Presidency and Ndigbos’ dilemma
NDIGBO are one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria who have always cried the loudest against the perceived injustice against them in the country. The people of the Southeast geo-political zone were so furious over the alleged perpetual subjugation that the ex-Biafran leader, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had to lead a war of rebellion against the constituted authority, calling for a secession in 1967.
Perhaps, it is against the afore-mentioned backdrop that passion is often invoked by Ndigbo at any time the issue of who leads the country is tabled. As it is, the race for the 2015 presidency has begun and all eyes are on Ndigbo to know if they are serious with the Nigeria project which they came close to getting through the former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, in 2003.
It will be recalled that the Oko High Chief stood the better chance of clinching the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket over other candidates in the party, including Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who eventually was re-elected president at the polls.
Today, it is being speculated that the same Chief Ekwueme is being pushed by the Presidency to accept the offer of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman with a view to foreclosing the Igbo gunning for the 2015 presidency from the ruling party. Apparently reacting to the underground moves, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex umbrella of Igbo socio-cultural associations, said that there was no going back on its clamour to run for the presidency of the country. The National Secretary of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Ralph Ndigwe, in a recent media interview, called on Igbo presidential aspirants to start the campaign for the juicy position in the next general election.
While maintaining that Ndigbo were yet to endorse anybody outside Igbo enclave for the 2015 presidential lection, he reiterated, “The project has not been dropped. Ndigbo all over the world are calling for that. Ohanaeze, you know, is not a political party. But the politicians are also members and we are calling on those with presidential ambition to come out now. The presidential race is not like running for councillorship. You have to begin early enough.”
To the image maker of the Igbo group, it is the turn of the Igbo to run for the presidency, even as he said that other ethnic nationalities were free to endorse the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, for the 2015 race.
According to him, there was nothing wrong for the South-South to endorse their brother for a re-election, noting, “We are running a democracy.” Hear him: “Every part of the country can endorse their candidate. The North, the West and Ndigbo all have the right to endorse the candidate of their choice, but equity has it that it is the turn of Ndigbo.” Investigations however revealed that the realisation of the Igbo presidency in 2015 would be a herculean task as, already, there are discordant tunes in the Igbo block.
Notable Igbo political figure to drum support for President Jonathan was the former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who told reporters recently, “2015 is a very big thing (project). We are going to play a game of cooperation with Jonathan forces.” Dr Ezeife is not the only person in the league of Jonathan’s supporters, as Igbo traditional rulers from the 19 northern states have also pledged their willingness to return Jonathan to Aso Rock in 2015. The Igbo leaders made their views known at the weekend at a meeting of Ndi-Eze Igbo in the 19 northern states convened by the Chairman of the group, HRH Nwobu Ibe Igbo 1 of Abuja. Reports had it that among the top dignitaries at the Abuja gathering were the Eze Nri and custodian of Igbo culture and tradition, Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya the Chairman of the Southeast Council of traditional rulers.
Indeed, there is pronounced division among the Igbo elite on the issue of Igbo presidency in 2015, as more prominent Igbo political leaders have underscored the commitment of the region towards the realisation of a Nigerian president of South-East extraction, declaring that even the perceived ambition of the incumbent President Jonathan would not deter them from pursuing the project to a logical conclusion.The stance of the Igbo group under the auspices of the South East Forum (SEF) came at a time the dance steps of the incumbent has shown his likely disposition to seeking a second term either through the constitution by introducing the 6-year single tenure or by presenting himself for re-election in 2015.
In line with the position of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the group, in a firm resolution, stated unequivocally that the people of the South-east were determined to pursue the presidency project without recourse to any other person’s ambition. The gathering of the Igbo leaders, which was the formal presentation and the launching of the constitution of the SEF, was held recently at Model Hotel, Enugu, Enugu State, and was attended, among others, by politicians and renowned academics.
The Friday Edition observed that the Igbo politicians at the meeting unanimously described “the Igbo presidency agenda” as a project that must be supported by all other political regions in the country considering the sacrifices Ndigbo have made in Nigeria. One time National chairman of the PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, who chaired the occasion, called on Ndigbo to close ranks and work together towards the realization of the project. Dr Nwodo noted that the political situation since the civil war ended looked as if there had remained a serious conspiracy to make sure that no Igbo man occupied the highest office in the land.
Stressing the contribution of Ndigbo in the overall development of the country, he queried: “How many Hausas, how many Yorubas, how many Tivs have investments here in the South-East much as Ndigbo have across the country? Why then are we being killed, why are we being persecuted”? The former governor of old Enugu State said time had come for these anomalies to be addressed by other regions supporting the Igbo presidency project as well as the imbalance in state structure. “We are losing revenue by having five states only, we are losing revenue by having a shortfall in the number of local government areas, we are losing three senators, House members, state assembly members, board appointments, among others”, he added.
He lamented lack of Federal Government presence in the region thus: “Who will tell me how many industries the Federal Government has sited here ever since the war ended? Who will tell me any part of the country that has the worst network of roads than the South-East? Is there any government that didn’t use the second Niger Bridge as a campaign promise?’’
Also in a speech, the national chairman of the forum, Dr Ezekiel Izuogu, said they were committed to the realization of Igbo presidency in 2015. According to him, “We support the government of President Jonathan and we pray for him to succeed but we also support the emergence of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2015. We are interested in producing a Nigerian president come 2015; we are tired of being campaign managers and national coordinators for presidential candidates from other geo-political zones. We think we have scratched the back of other people long enough. For the sake of justice in our country, it is time for others to scratch the Igbo back too.”
Similarly, another prominent Igbo indigene, Prince Orji Nwafor Orizu, has called for a serious strategy towards the realisation of the project, noting that should President Jonathan decide to run, it would not be an easy ride for the Igbos. He, however, cautioned against tying the hope of the project on the PDP, advising that “PDP is not the only party in Nigeria. When the time comes and any other serious party, the ACN, the CPC, the APGA, among others says take our platform, we should go ahead and negotiate with such a party, so it need not be the PDP.”
The Anambra born politician, however, rued what he called the absence of purposeful leadership in Igbo land, noting that under such a situation, the presidency project would remain a mirage.
“The South-East today is like sheep without a shepherd and it makes other regions see us as unserious people. Look at what Bola Tinubu is doing in the South-West, so it is in other regions, but we don’t even support our leaders here. Until Ndigbo get a leader who will guide them, this project would not be realized.
“It is not something we would get on a silver platter because apart from the fact that Jonathan would likely run in 2015, the North is already saying that it is their turn; so we must know that it is not a mild dream,” he stated.
But are other political parties deeply rooted in Igbo land to provide platforms for the emergence of Igbo presidency in next general election? The truth is that if the current political tempo in the South-East is anything to go by, then it is pretty difficult for any political party outside the PDP to make Igbo presidency in 2015 feasible, as many opposition leaders have gone under since the conclusion of the last general election.
Even the APGA that had produced two governors in Anambra and Imo States respectively is engulfed in internal squabbles. Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State once described APGA as a dying party in the zone, saying, “In APGA, there is no more a system, there is no succession plan and there is no structure. For all I care, APGA is only marking time. As soon as my friend, Governor Peter Obi, leaves in less than two years from now, that would be the end of the party.” Although Governor Obi did not like the perception his colleague in the Coal City State had about his party, his body language suggests that he might not pose a stumbling block to the PDP cabal on a sensitive issue like the 2015 Igbo presidency project.
While some see the crisis in the party as the hand of nemesis, others say Governor Obi is no longer interested in whatever becomes of APGA in 2014, having declared that he would quit active politics thereafter. On the nemesis theory, there is the belief that the manner the pioneer chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie, was frustrated out of the party could be responsible for the travails the party is facing at the moment.
On the other hand, Governor Obi’s stance on who replaces him when he bows out in 2014 could also mean that he is indifferent towards the problem ravaging the party. He appears to have nodded in agreement to Governor Chime’s postulation that there is no succession plan in APGA.
Governor Obi had, in a reply to Chime’s postulations, stated that the party was a mass movement that would not die just by the Enugu governor’s mere pronouncement. He, however, clearly added that he had no plan of whoever would succeed him when he leaves office.
Obi said: “Just like the Mosaic law was engraved in the hearts of the Jews. APGA is engraved in the hearts of our people.’’ On the crisis in the party, he noted: “What we are witnessing is a minor misunderstanding which we will get over. People and organisations come out of such stronger and more promising and such will be the fate of APGA”.
On the succession plan, Governor Obi said: “People have asked me and I said no. The succession plan is that the people of Anambra State should be bold enough to elect somebody who does not see politics as a job. Politics is a vocation. They should only allow those who have proven track records in their endeavours to serve. I say this because, painfully, most of those that parade themselves as leaders are more transactional than transformational.”
In their determination to make APGA formidable and possibly usher in an Igbo president in 2015, several meetings were convened by the members of the APGA to resolve the differences.
Further checks revealed that while Victor Umeh, Governor Rochas of Imo State and a host of others were conspicuously absent from the meeting, Obi, as well as Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca and others like Dr Tim Menakaya, Chief Patrick Onuoha participated in it, where they passed a resolution asking the national leadership of the party to organise a national convention of the party without further delay. As it is, the crisis in APGA has become a matter of litigation, as warring factions have gone to court to seek redress.
Also, the South-East Governors’ Forum seems to be shying away from discussing political integration but rather lay emphasis on social insecurity and economic interest.
Be that as it may, it is not easy to predict Nigerian politicians, more so when there is no clear cut ideology but rather politics of the stomach. Between now and 2015, events will show how the dilemma in which Ndigbo have found themselves will be resolved.Share
written by Aki Dan, September 17, 2012