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Page 20 Analysis

Page 20 Analysis Internal dissensions and South-east’s quest for power shift By Saawua Terzungwe Top politicians of Igbo extraction are expressing discordant tunes over the…

Page 20 Analysis

Internal dissensions and South-east’s quest for power shift

By Saawua Terzungwe

Top politicians of Igbo extraction are expressing discordant tunes over the possibility of one of their kinsmen becoming the president of Nigeria in 2019 or even beyond. Our correspondent examines the struggles in the past, chances and factors that may shape the race.

With the April/March general elections over and a new government still navigating the country’s political space on how to steer the wheel of governance, some political parties and party leaders have started considering the possibility of producing an Igbo president in 2019.

But a major threat to the clamour by top leaders of the Igbo race is the “rebirth” of the agitation for a Biafran state; a development seen as antithetical to the corporate existence of the Nigerian State.

Findings by our correspondent revealed that some political parties have commenced consultations on how best to tackle the 2019 general elections, and especially how an Igbo president would emerge, having contested and lost in the past.

Daily Trust learnt that while some political parties are considering the possibility of zoning their presidential tickets to the South-east to enable it to field presidential candidates of Igbo extraction, some party leaders are not in total support of power shift to the region in 2019, because of various interests.

Amidst the scheming by political parties that have sympathy for the South-east is the fear in other parts of the country, that allowing the Igbo race to produce the next president of Nigeria is like giving them a license to actualize their dream of carving out another country.

However, despite various views on the matter, high ranking politicians from the South-east seem not perturbed, as many of them believe that the chances of getting an Igbo president are high, if not in 2019, at least in the foreseeable future.

Some analysts opine that since the erstwhile ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had zoned its presidential ticket to the North, with the All Progressives Congress (APC) likely to do same, the votes in the North would be divided, paving the way for an Igbo man from the South-east to win the presidency.

But some Igbo sons are of the view that their kinsmen should wait for President Muhammadu Buhari to finish two-terms (eight years) before the South-east would think of exploring the possibility of winning the presidency.

Since the return of democracy in 1999, some political parties had fielded presidential candidates of the Igbo extraction.

These included former Biafran warlord, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA); and Chief Ambrose Owuru of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP).

Others were Jim Nwobodo of the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP); Chief Emmanuel Osita Okereke of the African Labour Party (ALP); Arthur Nwankwo of the Peoples Mandate Party (PMP); and Dr. Iheanyichukwu Godswill of Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), among others.

In the last general elections, four presidential candidates of the Igbo extraction also contested.

Speaking on the agitation for power shift, presidential candidate of NCP, Chief Martin Onovo, an Igbo man, said, “the fundamental principles of national development include justice, peace and unity. The Nigerian Constitution requires ‘Federal Character’ in government, to include all sections of Nigeria. Nigerians prior to APC perversity had overwhelmingly accepted zoning as a strategy for inclusion.”

According to him, “For justice, peace and unity, the South-east must not be excluded from the Presidency. For any candidate from the South-east to be elected president in 2019, he will need a majority of votes from Northern Nigeria as well as a good electoral performance in Southern Nigeria.

“By 2019, the North would have controlled federal executive power for too many years than the South. It makes sense that the South-east produces the president for justice, peace and unity, to position Nigeria on an even better foundation for national development. Consequently, all parties can zone the presidency to the South-east.”

The deputy national organizing secretary of the APGA had the same line of reasoning when he reportedly declared recently that “an Igbo man will win presidency in 2019”, adding that the party had zoned its presidential ticket to the South-east.

However, the national chairman and presidential candidate of CPP in the last general elections, Chief Sam Eke (an Igbo man) said the presidency is not what the Igbos could force themselves to get, stressing that there must be an agreement within; that the South-east should be given the slot, with 90 percent of Nigerians in support.

“For an Igbo man to win the presidential election in Nigeria, he requires an agreement and support of about 90 percent of Nigerians. It is not just a matter of a section of the country. The PDP has already zoned its presidential ticket to the North and, with the APC having a president of northern extraction on the throne, honestly, I still see a president of this country coming from the North in 2019.

“But, we should start looking beyond which tribe a person comes from, but who is qualified under the law and can deliver. That also does not stop an Igbo man because we are all Nigerians and we have the right to contest. But I am not against a Northern president in 2019. We should embrace Buhari’s administration to be able to move forward.

“However, the Igbos require focus and unity to be able to win presidential elections in Nigeria. They must start positioning themselves now because the problem with politicians is that they don’t wash the pots until they want to cook,” he said.

A member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the APC, Chief Sam Nkire (an Igbo man) also told Daily Trust that his kinsmen should wait for President Muhammadu Buhari to complete his eight years in office before considering the possibility of taking over in 2023.

“It is not impossible for an Igbo man to emerge as president of this country in a general election but if Buhari wants to re-contest in 2019, for a second term, I can tell you that I have not seen the possibility of an Igbo president in the next general elections.

“Buhari has just started his four-year tenure and from all indications, he is going to perform well; and if he decides to seek re-election, the Igbos will have to wait till 2023, because there is possibility of the APC zoning its presidential ticket to the South-east at the end of Buhari’s tenure,” he said.

The national chairman and former presidential candidate of UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie (an Igbo man) said the presidency is not supposed to be done by rotation, stressing that the Constitution of Nigeria has not provided for that.

“Buhari did not become president because of any zoning arrangement. He won because of an agreement within the APC. The PDP has zoned its 2019 presidential ticket to the North; they did not say Buhari should be allowed to finish eight years in Aso Villa.

“We are still in 2015, so I think it is too early to talk about an Igbo president in 2019, because I went through it in the last general elections and I know how it is. We have given a hand of fellowship to President Buhari and to engage him constructively, he has just started; we are yet to see what he would do. If he fulfills his promises in the first four years, Nigerians would decide that he should continue. So, it depends on how the Igbos play their card.

“It was not the turn of Ijaws when Jonathan became president, it was not the turn of the Yorubas when Obasanjo became president; it was not the turn of the North when Buhari became president. So political parties should continue to weigh their options,” he said.

But a text titled: “President Buhari and the Igbos: The bitter truth of an open secret”, written by Kenneth Amaeshi as published in Premium Times of October 5, 2015, said: “For many Nigerians, including the Igbo people, the one-Nigeria project is as distant as the moon is from the sun. Notwithstanding, these Nigerians continue to forge ahead, and hope against hope, that one day, the moon and the sun will merge into one.”

The presidential candidate of UDP in the last elections, Barrister Godson Okoye (Igbo man) said: “We should concentrate on how the present administration will tackle the rot in our system. What we need now is how to fix Nigeria; how to get the country reformed and not about which part of the country a president will emerge in the next elections.”

But while some Nigerians say for the Igbos to govern the country, they must throw disunity to the winds and come together under one umbrella to be able to push successfully, others express fears that an Igbo president might divide the country and should not be elected into power.

Nevertheless, the national chairman and presidential candidate of AD, Rafiu Salau, expressed optimism that an Igbo man would emerge president of this country, but expressed doubt over the possibility of that happening in 2019.

Meanwhile, with 2019 still a distant time in terms of elections, it is left to be seen how the South-east would navigate the terrain and slug it out.

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