DONS EZE, PHD
WHAT CAN AN IGBO PRESIDENT DO IN 2023?
No doubt, it is the legitimate right of the Igbo to agitate for an Igbo man or woman to be President of Nigeria in 2023. This is because the first and last time an Igbo man had presided over the affairs of the now sixty years old Nigeria, was about 54 years ago, during the six months ill-fated military regime of General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, from January 15 to July 29, 1966.
Since then, each of the two other major ethnic groups in the country, the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba, has ruled the country several times and over, while some minority ethnic groups have had their fair share of the bite. Yet, the Igbo who have contributed in no small measure to the making of Nigeria, are still watching from the sidelines.
Therefore, to concede to the Igbo the Presidency of Nigeria in 2023 will be meet and proper, which will be a way of reintegrating the people into the mainstream of Nigerian politics. It will also assuage the feeling of marginalization being expressed by some Igbo people, and give them a sense of belonging in a country which they rightly believe, they have equal stakes.
An Igbo man being the President of Nigeria in 2023 will in no small measure help to destroy tribal and religious prejudices prevalent in the country, given the open-mindedness and social mobility of Igbo people, who are everywhere in Nigeria, and who also take every place as their home. It will also ginger and stimulate into action an otherwise sleepy nation, going by the enterprising spirit of the man at the helm of affairs in the country.
Beyond these, however, we still will like to know and to ask what really can an Igbo President of Nigeria do, if voted into power in 2023, in view of the restrictive nature of the country’s constitution? Can an Igbo President of Nigeria, for instance, effectively drive any progressive reform that will radically transform the lives of the people, given the prevailing political structure of the country? In other words, how far can an Igbo President go in helping even his Igbo people to come over the feeling of marginalization by the system, outside what the constitution has prescribed?
Let us make a simple hypothesis. I am a full-blooded and patriotic Igbo man. I have the welfare and interest of Igbo people at heart, and I will do everything humanly possible to help uplift my Igbo people from their present state of despair and hopelessness.
Now, I want to be President of Nigeria in 2023, so as to help actualize my desire to uplift the Igbo to higher pedestal. As a result, I will roll out my campaign train and begin to traverse the length and breadth of the country, asking people to vote for me. If per chance, at the end of the day, and through the goodwill and generosity of fellow Nigerians, I am elected President and sworn in on May 29, 2023, it would have satisfied the desire of the Igbo to produce a President of Nigeria after about 54 years in the lacuna.
Having thus been elected President, I will be anxious to justify the confidence reposed in me by my fellow countrymen, by ensuring that I provide good governance and quality leadership that will help to uplift the standard of living of all Nigerians. I will also like to use the opportunity to introduce practical measures that will effectively bring to an end the feeling of marginalization being expressed by my Igbo people.
But in trying to bring these measures to fruition, I will realize that we are now in a democracy, and as such, that I cannot do it alone, by fiat, like in military regime. I will realise that I will need the support and cooperation of the other two arms of government – the legislature, and the judiciary, before I can pull my programmes through.
I will realize that my reform programmes must pass through, and get the approval of the legislature before I will begin to implement them. I will realize that if I do otherwise or go contrary to the provisions of the constitution, they will impeach, or remove me from office!
I will then realize that I cannot unilaterally funnel any government money to my own part of the country, or single-handedly change the revenue allocation formula, without going through the process of law. I will also realize that I cannot create any state or any local government area, without amending the country’s constitution. I will equally realize that I cannot increase the number of lawmakers coming from my state to the National Assembly, without going through the process of law, etc.
These are some of the things which my people have been complaining against, and which they think an Igbo President can easily change or redress, but which unfortunately, I have now found out that I will not able to change as an Igbo President. I will be downcast, frustrated.
At the end of the day, I will realize that I may have spent eight years in office as President without meeting the aspirations of my people. Then, my people will be calling me all sorts of names – a weakling, a lame duck, etc., that I am not able to do anything for them. I will be ashamed of myself.
Let us take Katsina State, and the North West Zone of Nigeria, as examples. Katsina State has more than its fair share of producing the country’s Number One Citizen. Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari is from Katsina State. He spent 20 months as military Head of State. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was also from Katsina State. He spent three years as President. Muhammadu Buhari again is from Katsina State. He has so far spent five years as President, and still counting.
Then the North West Zone, which has produced more Presidents or Heads of State than all the other zones in the country, namely Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Sani Abacha, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and Muhammadu Buhari again. If you add the number of years these people ruled the country, it will be about twenty years or more, while the two indigenes of Katsina State have ruled for about ten years, and still counting.
Now, what have these people been able to do for the people of North West Zone in general, and Katsina State in particular? Practically nothing. The National Bureau of Statistics, in its latest release, still lists the area as one of the poorest in the country.
Yes, President Buhari may have appointed some of his friends and relations to lucrative positions in government, who draw fat salaries and allowances at the expense of millions of poverty-stricken less-privileged citizens. He also has sited a Transport University in his home state of Katsina. There, it ends, and nothing more. Taking care of the elites.
This is not to say that President Buhari hates his own people, or that he may not be willing to help the people of his area. On the contrary, only that the political structure of the country has limited his powers to intervene in critical areas that will transform the lives of the people.
For an Igbo President, in particular, his own case is even worse. The entire South East zone with five states, has only 15 senators out of 109 Senators in the Senate. The zone also has 43 members out of 360 members of the House of Representatives. On the whole, the South East has only 58 lawmakers out of 469 members in the National Assembly, where an Igbo President may seek to pursue his reform programmes that will benefit his people. So, where is he going to start or end? In a society largely driven by ethnic and religious sentiments, how is an Igbo President going to push his reform programme before the legislators, and have it sail through? He will be totally confused.
The point we are making is that while the 2023 Igbo President project is both necessary and expedient, the task before such a President will be enormous and Herculean, which will be very difficult to surmount. An Igbo President under the present political set up of the country will be hamstrung. He will not be able to do anything till the end of his tenure, something that will satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of his Igbo people, unless there is a restructuring of the polity.
What therefore should be paramount or uppermost for the Igbo people now, is to keep on pushing for the restructuring of the country. It will be more beneficial to them than having an incapacitated President in 2023, a lame duck President who will not be able to do anything.
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