Opinion

2023: Rotation of power without consideration to the South East is deception

F or how long can you deliberately hold a people down? Definitely not forever! Let me begin by saying that the fear of a Nigerian president of South East extraction by some sections of the country is unfounded. I have listened to various arguments against the South East producing a President not just from the Hausa and Yoruba but also from fellow South Easterners.

 

I have listened to some South Easterners argue in preference of restructuring as against the presidency. They believe that the existing structural imbalance cannot produce quality leadership; that it is unlikely that a focused development can happen except Nigeria is restructured.

The present structure is such that the Federal Government can stop development in any state by the whims of a hostile president. They believe that with a restructuring of the exclusive and concurrent list the Igbo spirit will trump all adversities.

I agree that Nigeria is in desperate need of reforms so that the dividends of democracy will be definitive; however, the quality of persons operating the levers of power is equally important.

 

For instance, Late Presidents Shehu Shagari and Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua led the country at different times. Both men were Fulani from the North.

Despite operating with the same flawed 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, executive lawlessness was not as prevalent as today.

Similarly, Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan held presidential positions also at different periods with the same constitution and no part of the country was grossly excluded as we now have it.

 

My point is that no matter how perfect a constitution may be, a bad workman can make the best of tools look bad. Buhari’s capacity to ruin everything he touched is a good example. I believe we need restructuring to make our institutions serve the people better and more efficiently.

 

This, however, cannot be an alternative to a president of South East extraction as both are mutually exclusive.

 

My single biggest wish is to see Nigeria fully reconciled with the Igbo, and the Igbo fully integrated as equal citizens. I wish to see the day Nigeria will elect and swear in an Igbo as President.

 

When this happens, I will shed tears of joy for Nigeria knowing we have finally turned the corner in creating a nation our children and great grand-children will be proud of, a country where all persons and life matters. I have heard the argument that the Igbo cannot produce a Nigerian president because they don’t have the numbers.

 

Pastor Tunde Bakare recently advanced this faulty narrative for obvious reasons. In absence of accurate census in Nigeria, I cannot say which tribe has the numbers to produce a president all by themselves. However, I do know that none of the major ethnic groups has the numbers to achieve this feat. No Nigerian president has emerged on this account.

 

The constitution even makes a sectional president impossible. Presidents Shehu Shagari, Umaru Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari didn’t become President because the Fulani had the numbers. On the contrary, the Fulani are one of the smallest ethnic groups in Nigeria.

 

Likewise, Presidents Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan didn’t become president because the Yoruba had the numbers or that the Ijaw had the numbers. Presidents in Nigeria had emerged by consensus, political harmonisation or a combination of factors other than tribal numbers.

There was no time we South Easterners wanted to produce a Nigerian president made solely by us. Our aspiration is to produce a Nigerian president of South East extraction made by Nigeria and acceptable to Nigerians.

The leadership we will give will be such that it will heal our broken politics, unite the country, secure the country, make the country safe again and build back the economy to prosperity. Nigeria has tried the North, South-West and South-South and it ended where we are at the moment.

Let’s try the South East. We will produce a president that will be a solution, not the problem. I have also heard the argument that the North will not allow the Igbo to be president because of the death of Balewa and Ahmadu Bello who were killed in Nigeria’s first military coup.

 

While the actions of the young military officers remain regrettable, it is pure mischief for some people who hate the peace and unity of this country to begin now to resurrect such old wounds with half-truths.

 

One of the five majors who masterminded the mutiny was Major Adegboyega – a Yoruba. The action of the coup plotters was purely a misguided military putsch and not a product of Igbo agenda. It’s worth repeating that it was Col. Ojukwu an Igbo officer and Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi another Igbo officer that foiled the coup.

 

If that coup was an Igbo agenda, these senior Igbo officers wouldn’t have aborted the coup. However, rightly or wrongly, the Igbo have paid hefty prices for the misguided actions of the idealistic young majors. In the counter coup that followed, over fifty thousand Igbos were murdered in one of Africa’s worse genocide. Another three million were killed in a brutal civil war that pitted the Igbo against Nigeria.

 

Though living in our minds, the Igbo nation of Biafra rose and fell with that war. After the war Nigeria implemented the three-prong programme of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation.

The Igbo today are not at war with anyone. All we want from Nigeria is full reconciliation and respect as equal citizens. We don’t want to be feared.

We recognise that our faith and history are so interwoven, and that no matter how inconvenient the union may be, we need to forgive one another, embrace peace and move on. I have also listened to some persons argue albeit very unkindly that the Igbo are trying to use threats to get the presidency.

 

Personalities like El Rufai whom I have tremendous respect for reflected this opinion in a recent media chat. This is further from the truth.

 

While not denying that I have also heard some persons voice such sentiments that could be likened to  threat, the question is whether those persons are speaking for the Igbo nation. Did they have our mandate to issue threats to other stakeholders?

 

The answer is ‘No’. I will be stupid to take serious as ascribe it to the North every negative statement made by anyone because he is wearing a “babanriga”.

 

The politics of Nigeria requires negotiation for integration. It’s not about threats, pride, ego or prestige. It’s about consensus building and the fostering of understanding, like the political harmonisation that led to the emergence of two candidates from the South West in 1999 after the IBB missteps of the ‘90s.

 

A president of Igbo extraction is possible given the heightened conversation, and I am sure other sections of the country are all ears. We must continue to speak to their conscience to do justice to the South East. Sometimes the truth we speak may be bitter and the justice we demand hurting, but they remain the truth and balm that will heal the nation.

 

One thing Nigeria has failed to do is to quit judging the Igbo with a different measuring rod as they do others.

 

Nigeria must learn to separate the careless and irresponsible statements by some individuals or groups from that of the mainstream Igbo.

 

Not everyone wearing ‘Isi Agu’ and with a red cap on his head is an Igbo leader. We need to deeply reflect on our common existence as a nation as we are challenged on many fronts.

The centre as at today strangle holding the states in many fronts coupled with the pariah attitudes of the leaders who think their leadership license must come from the centre and therefore will forgive dancing their tunes and dictates.

 

This is why I believe irrespective of every other argument; the centre remains crucial as per the quality of the president.

 

My single biggest wish is to see a Mr. Peter Obi or Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu or Pius Anyim or any Igbo man take the oath of office as Nigeria’s president to mark Nigeria’s full reconciliation.

 

The easiest route to this is for PDP and APC by political harmonization to zone their presidential tickets to the South East. Outside this any talk about power rotating between the North and the South is a deception and a fraud

 

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