With about a year to the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria, political actors are already realigning and strategising ahead. This could be noticed in the last few weeks in the number of aspirants that have either made their intention to contest the presidency public, directly or indirectly.
However, one issue that has remained contentious in recent years is the zoning of the presidency and which region should produce a successor to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in May next year.
Many people of the southeast geo-political zone and their sympathisers from other parts of the country have argued that it is desirable to allow the Igbo nation to produce the next president.
But pundits say that the average Igbo man could be irritating when consideration is all about public interest or the common good. His republican nature, which has been his greatest undoing in the contraption called Nigeria, is always at play, restless, self-seeking, and blind to the bigger picture. It is all about self or nothing.
Perhaps, the saying is true that the Igbo man is not a good politician because, as it is said, he enters the political chess game without tact and fails to see the power in number and greater gain in collaboration.
Gradually but steadily, the race towards 2023 presidential election that would expectedly right the wrongs of government, has begun and the contestation which should now be at the level of consultations, discussions, and alignment of forces, has already been taken to the market place.
And, too early in the day, the Igbo nation and its hapless people are already burdened with confusion as to who goes for them as president. This is because, apparently without talking to themselves nor their next-door neighbours, some Igbo sons have joined the fray, all wanting to be president.
Ambition is noble but could be ignoble when it is inordinate. Like aspiration, it is a virtue when it is planned and coordinated more so, when it relates to power which, in all ages and at all times, is not served on a platter but struggled for. The Igbo seems to think, erroneously, that power is going to be willed to him.
The zoning clamour is still raging. While the southeast still asks other zones to allow equity and fairness to take their pride of place, it does not seem the plea is getting the desired response or consideration.
Aspirants from other zones are already in the ring which is good reason and bold enough handwriting on the wall for Ndigbo to come together to ask the right questions: where do we go from here; who goes for us and how will he get there?
Ndigbo does not seem to be making any strong plan for power shift. Already, they have continued with the individualistic and selfish politics that has been their nemesis. Instead of sitting down to pick one or two persons to go as David or Goliath, everybody wants to be president all by themselves.
Whose interest are those who want to be president out to serve? Did they sincerely ask themselves questions as to whether they are truly the messiah the Igbo nation has been waiting for; have they weighed the consequences of multiple aspirants in a complex society like Nigeria?
Have they reasoned that multiple aspirants give the Igbo nation away as an unserious contender; that the little sentiments and consideration and even sympathy to zone the presidency to the region could be whittled down by this uncoordinated mode of aspiration?
Already, about five aspirants from the region, including Sam Ohuabunwa, Anyim Pius Anyim, David Umahi, Kingsley Moghalu, and Orji Uzor Kalu have indicated interest and expressed readiness to run.
If Nigerians are talking about governors who, in the last six years, have left footprints on the sands of time, David Umahi will not be in the number. He will be remembered, though, for always singing the praises of a captain whose ship is sinking in an angry and turbulent sea yet chooses to do nothing.
More than ever before, the Igbo nation needs to fight together/pull resources together to be able to fight money bags like Atiku Abubakar and Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The Igbo race does not have money-bag politicians yet. So, it has to be collaborative work to make any impact. The cacophony of voices we are hearing now, apparently coming from the wilderness, is not the right approach to making that impact.
George Obiozor, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, the other day called on Ndi-Igbo to get it right this time by forging a common front in order to the needed mileage and support from other Nigerians to lead the country in 2023.
The former Nigerian ambassador, who reacted to recent declarations, is of the opinion that streamlining the number of aspirants from the beginning will help reposition the zone.
Obiozor added that the statistics on past presidents and the creation of states and local government areas as well as the National Assembly have shown that the zone deserves more.
He said: “Definitely, the idea of the President of Nigeria from Igboland is an idea whose time has come. It is politically and morally justifiable. As a matter of fact, it is important that at this time in the history of Nigeria, we will take reasonable decisions in order to heal the nation; give every part of the country a sense of belonging, stop the bickering and reunite the country, and reinvigorate the spirit of nationalism.
“To be candid, we in Igboland are also ready to give you candidates and presidential aspirants that are competent, nationalistic, with the capacity to perform, with evidence of what they have done and what they can do for the rest of the country.
“Indeed, we are ready and all we are asking the nation is to obey the law of rotation in our history, which has been North and South and which created the balance – a political balance that has held our country together.”
In his view, Chijioke J. Umelahi, a former Abia State lawmaker, thinks 2023 will present an opportunity for the Igbo nation to change the narratives that Igbos are not united and cannot organise themselves.
“For a successful shot at the presidency in 2023, the Igbo nation needs a harmonised approach, which may not come easy, but it is very possible. The aspirants should bear in mind that it is not for self-enrichment, but going to Aso Rock is to seek the political and economic emancipation of the people in the zone and Nigeria at large,” Umelahi said.
The former Abia lawmaker, who is aspiring for the ticket to the House of Representatives in 2023, said that getting Igbos together is simple by aligning with aspirants who always stand for the Igbo interest, and not undermining the power of influencers across the zone, whether security, market leaders, religious or community.
“I think we should do things differently this time. Those the Igbos trust to protect their interests should go for them. Let us put Igbo interest first, not party or state of origin. It worked in Anambra, and it worked in Imo, that’s why haters of the Igbo nation were not happy and decided to use the Supreme Court against our collective interest in Imo State,” Umelahi said.
Terming it ‘Igbo Emancipation 2023’, Chigbu Onumah, a lawyer and activist based in Onitsha, Anambra State, noted that the 2023 ambition is achievable for the Igbo nation and that streamlining, fielding a credible candidate, and reaching out to other Nigerians with fairness message will help the Igbos occupy Aso Rock in 2023.
“We are not saying other parts of Nigeria cannot rule, we have voted for aspirants from other parts of the country, now we ask for them to support us because, if it is ‘One Nigeria’, then the Igbos, who joined in the fight for Independence and who have contributed hugely to the development of the country, should be given a chance. If you don’t, you are legitimising their agitation for Biafra”, Onumah disclosed.
Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian historian and Commonwealth researcher based in Brussels, supported Onumah’s views, saying that fairness should be the watchword.
“In democracy, nobody or region has monopoly of power, every party to the democratic arrangement should have a sense of belonging and I think the Igbos should be given a chance this time”, he said.
In the case where any of the major political parties does not field an Igbo candidate, Umelahi said, the Igbos will boycott the election.
Onikoyi thinks that it would encourage agitation, while Onumah warned that it would impede the development of the country as no country can thrive in injustice.
With about a year to the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria, political actors are already realigning and strategising ahead. This could be noticed in the last few weeks in the number of aspirants that have either made their intention to contest the 2023 presidency public, directly or indirectly.
Though zoning is unconstitutional in Nigeria, political leaders say it is necessary due to the heterogeneous nature of the country to address complaints of marginalisation and domination and give equal power to ethnic groups.
In the last few years, there have been agitations for an Igbo presidency among leaders of the South-East; they say it is the turn of the region to rule after the expiration of Buhari’s tenure.
The debate that the presidency should move to the South-East in 2023 has gained momentum in recent months, though political watchers say that the South-East has a strong case to present; the region is the only geopolitical zone in the South that had not produced a president or vice-president on any political party platform since 1999.
Last year, Chekwas Okorie, a notable political leader in the region, told BusinessDay in an interview that the South-East had met and resolved that any political party that fielded candidates from the region would get massive votes and support from all Igbo’s across the country.
“We have resolved that any party that gives the presidential ticket to Igbo man in 2023 would get the votes of Igbo’s massively across the country and that is our priority ahead of the 2023 election,” he said.
He had warned the two major parties in the country that the region was tired of being used and abandoned, adding that it would not accept any position other than the presidency from the two major parties in Nigeria.
According to him, “Igbo presidency is very realisable; it is far more realisable in 2023 than any other time. It is conventional but not in the constitution, even though that rotation is in the PDP constitution and in APC where I belong it is becoming a bit difficult to convince Nigerians that after eight years of President Buhari that another Northern would want to continue from there.”
Thus, political observers say it may perhaps be an illusion to think that other regions would give the presidency on a platter of gold to the South-East, which could be seen in the increasing number of aspirants from other parts of the country who are daily declaring their interest in the presidency in 2023.
However, with a growing number of aspirants emerging from the South-East, there are fears among observers that, just like in the past the dream may not be actualisable without a proper synergy and strategy.
They say there was a need for a united front and a consensus arrangement for a candidate that would fly the flag of the region in the presidential election.
Similarly, some political analysts have warned that the Igbo presidency may not become reality if the promoters of the agenda continue to tag it ‘Igbo Presidency ‘ because it would sound as if whoever emerges from the region would only serve the interest of the region.
“What I expect the promoters to say or canvass for is credible, competent and a nationalist as a president who should come from the Southeast. Yes, I agree that the Southeast is marginalised in terms of power-sharing and rotation but the region’s leaders will need to be careful on the way they are tagging the agenda,” political scientist Kunle Okunade said.
Okunade added that the feasibility of the agenda lies in the hands of the political leaders from the extraction, their ability to negotiate further with other vested interests and factors in the country.
According to him, “They would need to negotiate and permutation across boards and mainstream political parties. Their emergence at the primaries of the political parties would determine how far their agenda can be realistic in 2023.
“The Igbo political leaders still need to re-permutate properly and strategically so as to benefit from any crisis in the mainstream political parties ahead2023.”
Also, Adeoye Adelaja, public affairs analyst, said that though the South-East should be given the opportunity to lead this country, he would only support a president that has the interest of all Nigerians at heart.
Adeoye, however, warned that such a dream may be a mirage if the region cannot speak with one voice and galvanise themselves.
According to him, “For the project to become a reality, the entire South-East must first unite and speak in one voice, anything other than that would just be a waste of time.
“In all fairness, Nigerians from the southeast should be given the opportunity to lead this country, but I am not in support of what seems like ethnopolitical coloration to the name called Igbo Presidency. What we need is a Nigerian President.
“I believe this will to a large extent douse the tension being experienced from the region. The challenge is that South Easterners must speak with one voice and negotiate with other regions so that the presidential bid can be possible.”
The major factors that should determine who emerges as president are the capacity, competence, and character of such individuals, which I believe can be found in the region. Nigeria should be governed on the basis of fairness, equity, and justice so that every part of the country will have a sense of belonging.
“So, for the project to become a reality, the entire southeast must first unite and speak in one voice, anything other than that would just be a waste of time.
“There are aspirants from various parts of the country who would not respect the principle of rotation or zoning because they believe they have what it takes to clinch a ticket and win regardless of the principle of fair play,” he said.