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Understanding Southeast’s Political Trajectory

By Ikenna Onyekwelu
12 April 2015   |   12:50 am
IN electoral competitions, it does not make sense to save the best for the last. Partisan politics, especially, the periodic elections that define the character and content of democracy, do not simulate entertainment.

All-Progressives-CongressIN electoral competitions, it does not make sense to save the best for the last. Partisan politics, especially, the periodic elections that define the character and content of democracy, do not simulate entertainment.

In Nigeria, and most third world countries, elections are psycho-social equivalent of warfare. The booties of the ‘war’ attract many fortune hunters. After electoral battles, the saying that failure is an orphan comes alive more than ever. Early signs of the manifestation of that tendency began to emerge shortly after results of the March 28, Presidential and National Assembly election were announced.

The outcome and the responses of politicians to the victor tell the story of Nigeria’s party politics. Some critics have described the nation’s politicians as crass opportunists with limited regard for morality and good sense.

As such, like potted plants struggling for sunlight, Nigerian politicians do not show signs of shame in hurrying towards the back of a winner of a presidential election.

The 2015 presidential election, which produced an upset, has brought about a new frenzy by politicians of easy virtue to seek new pastures. And this tendency of bandwagonism has come to be most defined in the Southeast geopolitical zone, which, for the first time, cast their lot with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Being an incumbent, the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan was very devastating, especially, to the geopolitical zone, because Southeast never contemplated such an eventuality.

The experience of the zone during chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s era reinforced their belief that with the wide powers conferred on him by the constitution; it was unthinkable that a seating President could be wrestled to the ground.

Again, the long period of political marginalization, which the zone has been complaining about, made the Jonathan Presidency an exciting window of opportunity to redress that void.

Also, President Jonathan shattered the seeming glass ceiling in appointments and headship of national institutions. For the first time certain persons from the Southeast became the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) and on top of that, the same zone produced the equivalent of a prime minister, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME).

There are other token gestures including the upgrade of the Akanu Ibiam Airport to a status of (quasi?) international airport.

It, was, perhaps on account of these symbolic signals that President Jonathan was adopted as brother to the zone. Consequently, the massive votes he recorded in the election were a reflection of that sense of oneness and gratefulness to him.

But as happens to competitions of like nature, the socio-political reality in the country leading to the election made President Jonathan to bear alone the burden of sixteen years of mixed style of PDP.

Nobody was prepared to discount the eight years of Obasanjo, which to a large extent, could be described as eight years of absence of democracy. And as the weight of the changing fortunes bogged President Jonathan down, the South East shared in the ill fortune.

Good neighbourly solidarity apart, the South East did not see the All Progressives Congress, (APC) as representing any meaningful platform to midwife national development.

As a result of that disposition, it was unthinkable that substantial votes of the people could go to APC and its change appeal. Having fallen with President Jonathan, the challenge of avoiding marginalisation becomes the lot of Nd’Igbo of Southeast. And as it happened to the people after the civil war when they had to find their footing with a flat rate of £20, the situation is throwing up the true characters of politicians especially those of Igbo stock.

Was the bloc vote to President Jonathan and by extension, the PDP cast in error? By no means, rather the real Igbo knew that President Jonathan represented their best bet in the present political circumstances of Nigeria.

However, analysis of the total votes cast for the President in the presidential election vis-a-vis voters’ preferences for candidates of other political parties in the National Assembly election shows that instead of regretting the votes cast for the president, the people knew that some of the President’s men in South East do not represent their idea of credible leaders.

In the overall estimation of the so called Igbo dilemma in the unfolding political leadership, there is the challenge of sieving the political fortune seekers thrown up by Obasanjo era from the real political actors who are bound by their conviction and understanding of the real political interest of the Southeast.

Former Enugu State Governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, alluded to this distinction in his interview with The Guardian. Nnamani declared that it is only by going back to history could what is playing out in Igbo land and Nigeria be understood.

Right from Nigeria’s Independence, the genuine and enduring political alliances have always been that forged between the East and the North. South East has a pragmatic political tendency just as the North is inclined to the conservative. The liberal-social bias of the South West is not easily bendable with the Northern conservative bent.

To some extent, it is this understanding of the various political inclinations of the members of the nation’s ethnic tripod that seemed to make South East to look at the AC.N and CPC merger, otherwise known as APC; with suspicion.

Based on the foregoing it could be seen that instead of capitulating over their decision to cast all their political eggs in the Jonathan basket, the real Igbo with competence, character and content sees Jonathan’s defeat as opportunity for separation.

The separation of contractors from statesmen would therefore make a new platform out of PDP where the Southeast pragmatists and northern conservatives would hold sway. The journey to the emergence of two ideological parties seems to have just begun.

Consequently, those former political actors that are motivated by the General Mohammadu Buhari victory to defect from PDP to APC could represent the fair weather politicians or those enamoured of liberal-progressive politics.

The other aspect of the crisis of defections in the polity is the lack of internal democracy and indiscipline in the political parties. One of the pitfalls of Jonathan’s politics in Southeast was the over reliance on moneybags, or what Nnamani calls the false elite.

These are men whose interest revolves around profit and their confidence is the ability to access the corridors of political power. Given the predominance of money politics in the country, these are the very people that engage in shifting cultivation of political coalitions.

This caliber of men may move to protect, preserve or promote their business but those politicians with intellectual content know that only losers quit. Bandwagonism is not for the enlightened and committed voters.

Even while some disgruntled politicians may use defection to settle scores, the case of the Southeast is different because despite the narrow-mindedness of some politicians, the Jonathan presidency deserved the bloc votes it received in the zone.

There is nothing to be apologetic about that. A new window of opportunity has opened to Igbo to define his politics. And as the saying goes, a rolling stone gathers no moss!