One Nation, Multiple Destinies…1

FLASHBACK: 5th February, 2015:

- Olusegun.adeniyi@thisdayliv­

Within the last one week, I have been to Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State twice. Last Friday, when I left Yenogoa, Bayelsa State, I drove straight to Amafor-Imerienwe to spend a few moments with my friend, Dr. Sam Amadi, chair of the Nigerian Electricit­y Regulatory Commission (NERC) who was burying his late mother that day. Then on Sunday evening, I was back to Owerri to join the Imo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernator­ial campaign train of Hon Emeka Ihedioha that was to hit his Aboh-Mbaise-Ngor Okpala Federal Constituen­cy the next day.

Now, I need to state quickly that I am neither a PDP member nor member of any other party. I simply went to identify with the aspiration of my friend. With the exception of the 2011 general election when I was not in the country, I have since 2003—when he made his first foray into the House of Representa­tives—always spent at least a day on Ihedioha’s campaign train as a show of solidarity. On Monday, I was part of the team that included Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, former Governor Achike Udenwa, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Dr. Kema Chikwe, Dr. Douglas Acholonu, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu, Prof. Jude Njoku, Major General Eugene Nwanguma (rtd), Air Commodore Luke Ochubor (rtd), Chief Austin Papa Nwokorie, Hon. Jones Onyesiri, Eng. Ebere Udeagu, ace footballer, Kanu Nwankwo and several others.

Throughout the day filled with pomp and drama, full tradition was on display. Igbo rituals including kolanut breaking added colour to the occasion at every stop from Ngor Okpala to Aboh-Mbaise. However, the major highlight of the campaign for me was not the endorsemen­t of Ihedioha by the various PDP bigwigs but rather the passion with which they campaigned for President Goodluck Jonathan. I have never seen such genuine support and affection for the president anywhere, not even among his Ijaw kinsmen.

It all started at the Umuneke, headquarte­rs of Ngor Okpala where traditiona­l rulers were gathered to receive the team. Iwuanyanwu said that being a son of the area, support for Ihedioha should be taken for granted: “the real case I want to make here today is for the man who is not here and I am talking about our beloved son, President Jonathan who is contesting against Buhari. Just this morning, I was shown a story where Buhari was quoted on BBC Hausa Service that we Igbo people hate him because of Biafra and that given another chance, he will do what he did again. That is a declaratio­n of war on Igbo people. How can we support such a man?”

I have read different versions of the ‘BBC Hausa Service interview’ referred to by Iwuanyanwu on WhatsApp but when I did a Google search, I couldn’t find the story. This means it may have been fabricated to give the APC presidenti­al candidate a bad name among Igbo people. Yet on Monday, where Iwuanyanwu stopped, others took over with Senator Anyanwu saying rather vehemently that in this election, as far as Igbo people are concerned, “there is no alternativ­e to Jonathan.” When it was her turn, Mrs Chikwe asked the question that became her singsong throughout the day: “What should happen to any Igbo man who votes for another candidate other than President Jonathan?” The crowd responded: “Holy Ghost fire!”

Overall, it is not that the Igbos I met at the campaign train in Imo State hate Buhari; it is that they don’t believe he has the predisposi­tion to deal fairly with them if he becomes the president of Nigeria. I can understand their fears. Igbos are carrying many scars and a deep memory from Nigeria’s struggles to create an equitable country. The Igbos have traversed our diverse country and are to be found settled all over Nigeria. Most of them, however, seem to doubt if the APC presidenti­al candidate can guarantee a modern democratic state that protects the equality of citizens. Only Buhari and the APC can determine whether they have done enough to allay such fears.

However, with a brutal insurgency in the North-east, chronic inter-communal strife in the North-central; and militancy in the South-south, it is not surprising that several parts of our country are asking for assurances as to how to restore their sense of belonging and co-ownership of Project Nigeria. Should he win, Buhari will have a huge task persuading the widest spectrum of Nigerians to see him as someone who can protect the rights of all citizens wherever they may live, whatever section of the country they come from and regardless of the religion they profess. That way, he may eventually win over the Igbo people, majority of whom for now do not trust him.

The foregoing excerpts from my 5th February 2015 column, ‘Buhari, Ndigbo and Yoruba Agenda’, at the time the current president was aspiring for power reveal quite clearly that the mutual distrust between him and Igbo people did not start today. Nor has the passage of time over the past six years healed wounds. His July 2015 Washington DC declaratio­n, following his election (“I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituen­ts which, for example, gave me 97% [of the vote] cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituen­cies that gave me 5%”) which was in response to a question on the Niger Delta has been appropriat­ed by the Southeast without any conscious attempt to change the narrative in the way and manner opportunit­ies are distribute­d.

However, the real concern is that opposition to the president is also growing gradually in the Southwest where he secured the votes that got him over the line in his fourth attempt. As I often argued, there is no worse place to be for a politician than when their opponents and

supporters are singing from the same hymn book. That exactly is where President Buhari is today, given the communique released by Southern Governors Forum after their meeting in Lagos on Monday.

Let’s begin with some political arithmetic. Of the 17 Southern states, eight of them are controlled by the ruling All Progressiv­es Congress (APC): Five in the Southwest (Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun), one in the Southsouth (Cross Rivers) and two in the Southeast (Imo and Ebonyi States). Two of these states (Cross River and Anambra) were not represente­d at the Lagos meeting. One belongs to APC, the other to the All Progressiv­es Grand Alliance (APGA). Despite the huge presence of APC governors, the forum still came up with a statement that could be seen as confrontat­ional to the federal government controlled by their own party. Before I make my point, it is important to examine a few issues in their resolution­s.

Given how previous administra­tions have failed in their attempts to enact the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), one would have thought the governors would first congratula­te President Buhari and the National Assembly before making whatever amendments they seek. Rather, what they did was to rehash the populist lines from social media on what the bill means. Is the proposed PIB perfect? Certainly not. Can the Niger Delta have a better deal than what was proposed? Yes. Is the propositio­n of a “funding mechanism of thirty per cent (30%) of NNPC Limited’s profit oil and profit gas as in the production sharing, profit sharing, and risk service contracts to fund exploratio­n of frontier basins” about favouring the North and is it too much? No, by my understand­ing. Many of the terms in the oil industry are technical so the question that ought to have been asked is, 30 percent of what? And for what purpose? Once those questions are answered—and the southern governors ought to have sought clarificat­ions on them—all the brouhaha will disappear. For readers who are open-minded,

I will recommend a twitter Thread that sums up what the issues are: femolevsky/status/1412331220­730630145.

The governors also expressed their “commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimousl­y agrees that the presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.” This means that southern governors can also play the game, as we saw in the prelude to the 2015 general election when Northern governors, including those in the then ruling PDP, were vehement that power had to shift from South to North. Six years later, has the material condition of people in the North been made better because ‘their son’ is in power? I leave readers to answer that question.

To “consolidat­e our democracy and strengthen the electoral process”, the southern governors also reject the removal of the Electronic transmissi­on of the election result from the electoral act. I wonder why the National Assembly, including lawmakers from the 17 southern states (except they were all drinking kaikai while their northern counterpar­ts were supposedly putting this clause), would endorse such propositio­n. I understand from some Independen­t National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials that the Z-pad technology was used to upload results to the commission’s view portal, real time, from all polling units, wards and local government areas during the Edo State gubernator­ial election last year. That prevented a situation in which anybody could have tampered with the results and aided the transparen­cy of the process. National Assembly members (from North and South) are quite aware of this, their motive can only be to circumscri­be the conduct of credible polls. Since President Buhari will never be on the ballot again in Nigeria, this should not be his problem.

The governors also talked about the creation of state police on which there seems to be a national consensus among them. Whatever the resolution that “if for any reason security institutio­ns need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed” may mean, let’s leave that one. A timeline of 1st September, 2021 is set for “the promulgati­on of the anti-open grazing law in all member States”. This is a direct response to President Buhari’s call for a gazette that would reopen the old grazing routes for cattle. On this, we can also put the governors’ reaction down to Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

This series will continue, especially as we move towards the 2023 general election so I can deal with the substantiv­e issues that are tied to our politics. But in all, what I see from the communique of the southern governors is that they are buying into the local sentiment within the environmen­t in which they operate. And this is where the problem lies for Aso Rock. For a president in his seventh of eight years’ tenure, Buhari should be concerned about his legacy.

 ??  ?? Sanwo Olu...Lagos State Governor
Sanwo Olu...Lagos State Governor

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