Buhari’s reelection ambition and APC prospects in Southeast
As the 2019 general elections draw near, a herculean task that will face the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southeast geopolitical zone, is the distrust that led to the party’s rejection during the 2015 general elections by Ndigbo.Worries are being expressed, that the temperament that led to that outright rejection remains unchanged. In fact, the new sentiment is that President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of leadership has made the situation worse.
From 1999, when the current democracy began, the Southeast geo-political zone adopted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as its party and supported it in all elections held since then. The support originated from the conviction of the Indigbo that PDP can offer the political space required to ventilate its aspirations and ideas.
And with the backing of the likes of the late former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the region felt there was no need to consider opposition party. And despite the marginal benefit that accrued to the region in the 16 years of PDP government, the Indigbo stayed loyal to the party.
Even with the massive opposition against the former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, the zone gave him almost 100 percent of their vote against the incumbent, President Buhari.
The estimated votes given by the Southeast to Jonathan were over two million against a little over one 200, 000 given to Buhari. The PDP still controls three out of the five states of the zone, leaving the APC with only one state.
This Guardian gathered that the system of voting in the last election was done to preserve what has been a mantra, “the brotherhood between the south-south and southeast” as well as the perception that President Buhari had never worked for the betterment of Ndigbo. Jonathan is from South-South and Ndigbo insist that their “brotherhood” was severed by creation of states and regions in the country.
The immediate past Secretary General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Dr. Joe Nworgu had told The Guardian: “Ndigbo are PDP and has no respect for any other political party in Nigeria”.Ndigbo, he said, made a bold statement through the ballot box on March 28, 2015.
“We achieved three major milestones mainly reconciliation with our brothers in the old eastern region; an exhibition by Ndigbo to allow minority ethnic group play active role in the leadership of the nation and a major achievement in that it showed unity of purpose, as well as debunked the age-long notion that the Igbo have no unified voice.”
He said that given the opportunity again, the Indigbo would repeat the voting pattern. It did not matter the level of interpretation the rest of the country gave to the development and how the incoming President then would treat the people of the zone. He said that since the relationship with the South-south was truncated by the attitude of the leaders of the old eastern region, Ndigbo had looked for the opportunity to reactivate it, stressing that the 2015 elections was one big opportunity to do so.
On the voting pattern which returned only about five percent of all the votes cast in the election in the zone to Buhari, Nworgu said it could be based on the role the incumbent president played when he was Head of State and Commander in Chief of the armed forces as well as Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
Given insight into how Ndigbo were treated during the Buhari era then, Nworgu said: “He was there from December 1983 up to August 1985 as Military Head of State, what did he do and what did the Igbo benefit from him, excerpt that he exhibited a level of hatred for the zone and its people?
“The same Buhari in 1983 placed the former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari under a house arrest while his vice, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who had no constitutional functions, was sent to prison. Igbo took note.“He was given Director, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), what did he do? Have you checked the allocations of PTF? 66 per cent of the petroleum money was spent on the North. He gave the South East zone just 6.2 per cent and with that pedigree, what will encourage the Igbo to say, please come on?”
Nworgu said the zone did not expect much from President Buhari, going by what they already know about him, stressing however that not receiving many votes from Igboland should make him rethink the relationship and perception of Ndigbo about him.
“President Buhari had acted in a manner that showed he indeed had ‘scores’ to settle with Ndigbo with his earlier appointments that eluded the zone from major positions that include his security council and siting of projects. In fact, in his first six months, he made over 80 appointments that did not include any Igbo person.”
Apparently to show they could work with the President, despite the infractions, Igbo political leaders have started to embrace the All Progressives Congress (APC). Since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections, many Igbo drawn across the five states have defected to the APC. The majority of them said they decided to do so in solidarity with the actions of the President since he assumed office as well as the need to reposition the Igbo to play a leading role in the politics of the country.
But as 2019 elections approach, has Buhari done enough to reciprocate the gesture and improve his rating in the southeast?Many believe that nothing much has happened. The feeling is that supporting the APC and the president has not benefitted the Igbo. The people are pointing at the continued existence of the infrastructure gap in the zone. They are insisting that the claims by the Federal Government of caring about all sections of the country have not been transformed into practical realities. Although, they agreed that work is ongoing in some federal roads through the SUKUK loan secured recently, they insist that the contracts for the Enugu-Port Harcourt highway, the Enugu-Onitsha highway among others, are not new contracts but a ‘further release of funds to the contractors already working on the roads.”
They insisted that work was already ongoing on the roads during the last administration, adding that: “the contractors merely stopped work to see whether there could be virement to enable them continue.” They wondered why the Enugu-Onitsha road had taken too long to be completed, stressing that, “apart from these roads where else is this government working in the southeast to show that it is a government of the entire country?”
Immediate Past President General, Aka Ikenga Organization, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike said Buhari had not done anything to earn the trust of the Igbo and to end the suspicion which was responsible for his rejection by the people of the zone in 2015.“People are loud with the claims that he is working on the 2nd Niger Bridge and I stop to ask if the project is being executed on air. If anything is going on there, there should be workers and we would see progress reports. It is not something you deceive the people about. Granted that the PDP did not do much on projects in the zone, but every part of the country is Buhari’s constituency and Igbo-speaking people are an integral part of that arrangement.
“He started with his skewed appointments that denied Igbo an opportunity at the security council of the country among others. Election is around the corner and I have not seen any notable change to convince us that we are part of the project called Nigeria. We are asking what the problem is. Look at the railway project, which they contracted. The project cuts across every part of the country excerpt Igboland. Instead, the Minister of Transport said recently that they were still negotiating the terms. In three years, what project can Buhari said he has completed in the southeast?
“Granted that certain Igbo politicians joined his party, I do not think that they carried their constituencies along because, I don’t see what they will use to convince them to make them follow them. Our people have been starved for many years, so seeing the snail speed of work, they will think something is going on and being told that he would do something. For me, nothing has changed to give him Igbo support in 2019.”
A coalition of pressure groups in the southeast echoed similar sentiments during their meeting in Enugu last week, when they stated that: “none of the demands of the Igbo and by extension the majority of the zones of the country have been met under the present administration of the country.”The group in a statement by its Coordinator, Chief Ugwumba Ofordu, expressed sadness that the issue of “restructuring which many sections of the country believe is needed to move the nation forward has seriously been downplayed”, stressing that, “it will become for us an issue in the coming election.”
“President Buhari has not supported this cause, but we know that the parent body of Ndigbo, Ohanaeze, has championed this cause for the greater good of our people. This government has done everything in their book to frustrate Ndigbo and make us beggars. They did not give us road, they did not give us job, the only airport in the zone has not received attention since the PDP government left. We don’t know on what basis that we will return this government in the next elections”, the group said.
It, however, urged Ndigbo to ensure that they register in the ongoing voters registration explaining that it was the only way to “demand our rights from the leaders and vote in those who have identified with the struggle for Igbo’s welfare in the country.”But the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi believes that Buhari and the APC deserved the votes and support of Ndigbo should he (Buhari) declare to re-contest in 2019. Amaechi, who encouraged the people of the zone to join the party believes that it is not only the shortest route to presidency but because the administration has done more than any other in the country for the people of the southeast.
Delivering a lecture at the Nnmadi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Amaechi said: “You voted for PDP and what did they do for you? PDP abandoned the Enugu-Onitsha expressway since 1999. Buhari is working on it. Buhari is working on the 2nd Niger Bridge. He is working on the Otuocha –Ibaji- Abuja road; he is working on Abakaliki –Onueke road; he is working on Oji- Achi-Mmaku road; he is also working on Ozalla–Akpugo, Amagunze road as well as Aba- Ikot Ekpene Road.
“Under Buhari, all major cities in the southeast are captured in the existing railway project. Name one government that has done up to this within two years. Our problem is that we are just being emotional.”He said that the Igbos should vote Buhari’s second term and force him to support Igbo presidency, adding that holding him in contempt all the time would not advance the political cause of Ndigbo in Nigeria.
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