Thursday, 9th February 2023
Breaking News:

How Tinubu’s victory at APC convention unsettles Southeast

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
10 June 2022   |   4:20 am
The presidential primary of All Progressives Congress (APC) that was concluded on Wednesday afternoon has elicited a mixed grill. For the winner, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, perhaps, his followers from the Southwest and other parts of the country...

Nigeriaís ruling party (All Progressive Congress) presidential flagbearer, Bola Tinubu (C) delivers a speech after the party announces him as the winner of its presidential primary during APC special convention to elect the party’s presidential flag bearer for 2023 election at the Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria on June 8, 2022. – Former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu is announced the winner of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) primary as its candidate for the 2023 presidential election to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

The presidential primary of All Progressives Congress (APC) that was concluded on Wednesday afternoon has elicited a mixed grill. For the winner, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, perhaps, his followers from the Southwest and other parts of the country, the exercise was an indication of how much stake his camp held in the Nigerian Project.

While for the aspirants of the Southeast, who lost to him, and indeed, the entire Southeast region, the two-day exercise was a reminder that the alleged marginalisation and injustices against the zone still persisted.

According to sources, the presidential primary was one that the zone had hoped would be used to address several years of marginalisation.

This is because, as a party, the APC regarded itself as the symbol of justice and fairness, saying it distanced itself from politics of its rival, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Despite the poor support it received from the zone, APC showed signs that it was ready to work with the Southeast when it took over a lot of the infrastructural projects, which the PDP was unable to address in the region in its 16 years of presidency.

Although, these gestures were not demonstrated in the appointments, which the zone had complained were skewed against it, President Muhammadu Buhari, however, raised hope that the party was out to favour the zone when he visited some of the states in the Southeast.

During his visit to Owerri, Imo State, he reassured of his determination to continue to address imbalances that the region had suffered. He also made a commitment to change the narrative when he played host to a delegation of Igbo leaders in the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

The President’s two-day working visit to Ebonyi State last month provided opportunity for Igbo leaders to meet him, and even present their request for an Igbo president in 2023.

Further hopes were raised with the resignation of such Igbo ministers as Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu from the Ministry of Science and Technology and Chief Emeka Nwajiuba from the Ministry of Education to contest the number one office.

These hopes were further accentuated when presidential aspirants from the Northern part of the country met a few days before the primary of the party to announce their withdrawal from the exercise in support of a power shift to the South in accordance with the rotation clause in the constitution of the party.

But the outcome of the exercise showed that not only were the appeals from the zone for the party to cede its presidential ticket to the region a non-issue, the way and manner delegates voted for aspirants from the region further indicated that they had not done enough to convince members of the party from other regions.

Efforts by the aspirants from the region that participated in the presidential primary ended on shabby notes, as they garnered votes that when jointly aggregated, were far below the votes Tinubu secured to win the election.

While Tinubu polled 1,271 votes of the over 2000 votes cast by delegates, the votes by the five Igbo contestants put together was 40 in this order: Ebonyi state governor, Dave Umahi (38) ; Ogbonnaya Onu  (1);  Emeka Nwajiuba (1); Rochas Okorocha and Ikeobasi Mokelu, nil.

Since the exercise ended, what has dominated discussions in several public places is how much Igbo has been relegated and not reckoned as an integral part of the Nigerian project. It has also brought with it angry reactions among the people.

While many had taken to various social media platforms to either condemn or describe politicians from other segments of the country as lacking in conscience, others insisted that the outcome of the exercise was a strong signal that the future of the southeast zone in the country remains a bleak one.

It would be recalled that the PDP, which the zone supported for about 16 years, earlier dashed its hopes, when it jettisoned its rotational clause to throw its ticket open. The development, which the southeast saw as ‘betrayal’ since it was its turn, prepared several minds that the APC was out to correct the anomaly.

Although the southeast has not been fully entrenched into the APC, sources, however, stated that it had hoped to realise the presidency of the country using the platform following its sublime believe that power would no longer return to the North after Buhari’s eight years as well as the unwritten rotation mantra that had seen power moved between the North and South.

The zone had believed that when these factors came into play and the APC eventually moved power to the South, it would automatically fall on the shoulders of the Southeast in the spirit of justice, equity and fairness, as the region remains the only zone in Southern Nigeria that has not tasted the presidency of the country.
To buttress their conviction that APC would give them an opportunity to fly its flag, the zone, which had given five per cent vote to the party in 2015 general elections, gave 25 per cent votes to the party during the 2019 general elections; a development that accounted for Buhari’s victory.

There were also movements of certain politicians such as Umahi, former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzo Kalu and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, among others, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.

In fact, Umahi, who won his second term ticket as governor on the platform of the PDP in 2019, had dumped the party for APC to enable him pursue a presidency of Southeast extraction through the party (APC) in 2023. He had abandoned his role as chairman of Southeast governors’ forum to embrace the APC on the guise that Igbo presidency was not feasible with the PDP as well as his love for President Buhari.

He had told his guests on February 7, 2021: “As governor, my only boss is my wife and President Muhammadu Buhari is the overall boss of all. If you were brought up well, you will know that you don’t have to insult an elder and your boss.

“The president deserves our respect and support because he means well for all Nigerians and the country.

“When I was in the PDP, all the governors got support from the president to strengthen their states. This is a man that has respect for every governor, a man who never sends anybody against his enemy. He deserves our respect and support.

“Without the support of the president it would have been terrible for governors, he never showed party inclination in helping the states,” he had said.

Few days after he made his departure from the PDP known to the public on November 17, 2020, the governor had said that he wanted to be a martyr that could be sacrificed to achieve the much-sought Igbo presidency.
“I have to lead the protest against the marginalisation of the Igbos by the PDP and I don’t have to consult anybody to lead such a protest.

“I don’t want the PDP to collapse in the Southeast but it can collapse itself in the zone if it does not heed the peoples’ advice to entrench justice, fairness, and equity.

“The PDP should be bold to declare its stand on zoning of the presidency to the Southeast, and if it cannot, should tell us why we are not capable of holding such a position but will come for our votes during elections,” he said.

Speaking to The Guardian on this development, former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, insisted that there was more to it than meets the eye.

Ezeife noted that the outcome of the primaries of the two leading political parties seriously signposted that Ndigbo are not wanted in Nigeria.

“It shows lack of conscience by the two political parties that an integral part of the country is not considered good enough to lead the rest of the country. Who says the Igbo have not contributed to the development of Nigeria? Has any other tribe done much better than we have done? We have a presence everywhere in Nigeria. We do businesses, we live everywhere, we set up permanent structures, yet, there are those who believe that it is not enough. It is sad but we will not give up,” he stated.

Insisting that the future and survival of Ndigbo was now in their hands, he stated that time had come for “strategic thinking so as to give our children and children’s- children a deserving future. Everyone is acting as if Ndigbo are the problem, but we shall see how far this conspiracy can go.”

Emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, described the emergence of Tinubu and the action of APC delegates at the convention as ‘travesty of justice’, stressing that it was an indication of the ‘deep hatred’ the Igbo was passing through in the country.

He said: “It is travesty of justice. In this country at independence, there were three regions. Today, the principal region that led in the struggle for independence is being treated as a big minority. Since the end of the war, every effort is being made to classify Ndigbo as bad people. Using the PDP as an example, this was a party founded by Alex Ekwueme from G34 and when it came to the time for him to vie for the presidency, he submitted and supported the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo. When it came to the turn of APP, another man from Igboland, Onu, gracefully stepped down for Olu Falae, also from the Southwest region in 1999.

“Now, we have always said it is our turn. But what happened last night? There was a gang up to ensure that Igbo was denied the opportunity. Even those that benefited from the sacrifices we made refused that Igbo men should emerge.  When Ogbonnya Onu was speaking at the APC presidential primary, most people didn’t understand what he was saying because there was a conspiracy to deny Igbo opportunity for presidency.”

Stressing, however, what he described as ‘the betrayal of the Southwest in Nigerian politics’, a political scientist, Dr Jerry Ogu, stated that it was a big lesson on the Igbo that “there is no brother in politics.”

He said it was sad, “our brothers in the Southwest could not reconsider their aspiration in the interest of Ndigbo after all that we sacrificed to give them power.

“When you talk about the clamour for return of power to Southern Nigeria, our governors were meeting with governors from other states in the region. I remember that such meetings were held in Enugu and Umuahia, but what did we see at the convention? We were abandoned. Nobody remembered our brotherhood and the unity in our quest. The clamour became Tinubu and Southwest. It means nobody is ready to sacrifice for the Southeast. I pity our leaders,” he said.

On the way out, he said there was a need to encourage the people to continue to participate in the electoral process. He added: “Let our people register and vote in the election. Let them align behind an Igbo candidate. If the votes could count, I am sure, it will pave the way for our political future.”

Ogu lamented: “We have made sacrifices. Buhari abandoned us because we supported Jonathan in 2011 and voted PDP again in 2015. Now the same people we supported were in a contest against us in 2023. Ekwueme and Onu buried their ambition in 1999 for Southwest, but in 2023, southwest could not bury theirs for the Igbo. It is not right. Something is fundamentally wrong with this country that, people cannot reciprocate good gestures any longer.”

Sources close to The Guardian, however, said that it was high time politicians from the Southeast began to play the Nigerian politics. “They must begin to build networks across the country. They should be seen in the heat of action not reacting to actions,” the sources said.

They noted that very many of them have not built that desired bridge and worse still, when the floodgates for Southern president opened, “they all queued to become the president. They don’t believe that they should step down for one another. Even when they met in Okorocha’s house, they did not come out with a consensus candidate to show that they were serious for an Igbo president. Everybody wants to be president.

“That’s the problem. That feeling of Igbo enwe eze has eaten deep into their fabrics and nobody is ready to step down for anybody at every point in time. They don’t have political leaders who should stand as rallying point for their demand.”