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UWAZURIKE:  Ndigbo Have No Fear Being In Opposition

By KODILINYE OBIAGWU Southeast Bureau Chief. Excerpts.
11 April 2015   |   11:15 pm
HOW does the Southeast stand politically after the March 28 election? I would not say that the Southeast made a mistake in the manner that they chose to vote in the March 28 presidential elections, just because of the mentality of winner-takes-all that trails such elections.


  The President of the Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, believes that the Southeast can survive like the Southwest, playing politics of opposition. Dismissing insinuations that the Southeast will suffer from a self-inflicted marginalisation because of how the zone voted in the March 28 Presidential/National Assembly elections. 

HOW does the Southeast stand politically after the March 28 election? I would not say that the Southeast made a mistake in the manner that they chose to vote in the March 28 presidential elections, just because of the mentality of winner-takes-all that trails such elections.

For the first time in a long while, the Southeast and the South-South came out to vote, defying the insinuations and allegations that the Igbo are not untied or that they cannot work with the South-South. But they did on both fronts.

We supported President Goodluck Jonathan. He didn’t win, and as a gentleman, he threw in the towel.  For those people who say the Southeast made a mistake, I insist that definitely we made no mistakes, we knew what we were doing; there are no regrets in our support.

It was a free and fair election. If we were able to get people to vote and they voted, that’s excellent. It is like a football match, you either win or lose. We don’t go home and say we have lost, so definitely there are no regrets. We do not have regrets voting the way we did.

We wanted to vote for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and we voted for the PDP. Others voted for the All Progressives Congress (APC) because that was their choice.

But the people of Southeast and South-South knew what they were doing; they wanted President Jonathan. I wonder which section of the country will have their son as president and they abandon him.

Certainly, that is not possible, no part of Nigeria will do that.  What do you make of the fears that the Southeast would be marginalised in top ministerial or political appointments because the zone didn’t vote for the party that will form the government from May 29? In other words, they want to behave like the glutton, who must fill his stomach at every stage.

The Southeast states will get whatever is due to them because the constitution says that ministers shall come from all the states.

And I don’t believe any president of Nigeria will ignore any part of Nigeria because that part of the country didn’t vote for him.

There are some states that didn’t vote for the PDP, and yet, they still have one ministerial job or political appointment.

Not voting for the ruling party has nothing to do with any ministerial job. Voting is an expression of interest and desire.

Our desire was for the PDP, it didn’t win; the APC won, and when the president elect, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari wants to form his cabinet, he must look at capable and appropriate people and not necessarily those who voted or didn’t vote for him.

How true is the argument that political naivety on the part of Southeast led to its trust and wholesome support for PDP after what many consider ‘the poor state of development’ in the zone after 16 years of supporting the party? The Southeast did not make any mistake.

Every region, every geopolitical zone in the country voted the way it wanted. Under Jonathan, we had a six zonal structure just like under former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. In other words, the only zone that has not tasted power in the South would be the Southeast.

But under Buhari, the situation has changed. Buhari is from Northwest, and his emergence is strictly not from zoning.

What it means is that when next power comes to the South, anybody from the South can join. I think the Southeast has benefitted from the PDP in the last 16 years.

No need making a list here, but suffice it to say that the emergence of APC, as the ruling apart has also brought some benefits. One of them is the grounding of democracy.

The Southwest has been voting for the opposition in the last 16 years, they didn’t die. And so, there is nothing wrong with Southeast being in opposition; if anything, it will urgently help us to be inward looking and resourceful.

We cannot be thinking of jumping ship now because the party we voted for lost. For us to jump ship at this time, in order to be part of the government, is not guided by any political wisdom and neither will there be any sustainable political capital. No man worth his salt actually jumps ship.

When you jump ship, you become a joiner, not a founder. The APC is suspiciously viewed in Southeast as a Yoruba party to be compared with the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), which is an Igbo party.

Do you think this is enough reason not to vote for the APC? APGA is a child of circumstances. Just men, some of whom are in other parties, founded it.

But the symbol of APGA was the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Ikemba Nnewi). APGA has produced two successive governors in Anambra in Peter Obi who handed over to Willy Obiano and held a few seats in the National Assembly.

But whether it has sustained or reflected the dreams of the founding fathers is a different thing. But all this time, APGA stood for good governance.

Whereas the Southeast has stood behind PDP, the APGA is still there. Yes, it has not gone round the Southeast and South-South, but that is not a problem.

It has always aligned with the PDP to present the president. I don’t see any changes in APGA for now. Comment on the nature of opposition in a presidential system of government vis a vis the parliamentary system, where opposition is part of government in a way   Opposition is a necessary part of democracy, and in any part of the world where there is a multi party system, there must be opposition.

In Nigeria, there is a clear-cut role for the opposition in a presidential system as there is in the parliamentary system. Even in the American presidential system, the Republicans, for example, control the Congress, while the Democrats have the president. In Nigeria, there is a vibrant opposition spearheaded by the South West.

They have always been there. In the last 16 years they have been there, but rather than the people perishing, being in opposition has in certain ways helped them.

So, there is nothing wrong with the Southeast being in opposition; we Ndigbo will not die. There is the statutory allocation coming to all the states, notwithstanding the party affiliation and nobody will take your own share of the allocation because of the manner you voted.

The biggest lie people make is that the incoming president will marginalise the Southeast in terms of political appointments.

It will not happen. We have a constitution that says what should be done. We have a Federal budget that projects what should be spent and how it should be spent. The way the opposition handles itself will determine what it should get. As far as I am concerned, let the Southeast be in opposition.

How do you think the Southeast will cope being in this rather unfamiliar role, after years of being in the mainstream of politics? Well, it will cope and survive the way the Southwest has coped and survived all these years.

It will survive, because for it to succeed, it must go for excellence. The states will learn and get used to not looking towards Abuja, but to make a habit of looking inward. If for example, the allocation to Imo State is N1 billion, the governor will think carefully how to deploy the funds instead of expecting something from Abuja.

Opposition is not a disease; as a matter of fact, it is a progressive movement. What we have learnt is that from being in opposition, one day you can become the ruling party.

After all, those who are going to form the next government have been in opposition; they didn’t die. Many parts of the North have been in power, then they moved to opposition and back again, moving in and out of parties, they have not died.

But for the Southeast, we need to put our acts together, and that is, knowing what we are doing and where we are going.

What is the meaning of this loss to the Ndigbo? The reality is that for the first time in 16 years the South East and South South will be in opposition.

When we get home, we will be in power, but when we get to Abuja we will be the minority leader. After all, somebody has been holding the position.

Did the person die; we will not die. We will build on it; as a matter of fact, it will sharpen our intellect, because to survive as opposition you must be very sharp.

Opposition will be good for us, let us strive. Some people have speculated that it is because of this movement of the Southeast into opposition that made the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akinolu issue that threat to Ndigbo and that the Igbo were tentative in their responses? Those of us in Lagos know who our leaders are.

And I didn’t see a single man of substance in the group the Oba addressed. When the Oba was busy abusing Ndigbo, some of the people in the gathering were clapping for him. Those people were not Igbo. If they were Igbo, they were fake Igbo.

They are people who will point to their father’s compound with a left hand. No matter how low you are, you must be proud of who your father is. We are Igbo in Lagos, we are doing well in Lagos, we vote as Ohanaeze has directed, which is for us to vote for whom we like and according to your conscience.

Ohanaeze has never directed us to vote for any particular party. We have found ourself, there is nothing wrong with that.