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NDIGBO: No Regrets Over March 28 Polls

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
12 April 2015   |   2:00 am
DESPITE the shortcomings of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the South East geo-political zone has always viewed the party as its own.

Nworgu-pix-31-1-15DESPITE the shortcomings of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the South East geo-political zone has always viewed the party as its own.

The zone has not only embraced the party in totality; it has also ensured that no other political party survives there besides the PDP.

Although the return to democracy has given room for a multiple party system, making it possible for politicians of Igbo extraction to own and fund political parties, such development has not in any way changed the belief the Igbo have in the PDP.

They have always used their votes and support for the party to propagate virtues of the PDP. For instance, in 1999, the South East was among zones of the country that gave their total votes to former President Olusegun Obasanjo (then of the PDP), enabling him win the presidential election.

It is on record that that same year, PDP controlled the entire South East states, as candidates of the party won the governorship elections of their various states.

The development was the same for the party in the zone in 2003, 2007 and 2011. In fact, in 2011, the zone posted one of the highest votes it has put forth in history.

Although the voting pattern of the country changed in 2015, making it impossible for bloc votes from the zone to salvage President Jonathan, the candidate of the PDP at the election, the voting pattern that determined the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre does not appear in the reckoning of the South East as political miscalculation.

Pundits see the defeat of the PDP by the APC even after the South East massively voted for the party as a “temporary setback”, which should be overcome with time. Sounding rather unperturbed by the development, apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said the voting pattern adopted by Ndigbo since the inception of democracy, some 15 years ago, was borne out of deep love for the PDP, as well as a desire to deepen democracy.

“It has nothing to do with the occupant to the office, as we believe that we are a part and parcel of the PDP. It is our duty to propagate the party to enable it serve the purpose for which certain best brain of Nigerians gathered to ensure it came on board in 1998,” Ohanaeze said.

Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Joe Nworgu, told The Guardian that it was misleading for anybody to think that the voting pattern, which incidentally failed to vindicate the South East will launch the zone into political oblivion. He said: “There is nothing wrong with the voting pattern adopted by Ndigbo since 1999.

We have decided to put all our eggs in one basket, as part of effort to grow democracy and sustain the overall development of the country. All we wanted is the presidency of this country, as well as play the big role, which we are known for in politics.

It is the PDP that has offered the platform for Ndigbo to achieve their dreams.” Going memory lane and explaining why Ndigbo will not abandon the PDP, Nworgu said the Igbo presidency dream became a reality when former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, ran in the primary of the PDP that eventually was won by Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, after he (Ekwueme) had midwifed the G-34 group that eventually metamorphosed into the PDP.

He said: “For the Igbo man, Ekwueme was the hero of that struggle that brought democracy in 1998 through the G-34. It was natural for him to emerge the presidential candidate of PDP, and that gave Ndigbo hope that they have come back fully into Nigerian politics.

They supported Ekwueme’s bid for presidency, when non-believers in equity and Nigerian unity truncated Ekwueme’s bid by dusting up an ex-prisoner whom they hoisted on the nation as PDP presidential candidate.

Ndigbo went back to square one. But at that point in time, the Igbo states had already voted for the governors of the PDP.

The gubernatorial election of that year came before the presidential election. This means that anybody from PDP became governor riding on Ekwueme’s back.” Although the turn of events has pushed the PDP into opposition, Nworgu said notwithstanding the development, the party is the only veritable platform that could offer Ndigbo opportunity for their presidential aspiration.

As such, he said Ndigbo will present a candidate for the presidency of the country in 2019 through the PDP and would rely on the strength of the party in the South East, South South and Middle Belt, and progressives in the South West to make it happen.

“Ndigbo still have love for PDP, in spite of gaining nothing from Obansanjo’s eight years. We are PDP, and we will remain in PDP because it is our party.

Opportunists will disembark, but men of character will stay put. PDP lost a contest not a war; there are sufficient principled persons in the PDP family that can regenerate it into a formidable party. Ndigbo must not allow the party to be hijacked by other interest groups.

They should firm up solidarity with the South South, Middle Belt and progressive elements from the South West, led by the Afenifere. The slogan must be restructuring of the country for progress. So, those who believe this must stand up and be counted.

The beauty of democracy is that there must be vibrant opposition political parties,” he said. Nworgu said: “Ndigbo have no regret that PDP lost and it is not a miscalculation. We will come home and re-strategize in the next four years. There must be an Igbo presidential candidate in 2019 in the PDP.

Ndigbo must be in the PDP to build the party through which they will vie for presidency in 2019. The Igbo are not factored at all in the APC contraption and that is why they will not vote the party. “Given the same scenario, Ndigbo will vote PDP again and again.

If it means putting our eggs in one basket, so be it. The truth is that our future lies with the PDP. People should just understand it the way it is and play the politics the way it should be.

Nobody should further our pain as a people by the vocation we have decided to play in politics.”   Reminded that the PDP has not made much impact in Igbo land, even with all the support the zone has shown, Nworgu said:

“The real people that formed the party were edged out for sojourners,” adding: “The top brass Igbo people that gave Nigeria PDP have been edged out after Obasanjo’s exit, and those who have taken over seem not to know why the party was formed, and the brains behind it.

That is why we must stay put and discountenance what has happened at the centre in the present election as a temporary setback, to enable us recover the PDP again.”

Former Director General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Prof Elo Amucheazi, said he did not understand how the voting pattern adopted by the South East since 1999 should elicit interest to the point that other Nigerians will want the zone to pay dearly because of the victory of the APC at the presidential election.

Like Nworgu, he noted that PDP had dominated in South East, South South the Middle Belt and other parts of the country, stressing that the party has become the “identity of the people of this area”.

He said: “South East and South South have always voted PDP. They have always remained in PDP. North West was ANPP and now APC.

Others were a kind of mixed grill. There has been this alliance in the past between the West and North; this had been the case even with the Action Group, the NCNC and others, whereby no single party that has won in an election formed the government.

“The South East has willingly expressed their wish by the way they voted. The South South has done the same, the South West, Middle Belt and North Central and others have also expressed their wish through their votes.

What I think has happened here is that religion and ethnicity, among other factors, came into play by the pattern of the voting. It really shows the sympathy each region holds for one another.

“Having observed this, to forge a country that should be appreciated by all, there is need for the incoming government to form a government of national unity embracing all shades of opinion, irrespective of party affiliation, to enable us deepen our democracy and move forward.

“It is not a question of South East not voting for APC or South South rejecting the APC. A good politician is one that sees every part of the country as his constituency.

Come to think of it, if there was the rejection of APC here by the South East, it means that whoever is the leader of the party must work hard to convince the people of the zone on why they should accept the party and own it the way they have done for the PDP.”

Amucheazi noted that irrespective of his defeat at the election, President Jonathan has preserved the unity of the country, stressing that he did not do it by creating a divide between the PDP and others.

He said that Nigeria is not a country of two nations, and as such, every leader must work to have the best brains in his administration.

A Political Scientist and university lecturer, Dr Jonas Okwukwe, said the South East’s voting pattern could be used to negotiate for the political future of the zone, if it is sustained.

Tracing the dynamics of politics in the country, he said the implication is that the PDP has a strong support base in the zone. He said: “I do not think it should be a matter of the principle of federal character, which I know has been seriously violated in the country.

We know that each state is required to contribute at least one minister to the cabinet, but it is the prerogative of the President to issue their appropriate ministries.

He might decide to allocate to them portfolios that may belittle the zone. However, for him to woo Igbo support, he will like to allocate to them juicy ministries.

“I have also heard about the fact that the zone did not produce a senator in the election, which could automatically have given it the presidency of the senate.

That, to me, is a loss. But since it did not happen, the APC should now concede and compensate the zone with other equivalent positions in the government. The truth is that the South East is an integral part of the country and has contributed its quota to the growth and development of our democracy. It should be compensated adequately.”