Wednesday, 31st May 2023

For helmsman of Southeast extraction, so long?

By From Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
19 June 2022   |   4:05 am
The philosophy of Igbo enwe eze (Igbo have no king) seems to be on the loose on Igboland. The same philosophy, which many said had kept the people in political limbo and enriched few others in the southeast region, seems to have resurfaced...

Governor David Umahi

The philosophy of Igbo enwe eze (Igbo have no king) seems to be on the loose on Igboland. The same philosophy, which many said had kept the people in political limbo and enriched few others in the southeast region, seems to have resurfaced since the conclusion of the 2023 presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).  

The southeast region had spoken in unison since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections about her intention to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023. The campaigns reached crescendo with the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo leading other Igbo groups to ensure its realisation. They had, among others, demanded that the two leading political parties, the PDP, the APC and other political parties should cede their presidential tickets to the region, stressing that doing so would end all agitations and marginalization allegations by its people.

However, at the primaries proper, the zone was snubbed. While the PDP gave its ticket to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the North, the APC gave its own to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu from the Southwest region. Of the over 2000 votes cast in the two primaries, aspirants of Igbo extraction, by their collective votes, did not score up to 60 votes. Even the appeals made at the convention grounds by the aspirants to the delegates on why the southeast region should be given the opportunity to rule, did not yield positive outcome.

But one of the Igbo contestants for the number one office, Mr Peter Obi, had earlier resigned from the PDP. Obi had gone further to clinch the presidential ticket of the party that would enable him fly its flag at the elections proper.

Indeed, since his feat, it would appear that the much vaulted clamour about president of Igbo extraction has been dwarfed. It would also appear that the outcome of the primaries was being expected to enable the people make a statement.

On the other hand, there is a growing feeling about what Ndigbo wants in 2023. Reviewing the actions and reactions of some of its politicians since the primaries were concluded, there have been questions as to whether the campaign for Igbo presidency was indeed a genuine one.

There are feelings that since the primaries have held, the possibility of the Igbo rallying round her own as a way of realising the presidential aspiration that has eluded her in years could have commenced. This singular desire however is lacking at the moment and is infact being threatened by utterances, body language and actions of people within the region, thereby raising posers on what could have happened to the region’s clamour for presidency.

Except for a yet to be announced meeting with presidential candidates of Igbo extraction, which date is still being contemplated by Ohanaeze Ndigbo, there are no other efforts in the region to rally support for the aspiration of Ndigbo. Rather, certain holders of opinion have taken the lead in interrogating the quest and the candidates.

Last Wednesday, fiery Enugu Catholic Priest, Fr Ejike Mbaka, had raised the ante about the disbelief in the presidency of Igbo extraction. The cleric returned to the path of perfidy when he told Nigerians to distance selves from Peter Obi, saying supporting him in the election would amount to wasted efforts.

Speaking at his weekly adoration ground in Emene, Enugu, the controversial priest threw caution to the wind, describing Obi as a “stingy man”, who was only interested in himself and not any other person, stressing that it was better they voted an “old man who is generous than a stingy young man”.

He had said: “A stingy man, that cannot give people his money, with this hunger ravaging the land and you are saying he is the one you want, you want to die of hunger? Are you people insane? Where is the Holy Spirit? Listen, a good old man is better than a young wicked man; Peter Obi is going nowhere as far as God lives. If Igbos want a representative, it is not someone like Peter Obi. Anybody supporting him is wasting his money; he is going nowhere. Don’t vote for him. If you vote for him, he will close down this ministry.”

Mbaka had hinged his disdain for the former governor on his refusal to donate to his ministry. Obi, as Atiku’s running mate in 2019, attended the yearly harvest of the ministry but resisted pressure from the priest to make cash donation there. He had instead asked to be shown a project of the ministry that he could support. His response did not go down well with Mbaka who stoutly told him and Atiku that they would lose the election among others.

When the leadership of the church later asked him to apologise over his remarks, he did. However, last Wednesday, he told his congregation that he didn’t do the apology with his whole heart. He stated that being made to do so was a curse against the presidential aspirant, whom he said would “live” with it, “until he comes here to apologise to the altar of God.”

Ebonyi state governor, Dave Umahi had earlier toed a similar line. While reacting to the growing popularity of the Labour party and Obi in the coming election, he said Ebonyi state would rather vote the APC.

Umahi had contested the presidential ticket of the APC and lost. Recall that he left the PDP two years ago for APC in the guise that it was only the party that could cede presidential ticket to Ndigbo in 2023.

It could be recalled that Umahi as chairman of southeast governors’ forum had in 2019 led his colleagues in the zone to oppose the choice of Obi as Atiku’s running mate. He had mounted the podium to insist that they were not consulted before the choice was made.

Thus, the frenzy that should have accompanied such development in the region was not found anywhere till the end of the election.

A former governor of old Anambra state, Chief Jim Nwobodo joined the frenzy when he declared that Peter Obi’s effort to win the presidential election would be one of futility. To him, the southeast was better-off with a Vice Presidential candidate and it would have been Obi that would have been nominated by Atiku for the position if he had not left the PDP.

“The beauty of politics is being able to absorb at times insults; you absorb but have your eyes on the ball. I blame him for
going. He should never have left because if Obi were there, Atiku will have no problem in picking him as the vice,” he said.

Perhaps, the greatest culprit in the entire thing was the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Ohanaeze has become complacent. It would appear there is no cohesion in its leadership any longer. There is no force any longer about the apex body since those who gave the current leadership power have allegedly abandoned them.

Although the leadership had supported the quest for president of Igbo extraction and had gone further to lead in the consultations, its latest showings, especially since the primaries of the parties, have seriously put a doubt to the claim that it wholly supported a president of Igbo extraction for 2023.

This is because Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership has remained mute since the two political parties refused to cede tickets to the zone. Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership has not congratulated any of the presidential candidates of Igbo extraction that emerged from other political parties so far. While other zones are galvanizing support for their candidates, Ohanaeze has preferred to watch from the sidelines.

However, when it found its voice on Thursday night, congratulating the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa who was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP, the people began to suspect the level of sincerity of purpose by its leadership. Okowa is from Delta state in the south-south region. His region is not part of the five states of the southeast region. When Ohanaeze wanted the presidential ticket, it did so based on the fact that it wanted the candidate to come from any of the five Igbo speaking states of Nigeria. It had gone ahead to bar its politicians from accepting running mate slots from political parties.

So posers are being raised as to what the apex Igbo body wants to achieve. Does it mean that there is no longer the clamour for president of southeast extraction? Does it mean that it has no confidence in the Igbo that have emerged presidential flag bearers?

Elder statesman and former Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, told The Guardian that politics “is a game of possibilities”, stressing however, that Igbo appeal and the person of Peter Obi have combined to raise consciousness in Nigerians on the need to take back their country.

“It is no longer an Igbo project and therefore, anybody is free to hold a position. What you hear or describe as cacophony of voices against the presidency of Igbo extraction is because there is a good candidate that has earned the support of Nigerians who happens to come from the southeast. Those who had earlier rejected him and southeast should not be comfortable and therefore, the best way to start addressing their fears is to use our people against him. The votes that will win the election will not come from Ndigbo alone. All I know is that but for the threat the candidate poses to other aspirants, they won’t be talking about him. So, it is normal in politics”, he said.

National Coordinator of the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu said that what used to be the clamour for Igbo presidency suddenly changed following the injustice perpetrated by the two political parties that have controlled power in the country so far.

“Nigerians saw in their primaries the plots by few elites to ensure that power rotates between north and south of particular ethnic groups. They saw the plot to continue to ensure that power remains in the hands of those old men who have no value to add to their future. They saw that already their country needs to be salvaged and therefore, saw the genuine clamour to redeem Nigeria. So, this has replaced the clamour for Igbo presidency.

“The candidate of Obi is a national consensus. It did not come because he is an Igbo man. Those of us in MASSOB believe in him because he represents that cry that is making us to agitate. He has that passion for development and emancipation of the downtrodden. This is the reason we are agitating and knowing he has capacity to address some of these ills, we will give him our support,” he said.

Madu stated that what Ndigbo wanted was president for all Nigeria, stressing that, “I believe the people have found one in Obi. That is why the support for him is not ethnic inclined. It is the people and they know what they want”.