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How ready are South-East political leaders for 2023?

Can a wise man ever come from the East of Nigeria? Those who ask this question said they expect to see a region driven by focused political strategy and coordinated moves. The East is a deprived region coming from a civil war that ravaged the area, following with rebuilding with bare knuckles.

There was no rebuilding fund or classification that could reduce conditionalities to restart businesses or education. Each person restarted with Obafemi Awolowo’s 20 pounds. The East has thus passed through several stages of reconstruction based on a the philosophy of ‘Do It Yourself’ (Mee Ya N’Onwe Gi”. This gave rise to the establishment of the only community-built but government run airport in Africa, the Imo Airport.

Many merchants and traders have managed to rebuild their lives and businesses without any intervention fund as is obtainable today in the South-South (NDDC) and the North East (NEDC). Worse still, most south-east citizens believe that almost every national privilege has been skewed away from them and their children.

Admission into federal schools are made high for the east and low for some other regions deliberately classified as educationally disadvantaged states. Placement into federal agencies especially the police, army, Customs, Immigration, etc, are almost impossible for persons from that region. There is a huge sense of deprivation.

It is generally believed that jobs are simply made unavailable to persons from the east. Where this is available, there seems to be national understanding that sensitive one must not come near easterners.

The worst seems to be in citing of federal projects such as refineries and oil-related projects. Most national agencies hardly get located in the East. This makes it almost impossible for any Igbo young person to stay in the region after school. There is a pull to other regions. Exodus begins and later a move to outside Nigeria where some Igbo persons find favour.

Igbo politics

Many would expect that people from such a region would play the politics of necessity by bonding and banding together and fight one cause. Rather, it has been the politics of hunger and politics of stomach infrastructure. Clanishness and selfishness seem to rule political philosophy of the East.

First is that every Igbo persons seeks friendship with a northerner or sometimes a Westerner. They seem to believe that this is the only way a politician’s nest would be feathered. One minister from the region today makes it clear that it is his relationship with a northerner who recently died from Covid-19 that placed him in his present untouchable position, politically. No cabinet reshuffle would touch him, it was believed.

This get-the-north syndrome of the Igboman seems to create a race to self-destruction, some have said. They use it to get advantaged appointments and must submit their total loyalty abroad. This way, charity has refused to begin at home.

A source said: “The Igbos think globally, act globally, while others think globally and act locally”.

A divided South East governors/political class

Governors from the South east and generally, the political class from the zone, are not working together. They work for their own interest and not for the interest of the people.

Although the five governors from the zone have a forum (South East Governors’ Forum), even when they are not in the same political party, they seem to be working in silos when it comes to matters that affect the generality of Igbo people.

A lot of important decisions taken in their meetings are never carried out as a group. For instance, in one of their meetings, they said all the State Houses of Assembly would be given the order to enact laws for the establishment of South East security. In another meeting, they also came up with community policing, among others.

Unlike in South East, governors of South West, despite party differences, are working together for the common good of their people. For instance, the formation and sustainability of South West Security Outfit (Amotekun) was possible because all the governors in the zone are on the same page, and despite the criticism and resistance from the Federal Government, they were able to maintain their stand.

The newly elected Ohanaeze Ndigbo President General, George Obiozor, hit the matter on the head, while addressing a world press conference in Enugu recently. He said: “It is obvious that at this critical time in our history, leadership of Ndigbo ought to transcend partisan politics”.

What Igbo should do toward 2023

A top Igbo political analyst of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said: “The leaders of the South East, if they are desirous to have the Presidency come 2023, must unite and agree amongst themselves who will represent them. It is only unity that can fetch to the zone the Presidency.

“To achieve this they must also liaise with other zones for support particularly the Igbos in Delta and South-South especially Rivers State. I am not sure if any of PDP or APC will concede the Presidency to the East, so they must look for a party in which most SE persons must collapse into that will field and adopt their Presidential candidate as the Party’s Flag-Bearer.”

This sounds very serious, coming from a top APC member. If the leading parties that agreed on zoning and rotation from the onset have quietly turned away from away it, this means the South-East is on its own. This also means that it would be difficult to reassure the youth of the region that Nigeria belongs to all.

A political commentator, who craved anonymity, told BusinessDay SUNDAY, that, “While it appears morally sound to state that it is the turn of the South East to produce the next president of the country, it is also important to remind the south east stakeholders that such positions are not given on a platter of gold, they are earned and diligently worked hard for.

“It is also very important for us to understand that it’s the constitutional right of anyone who is qualified whether Hausa, Yoruba, Kanuri or Ijaw to contest for the post in 2023. The masses also have the right to choose who becomes the president. So going by the constitution, it is not the exclusive right of the south east to president.”

Another analyst says if the APC can zone the presidency to the SE, most Igbos would flock to it and fight to win. He said if the PDP zones it to the SE, the party may still not win.

Stakeholders have said, to achieve the president of Igbo extraction in 2023, South-East governors must form a consensus, despite their party differences and affiliations.

Uche Okwukwu, a former secretary general, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, said: “They should know that Igbos are desirous of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. Consequently, they should lobby and convince the leadership of their various political parties to concede their presidential tickets to an Igbo.”

Okwukwu in a telephone interview with BusinessDay SUNDAY, urged governor’s of the South-East to lobby, persuade and convince their parties, noting that politics is all about lobbying and persuasion.

He argued that belonging to different political parties is not an impediment to archiving a president of Igbo extraction.

According to him, everybody is free to associate with any political party that he deserves, even those that have produced presidents before now were not all in one party.

He stressed that the entire North were not in one political party, noting that what is important is cooperation and urged Igbo political leaders to agree that whichever political party they belong, they should ensure that the presidential candidate of that political party must be Igbo.

“It is only when you have a ticket of a party that you can contest in an election, because in our constitution there is no provision for an independent candidate”, he said.

For Charles Chinekezi, chairman, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Aba Branch, South-East governors should form alliances with their counterparts in other regions of the country to achieve this dream.

He stated that the real target for South-East regional governors is to come together, as a matter of urgency, not a matter of choice, irrespective of party or any other alliances, to agree to push for the emergence of a Southeasterner, as the president of Nigeria in 2023.

He observed that the governors have a strong point, as nobody will disagree with them, because all other geographical zones of Nigeria have produced Presidents, except the South-East region.

But to achieve this, he insisted that South-East governors must come out with a single memo, despite their party affiliations.

“They need also to move into the South-South geo political zone to mobilise the governors and the people to join this campaign, because they are one. Its only political portioning that divided the people.

“So, the south-East must align with the south-South and I know that the South-South will support a candidate from the east, because they are also facing injustice in Nigeria,” he said.

He advised Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide and other Igbo groups to make categorical statements that this is the only opportunity to restructure and make Nigeria a united country, otherwise the level of violence and criminal activities currently going on in the country will continue.

Iyk Ajuzieogu, secretary general, Abia Think Tank Association (ATTA), urged Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, to visit the governors to tell them that Igbos want the best candidate, not party politics.

According to him, political affiliation is not cast in iron. There should be collective interest not personal or party interest.

He urged Igbo leaders to support technocrats, people that have made national and international landmark in their chosen carriers, that nobody will attribute any questionable background on his bio-data.

IPOB

Some analysts say the activities of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) could be deeply harming the Igbo and chances of the SE getting the presidency. The source said the IPOB is steadily alienating the SE persons and creating fear in the rest of Nigerian political decision makers.

He said threat of cessation and constant threat of north-south violence keeps making the once loved Igbo person now to be suspected and feared. Many fear what the Igbo person in charge of the Army may do.

Unity

The demand for Igbo unity as condition for being given the slot has been condemned by some sources who asked how united the West was when Olusegun Obasanjo was picked up for the position.

While it is advisable for the SE to seek unity, it was not unity of the Yorubas that gave it to them. They did not even want Obasanjo but they had to make do with him. That could be why they still clamour for it to this day because they do not seem satisfied with the PDP producing their turn.

The moment any of the two major political parties zones it to the SE, unity will spring up automatically after the initial striving to pick the ticket by each person.

Conclusion

What the SE leaders and governors have been advised to do right away is to come together and strategise on how to demand for it from whichever party they belong and not to seek different positions in different parties.

They have also been advised to strengthen one party such that even it was not given in 2023, they would have formed a formidable force that make or mar any of the two major parties into respecting the force and block vote of the Igbo people round Nigeria.

 

Ignatius Chukwu (PH),  Sabi Elemba, Owerri and Regis Anukwuoji, Enugu and GODFREY OFURUM

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