A former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife recently stirred the honest nest when he said the South-East was prepared to kneel for any region to garner support to clinch the presidency in 2023.
Speaking at the United For Better Nigeria Initiative national convention, held in Abuja, Mr Ezeife reportedly intoned that Nigeria has the potential of developing into a superpower, as such should carry everybody along without discrimination.
“I found Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and other groups in this place talking about the need for federal character. There will be unity if there is fairness, equity, justice. In the absence of those, you see what we are now.”
Speaking in the same vein, Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, at a meeting with the National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, said: “The North should give us the opportunity because we know that the North plays the role of kingmaker in the nation’s politics. We are here to ask you to support an Igbo man for the presidency. There should be no more abusive words between the North and the South-East, as was the case in the past.
“What happened to the cordial relationship between Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa? What happened to the good relationship between the North and South-East? We must bring back memories of the good old days for the unity and development of Nigeria.
“Igbo have investments worth over N1 trillion in the North. We are for one Nigeria, not Biafra. We need somebody that can unite Nigeria. We believe in one Nigeria. We have abundant human resources that can take over from President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said pleadingly.
Indeed, of all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, the Igbos of the South-East geopolitical zone have been more strident in their cry of marginalisation and being treated as second class citizens.
They have on several occasions cited a perceived denial of the opportunity to occupy the number one office in the land and access to top military and paramilitary establishments as a pointer to the position.
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have gained enormous traction among the people of the region as a rallying point for the agitation for a separate identity for people of the region.
Though within the purview of their tight to freely express themselves, however, the methodology of the agitation has put a question mark on the continued existence of the Nigerian state as a collective entity. Several men and women have reportedly lost their lives no thanks to the activities of Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB under the guise of enforcing a self-serving sit-at-home directive. Despite the incendiary slant of the agitation, the leadership in the region perfunctory looked the other way, not until recently.
If Ndigbo didn’t get it right in their agitation for recognition in the entity called Nigeria, they haven’t done well either In playing their role in inclusive political participation, particularly since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
The South-Easterners have routinely demonstrated their undying love for the hitherto ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). The region has consistently and persistently voted the Umbrella Party in all elections, from local government to presidential elections. Unarguably, the choice of candidate (and or party) is a personal decision, it is however on record that the leadership of the region, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex socio-cultural organisation in the region, were unapologetically unequivocal as they drummed support for one of the political parties that contested the 2019 presidential election.
Considering the fact that a rival party was in government at the time, the least expected of Ndigbo was to have played their cards with utmost circumspect and not have all their eggs in one basket. But they failed to seize the opportunity. That Ohanaeze Ndigbo took the decision owing to the fact that a “son of the soil” was on the ballot is a flaccid excuse.
Dr Ezeife’s supplication may not be well-grounded. The question to ask is on what platform do the South-Easterners hope to realise their political aspiration?
The PDP – the darling of the region – from the look of things, don’t seem to be considering zoning the plum position to the region a priority. Although zoning of offices between the North and South enjoys proud mention in the party constitution, one would have expected that having fielded a candidate from the North (in this case Alhaji Atiku Abubakar) in the last presidential election, common sense should dictate a generous consideration of the region. This is also coupled with the fact of massive support being enjoyed in the region by the party. But rather than key into this line of thought, the PDP seem disposed to throwing open the contest to all regions. Unverified street talk suggests the average Northerner does not trust an Igbo man.
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If the South-Easterners are having a raw deal in the PDP, they don’t seem to fare better in the All Progressives Congress (APC). There is no gain-saying the fact that Ndigbo appears to harbour congenital hatred for the APC. It is a common street vibe that an average Igbo man would prefer casting his vote for a nonentity anywhere else than a “son of the soil” who flies the banner of the APC. The truism in this, it must be emphasized, is yet to be subjected to scientific evaluation, particularly as there has been a smattering of elected officials on the platform of the party from the region.
Prominent sons and daughters of the South East have at different fora described APC as an Islamic party and jeered at people from the region that dared join the party. Little wonder that the party’s performance in all elections since 2015 in the region has been abysmal, to say the least. For instance, after the 2019 election process, APC was able to return one state out of possible five – the decision of the Supreme Court on Imo State is still being disputed to date and believe to be the source of unrest in the state, a senatorial seat (Abia North) and a handful of House of Representatives seats.
I, therefore, say zoning the plum position to the region by the APC will not only be counterintuitive but also unjust to other regions that have accorded the party enormous support, particularly in the South.
If the feelers from the PDP is anything to go by, the South-East region may have to wait a bit much longer to have a shot at the highest office, possibly in 2039 by which time the region would have gotten its politics right.
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