The year 2023 is special. The interest in it threatens to eclipse 2019, which is Nigeria’s special election year. In 2023, some Ndigbo believe it is their turn to produce the president of Nigeria. It is also a year that some Yoruba believe the presidency should return to the South-West. Amid this 2023 cacophony lies a big threat to the survival of Igbo nation in 2019 and beyond.
Let us examine some scenarios here. Most Igbo people who support President Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, do so because of 2023, not because he has done wonderfully well. The assumption is that after his second tenure, the presidency will automatically move to the South-East.
For this group, supporting any other presidential candidate, especially the standard-bearer of the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will scuttle this 2023 ambition. According to this group, a new president outside Buhari will want to go for a second term in 2023.
A few months ago, some South-East leaders visited Aso Rock. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, boosted this hope when he advised the leaders to support Buhari’s re-election so as to facilitate power moving to the region in 2023.
The question is, how are we sure that after Buhari, the Igbo will automatically clinch the presidency? Recall that Buhari told the United States Institute for Peace in July 2015 that he could not treat the constituents that gave him 97 per cent at the same level with those that gave him 5 per cent. Will the President commit himself fully to the Igbo 2023 project? Will the Yoruba, especially the former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, just fold their arms and allow the Igbo take it on a platter?
The recent inadvertent revelation by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, is instructive. At a special Town Hall meeting on infrastructure organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture and National Orientation Agency, Fashola reportedly urged the people of South-West to vote for Buhari in the 2019 election to guarantee a return of power to the region in 2023.
Fashola, who spoke in Yoruba language had noted, “Did you know that power is rotating to the South-West after the completion of Buhari’s tenure if you vote for him in 2019? Your child cannot surrender her waist for edifying beads and you will use the bead to decorate another child’s waist. A vote for Buhari in 2019 means a return of power to the South-West in 2023.”
This is not an isolated statement. Three months ago, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, alleged that Tinubu’s support for Buhari’s re-election was simply because of his ambition to succeed the President in 2023.
Saraki had noted, “The point of disagreement between me and him was that while I expressed my worry that there was nothing on the ground to assure me that the administrative style and attitude would change in the next four years in a manner that would enable us to deliver the positive changes we promised to our people, he (Tinubu) expressed a strong opinion that he would rather ‘support a Buhari on the hospital stretcher’ to get a second term because in 2023, power will shift to the South-West.”
This revelation had drawn the ire of many South-East leaders. They feel that for moral and justice sake, the Igbo should be allowed to assume the presidency of Nigeria in 2023. Unfortunately, morality has nothing to do with power. You struggle for it; you negotiate for it and take it.
This is where the summit held in Enugu last Wednesday becomes imperative. At the summit aptly tagged “Ndigbo 2019 and beyond”, Igbo leaders unanimously endorsed the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Peter Obi, for the 2019 presidential election. The leaders from such groups as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Igbo Leaders of Thought, the political elite, the intelligentsia, women groups, religious leaders among others, hinged their support for Atiku and Obi on their promise to restructure Nigeria.
In other words, what the Igbo need most now is restructuring. That is what will guarantee their survival in 2019, 2023 and beyond. Without restructuring, 2023 may turn out to be a mirage. In the communiqué issued after the Enugu summit, the Igbo leaders lamented the division in the country today. They identified with Atiku/Obi ticket on the restructuring agenda as had been reiterated by the four zones of the country, namely South-South, South-West, North-Central and South-East. They believe the centre will continue to be weak as long as the federating units remain weak.
I pity the South-East. What some of them are doing now is playing politics of survival. Or how else do we describe the trip to Aso Rock by Chekwas Okorie and his United Progressive Party (UPP). They went to Buhari in the name of Igbo leaders and pledged their loyalty and support to him. In the meeting with these ‘Igbo leaders’ last Friday, Buhari reportedly revealed that many well-meaning Igbo leaders asked him to ignore the endorsement of Atiku by Ohanaeze; that the action was all gas, lacking substance.
The truth is that the recent Enugu summit chaired by Prof. Ben Nwabueze was not just about Ohanaeze. The Igbo socio-cultural group was only part of the many groups that pledged support for Atiku.
I’m not sure how many ‘leaders’ accompanied Okorie to Aso Rock. But the roll call of the Enugu summit will tell you where the Igbo interests lie most. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) was there. Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe, was there also. Senator Ben Obi, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Ambassador George Obiozor, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa to mention just a few were all there. Thus, between Chekwas Okorie’s Aso Villa leaders and Ben Nwabueze’s Enugu leaders, Ndigbo know who their true and authentic leaders are.
Nevertheless, Buhari spoke of the golden opportunities Nigeria lost during 16 years of the PDP and vowed to report the party to Nigerians. Don’t worry Mr. President. We already knew that PDP messed up when it was in power. That was why Nigerians voted you in to right the wrongs of the party. But you and your party have derailed.
Even the Igbo people supporting you know that you have failed them. It is as if they are still being punished for engaging the rest of Nigeria in a civil war.
They face marginalisation in different facets of Nigerian life. The second Niger Bridge, for instance, has become an instrument of undue politicking. Every year, we hear billions of naira earmarked for the completion of the bridge, yet it has all been motion without movement.
Last year, soldiers came with their python dance. For the few months it lasted, these pythons brutalised and swallowed many Igbo youths. Now, they are planning another dance when it is the Boko Haram zone that needs it the more.
Thank God the presidential campaign has started. Nigerians will have another golden opportunity to hear your progress report since you assumed power three years ago. We shall be waiting to see the magic you will claim to have performed in the area of economy, security and anti-corruption. I particularly want to be convinced that things are now better than what the PDP government left behind in 2015.
On his part, Atiku will kick-start his campaign through an address to Nigerians on Facebook today, November 19, 2018. He is also billed to launch his policy document which will encompass his vision for Nigeria and his action plan to achieve it. The policy document reportedly focuses on creating jobs, ensuring security, growing business, developing power and water infrastructure, agriculture and education and how to empower women. We shall hold him to account when the time comes.
As for Ndigbo, what they need to do now is to stop playing selfish politics. They should collaborate with others to achieve their aim. They need to form credible allies that will better their lot in 2019.
Until then, let us focus less on 2023 and enjoy the 2019 campaign drama that will most likely ensue in the coming days.
Re: APGA’s disgraceful race to extinction
On APGA going into extinction, you have hit the nail on the head. After the 2019 elections, APGA will become history. We know the reasons for their recent romance with the ruling party but they will be disappointed at last
• Eddy Idigo, Aguleri, +2348033038099
It is very unfortunate and painful that founding people of APGA were denied tickets to run for elective positions because of money. This character will not augur well in our democratic process; they should allow level playing ground for all aspirants. Democracy is a game of numbers. After all power comes from God. Whoever God has destined to rule, it must surely come to pass.
• Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
- First published in The Sun of Monday November 19, 2018.