How Prepared Is South East For 2023 Presidency? | Independent Newspapers Nigeria


LAGOS – With about two years into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the issue of which zone should produce his successor is steadily taking the centre stage, with political analysts and stakeholders canvassing a power shift to the southern part of the country.

While a lot of analysts have agreed that shifting power to the south will ensure equity and fairness, there is another argument as to whether it should go to the Eastern or Western axis.

There has been another argument as to the alleged marginalisation of the South-Easterners, who are majorly Igbos.

Last year, Nigeria celebrated 50 years of the end of the country’s civil war, and while speaking at a public event organised by Igbo Leadership Development Foundation, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), confessed that the Igbo nation had been marginalised in Nigeria’s polity.

Gowon, at the event, called for the adoption of appropriate measures to ameliorate the pains of the Igbo.

The former Head of State, who was represented at the event by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, spoke at the debate for national unity with the theme: “Federal Character, Restructuring and Rotation of Presidential Power in Nigeria.”

The former Head of State, who ended the Nigerian civil war with the slogan ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’, said Nigeria had what it takes to cater adequately for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or creed.

Gowon, however, suggested the convocation of a constitutional debate on restructuring to undertake a holistic correction of the observable imbalances that had kept Nigeria down over the years with a view to making progress and promoting national unity and cohesion.

He said: “I believe that a lot of injustice has been done to the Igbo and a constitutional debate on restructuring must address all imbalances and restore hope and confidence.

“Nigeria is big enough for all of us and I believe that the Igbo, Middle Belt and the Yoruba are the true Nigerians because if you look round our borders, people came from abroad and are still coming but Ndigbo have always been there, Middle Belt people have always been there, even Yoruba have always been there.

“People who came in yesterday who have a duty of respect are now the ones talking. Going forward, we must create a federal democracy that will respond positively to all the aspirations of our people, not about East-West, but all about working together in equality, bringing in the youths and the women to build a new Nigeria.”

The former Head of State pointed out that Nigeria remains incomplete without Ndigbo, adding that the nation needed to properly harness the intelligence, creativity and hard work of Ndigbo for national growth and development.

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According to Gowon, God did not make a mistake by making Ndigbo part and parcel of Nigeria. He, therefore, called for justice, equity and fair play in Nigeria, maintaining that while restructuring was critical to national advancement, it must be carried out in an atmosphere of tolerance and love for one another.

“I am not a friend of hate speech and bitterness, but a friend of patriotism because Nigeria is dear to my heart and I believe in the bright future of Nigeria and Ndigbo and that together, we can make our country great.”

Since the return of democracy in 1999, the South-East has not been able to benefit from the rotation. None of the political parties that had featured in the country’s political space had ever featured an Igbo president.

Igbo Leaders Renewed Call

On Tuesday, notable Igbo leaders urged all the major political parties in the country to cede their presidential tickets to the South-East geopolitical zone in 2023 in the interest of justice, equity and national unity.

Rising from a cross-party meeting of South-East leaders in Igbere, the home country of Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu, the leaders said that the South-West and the South-South zones, which together with South-East make up the South had respectively produced presidents in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

In a communique 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, at the end of the meeting, the leaders also called on Nigerians across all geo-political zones and ethnic nationalities to support Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction in 2023.

The communique read: “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 the President 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 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.”

While making some demands in its resolutions, the Igbo leaders said 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.”

Disunity As Bane Of Igbos

While many who are not even of Igbo extraction are clamouring for an Igbo presidency in 2023, there seems to be some Igbos singing a discordant tune and not showing much commitment towards the realisation of the South-East agenda.

The issue of disunity has continued to be a major problem among politicians from the region.

Confirming this, an Igbo leader and oil magnate, Prince Arthur Eze said in a recent interview that the disunity among Ndigbo may rob it of the 2023 presidency.

According to Eze, “The major problem our people have is not loving themselves. Instead, they try to pull whoever is doing well down. Such an attitude cannot take Ndigbo anywhere. We lack unity. Those we see as our enemies are not; we are the greatest enemy of ourselves.

“Only God can make an Igbo man president. We shall pray to God to find an Igbo man who has the character to help people. Northerners are kind people. I would prefer someone who has conscience; somebody who will remember you. I don’t care where you come from.

“I went to the North and they didn’t know who I was but Abubakar Rimi gave me $12 million for Kano TV in 1980. He called then Governor Solomon Lar and he gave me $12 million for Plateau TV. It was the same in Katsina, Borno and Kaduna states.

“Then they put me in the oil business. They didn’t care where I came from. Tell me any Igbo man who can do that.

“During the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, we had the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in Pius Anyim, what did he do for Igbo people? He brought Julius Berger and they tarred the road leading to his house, yet all our roads were bad.

“It is President Muhammadu Buhari who is tarring our roads now. Look at Enugu/Onitsha Road; Enugu/Port Harcourt Road; Second Niger Bridge; he modernised Zik’s grave. Did Jonathan do that?”

A former Commissioner for Information, Tourism and Public Utilities in Imo State, Vitalis Ajumbe, also said in a recent interview that the South East should forget the agitation for the 2023 presidency.

The region, Ajumbe explained, should rather pursue the Vice- Presidential slot and build from there.

He explained that the Igbo people are not united enough politically to present a candidate for president in 2023, adding that although the region has a right to aspire for the position in 2023, he questioned how prepared the people of the region are.

Ajumbe said: “My zone that is South East if we say okay every other zone should not field a candidate for presidency let the South East; the Igbos are not united politically. They will fight themselves.

“They have the right to aspire for the presidency in 2023, but how prepared are they? How many of them can come out and say ‘I want to run’? How many of them have shown interest?

“An Anambra man will not want an Imo man to emerge as a president. Instead, they will spoil it. Anything good, if it doesn’t come from Anambra then it is scattered. They wouldn’t want someone from Abia. They may not support somebody from Ebonyi and they will not support somebody from Enugu.

“Who is the rallying point of the Igbos? Is it the Ohanaeze? How many of them believe in Ohanaeze? Who will call a meeting in Igboland and everybody will attend and say okay, this is what we want, let us present this candidate? It will never happen in Igboland. So how else can we make it?

“Why can’t we rally round and get somebody that can govern the country very well? If you look at the time of MKO Abiola, a Muslim, Babagana Kingibe, a Muslim, we didn’t mind that this was a Muslim – Muslim ticket and we voted massively for Abiola because we felt he would give us good governance.

“If we can still have that kind of spirit, irrespective of where the person comes from, even if the person is the younger brother of Buhari (the President), provided he is going to give us good governance because zoning brings mediocracy.

“I don’t actually cherish that. It won’t give Nigeria what we need. Let us allow merit to play and that merit will play when we have a good electoral system – that is the only way I know merit will play.

“The only way I think we can make it is when an Igbo man is made the Vice President so that that Vice President will now be a rallying point. But it is something we must discuss and agree on the way it will go.”

He also said the country should discard the zoning of the president, adding that it brings mediocrity.

The former commissioner noted that the zoning of political positions has destroyed the country’s democracy.

According to him, Nigerians should vote for someone who can bring good governance in 2023, irrespective of the zone the person comes from.

“What we need in Nigeria today is good governance irrespective of where it comes from. Because as a person I believe in good governance. I don’t really cherish zoning because what destroyed Nigeria today is this zoning thing; when you say it must go to the South East, it must go to the North West and it must go to North Central.

South East Governors Dissociate From Igbere Meeting

Meanwhile, South East Governors, on Tuesday, came hard on the initiators and conveners of the Igbere meeting and dissociated themselves from it.

The governors argued that “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.”

Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, stated this during a virtual meeting with other governors of the region.

According to Umahi, “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 an 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 a 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 are so much worried about the killings and kidnappings that are going on by our people in the South East; killing our own people and then killing security agencies and the situation is being heightened by the activities of very desperate politicians.

“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 destabilise the nation.”

Will South West Support Igbo Presidency?

It is yet unclear if the South West region will be ready to allow the presidency go to the South East if it is zoned to the south by any of the two major political parties. Already, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has said that it has not taken any decision on the issue of zoning.

However, the APC on its part seems to have settled for the South, as former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, said on Tuesday that an agreement was reached during the merger of the APC that the presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 presidential election would come from the South.

Speaking when he featured on a live television programme, Osoba said the agreement was that the North would produce the president in 2015, while the chairman of the party would come from the South.

His words “We had a clear gentlemanly understanding that the Northern part of the country would produce the president when we did the merger in 2013. And the chairman of the party will then come from the South.

“We have had a president for six and a half years now from the North in APC. The president will be there for eight years until 2023. The chairmanship has moved from Chief Bisi Akande in the South West to John Oyegun from the South South and then from John Oyegun to Adams Oshiomhole, also from the South South.

“Of course, at the end of the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, the gentlemanly arrangement is that the presidency will come to the south and I talk of the south in terms of the two territories that were forced to amalgamate in 1914, which means the South South, the South East and the South West zones, which are also not in the constitution can bid and should be allowed to produce the next president for this country.

“Therefore, those from the South East, South South and South West can put up candidates for the party’s primary and whoever emerges from the primary can then be the candidate of our party.

“That is the gentlemanly understanding that we reached when we were doing the merger arrangement.”

In a contradictory statement, former governor of Kano State and incumbent senator representing Kano Central, Ibrahim Shekarau, said on Tuesday, “To the best of my knowledge, there is nowhere in the constitution of the APC where the issue of rotational presidency is mentioned.

“As far as APC is concerned, there is no provision but it is there in the PDP. The PDP constitution says the presidency will rotate between North and South. But the APC constitution does not have such a clause. It is left open.

“However, I always say that there is the constitution of common sense. People have to reason. Let me give you a good example. The issue of six geopolitical zones is not written anywhere in the constitution of Nigeria.

“But today in Nigeria, there is nothing you will do without considering zoning because people will say you are mad. It is not there in the constitution, it is common sense and discussion.

“Let me give you another example. It is not written in the constitution either that if today I become a presidential candidate, my running mate must come from the South. But if today I become a presidential candidate and I announce that my running mate is from Bauchi, wouldn’t you say I am mad?

“Because of this, I always believe the guiding principle is fairness and justice for all among all our diversities. There has to be balance. I always use the word ‘balance the equation,’ maybe because I am a Mathematics teacher. In balancing the equation you try to take interest in every sector not just one person. Make sure justice is done.

“My belief is that there is no one state in Nigeria that you do not have hundreds of qualified presidential candidates. There is no state in Nigeria today that you do not have hundreds of capable persons that can lead Nigeria.

“If you kill yourselves because it has to be your townsman or it has to be your tribesman or it has to be your religion’s man, what value has that added to your life?

“Obasanjo was president, did that change the life of the Ogun State person? Jonathan was president, did that change the life of the Otuoke person? Now Buhari is President, did that change the life of the Katsina person? No! So why do we kill ourselves that it has to be my tribesman or religion?

“So, all we are saying is: Who is he, not where is he from? It is the responsibility of you and me to canvass for who it is and we look at antecedents.”




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