Aka Ikenga: President of Igbo extraction in 2023 logical, fair, equitable
Aka Ikenga, the policy and strategy think tank of Ndi Igbo does not get involved in retail politics; it peddles quiet influence with political, social/economic leaders, as well as captains of industry. But ahead of the 2023 general election, it has made an exemption, as it begins a massive campaign in support of presidential candidates of Igbo extraction. The publicity secretary of the organisation, Ifeanyi Igwebike Mbanefo, told GBENGA AKINFENWA that it was time to rescue the country and save her from the current existential crises.
• South East Has Made Enormous Sacrifices To Stabilise Democracy
Aka Ikenga is the engine room, and the brain box of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and Igbo political, and socio-economic leadership. Why has it uncharacteristically taken a public stance on the 2023 Presidency?
WE stepped out because of the urgency of now. By every prediction, Nigeria is on the edge of a precipice, and all indices are pointing south. Unemployment is over 33 per cent; youth unemployment is over 60 per cent. The government is borrowing recklessly; rag-tag army commercial motorcycles are taking over our airports, our railways, and our roads. The security forces seem helpless, and the government, clueless.
Everyone shares deep sorrow and concern over the events that have paralysed our country sector after sector in recent years. The question is not whether you will join the fray, but when. We can’t continue to shirk our responsibilities; to leave this fight for the usual people –activists. They have shouted themselves hoarse, so we can no longer afford to sit on the fence.
Is Nigeria in need of, or beyond redemption?
We would not get involved in this if for a moment, we believed this country was beyond redemption. But the country is in a grave situation. In reality, it seems as if the ship of state is rudderless, with a feuding crew and no one at the helm. A quote from an article in Atlantic Magazine, by Eliot A. Cohen aptly captures the situation: ‘A couple of misfits have been tossed overboard, and the captain has given up trying to run the ship. He periodically shows up on deck to shake his fist at the moon and order a summary flogging, but for the most part, he stays in his cabin emitting strange barks while mates and petty officers sail the (ship) … It’s not pretty—the ship rolls and lurches alarmingly.’
I want first to applaud the forthright stand that some of our leaders have taken up in the fight for a better Nigeria. Eminent personalities such as Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Audu Ogbe, and Chief Bode George among others.
How much of a solution to Nigeria’s problems is an Igbo President?
The position of Igbo president is already taken, and the holder of that title is Prof. George Obiozor. He is the President General of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo. We are not interested in Igbo Presidency, we are interested in Nigeria’s Presidency. Nobody called Chief Olusegun Obasanjo a Yoruba president. Nobody called Gen. Sani Abacha a Kanuri President, or Dr. Goodluck Jonathan an Ogbia President. Aka Ikenga is against the notion that this country can only be ruled by a particular ethnic group, and that the others are dogsbody – people who do menial tasks. We are against the notion that being a Fulani automatically puts all the votes in your pocket. That false notion was debunked by Chief M.K.O Abiola. So, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), today’s version of SDP engages in navel-gazing, we need to remind it that Abiola comprehensively defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa in his ward in Kano, and most parts of the country.
Does Igbo have a political heavyweight to pull this off?
It is time to shed that messiah mentality. Time to do away with our reliance on strong men. They are an anathema to democracy; dinosaurs who do not know that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We want a collective leadership — people contributing in business, culture, and politics. That’s the model that we should encourage. We want to be part of many voices that help the entire country to rise. No voice should be excluded. Today, we are talking about South East, tomorrow it may be North East or North Central.
Share with us what can be considered as Ndi Igbo game plan in this quest for a president of Igbo extraction.
The Aka Ikenga platform offers an enormous privilege. It is a powerful brand, and it’s not for me, it’s for Ndi Igbo; it is for Ndi Igbo in the markets; Ndi Igbo in the corporate world; Ndi Igbo in public and private sectors; unemployed and underemployed youths. It is for students and Ndi Igbo at home and in the Diaspora. But it is especially for those Igbo youths, whom Nigeria seem to have stolen their future; those who couldn’t gain admission because federal character worked against them; those who couldn’t join the military because they have Igbo names; those who couldn’t get jobs in the Federal Civil Service unless they got a note from a northerner.
Too often over the past several decades, Ndi Igbo have felt the wrenching pain of discrimination, neglect, and marginalisation. The net effect is that youths and ordinary citizens have lost faith in Igbo leadership that lacks clout, influence, capacity, and the will to lead. And on a national level, a quota army cannot defeat ragtag armies that have taken possession of large swaths of Nigerian territories, even with expensive jets and military equipment bought from the United States.
Our strategy for countering Igbo marginalisation starts by addressing the recent threat – exclusion from the Presidency – while safeguarding our rights and liberties. This strategy is narrowly tailored to focus on raising funds and raising awareness for a president of Igbo extraction. And seeking a path to the presidency through the courts, by challenging the PDP’s jettisoning of rotational presidency in its constitution.
This is a project that would unite Ndi Igbo. Together we must affirm that never again must we be unjustly denied our legitimate God-given rights or our place in the society.
We must work to root out the hatreds that drive this type of snobbery and violence, and we must recommit to defending and protecting our fundamental rights – those basic freedoms, which belong to all Nigerians in equal measure. Many of our volunteers did not do so because they thought any particular candidate would be elected. They volunteered because they understand that there are a set of values that this country needs to embrace; that this country is exceptional; that this country is currently being mismanaged. If we’re willing to work hard and take responsibility, our lives can go as far as our dreams will take us.
We expect that results will reflect the loyalty of supporters and partners of Aka Ikenga. It will speak to the strength of the Aka Ikenga brand for individual and institutional donors.
We shall be bifocal: Ask people to honour a special person in their lives who died during the Civil War or for the Igbo cause with a memorial or tribute gift, and also ask people to donate if they want a new Nigeria built on progress, fairness, justice, and equity.
Monies raised will be available to any candidate of Igbo extraction who emerges from PDP or APC. I think we’ll win as long as we stay focused and don’t get complacent. We have to continue to work hard. But we want to do more than just win. We want to win in a way that sustains the hopefulness we’ve carried since the advent of this republic. Not engaging in negative attacks, not being dragged into the mud. We want to win because it is time to take Nigeria out of the doldrums and make it a world power.
What is the case for a president of Igbo extraction?
The case is straightforward. The presidency rotates between North and South. Buhari, a candidate of the North, will complete his term in 2023 and the presidency will automatically move to the South. In the South, there are three zones – South West, South East, and South-South. The South West and South-South have had their turn with the full support of the South East.
Recall that President Goodluck Jonathan’s strongest base was the South East, which still bears the scar of his defeat. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari punished the South-East zone for giving him less than five per cent of its votes and 95 per cent to Jonathan. The South-South zone ought to reciprocate this gesture.
Because the South West had a legitimate cause for the presidency, following the annulment of Chief MKO Abiola’s election, two South-East politicians, frontrunners in their parties yielded to the South West. It is doubtful if Chief Olusegun Obasanjo would have emerged as the PDP flag bearer if Ekwueme had insisted on the implementation of the party requirement that a candidate must win in his ward, local government, and state to qualify to contest for the presidency. This rule was waived for Obasanjo who was rejected in the South West, unlike Abiola who won from his ward up to the national polls.
But the most obvious case was Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu who convincingly became ANPP flag bearer only to give it up for Olu Falae of AD. Going into the accord, AD had six states while APP had nine states. However, the APP chose to be the junior partner on account of the agreement to cede power to the South West to assuage the zone over the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential poll, won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, a south westerner. That arrangement threw up Olu Falae and Umaru Shinkafi, the runner-up in APP polls. It left Onu stranded.
From the foregoing, the South East has made enormous sacrifices for democracy to take hold in Nigeria, during post Abacha era. It is time to honour its sacrifice and reward its contributions. No less a person as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, and an aspirant on the platform of PDP has acknowledged these contributions. He offered to drop his ambition if PDP zones the presidency to the South East for reasons of justice, equity, and fairness. Ayo Adebanjo the leader of Afenifere, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Audu Ogbe, and Chief Bode George, have all spoken in support of a president of Igbo extraction.
The statistics from 1960 to 1999 show a similar pattern. Historically, Ndi Igbo was cheated. The Yoruba had eight years of Obasanjo presidency and Eight years of Osinbajo as the VP. It is only logical, just, fair, equitable, and indeed imperative that a Nigerian of Igbo extraction should be president in 2023 if the spirit and letters of the Nigeria constitution are to be observed not in the breach.
Do you think South East Candidates are ready for the race?
Of course, they are. But we abhor those slash-and-burn tactics that have become the custom in Nigerian politics. The rent-a-crowd politics, and of course, money politics – but we won’t shy away from it; Ndi Igbo are among the richest tribes in Nigeria. Ndi Igbo will do whatever it takes to win fair and square. But despite the constraints and the current belligerent mood of the nation, we believe things can be different for our people if we help them rediscover their strengths – rally them to a single vision or purpose whilst still respecting and celebrating the nation’s diversity.
There is enough room and goodwill to start healing through dialogue. We believe there is room for civilised and collaborative dialogues regardless of politics, religion, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, education, or any other distinction.
Aka Ikenga’s mission is to bridge the divides that threaten our future; to create safe spaces that allow Ndi Igbo and other oppressed tribes to talk about thorny issues with people who fundamentally disagree with them and consequently tip the scales toward a stronger and more equitable future for the nation.
We shall pursue this mission in multiple arenas – councils, states, regions, and federal and international levels. We shall seek collaborations with all stakeholders – regional socio-cultural organisations, civil society, political parties, media, religious organisations, the business community, governments – regions, and federal, international organisations, and donor agencies. The project will rally stakeholders across the country and beyond. The objective is to mainstream the mending of our frayed social fabric through dialogues and productive conversations. People don’t want to hear folks shouting at each other and trying to score political points. They want to solve problems.
Now that Abiola has debunked the notion that only northerners can win the popular votes, or that the North will not vote for southerners, people should look at the presidency differently.