“Fortunately or not, democracy dictates that electorates must select from those that have presented themselves to govern.” ―Ebuka Onyekwelu
With just a few months left before the 2023 presidential election takes the centre stage, the Southeast is yet to boldly move towards securing the tickets of major political parties in Nigeria. By the Southeast, I am talking about Igbo political leaders who are members of these parties and who have the precise capacity to match candidates from other regions who are already traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria courageously asking for people’s support ahead of 2023. With the exception of Prof. Kingsley Moghalu of ADC likely to become Nigeria’s third force, there has not been any seriousness by those interested in running for the highest office in Nigeria from the Southeast, to own the project.
In the APC for instance, the likes of Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, Sen. Rochas Okorocha, Sen. Chris Ngige, Sen. Ken Nnamani, and many others, none of them has shown as much courage or seriousness through their outreach and consultation for the big job. They all seem not to be sure, so basically hiding behind the scene and while still claiming to be running for the presidency; perhaps bidding time. In the PDP, Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa, Sen. Pius Anyim, and others have expressed intentions to contest. Yet, there have not been formidable engagements from them towards the project, which can favourably compete with what their counterparts in other parts of the country are doing. Peter Obi to the disappointment of many is hiding under some cover, like he is not interested and he is one of the best hands for this project for Ndi Igbo, in PDP.
Looking at what is currently happening in the PDP and APC as far as the demand for Igbo presidency is concerned, one sees that the likes of Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu and Sen. Rochas Okorocha who are better positioned in national politics for consensus around Igbo presidency project, do not enjoy favourable rating at home. But then, Peter Obi and his likes, for instance, who have massive political capital at home are nowhere to be seen. Instead, Sen. Ohuabunwa who is barely known across ranks in the Southeast is the one boldly carrying this project for the Southeast, in Peter Obi’s party. There is definitely something incredibly ridiculous when a people are left for its political interest to be defended by those that cannot match the quality of individuals others are filling or that are filling themselves to represent their own region or people group. Fortunately or not, democracy dictates that electorates must select from those that have presented themselves to govern.
Southeast political players have continued to rely on the fact that in Southern Nigeria, it is only Southeast that is yet to take a short at the presidency. But in politics, no one listens to this kind of tale except statesmen. Politicians go to their trenches, canvas, and consult to acquire state power. While the Southeast has a case in equity, politics, and acquisition of political power cares less about who has not had a short because nobody has said that you should not try to have a short. But then, it may appear as if this is the best opportunity for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. Yet, even the opportunity means nothing if Igbo national political players are not prepared to take full advantage of it. Already, there seems to be a consensus on the propriety of an Igbo man becoming the next president of Nigeria, ironically, those expected to fly the flag from the two major political parties have not shown or demonstrated any commitment towards taking advantage of the season. Perhaps, relying almost exclusively on the assumption that it will be “given” to them, but a gift like power is never given because everybody wants it just as much or as badly as anyone else.
In fact, if they continue in this direction, then, realizing Nigeria’s president of Igbo origin will again become a mere mirage.
Dr. Bukola Saraki a former governor of Kwara state and a former president of the senate has just declared his intention to run for president on the platform of PDP. The advantage is that those who have come out openly and made their intentions known will have an advantage in the contest except there is a consensus later. So what Igbo politicians in the APC and PDP are doing, is clearly not in the political interest of Ndi Igbo. In fact, if they continue in this direction, then, realizing Nigeria’s president of Igbo origin will again become a mere mirage.
At this stage, we are still not clear who is running. So there is no consensus of support in the Southeast just yet. However, with what is happening, key players from the Southeast and across the country will align with different contenders that fit their fancy and this only cast unimaginable aspersion on the Igbo presidency project. As of now, with what reality we have on the ground, the only clear option for realizing Igbo presidency is through Prof. Moghalu’s ADC because, he is out and has declared his intentions as well as prepared for the job, and he also enjoys credible national perception. The only challenge is if his ADC can stand the big two in any national political contest. This is a major problem confronting the ADC and its likely presidential candidate, Prof. Kinsley Moghalu. The import of this is that even with Prof. Kingsley Moghalu as the only presidential candidate of Igbo extraction, candidates of other regions if presented to Nigerian voters on PDP and APC platforms, will be preferred over a quality candidate of a lesser political party.
This pattern of political behavior will take years of enlightenment and steady improvement in the level of civic consciousness of the populace, to be truncated. Worst still, Igbo voters and politicians will be far more eager to align and support candidates of other political parties than supporting their own who is running on the platform of a smaller party. But the option before Ndi Igbo is crystal clear; pursue with both hands, the tickets of the two major political parties to secure them. Or align and produce a president in the person of Prof. Kinsley Moghalu on the platform of ADC. In fact, Igbo political leaders can as well create or adapt their own platform if there is no space for them and then build their own platform as a tool for their own national political ambition. Although the last option may not secure the required result in 2023, at least, a date would be fixed on the ambition, and with the right efforts, it will be realized perhaps, after 2023.
What is unfortunate is the current lukewarm approach and the not-too-sure, unserious pursuit of this ambition. It is almost certain that Ndi Igbo will miss it again with this approach, except certain people are patriotic enough to bury their ambitions and reach for a consensus candidate of Igbo origin in APC or PDP. The depth is this kind of personal sacrifice is extremely high because if Tinubu sacrifices his presidential ambition for 2023, he most likely will never run for president again. Besides, he has the momentum now. So in all, it is a huge sacrifice of which is doubtful if any politician that understands his mettle will make. Then again, if Atiku steps down and supports, for instance, Peter Obi as a consensus candidate of the PDP, he may not contest again, and this is not only his likely last chance but also his likely best chance to win. And so the price is too high for any politician to pay. That is why it is un-political to play by the sidelines hoping that there will be a consensus because people already agree that it is only an Igbo man that has not been president since 1999.
Igbo leaders, political and otherwise, must articulate and strategically pursue Igbo interests in the 2023 presidential election. They can as well begin the process of producing an Igbo Nigerian president in 2027 or even 2031. This is better than leaving a people’s political future to chance.
♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent, is a columnist with the WAP
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