Agitation for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is gathering steam. All over the country and even beyond, discussions on the issue is gaining momentum. Even in small groups and circles, the issue is on the front burner. There is consensus of opinion that the occupier of the highest political office should come from the South-East geo-political zone in the next political dispensation.
Several reasons are being advanced, especially by those pushing this argument. First, they believe, and rightly so, that even with the unparalleled role played by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in achieving Independence for the country, he was at best, a ceremonial president, while real political power rested with Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, then Prime Minister. However, those contending this argument make references to the late first Military Head of State, Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, being an Igbo man. But those who counter the argument insist that Aguiyi-Ironsi was a child of circumstance and that his regime did not last long enough to make any significant impact before he was assassinated.
Of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, Igbo is not just one, but the tribe whose people are easily found in every part of the country; they are seemingly the most egalitarian. In fact, it is generally believed that aside the indigenous population, the Igbo is second in term of population in every community in the country, advancing the speculation that Igbo are actually higher in population than all other ethnic groups in the country.
However, pushing aside all these seemingly primordial considerations, the agitation for an Igbo to ascend to the number one citizen, occupying the Aso Rock, Preidential Villa in Abuja, is gathering feverish momentum. From the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) led by Prof. Ango Abdullahi, the Igbo for President Solidarity Congress, led by Dr. Olukayode Ashin Ariyo, the Buhari Legacy Continuity Initiative (BLCI), needless mentioning the several pan-Igbo groups and individuals that have already voiced their support for the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction in the country in 2023, they all seem to be pointing at the same direction.
Although the arguments in favour of the agitation are logical, the real problem with actualizing this dream unfortunately lies within the South-East. Already, there appear to be discordant tunes emerging from the geo-political zone, and some “powerful” personalities are already building up forces to “fight themselves to the finish”. For instance, the defection of the Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is already affecting negatively the South-East 2023 project. Umahi, is one of the most respected and cerebrated state governors in the South-East.
He has shown capacity in governance, having successfully operated along the corridors of power for over two decades, taking along with him even his blood relations. Aside from wielding so much political influence in the zone, the governor is reputed to be one of the, if not the most development-oriented governor in the zone, with several flyover bridges and other development projects to his credit.
But, the no-love-lost and mudslinging relationship between Engr. Umahi and his political base, the South-East, after his decampment, is almost tearing the synergy and amity in the quest for a president from the zone in the near future. Aside the negative impact of Umahi’s new political voyage, the recent problems confronting Ohanaeze Ndigbo, both at the national and at the FCT chapter level are issues that do not add any value to the South-East-for-President crusade.
Already, there appear to be centrifugal and centripetal forces operating from both within and external to the zone, using prominent personalities from the zone to spurn the desires of the people to occupy Aso Rock. There are visible transitional problems affecting the national leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo which has manifested at the Imo State Chapter, which if not handled maturely, will put paid to the project.
There is also the emergence of a splinter group called the Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly which has had its withdrawn certificate of incorporation reinstated by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The new group has already drawn up a writ against the main and notable Ohanaeze Ndigbo, asking that its leaders be sent to jail over presumed corruption. Without delving into the merits or demerits of this development, it is certainly a huge distraction to the Igbo-for-Presidency project.
Aside all these, the activities and statements credited to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), regarding their purported role in the killing of policemen and destruction of police stations and other carnage during the #EndSARS protests, are unquantifiable setback to the entire project. Apart from the fact that it is contestable, some people are asking if a people with separatist agenda could at the same time seek to occupy the highest political office in the land. The snag against the argument is that every section of the country have one or two groups pursuing separatist agenda which didn’t deny them ascendancy to the presidency, but IPOB’s claim to unbridled arson and killing are a big setback to the quest by the South-East zone.
It has equally been observed that needless squabbles exist within and among top business and political personalities of the zone, and the aggregate action countermand the essence and spirit of the project, as political jobber-men who spin foul air each time there is a political progress are sharpening their tools of trade. These people wait in the wings and file all manner of frivolous lawsuits, hoping that by engaging in Judicial Forum Shopping, they would either benefit personally or they torpedo the quest.
These are germane issues The AUTHORITY would like Igbo leaders to thoroughly and always interrogate at their different fora as discussions towards 2023 gather steam. We also call on other zones of the country to repeat the feat of 1999 and 2019, where only candidates from the zone that occupied the presidency should emerge as presidential candidates of the ruling APC, main opposition PDP and the next two political parties when rank-ordered on ability to garner electoral victory.
By so doing, Nigerian political leaders would have united in a practical manner to end the “seemingly unpardonable sins of Ndigbo since 1966, and so end the obvious marginalization of Ndigbo at the political sphere. There is no other time for Ndigbo to put its house in order than now. The same cautionary flavour applies to the leading political parties and other geo-political zones.