On The Igbo Presidency Project

What the diehard supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have been drumming into our ears is that we should support thé réélection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 for him to “give” Ndigbo President in 2023. 

Beautiful. That is a very good campaign strategy, afterall, there is nothing else the present administration could point at as  having done for the people of thé South East as could warrant them to ask  us for our votes. 

Is it the much talked about Second Niger Bridge? Today, they will bring out a new design, tomorrow another one will surface.

Or is it the Enugu-Onitsha Road? Everyday  various vehicles keep on falling at the ever busy Onyeama Hill, killing and injuring people, and destroying their property. Go to Umunya-Nteje-Awkuzu axis of the road, it is impassible. Go to Ugwuoba-Oji River section, it is a no go area. Yet, they keep telling us on television and on social media that Buhari has built Enugu-Onistha Road even when we did not vote for him. 

Therefore, to keep telling us about Igbo the Présidency which Buhari will “give” us at the end of his possible tenure in 2023, is a very nice campaign strategy, considering the fact that Ndigbo are very passionate about having one of their own occupy the nation’s seat of power.  

In the 58 years of Nigeria’s existence as an indépendant nation, the Igbo had presided over the affairs of the country for only six months, and that was in the person of General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, who ruled as military head of state, from January 15, 1966, to July 29, 1966, when he was assassinated. Several other ethnic groups had ruled the country much longer. 

For instance, the Yoruba, through Obasanjo and Shonekan, had ruled for about eleven and half years, thé Hausa/Fulani, through Balewa, Shagari, Yar’Adua and Buhari, fifteen years, the Pankshin, through Yakubu Gowon, nine years, the Gwari, through Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, nine years, the Kanuri, through Abacha, four years, and the Ijaw, through Jonathan, six years.

Therefore, for any Presidential aspirant to harp on this sore point of Igbo Presidency, particularly for Buhari who would be running out his term in 2023, if he wins in 2019, would attract a lot of sympathy votes from the people of South East and significantly improve on the 3,000 votes recorded for him in 2015.

But how true is it that Buhari will give Ndigbo President in 2023? 

To the Buharists, it is a fait accompli. It is very simple. Immediately Buhari is vacating office in 2023, he will simply invite Ndigbo to come over and take the Presidency. That will be all! 

For some of us, however, we have our réservations. Political power is never given. It is taken, and in the case of Nigeria, it is  negotiated. But you can only negotiate with a person who understands your language, a person who has the same belief or ideology with you, à person who has the same aspiration with you.

In this wise, we do not think that the people of the South East and Muhammadu Buhari have been on the same page. Twice, Buhari had sought rapproachment with the people of the South East by picking two of their sons as his Presidential running mates, the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo in 2003, and the late Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke in 2007, and twice the people of the area had rejected him. 

Either that Buhari  did not package himself very well or that something was wrong somewhere. In desperation, he turned his gaze to thé South West. 

In 2011, he picked Pastor Tunde Bakare as his running mate. He also lost that élection. But in  2015, he got himself well fortified by entering into alliance with some major political actors in the South West, and picked one of their sons, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, as his running mate. He finally  got elected. 

It is therefore very doubtful whether Buhari would be in a hurry to ever forget the people who had helped him to achieve his life long ambition, particularly since Osibanjo would be serving out his tenure as Vice President in 2023, and might as well be interested in the prime office.   

What we are saying therefore, is that Buhari has no President to “give” to anybody. It is not his property. It must be struggled for, or negotiated. The much he could do, that is, if he wins the Presidency in 2019, is to support one candidate against the others in 2023, if he still has the stamina. And it is very unlikely that he will be in a hurry to turn his back on those who helped him achieve his life long ambition in favour of those who had consistently rejected him. 

Besides, what structures has Buhari on ground to “give” Ndigbo president? All the Igbo sons in his cabinet are in obscure positions – Science and Technology, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Investment and Minister of State, as such, do not have enough clout, or wherewithal to galvanisé people across the lenght and breadth of the country.  

Our position therefore,  is that Igbo President is beyond any single individual no matter his status. Going by the present Nigerian situation, Igbo President can only be possible through negotiations across regional or ethnic boundaries, and in accordance with the will of God. 

It is God that gives political power, afterall, there had been certain individuals who sought and struggled to be President but did not get it, whereas some others never dreamt àbout it, and yet they got it. We call them “accidental presidents” – Obasanjo, Shagari and Jonathan. 

Therefore, no single ethnic group, and no individual can go it alone. Buhari wouldn’t have been Président had he continued to go it solo, trusting only on his so-called personal integrity.  He did it in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and failed.  It was only when he went into political alliance, making some concessions that he was able to thaw the ice. That’s how the Igbo can make it. But first, let us believe in ourselves, no back-stabbing and no sellout. 

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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