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Igbo presidency is achievable through peaceful negotiation — Obioha

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Former National Chairman of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Rev Okechukwu Christopher Obioha is the National Coordinator, Southeast for Presidency 2023 Movement (SEFORP2023). He explained to LAWRENCE NJOKU why 2023 presidency will not elude Southeast zone.

Your group is championing Igbo Presidency in 2023. Do you think this is possible?
The Southeast for President 2023 Movement (SEFORP2023) is a mass movement that peacefully advocates the election of a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from the Southeast during the 2023 elections.

SEFORP2023 is an apolitical, but socio-political peaceful movement that does not belong to and is not funded by any political party or candidate.

Our vision is that, by 2023, the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria will come from Southeast. Our mission is to ensure that every political party, especially the two major political parties and/or any third force cede their presidential candidates to the Southeast come 2023.

Our conviction is based on the axiom that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Although zoning of the Presidency between the South and North is not an article of faith, as there is no trace of it in our Constitution, just like the six zonal structures, it has become an acceptable sharing formula. It has become an obvious acceptable norm in our political lexicon.

By 2023, the North, through President Muhammadu Buhari would have had eight years of uninterrupted presidency and it will be the South’s turn. Now, when you come to the South, since the Southwest and South-South have had their turn, the only segment left is the Southeast. So, it will be equitable, justified and fair enough for the Southeast to be supported by all and sundry to assume that position in 2023.

President Buhari, being an anti-corruption agent by all intents and purposes, will not allow any corrupt action to be perpetuated by his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) or any other political party for that matter, to cede their Presidential slot to any other zone than the Southeast come 2023. This is because corruption is not only when you steal money, but also when an act that is devoid of equity, justice and fairness is carried out.

Some notable Igbos don’t believe Ndigbo has the structure that can give them the Presidency in 2023. What are you doing to tackle this?
I do not know what they mean by structure. What kind of structure did the North, Southwest and South-South have to attain or achieve the Presidency? Which part of the country had a stronger structure than when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe led the NCNC and the PDP of Dr. Alex Ekwueme?

There has not been or will there be at any point in time that a particular tribe or section of this country will be in correct form or shape politically to assume the executive powers without an arrangement and engagement with other regions and zones.

It is also not how big or small the tribe or a section of the country is. What basically determines where this position or power goes is the ability of the political gladiators to be sensitive to read the minds of the ‘directors’ of the process, their manipulations and negotiations and outwit them. The nation’s political mood at any point in time and arrangement also determines this.

In our present political dispensation and experimentation, particularly since 1999, these factors have been at work. The military ruled the country from the North for more than 35 years. There was the yearning or quest for the military to exit our political space and allow democracy to thrive like other major countries of the world. This brought about the Chief MKO Abiola debacle, the restiveness and suppression of Afenifere, Odua People’s Congress (OPC) and NADECO. To pacify the Southwest, Obasanjo was allowed to become the president in 1999.

The environmental abuse, neglect and derivation issues (resource control) and the aftermath of the restiveness of the South-South brought about the issue of amnesty and the Presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

Now in the Southeast, the declaration of ‘No victor, No vanquished,’ the interpretation of the three Rs- Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation to mean the exchange of £20 and the neglect and marginalisation that followed, also brought about the hue and cry, the existence of MASOB and IPOB (agitation for a separate country Biafra), the taunted zoning arrangement is giving us the ‘structure’ by 2023 to attain the Presidency like other zones.

Igbo votes alone cannot guarantee Presidency for the zone in 2023. How far have you gone in eliciting other zones’ support?
I had earlier mentioned that no one zone could produce the President without consulting, aligning and agreeing with other zones. The Igbo has the largest population spread in the country to garner and produce the required 25 percent in 24 states electorally to attain this, and with proper arrangement and support from other zones, we will have it in 2023 without doubt. 

We at SEFORP2023 are prepared and ready to work assiduously to prepare Ndigbo to apply and factor in all these indices, as well as other plans and programmes to achieve this. These plans and programmess will be in phases for good of Nigeria and Ndigbo towards actualisation of this project.

Will your group play any role in nominating the likely candidate for the position?
Nomination is entirely political parties’ affair. But we think that in doing so, they should be looking at character, tenacity and political will to drive the process of governance.

SEFORP2023 will highly mobilise and sensitise Ndigbo and engage people from other zones fully without much noise during the selection of the qualified candidates from the zone. We will ensure that the political parties move in line with the people’s aspiration, and with that, we will be able to bring someone who will ensure equity, justice and fairness in governance.

Ohanaeze wants restructuring. How do you convince the group to align with your mission?
Ohanaeze is correct. Every Igbo and organisations that have their root in the seven Igbo speaking states of the Southeast and South-south is Ohanaeze.We agree that without restructuring or true federalism, which is simply returning to our 1963 Constitution, which guaranteed regional autonomy (each region developing at its pace and guaranteed to determine and use their resources to the fullest and weak (centre), we are not going anywhere.

This is why SEFORP2023 is working to ensure that the candidate will have the political will to drive this process, so as to lay a structure that will see to its realisation. We want to make an impact that will be different from what had been done so far. We must move this country forward, and since other zones have held the position, let Ndigbo also try and let’s see how it goes.

SEFORP2023 agrees with Ohanaeze, but is insisting that since other zones have had their turn, Igbos should also be allowed to have theirs. We are an integral part of the country and have contributed to its development. If we have paid our dues, then, let other zones that enjoyed our support in the past reciprocate our gesture and let’s see how it works.

Again, a major ingredient of this restructuring is equitable recognition and distribution of amenities and resources, including sharing of positions. In 2023, when the Southeast produces the President, that will be the beginning of restructuring.

It is our turn and it is the moral and righteous obligation of Nigeria and Nigerians to bequeath that to us. The oil from the soya bean is sweet, so the Southeast should also taste it, just like the other zones. There is no conflict at all. We cannot afford to disagree now by any stroke of imagination. Rather, we can disagree to agree to ensure a better Nigeria from 2023 than what we presently have.

The APC and Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) zoning formula is still in favour of the North. APC feels the Southeast has not supported the party and as such, does not deserve anything from it. Conversely, PDP is trying to return to power through a northern candidate. Don’t you envisage a big problem here?

SEFORP2023 is not going to attempt to reconcile somebody’s skewed theory. The APC government of today, of which AD and ACN is a major part was not there and Southwest never voted for OBJ, but other factors brought him to power. I do not think APC will want to contemplate anything that will make it shut out the Southeast in 2023. This is because the party will not want to be involved in anything that could bring division into the country. On the other hand, PDP is not enjoying the best of moments, and it will be walking itself into political oblivion if they do otherwise than to zone the presidential candidate to the Southeast.

Remember it was Senator Ike Ekweremadu-led zoning committee of the PDP that introduced this zoning formula, when it declared the North as the zone to produce the President. Only a party that does not crave peace and unity will want to continue to alienate the Igbo against the popular belief and acceptance that it is the zone’s turn to produce the President.

This group will continue its advocacy and sensitisation on the need for unity, and for us to ensure equity and justice in all that we do.Let us not provoke crisis in the name of seeking power in the country’s overall interest.

Can this mission be possible without support of the Presidency, said not to be favourably disposed to it?
We need support of the Presidency because of our belief in equity,justice and fairness. President Buhari believes in equity. He came in to fight corruption and he is fighting it. This vision and mission is anchored on equity, justice and fairness.

The Presidency may not be comfortable with it, but our dear anti-corruption President Muhammadu Buhari will support the project and ensure that a Southeasterner takes over from him in 2023. He will not want to preside over a plot to divide the country.

Again, that the Southeast voted in two previous elections against the President did not mean we don’t like him. It is a matter of political differences and choice. We made our choice and we believe it is part of democracy.

IPOB, MASSOB and others are calling for Biafra and not Presidency. Don’t you think you will need them to achieve this purpose?
SEFORP2023 is neither MASOB nor IPOB. We are Nigerians and will continue to be Nigerians. Yes, we need them because they are part of the Southeast population anywhere they live in Nigeria. We must be united and purposeful. We are better positioned if we remain together in this project.We encourage them to drop their agitation for a separate country (Biafra) and let’s be united to help build this country again. Biafra was a child of circumstance. If the Aburi Accord were not broken with its attendant upheavals, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu would not have declared Biafra.

SEFORP2023 is changing tactics. No antagonism, abuse, shifting of blames, disrespect to authorities and our elders, agitations or violence. We want a peaceful advocacy to see to the success of electing a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from the Southeast in 2023.


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