The politics of who succeeds president Muhammadu Buhari come 2023 is gradually gathering momentum. Expectedly, as President Buhari’s second term in office trudges into half time, politicians and political pundits of Igbo extraction including pressure groups have continued to demand a president from that part of the country.
Recently, a prominent elder statesman from the south-west Ayo Adebanjo has lent his voice and support for the presidency to be ceded to the south-east. The call for the south-east presidency is predicated on the prism of ”justice, equity and fairness.
” What other reason could one adduce to drive this point home? Since Nnamdi Azikiwe’s tenure as a ceremonial president (1960-1966), no Igbo man has occupied that revered political position.
It is on record that since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic governance after a long haul of military dictatorship, the northern and western parts of Nigeria have enjoyed their fair share of the position except Ndi Igbo.
Many well-meaning Nigerians from other ethnic groups have most sincerely attested to the fact that the southeastern part of Nigeria has been left in the political lull for a long time.
After the unfortunate civil war, Ndi Igbo have been roundly treated as second class citizens. Whenever an idea for the south-east presidency is mooted some ethnic groups grew suspicious of a new Biafra.
Nigeria is not a divided nation as is evident, therefore, other ethnic nationalities should see Ndi Igbo as who they are: Nigerians. They should be seen as an integral part of Nigeria and people who deserve the same treatment and equal rights as others. However, the quest for the south-east presidency despite its attraction may not be tenable any time soon. It is a complex political issue just like the region itself.
The following reasons could suffice. First, the republican nature of an average Igbo man is, unfortunately, his political undoing. The region has qualified political leaders like Ike Ekweremadu, Peter Obi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Dave Umahi, Rochas Okorocha and others. But who among them would genuinely bury his pride, independence and republican nature to support one of their own in the interest of Ndi Igbo? Igbo enweghi eze they say (Igbos have no king you know).
Second, Igbo politicians do not understand the place of consensus and compromise in politics. The game is self-centred. If not me; no one else. Whether you like it or not, northerners are champions of the real game of politics.
They understood the place of consensus and compromise in political strategy and victory. Their politicians are aware that all of them cannot be in a certain position at the same time. In the interest of the north, those prevailed on to jettison their ambition easily sheath their swords. In as much as my northern brother is there, I am equally contented and duly represented is the perception. Alhaji Maitama Sule was a reference point to this understanding of the place of political consensus and compromise in electioneering.
He was the most favoured to clinch the 1982 National Party of Nigeria (NPN) presidential ticket based on his educational qualification, experience and urbane nature. But when the light went off (rigging) at the venue of the primary election based on reasons best known to those who supported the candidacy of Shehu Shagari, Maitama Sule surrendered his ambition and subsumed his political structure under Shagari in the interest of the north. He would have decamped to another political party as is the buzz of the moment having his popularity in his pocket but he never did.
Who among the above Igbo politicians would be humble enough to tow the line of Maitama Sule in an event the political calculation did not go in his favour? Third, without sounding immodest, some Igbo politicians are known spoilers of their mother’s funeral and habitual sell outs. Most of them seen ‘passionately’ mouthing Igbo presidency today are at best Judases of our time and commissioned political merchants of interests outside the region who draw their monthly allowances from their paymasters.
They are the typical bird dancing along the road to the music played by the anonymous in the bush. When the chips are down they will not hesitate to surrender their structures to the payer of the piper. Fourth, there has not been any genuine political handshake, alignment and realignment between the East and other regions. What we see is a marriage of convenience between individuals who claim to represent the interest of Ndi Igbo in whatever they do with other regions only to further enrich their political interests and carrier. There has been this existing suspicion or of alleged betrayal between the east and the west since the end of the civil war.
This needs to be frontally addressed with the entire truth told and genuine reconciliation put in place. Ndi Igbo should also despite the killings and glaring injustice meted to them by the Nigerian state endeavour to put behind them the travails of the civil war and accept it as an act of God while the Hausa-Fulani should be magnanimous in victory and refrain from thinking the presidency is their birthright.
Fifth, the number of states and the voting population is another source of concern. The Southeast is made up of only five states compared to another region with six and seven respectively. In 2019, the northwest has 20, 158, 100 registered voters making up (24%) of the total 84,004,084 voters in Nigeria.
The southeast region came last with a total number of 10, 057, 130 registered voters at (11.97%) even behind the northeast ravaged by insurgency. Fortunately for the north, they have the number in their kitty. All things being equal, the north with 19 states only require 25% win from six states from both south-east and south-west to be home and dry in any presidential election.
Sixth, an average Igbo man is traditionally inclined to buying and selling not politics. He largely never believes in politics as a means of livelihood. That was why most of them are never happy when shops are closed at any time or during elections.
Their youth, on the other hand, prefer playing ludo game and street football during elections instead of voting. But the man you may see as an uneducated old northerner is very much aware of the difference having political power makes in society and the value of his one vote.
Therefore, he will remain patient, endures until it is his time to cast his vote and also waits to ensure that his vote counts during elections. Seventh, elections are not won by simply brandishing the banner of fairness and justice. It is not a moral issue either. It is a game; a game of number for that matter. Political power is hardly given on a platter of justice, equity and fairness rather it is fought for.
Let the fight begin now! The region more than any other has a lot of hard work to put in to be able to achieve this goal. Eighth, the results of the 2015 and 2019 elections had defined Ndi Igbo as belonging to a certain political party.
Therefore, the onus rests on the Igbo political leaders to reach out and convince other regions and parties why they actually deserve what they crave for. The Igbo political leaders should put their house in order first. Nobody takes you seriously when he knows you head an already self-divided house of commotion bound to collapse any moment.
Ninth, no matter what one hears or sees, the north is not willing to let go of the presidency come 2023. The ominous signs are there for the wise to see. Someone said that the removal of Adams Oshiomole from the position of the chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) was a big win for those who want the status quo to remain and the presidency retained in the north.
Above all, the craze for Igbo presidency is not a panacea to the challenges currently confronting Ndi Igbo as a people. The subject is not necessarily rooted in justice, equity and fairness as it is portrayed but a product of politicians who felt they have politically matured and needs an elevation to a new level in their political career.
The existing political system and structures in Nigeria are faulty and as such will make the worst out of an Igbo president as it has evidently done to Buhari and others before him. What the Igbo man and the entire nation needs urgently are restructuring and true federalism.
Take state police as a case in point in the fight against insecurity. When systems and structures are working and the laws are seen to apply equally to all, agitations for this or that dies a natural death. Igbo men are already impacting communities all over Nigeria with their trade. With his enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit, the sky is his limit anywhere in Nigeria.
This should be the ultimate concern of the region at least for now.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a media and communication specialist and can be reached via sunnyeze02 @yahoo.com