By Mike Nzeagwu
First, a caveat. It is sad that at this time and age when other nations have moved on to more serious issues of nation building and development, the conversations in our political economy still revolve around ethnicity and religion. The twin issues of ethnic balancing and religious correctness have replaced qualification, experience, competence and integrity in our political recruitment process. It is now a sui generis and any attempt to reason in a different, progressive direction is viewed either as hate speech or heating the polity.
That is the way we are, unfortunately so. That is what makes “one Nigeria”. It will therefore amount to political harakiri not to expect the South East, Ndigbo to take a shot at the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023, after a northerner, Muhammadu Buhari would have completed a two term of eight years. This is without prejudice to the outcome of the cases at the Election Tribunal challenging the victory of President Buhari in the last presidential election. If you do some ethnic profiling of those who have occupied the highest seat of power in Nigeria since 1999, you will agree that the Igbos have legitimate claim to the top political prize after the Yorubas of the South West through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the South South through Dr. Goodluck Jonathan have had their “turns”. Not forgetting the interregnum of President Umaru Yar’ Ardua, a northerner.
Even before a new political cycle begins on May 29 with the swearing in of winners in the last general elections , the whistle for the 2023 race at the presidential level has been blown. Dr. Junaid Muhammad, a member of House of Representatives in the Second Republic in an interview with The Sun newspaper, asked the South East to forget the presidency in 2023, accusing Ohaneze Ndigbo , the apex Igbo socio-cultural group of collecting huge sums of money from the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubarka in the last election to undermine APC and President Buhari. Dr, Muhammed, a well respected voice in the north claimed that zoning is dead and therefore the north will take advantage of its numerical strength to present a presidential candidate in 2023. Media has also been awash in recent weeks of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s alleged ambition to vie for the presidential ticket of APC in the next election. Others have also argued that it will be a legitimate aspiration for Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to want to succeed his boss after the completion of the statutory two terms in office. All these should be expected and more.
The South East should not be distracted from the goal of producing the next president of Nigeria. There are defined paths they can follow to arrive safely at their destination. One: rein in all Igbo irredentists’ movements and their promoters. IPOB, MASSOB and the likes cannot have a free reign campaigning for Republic of Biafra while the Igbo politicians and elites are talking of producing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. Other parts of the country are suspicious, rightly or wrongly that an Igbo presidency will empower Ndi Igbo to seek to divide the country. Two: form a committee of well respected Igbos and who have national acceptance. This committee will perform two main functions among others: audition interested candidates for the post of president from now till December, 2019, select three main candidates and present them for ratification to a general South East assembly. The situation where 20 to 30 candidates will be jostling for spaces during the political parties’ primaries should be discouraged. Already , there are three candidates on the ground who contested during the last election. That is if they are still interested and are willing to throw their hats in the ring a second time. They are Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, well respected technocrat of global acclaim, Prof . Kingsley Moughalu, former Deputy Governor at the Central Bank and a former staff of the United Nations. Completing the list of the front runners is Mr. Peter Obi, boardroom guru, former Governor of Anambra State and running mate to Atiku Abubarka in the last presidential election. Obi is already in the PDP. Moughalu, Ezekwesili or whoever may emerge as South East consensus candidates should be encouraged to join the other Political Parties- APC , SDP, etc so that they can have a formidable political structure to ventilate their aspiration. In that case, head or tail , Ndi Igbo wins.
Three: ta bu gboo, South East should start serious hand shake across the Niger. The committee should be expanded to include notable politicians who have held or holding key national political office. They include former and current National Assembly key officers, former and current Ministers, former and current officers in the main political parties, successful business men, prominent Igbo sons and daughters who are resident in other geo-political zones, etc. Their duty is to identify key influencers in other geo- political regions, among the political parties, religious groups, etc, and engage them with the aim of recruiting them as advocates for the Igbo cause.
Four: there should be a collective catharsis of the pains of the huge losses of human and material resources suffered by Ndi Igbo during the unfortunate civil war. Forgive yourselves, forgive others and let us put the ugly past and move on. God in His infinite mercy has restored to them the “years the locust has eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm”. With this, the Igbos can be more open minded in dealing with other ethnic nationalities and also gain more acceptance in the political firmament across cultural divides. The president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction in 2023 is achievable and should be achieved. But Ndi Igbo should not wait for it to drop on their laps. They should move from the present position of “pity party” and work for it in tandem with other sub nationalities.
On a final note, I look forward to the time in our political trajectory when qualification, experience, competence and integrity will override ethnic and religious considerations as the basis for political recruitment. Nigeria will then be on a smooth course to political and economic renaissance , taking her pride of place among the comity of great nations.
Nzeagwu, a Public Relations Consultant sent this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org