On the Igbo Presidency Project for 2007


NdigboI am an Igbo man. Recently, the five governors of the states that make up the South East geo-political zone of Nigeria inhabited by Igbos i.e. Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo reignited the flame of aspiration of Igbos to have one of their own as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2007. The Houses of Assembly and PDP chairmen of the above-mentioned states, Ohaneze Nd’Igbo (the pan-Igbo organisation), prominent Igbos and other Nigerians followed with strong expressions of support.

The major plank of this present quest is that the immediate post-independent Nigeria was characterised by three regions: the Northern Region comprising mainly of Hausa/Fulanis, the Western Region comprising mainly of Yorubas and the Eastern Region comprising mainly of Igbos. It is from these three regions that the present six geo-political zones drew their creation. Therefore, the concept of power shift and rotation as that between the North and South is, to them and others, alien. Undoubtedly, this position has drawn the condemnation of some Northern politicians who see it as treacherous posturing because they believe that there was an understanding in 1999 to ‘concede’ power to the South for eight years before it returns to the North. This explains, according to them, the absence of presidential aspirants from the North in 1999.

It is a fact that the eventual process of choosing the President of Nigeria in 1999, which began in 1998 was devoid of presidential aspirations from Northern Nigeria (that is if we choose to ignore Alhaji Abubakar Rimi’s initial gra-gra). It is also true that the entire arrangement was as a result of discussions and negotiations at the highest levels of Nigeria’s political abracadabra. But we all know that the primary consideration for choosing General Olusegun Obasanjo in the smoke-filled room was that he is a Yoruba man and there was this unspoken but loud fact that the Yorubas need to be compensated for the misadventures of June 12.

So, the choice of Obasanjo by the powers that be at the time was a reaction to a sense of guilt by a ruling Northern cabal driven by the mistreatment of the Yorubas in 1993. That was why, despite the intimidating credentials of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme (an Igbo man from the South), the outcome of the 1999 Presidential Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party to choose the presidential candidate of the party was a foregone conclusion even before the first ballots were cast.

Also, the presidential candidate of the All Peoples Party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (another Igbo man from the South) was unceremoniously jettisoned for Chief Olu Falae (a Yoruba man) in an alliance with the other political party, the Alliance for Democracy. In effect, the presidency of Nigeria was zoned to the Yorubas, South West Nigeria which was the dominant section of the original Western Region. If the truth be told, power shift in 1999 was to the Yorubas because of June 12.

This truth was further confirmed in 2003 with the North believing that with four years on the presidential throne, enough damages had been claimed and reparations paid to the Yorubas. That necessitated the opening up of the political space by the two main political parties, PDP and ANPP (former APP but now All Nigeria Peoples Party). The presidential primaries in those parties witnessed the likes of Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and Chief Barnabas Gemade from the North in PDP and Major General Muhammadu Buhari, also from the North, in ANPP. Obasanjo roundly emerged victorious in PDP and Buhari in ANPP. So, the 2003 presidential elections featured a Northerner as a main contender for the office of the presidency of Nigeria.

Even though the results of the presidential elections are subjects of judicial litigation as a result of the massive irregularities that characterised the election, in all fairness the North should not expect that the inability of a Northerner to outrightly win the PDP primaries or presidential elections in 2003 will result in an automatic and incontestable award of the presidency to the North in 2007. To that extent the 2007 presidency should, just like, in 2003 be open to all.

All the same, if we choose to ‘compensate’ once again, as in 1999, the case of the Igbo man requires better and higher consideration. The question of ‘compensation’ is indeed not strange to the political calculus of constitutional democracy, which still empowers everyone to aspire to the presidency. Other great nations have come to terms with their existential realities to create ways of practising their forms of constitutional democracy so that it is not self-executing.

Our collective intrinsic quest for national stability remains the fundamental substantiation for the rest of Nigeria to join hands in ensuring that an Igbo man or woman becomes our president in 2007. While I strongly agree that we should not continue to think of Nigeria only in the context of Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba but it is patently obvious that they constitute the tripod upon which the Nigerian nation-state stands. By the end of Obasanjo’s tenure in May 2007, the Yoruba man would have been in office as President for 12 years, our Arewa brothers have already held the office for approximately 34 years while an Igbo man has occupied the office for barely 6 months.

On the other hand, if the grounds for a President of Igbo extraction is based purely on the question of recompense then the Igbos may miss the mark.

I am not unaware of our Senate albatross of the Fourth Republic. The high turnover rate of the position of the President of the Senate, which was zoned to the South East, has without a doubt put the Igbo man to test. It has also seemingly called to question, from around Nigeria, the readiness of the Igbos for leadership. In my view, this is just blackmail. The fact is that at the present times, the position of the Senate President, by a twist of fate, is the most unstable. It requires just 73 individuals (senators) to remove the Senate President at one sitting.

In the House of Representatives, it requires 240 individuals to remove the Speaker. It is definitely easier to attain 73 than 240. For the President and the Vice President, the processes are even more tedious. The Senate President can be removed, or threatened with removal, for merely saying ‘Good morning’ in the afternoon. I can safely state that if General Olusegun Obasanjo or Alhaji Ghali Na’abba were the Senate President in this Republic, they would have been removed from office too. After all, motions for their removal were moved at the relevant chambers of the National Assembly as required by the constitution and if it required just 73 individuals, they would have been history at the time. In the case of Na’abba, Hon. Yar’Adua was alleged to be mobilizing to replace him, so Igbo senators cannot be accused of sabotaging one of their own. In any case, no one people have that monopoly or else what do we make of Awolowo/Akintola, Ahmadu Bello/Aminu Kano or even Tarka/Daboh?

However, I strongly believe that the impediment to the dream of having an Igbo man in Aso Rock is the Igbo man because I see a presidential race that will be open to all Nigerians in 2007. The presidency of Nigeria is serious business and the stakes are high. The quest for it is definitely not a tea party. It requires hardwork, negotiations and consultations. It requires strategies and tactics. Above all, it requires politics, hardball politics.

Presently, the only parties that offer the Igbos a chance to produce the next President are the PDP and ANPP. The All Progressives Grand Alliance stands no chance of doing this because no non-Igbo man or woman will vote for a candidate of a party seen to be ethnic in the Nigeria of today. At the moment, the real power points of the PDP are the presidency (read Obasanjo), Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the governors. In the ANPP, it is the governors and the Buhari factor. To win the nomination of either of these parties, the Igbos must come to terms with this fact. The earlier we accept this, the better. So, all energies should be channelled to the PDP and ANPP.

The Igbos must begin to do things differently in order to be taken seriously. For a start, Chief Emeka Ojukwu should be encouraged to enter the PDP (or the ANPP) to make political capital out of the ‘mass movement’ effect, which is very vital in politics. After all, Major General Buhari did it in ANPP and became the rallying point of the Northern hoi polloi. Also, an influx of prominent and credible Igbo men and women into the PDP and ANPP will be very necessary. The Igbos cannot secure the nominations to run for President from outside, they must be insiders.

Again, the North is emboldened in their determination to produce the next President because when the smoke clears, we might see such Northern heavyweights as Major General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Yes, the Igbos do not have a former military Head of State, a former military President or an incumbent Vice President, but they do have other high value personalities.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and other serious-minded Igbos like them should be encouraged to join the presidential race. Their entry will signify some seriousness on the part of the Igbos as these are men of respectability across the country. The time has come to sieve the wheat from the chaff and not make a joke out of this project. Ohaneze should then work out ways to convince decent men with huge financial resources to support them. Also, the brightest and best political strategists should be made available to them in order to build a political machinery that is capable of winning the presidency.

In conclusion, it is true that the Igbos fought a bitter civil war from 1967 to 1970. It is also true that there has been a process of rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation. However, despite occasional and intermittent skirmishes that threaten or completely erode their means of livelihood, Igbos still have the largest volume of their businesses and investments outside Igboland. The reason is that the Igbos have an abiding faith in the unity of Nigeria. Therefore, if an Igbo man becomes Nigeria’s president in 2007, we would have laid a solid foundation for future generations to build the dignity of our unity.

The case of the Igbo man for the presidency of Nigeria has gone beyond the political to the very idea of Nigeria but every Nigerian should seek that person from the tribe of Nd’Igbo with ideas for rapid economic, political and social growth and development and symbolises our common aspirations of vision, nationalism, service and love for the people and country to be our next president in 2007 so that together we can continue to make Nigeria a truly modern, prosperous, united and liveable African state with functioning institutions, an economy that is based on sustainable growth and private sector enterprise, guaranteed by an independent judiciary and social justice so that the labours of our heroes past shall not be in vain.