igbo pres­i­dency by 2019 is more or less writ­ing-off any ex­pec­ta­tion that he would re­peat what he did to Buhari in 2015.

Most im­por­tantly, Obasanjo made the dec­la­ra­tion at a con­tentious time when the South-east is po­lit­i­cally un­set­tled amidst ag­i­ta­tions by the Move­ment for the Ac­tu­al­iza­tion of Sovereign State of Bi­afra (MASSOB) and the Indige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra (IPOB).

Em­manuel Pow­er­ful, the spokesman for IPOB, said they would re­ject the of­fer of Ndigbo to pro­duce Nige­ria’s next pres­i­dent in 2019, de­scrib­ing the call as a dis­trac­tion from the real is­sues.

Mr. Pow­er­ful said they were not in­ter­ested in Nige­rian af­fairs any longer, adding that those fly­ing the kite of Igbo pres­i­dency in 2019 were just try­ing to dis­tract them. He added that what IPOB wants is the re­lease of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, from de­ten­tion and for Bi­afrans to be al­lowed to go.

Ob­servers be­lieve that if the ag­i­ta­tions by the two groups-which in­clude self­de­ter­mi­na­tion and sovereignty, are any­thing to go by, then the con­tem­pla­tion by the ag­i­ta­tors or their po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to have a shot at the pres­i­dency may sound con­tra­dic­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to them, it is un­der­stand­ably cor­rect for the Ig­bos with six states in­clud­ing Anam­bra, Enugu, Abia, Imo and Ebonyi in the po­lit­i­cal balanc­ing, to ask for fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion, in­clud­ing pro­duc­ing the pres­i­dent.

But for this to ma­te­ri­al­ize, an­a­lysts be­lieve that the zone must trash sev­eral is­sues, in­clud­ing whether they ac­tu­ally want to re­main as part of Nige­ria or not. They must also ac­knowl­edge the phi­los­o­phy of “de­ferred grat­i­fi­ca­tion”, a sit­u­a­tion whereby they would whole­heart­edly sup­port the can­di­da­ture of other re­gions in an­tic­i­pa­tion of re­cip­ro­cal ges­tures in the fu­ture.

Lack of con­sen­sus among South-east lead­ers

Since Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence in 1960, apart from the coun­try’s first pres­i­dent, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Ig­bos are yet to pro­duce a pres­i­dent.

And while the se­ces­sion move by the re­gion that pre­cip­i­tated a civil war be­tween 1966 and 1970 had, to greater ex­tent, planted a vi­cious mu­tual sus­pi­cion be­tween the South-east and other geo-po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties in the coun­try, the Igbo’s are said to be obliv­i­ous of some of their salient ad­van­tages which, if prop­erly har­nessed, would take them to the promised land.

Ar­guably, and more than any other tribal en­tity, the Igbo na­tion has its peo­ple in al­most all parts of Nige­ria, pur­su­ing var­i­ous en­deav­ours.

How­ever, the zone has re­mained po­lit­i­cally po­lar­ized as ever, un­able to tap its in­ge­nu­ity to sub­stan­tially court other re­gions to their ad­van­tage. Their var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties over the years could not have na­tional spread and their lead­ers, with the ex­cep­tion of a few, are yet to be­lieve in the power of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

For in­stance, shortly af­ter Obasanjo’s “clar­ion call”, ex­pect­edly, a new po­lit­i­cal de­bate took the cen­tre stage across Nige­ria even though it was more pro­nounced in the South-east.

The gov­er­nor of Imo State, Rochas Oko­rocha, ap­par­ently not on the same page with Obasanjo, ad­vised that the South-east should stop talk­ing about an Igbo pres­i­dency un­til af­ter Pres­i­dent Buhari’s sec­ond ten­ure in 2023.

Oko­rocha, who is the chair­man of the Pro­gres­sive Gov­er­nors’ Fo­rum, while ad­dress­ing State House cor­re­spon­dents af­ter a 30-minute closed-door meet­ing with Act­ing Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, said this was not the time for power shift.

“What I do know is that Ndigbo should talk about pres­i­dency af­ter Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari. I think we should sup­port this gov­ern­ment. Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has ten­ure to work for four years or eight years ac­cord­ing to the zon­ing ar­range­ment, and ev­ery­body should fol­low the zon­ing although I am not an ad­vo­cate of zon­ing,” he said.

It was at the same time that he said at least three gov­er­nors from the South-east would soon join the rul­ing APC, a po­lit­i­cal state­ment seen by many as an at­tempt by Oko­rocha to bring his Igbo brethren into the na­tional po­lit­i­cal equa­tion for max­i­mum ad­van­tage.

But wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly, that sin­gu­lar “de­fec­tion state­ment” opened a flood­gate of a ver­bal war be­tween Oko­rocha and his neigh­bour gov­er­nors in the Southeast, no­tably Gov­er­nor Wil­lie Obiano of Anam­bra State.

The two have al­ready taken them­selves to the clean­ers over what should have been a point of con­ver­gence that would give them po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage ahead of fu­ture elec­tions.

Igbo pres­i­dency very pos­si­ble – Chief­tains

In Imo State, the pi­o­neer chair­man of APC, and now a PDP stal­wart, Prince Mar­shal Okafor Anyanwu, said only the PDP can pro­duce a pres­i­dent of Imo ex­trac­tion.

He said the ide­ol­ogy of the APC would be dif­fi­cult to have any Igbo man from it get­ting to the front-burner, adding that if both the Yoruba and the North see APC as their own, where does the power of Ig­bos lie in the party?

On the likely can­di­date of the party, Okafor Anyanwu listed the in­cum­bent deputy Sen­ate Pres­i­dent, Ike Ek­w­ere­madu and Se­na­tor Eny­i­naya Abaribe as those that have bet­ter think­ings to­wards the lib­er­a­tion of the Igbo.

In his re­marks, the na­tional pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Unity Party (NUP), Chief Prey Oparah, said the likes of Se­na­tor Ken Nna­mani, who re­cently joined the APC and Chief Mike Ahamba Esq are good ma­te­ri­als for the pres­i­dency.

In Enugu State, a for­mer fac­tional chair­man of APGA, Chief Maxi Okwu, said the pres­i­dency was not the is­sue among the gen­er­al­ity of Nige­ri­ans, say­ing re­struc­tur­ing should be the sub­ject of dis­course for now.

The for­mer pres­i­dent gen­eral of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Iked­ife, said it was quite pos­si­ble to have a Nige­rian pres­i­dent of Igbo ex­trac­tion in 2019 with God di­rect­ing it.

“Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble with God di­rect­ing it. Many prophets and pun­dits and an­a­lysts pre­dicted that Don­ald Trump would not be the pres­i­dent of Amer­ica. But today those prophets and pun­dits and com­men­ta­tors have been proved wrong. With God all things are pos­si­ble,” he said.

From Ebonyi State, Dr. Vin­cent Aban, the Pres­i­dent Gen­eral of Afikpo Welfare As­so­ci­a­tion, said an Igbo pres­i­dency in 2019 is very pos­si­ble, re­call­ing that no one ever thought the South-south would pro­duce ex-pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan.

But some con­cerned Ig­bos chron­i­cled the po­lit­i­cal gim­micks, be­tray­als, dis­unity, ac­ri­mony and pur­suance of wealth by some politi­cians in­stead of the re­gion’s po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions as the ill at­ti­tudes ham­per­ing the strug­gle.

Chief John Odu­me­nam, a res­i­dent of Abaka­liki, is of the view that only po­lit­i­cal co­he­sion and speak­ing with one voice would bring to real­ity, the long ex­pected Igbo pres­i­dency in 2019. He added that what tran­spired in the PDP’s 1998 pres­i­den­tial pri­maries should be a ref­er­ence point.

In Awka, Anam­bra State, res­i­dents said an Igbo pres­i­dency in 2019 is pos­si­ble but can­not be de­ter­mined by the likes of Obasanjo, who ac­cord­ing to them never meant well for the Ig­bos.

A politi­cian, Iloabuchi, said the Ig­bos lost con­fi­dence in Obasanjo when he be­trayed them in his choice of a run­ning mate dur­ing the 2007 elec­tions.

“He had the op­por­tu­nity to make an Igbo a vice-pres­i­dent in 2007, but in­stead picked Jonathan. That was the time I per­son­ally lost con­fi­dence in him” he said.

Chuks Oraeke, a jour­nal­ist, won­dered what magic Obasanjo can per­form for the Ig­bos “in this dis­pen­sa­tion when he is more or less po­lit­i­cally ir­rel­e­vant.”

On a gen­eral note, the chair­man of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Anam­bra State, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, said the po­si­tion of the so­cio-cul­tural group would be un­veiled by the Na­tional Pres­i­dent, Chief John Nwodo on the is­sue.

He said Oko­rocha was speak­ing for him­self and not the en­tire Ndigbo.

“For me, the Igbo pres­i­dency is over­due, Oko­rocha’s state­ment was his per­sonal opin­ion. How are we sure that 2023 will be guar­an­teed. I be­lieve in the as­ser­tion of the for­mer pres­i­dent Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo that Ig­bos should po­si­tion them­selves for the pres­i­dency in 2019 and he gave rea­sons for his opin­ion,” he said.

The Ig­bos must first rec­og­nize Nige­ria and then be­lieve in its in­di­vis­i­bil­ity. To me, their ag­i­ta­tion is not real be­cause they have cre­ated a sus­pi­cious at­mos­phere. How sure are we that when we sup­port them they would not frag­ment the coun­try and go their way?

The Ig­bos must be­lieve in Nige­ria first – Barr. Bello

An ac­tivist from the North-east, Barr. Mo­hammed Bello, said some­body call­ing for se­ces­sion should not waste his time ag­i­tat­ing to pro­duce the Nige­rian pres­i­dent.

“The Ig­bos must first rec­og­nize Nige­ria and then be­lieve in its in­di­vis­i­bil­ity. To me, their ag­i­ta­tion is not real be­cause they have cre­ated a sus­pi­cious at­mos­phere. How sure are we that when we sup­port them they would not frag­ment the coun­try and go their way?” he asked. “We will sup­port them when we sit and agree on per­ti­nent is­sues,” he said.

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