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2023 Presidency: Southeast and southern governors’ position

By Dr. Henry Omoriegbe
11 July 2021   |   8:45 am
My recent publication titled “2023 Presidency: Southeast zone and Gburugburu Option" which was published on June 23, 2021, in which I urged the people of the Southeast region

[FILES] Southern governors forum meeting in Lagos

My recent publication titled “2023 Presidency: Southeast zone and Gburugburu Option” which was published on June 23, 2021, in which I urged the people of the Southeast region to close ranks and push for them to be supported to produce the President of the country in 2023, considering that they have the bright chance of achieving it in 2023, not many observed that I was just being factual, altruistic, equitable and fair in my view and sympathetic to the political plight of the Southeast people in Nigeria, especially since 1999.

Many thought and inferred that I was bought over to do a yeoman job for the people of Southeast region and Enugu Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in particular. Some said that I was seeking for undue attention and recognition. Why should I seek for such attention now, when I have paid my dues as an academic and good student of Nigeria political history and politics.

My take on issues this time around is to say things the way they are and stand by it without minding whose ox is gored. I can confidently say without apology that my position in the referenced and published article has been vindicated by the position of the Southern Governors Forum in their communique during their last meeting in Lagos, where they made it clear that the President of Nigeria in 2023 should come from the Southern part of the country and made to be rotational constitutionally among the six geopolitical zone in the country. The Governors against all odds reiterated their commitment and loyalty to one Nigeria.

The position of the Southern Governors Forum on the 2023 Presidency is not different from what I canvassed in my article recently which is that Southeast zone should push for support across the divide to be supported to produce the President of the country in 2023.

Now that the Southern Governors have unanimously agreed and spoken out for the first time that Nigeria President in 2023 should come from the Southern part of the country, it behoves the Southeast political leaders, youths, religious leaders and women, especially the state governors who are the political leaders in their respective states to intensify efforts in this direction, knowing full well that power is not given, but fought or lobbied for. Their differences in party leanings should be jettisoned. They should close ranks for the actualisation of the Nigeria President of Southeast extraction in 2023. It is their responsibility and they should not shirk it because posterity will not forgive them.

This is not the time to sit back and whip up sentiments and emotions that lead to nowhere. This is the time for actions and real politics, considering that politics is a serious business, devoid of emotions and sentiments. It is a reality game that requires tact, constructive engagements, and give-and-take approach. They should overcome their mistakes of the past, where they put all their eggs in one basket, failed and started crying foul. They should leave all their doors open for negotiations and dialogue.

The Southeast governors should first of all lobby and persuade their Southern counterparts to support them by making a public pronouncement that their zone should be urged and supported to produce the Nigeria President in 2023 in the interest of one Nigeria, fairness and equity.

The plank on which they can push for this which is founded and factual is that since the return of the present democracy in 1999, the only two geopolitical zone that had not produce a President or vice president on any political party platform are Southeast and Northcentral zones.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo from southwest region was President between 1999-2007. His presidency was made possible majorly by the North, who facilitated his release from prison and railroad to Aso Villa as President even against opposition from his home base, Southwest zone. His vice Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is from Northeast zone. Obasanjo’s successor, late Umaru Musa Yar Adua was from the Northwest region. His vice Goodluck Jonathan who later succeeded him after his untimely demise in active service is from south south region. Jonathan’s successor, Muhammadu Buhari who is on his second term is from Northwest zone with a vice president in the person of Prof. Yemi Osibanjo from Southwest zone.

Despite this obvious, deliberate or accidental emergence or elective of successive presidents of the country since 1999, the Southeast and Northcentral zones had always supported these zones to produce Presidents since 1999 without protest or bathing an eyelid. Why can’t these zones namely Northwest, Northeast, Southsouth and Southwest support Southeast region and later Northcentral zone to produce President if we are indeed and truly one Nigeria?

The current President Muhammadu Buhari will be completing his second term of eight years in 2023, it will be unfair and against cause of natural justice for him to be succeeded by another Northerner in a country like Nigeria with so many ethnic groups with capable and credible people, who have been obvious marginalized. Equity and natural justice demands that after the Southeast zone is supported to produce President of Nigeria in 2023, the Northcentral should be supported to take a shot at it thereafter. That is the only way the problem of perceived marginalization against these two zones will be resolved.

Again, the political leaders of the Southeast zone, especially the Governors should not look at and for the possibility of Nigeria President of Southeast extraction in 2023 on the premise of a particular party. No. That will amount to putting all their eggs in one basket again, which will be counterproductive. If joining or defecting to the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC ) will make it easy and possible for them to produce a President of Southeast extraction in 2023, they should all join without further delay.

I have been hearing sidetalks, gossips and rumours that Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has been approached by the APC national leadership to join their party. There is nothing wrong about it. Poaching is part of party politics. Defection is not unconstitutional for a Governor. It is normal and expected in politics. Besides, Ugwuanyi is a political asset to any party and people anyday. He has done well in office to become a beautiful political bride for any serious party.

If APC has something better for Ugwuanyi and the Southeast zone, Ugwuanyi should heed to their call. Who knows where the Messiah for the Southeast zone will come from in 2023. Nothing is cast in stone in politics. There is no need for hullabaloo over APC leadership’s approach to Ugwuanyi to defect. Some politicians who are serial defectors are still in the game and may even defect again if the need arises.

Meanwhile, there is nothing sacrosanct about political party in Nigeria politics. What is sacrosanct in politics globally is interest, not party loyalty, sentiment or affiliation. Are we saying that if APC leadership and presidency tilt towards Southeast zone for 2023 presidency, the people of the zone will not grab it with two hands and dance awilo? They will, forget about the emotions and sentiments being ignorantly displayed by some people from the zone sometimes on social media platforms on their attachment to a particular political party that have not provided them the platform to actualise their presidential ambitions or tackle their infrastructural challenges for sixteen years of being in power.

Political party in Nigeria is like a vehicle conveying one to Lagos for urgent assignment and spoilt at Ore, Edo state, without available mechanic to fix it or a mechanic that lacked the expertise to fix it, is that person expected to sit down at Ore and wait for the vehicle to be fixed, even if it will take three days before continuing his journey to Lagos. The answer is NO unless people are not sincere to themselves. The best option for such a person is to jump into the next available vehicle that will convey him to Lagos to meet up with his assignment before time elapses.

Politicians have defected to political parties in pursuit of their political interests and that of their people. Some political defectors like Chief Vincent Ogbulafor has even served as National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This was Ogbulafor that was the governorship candidate of the now defunct All Peoples Party in 1999 in Abia State.

Southeast political leaders are not exceptions and should not be admonished to be so ahead of 2023. This is especially when such is not in their political interests and that of their people. The politicians understand political games more than the ordinary people. Politics is a game of number. Southeast zone needs other zones to be able to produce President from their zone. There must be handshake across the divide. No amount of crying foul or complaints will help them produce a President from their zone without stooping to conquer this time around. The Southeast political leaders can only effect a change or fight for president of Southeast extraction in 2023 from within or the mainstream. They can’t achieve it from the fringes or opposition, which is obviously not working in their favour since their political miscalculation in 2015 that gave the other zones in the South advantage ahead of them.

Already found ally for the Southeast political leaders to work with in pursuit of the Nigeria President of Southeast extraction in 2023 is the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum and other governors from the North. Despite the opposition to the Southern Governors’ appeal for the South to be supported to produce President of the country in 2023 by members of Northern Elders Forum, Governor Zulum has since come out openly to back the Southern Governors’ position.

Governor Zulum has been sincere and consistent both in leadership, character and actions. He has never minced words, played to the gallery or played the ostrich on issues of national importance. He has always said it the way it is.

Ahead of 2023 presidency, time is of essence and the Southeast people should raise their game, if they want other zones to take them serious. Their destiny is in their hands. They should galvanise and mobilise their people, orientate and re-orientate their people politically on the reality of Nigeria of today.

No amount of street agitations, social media scaremongering, armchair activism or criticisms against the leadership of the country or the ruling party will change their political fortunes ahead of 2023 presidency without making the right moves and taking the right political steps and decisions. They should be reminded that their zone is still part and parcel of Nigeria by law and geopolitical location.

Dr. Omoriegbe, a university don writes from Benin City, Edo State