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Biafra agitation, insecurity threaten southeast’s quest for Igbo presidency

By  Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
18 February 2022   |   4:03 am
Growing agitation for Biafra with its incessant sit-at-home directives, insecurity and doubts about mainstream political parties ceding their presidential tickets to the southeast region....
Peter Obi

Former Anambra State governor Peter Obi

Growing agitation for Biafra with its incessant sit-at-home directives, insecurity and doubts about mainstream political parties ceding their presidential tickets to the southeast region may have dwarfed the political frenzy associated with the desire to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor by the region.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that southeast leaders, led by Ohanaeze Ndigbo have elevated the call for the region to produce Buhari’s successor to the sympathy of other zones, especially in the guise that doing so would deepen national unity and promote a sense of belonging among others.

To Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the only sacrifice expected from the rest of the country is to zone presidency to the South and micro zone it to southeast to allow the region to produce the president, the first since the return of democracy in 1999.

With release of timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the 2023 general elections on February 18, 2023 (about a year from now), political activities are expected to have peaked in the zone following the long held desires.

This seems not to be the case. At the moment, however, no fewer than eight prominent Igbo have either declared their interest to contest or are speculated to nurse presidential ambition for 2023 elections.
Those who have declared interests include former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim; former chairman of Pfizer, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; Prof Kingsley Muoghalu; Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi; former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Prof. Peter Umeadi and Senator Rochas Okorocha. Ambitions of former governors, Peter Obi, and Orji Kalu are still shrouded in uncertainty.

However, their declaration appears to be all that is known in the zone at the moment even as presidential election draws nearer. There are no political meetings; no campaign posters and billboards; no consultation among other trappings expected of politics in the zone at the moment. Those who have declared interests did so outside the region.

Umahi had gone to Abuja to inform President Buhari about his aspiration but at home, the people have not been formally notified. The political activities that should have followed the development are seriously lacking. Feelers are that even stalwarts of his All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State are not in the know about his political maneuverings, except the tumultuous reception held for him by the state chapter the day he returned to the state from Abuja.

Anyim, who has informed stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the zone, seems to be at ease with informing only the Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu about his ambition. The other four governors are yet to be notified. There are still no activities in the zone to indicate that he is pursuing the presidency next year.

Ohuabunwa, who is also running on the PDP platform, is yet to meet with the governors of the zone, as well as commence political activities in the region to shore up his aspiration.

Okorocha and Muoghalu are yet to kick start their political activities in the zone. The most known about them so far is their declaration of interests, which others had done.

Okorocha

It is being viewed that since the southeast region seriously desire the number one office, arising from the clamour by various political campaign groups, which have been drumming support for power to rotate to the region, in the interest of unity, equity and fairness, several political activities should have signposted the desire and not the near dry politicking.

Investigations however, showed that the low political activities might not be unconnected with the Biafra agitation, which was elevated recently with Monday’s sit-at-home and other sit-at-home directives in the zone observed on days the detained leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has a session in court.

The Department of State Services (DSS) currently holds Kanu. Businesses and other economic activities are at their lowest point anytime he is billed to appear in court as residents stay indoors.

Agitators for Biafra also hold contrary view with other state actors in the zone over the Nigeria project; while the elite and state actors insist that the southeast presidency in 2023 would end agitations in the zone, the agitators for Biafra insist on a separate state as end to the agitations.

These feelings, sources said were affecting consultations and political programmes of those interested in the presidency in the zone, as there are fears of possibilities of clash with the promoters of Biafra course if not properly agreed on.

The other factor is the rising insecurity, such as kidnappings, killings and banditry created by unknown gunmen in the zone. Activities of this group whose motives are yet undefined have created tension and fear in the region. These men who are armed with dangerous objects move about almost unchallenged, attacking targets and dispossessing security personnel of their weapons and killing them in the process.

Sources stated that their increased nefarious activities in the zone might be targeted at ensuring that any election in the region is stopped in 2023, as a way of assisting the Biafra project.

Of note also is the hide-and-seek game of APC and PDP on the zoning arrangement. While the southeast has taken to its loudest pitch that the two political parties should cede their presidential tickets to the zone, the leadership of the parties seems not comfortable with the idea, a development that is unsettling minds in the southeast region.

The coming national conventions of the political parties do not give firm assurances that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.

Speaking to The Guardian on the development, a political analyst based in Enugu State, Dr Jide Akpaka, agreed that the “insecure state of affairs in the southeast region” might have contributed to the low politicking currently being experienced in the zone.

“A zone that has clamoured and is still clamouring for presidency should by now know where it is headed. We should have been thinking about political alignments and realignments that could be in our interests. It should have been clear and known to us our possible best eleven that should be presented to other zones for support.  But that is not happening. Let me however believe that they are waiting for the right time. The right time here is the national conventions of these parties, which shall give final endorsements to where they would want the pendulum to swing at the end of the day,” he said.

Akpata, however, congratulated those who have so far indicated their aspirations from the Igbo stock, stressing that, “even with the hard times and uncertainties in the zone, they could do this. It means their aspirations are genuine and that people should rise and give them support. That is the only way their voices can be heard.”

A chieftain of APC in the zone, Chief Sydney Uba, however stated that it was still early in the day to begin to insinuate that the security situation in the zone may have crippled political activities of those with presidential ambition.

[FILES] Umahi

Explaining that there was still time and that INEC had not lifted the ban on campaigns, he asserted that, “Politics is money and a huge one at that. It does not make sense to begin to go into political spending where there is still about 10 months to the process properly. What I can advocate at the moment is secret consultations to gauge one’s acceptability. Our politicians have done well so far.

“The number of interests we have in the zone has sent a strong message that we are not toying with the desire to produce Buhari’s successor. The political parties know that they will not run away from this. They are taking their time and I know, they will use the opportunity of their convention to zone the office to the southeast region.”

For apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the security situation and agitation clamour among others, have not reduced the frenzy of politicking for presidency by politicians of Igbo origin.

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, stated that “if there is a place where our people are expected to do their politicking for that office, it should be outside the zone for now. That is because; there is a general agreement here that it is our turn to produce the president. We have sounded it several times.

“We have appealed to other Nigerians in the spirit of equity, justice and fair play to allow the southeast produce the next president. We can only say that nothing is happening in the zone politically, if our people are not showing interest in that office. But as we speak we have many of them coming from the two leading political parties. They are strong and they have shown that we have what it takes to lead this country. So the agitations notwithstanding, we are advancing in the cause.”

He stated that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is ready to give Nigeria the president that “will be for all Nigerians,” as part of her commitment to the growth, unity and development of the country, stressing that, “with our people scattered in every nooks and crannies of the country, doing businesses and setting up their own homes means that they believe strongly in one Nigeria.

“We cannot do anything to undermine that aspiration. We cannot do anything to alter the foundation of a country that we suffered to build. That is why our clamour is that we should be given the chance to make things right for a stronger country that the people should be proud of.”

As it is, the days ahead will further prove the readiness of the aspirants in the cause of the struggle to realise presidency for Ndigbo. One thing that is outstanding is that the people have vowed to resist any politician from the zone that may want to play the Vice Presidency role. Many insist that it is presidency or nothing.