Pri­maries And Take­aways For South­east

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - POLITICS - From Lawrence Njoku, South­east Bu­reau Chief

Athat is gen­er­at­ing dis­cus­sion since con­clu­sion of the pres­i­den­tial pri­maries is what role the south­east geo-po­lit­i­cal zone would play to en­sure vic­tory in 2019 elec­tions and ben­e­fit from the sys­tem. Al­though there are sev­eral po­lit­i­cal par­ties, in­clud­ing the ones whose pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates hail from the zone, they are not in the peo­ple’s reck­on­ing, as at­ten­tion is fo­cused on the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) and the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP). This ap­par­ently is based on their promi­nence in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

The im­me­di­ate Past Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nworgu, while jus­ti­fy­ing that ac­tion dubbed at a time as “putting all eggs in one bas­ket”, said it was for eq­uity and jus­tice.

He said among the six geo-po­lit­i­cal zones, only south­east and south south had not pro­duced a pres­i­dent, not­ing, “Since the South-south and South­east were the two zones yet to pro­duce a Pres­i­dent, we backed the South-south. Again, the oil re­sources that sus­tain the coun­try come from them. So, they should be al­lowed to oc­cupy the seat in an un­bro­ken suc­ces­sion. It will equally give room for mi­nor­ity tribes to have a chance at oc­cu­py­ing the seat. Based on that, since Jonathan was al­ready a sit­ting Pres­i­dent from South-south, we de­cided to sup­port him in his re-elec­tion bid.

“But af­ter the South-south, it will be the turn of the South­east, which has never pro­duced a Pres­i­dent in an un­bro­ken suc­ces­sion, based on eq­uity and fair play. We be­lieve in jus­tice and equal­ity of all zones in the coun­try. That is the rea­son we voted him.”

Un­for­tu­nately, the zone’s mas­sive sup­port for Jonathan could not re­turn him to power, as Buhari’s vic­tory did not only al­ter the po­lit­i­cal equa­tion that power would re­turn to south­east af­ter

South south, but there are also doubts it may hap­pen even in 2023, go­ing by man­i­fes­ta­tions of the re­cently con­cluded pri­maries. Igbo politi­cians to be con­sid­ered.

There is an­other school of thought, which se­ri­ously be­lieves that an­gling for Vice Pres­i­dency un­der Atiku would not make any im­pact on the zone.

Those can­vass­ing this po­si­tion in­sist that the coun­try, as presently con­sti­tuted, would con­tinue to wob­ble, say­ing what is para­mount is hav­ing a Se­nate Pres­i­dent with a strong Igbo char­ac­ter to push for re­struc­tur­ing of the coun­try.

The likes of Sen­a­tor Enyin­naya Abaribe are be­ing con­sid­ered to lead a Se­nate that could un­der­take the as­sign­ment. This school of thought in­sisted that re­struc­tur­ing would make the quest for power less at­trac­tive and could po­si­tion the zone for rapid de­vel­op­ment.

The pos­si­bil­i­ties of real­is­ing the quest as Atiku con­cedes to the zone and emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is an­other mat­ter. But is the zone putting any­thing on the ta­ble to en­sure pos­si­ble vic­tory? Who are those that would de­liver south­east to PDP, with the pen­e­tra­tion made so far by APC and the party’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­sol­i­date its base in the zone through 2019 gen­eral elec­tions? These ap­pear to be the big­gest chal­lenge and dilemma faced by the zone.

The im­me­di­ate past Pres­i­dent of pan Igbo group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Gordy Uwazu­ruike, noted that ev­ery pres­i­den­tial can­di­date would al­ways want to pick a deputy from an area he is sure would give him the re­quired votes to win an elec­tion.

In the his­tory of elec­tions since 1999, the 1,112,188 votes given to for­mer Pres­i­dent Jonathan in 2015 were said to be the high­est from the zone so far. This does not, how­ever, sug­gest the vot­ing strength of the zone. The un­der­ly­ing fac­tor is the ap­a­thy that is en­trenched in the peo­ple and with which they ap­proach ev­ery elec­tion.

The In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) in Enugu State lent cre­dence to this fact, when it said its re­search and find­ings in­di­cated that in the last two gen­eral elec­tions held in the zone, not more than 700,000 per­sons voted in elec­tions that pro­duced state gov­er­nors.

INEC’S Res­i­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sioner for Enugu State, Dr. Emeka Onona­madu said at a work­shop or­gan­ised by Tran­si­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Group (TMG) on Ci­ti­zens Char­ter of Democ­racy and Agenda that south­east re­mains the only zone with lowlevel par­tic­i­pa­tion dur­ing elec­tions. Al­though he ex­plained that the zone reg­is­tered more el­i­gi­ble vot­ers than most zones in the coun­try, ac­tu­al­is­ing vot­ing is a dif­fer­ent thing, es­pe­cially with the in­volve­ment of Bi­afran groups.

Us­ing the last gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion in Anam­bra State as a case study, he told the gath­er­ing that such threat as “heads will roll” and threats from the “out­lawed” In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra (IPOB) com­pounded the sit­u­a­tion.

Wwould hap­pen should Buhari win the pres­i­dency again with­out south­east sup­port in 2019? Is there a pos­si­bil­ity that he would want to help the zone ac­quire power in 2023, when the zone be­lieves it would be its turn?

Osita Okechukwu, Direc­tor Gen­eral of

Voice of Nige­ria (VON) said sup­port for Buhari is the short­est route to Igbo pres­i­dency. He said the risk of not re­turn­ing Buhari in 2019 means that the zone would have to wait a lit­tle longer, as an­other north­erner would not be will­ing to leave in 2023. With the way things are, it is un­likely that PDP will have a straight win in the south­east, as it did in 2015. This is be­cause APC has weak­ened the base of PDP serv­ing gov­er­nors in the zone.

What is presently not in doubt is the fact that the three gov­er­nors pro­duced by the party in the zone, in­clud­ing Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia States are hav­ing a tough time con­vinc­ing their elec­torate on why they should re­tain them in of­fice and re­main with the party.

In 2015, Anam­bra, though an All Pro­gres­sives Grand Al­liance (APGA) state, sup­ported PDP’S pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. The party has pre­sented a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for 2019 elec­tion. The ques­tion is: Would the state that is APGA’S strong­hold aban­don its own for an­other po­lit­i­cal party’s can­di­date?

Chief Okenna Igwe, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, said: “It is time to wear think­ing cap in the south­east. The zone must re­turn to the draw­ing board and ne­go­ti­ate on what will ben­e­fit the peo­ple in the next four years. The south­east may go into po­lit­i­cal ex­tinc­tion, if it does not get its acts right with 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.”





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