“Tinubu is one of the most grounded politicians in the country today and as you know, the South-East is laying claim to the presidency in 2023 only on moral grounds”
■ Plot one of injustices meted out to Igbo – Mbazulike Amaechi
■ This is why we want self-determination – MASSOB
■ Igbo leaders in APC say support for Buhari in 2019’ll determine fate
■ Tinubu has right to be president in 2023 – Senator Hanga, others
Enyeribe Ejiogu, Omoniyi Salaudeen, Onyedika Agbedo (Lagos), David Onwuchekwa (Nnewi) and Jeff Amaechi Agbodo (Onitsha) and Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The nation’s political wind was agitated last Monday, when the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, revealed that the resolve of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to support President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, was primarily driven by his desire to consolidate his private agenda of securing the return of power at the centre to the South-West, and more importantly, position himself for a shot at the presidency in 2023, thereby dashing and scuttling the Igbo quest for the coveted office.
Expectedly, the revelation was like stirring the hornets’ nest. It set off a firestorm of angry reactions from key Igbo voices, who felt that the energetic efforts to woo the Igbo into the APC were only intended to sweep in a far higher share of the Igbo votes in 2019 for Buhari, but with no real intention to support the South-East quest to produce the president in the 2023 general elections.
The Igbo hope for the presidency was rekindled sometime ago when the leaders from the South-East visited Aso Rock and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, assured them that 2023 is the most auspicious time for the Igbo to ascend the presidency, advising them to go home and support President Buhari in 2019 so that it would be easy for them to take over from him.
Respected elder statesman and Nigeria’s First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, viewed the alleged Buhari-Tinubu pact to be the continuation of the political, social and economic injustices meted out to the Igbo in the country.
He also noted that the subterranean moves to scheme out the Igbo in the 2023 electoral calculations were reminiscent of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s collaboration with the northern military regime in the aftermath of the aborted implementation of the Aburi Accord between General Yakubu Gowon and the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
“What Saraki said is obvious because those who follow the politics of Nigeria know that it is the game that is going on now. We are not surprised. The Igbo have been neglected and not seen as part of the federation of Nigeria, but as slaves in the country.
“I have read in the papers that the military is going to launch Operation Python Dance 3 in Igbo land alone. If they don’t want the Igbo in Nigeria, let the people of the North and the West say they don’t want the Igbo again in Nigeria and Igbo will go their way. We are not equal partners in the federation and the earlier they conduct a plebiscite the better for us, so that the Igbo can go. And that is where the case of the IPOB is justified.
“We are not begging to remain in Nigeria. Let them allow plebiscite in Igbo land and Igbo will decide whether they will continue to be part of this nonsense or not.
“In my own point of view, which is the general point of view, Buhari should be contented with one tenure. He should not contest in 2019. Somebody from the North should contest for the remaining second tenure to enable the North serve out two tenures. Then after that somebody from Igbo land should contest for the presidency in 2023 and should be supported to become the president. Equity, justice and fairness demand that.
“It was the same thing that Chief Obafemi Awolowo did, he hated the Igbo all his life. He fought the civil war against the Igbo and when the war ended he came up with the idea that every Igbo man should be allowed only 20 pounds no matter what he had in the bank when he was the Minister for Economic Development and a member of the federal executive council. The Igbo begged him to reverse the policy to no avail. Not only that, it was Awolowo who advised the Federal Government that starvation was the best instrument of war. So, we are pained to remember that,” he said.
More knocks for the revealed agenda came from the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB), Mr Uchenna Madu, who said that the lingering crisis and disaffection in the ruling party, which led to the revelation by the Senate President regarding Tinubu’s hidden agenda against Igbo interest in 2023 has finally concretized the compelling reasons for the thunderous outcry by Ndigbo for self-determination.
Madu, however, said that MASSOB would not shift a millimeter from its position that Buhari is the last president of Nigeria because the country is already sitting on a time bomb, which would likely explode soon.
He said: “To us in MASSOB, the current government of Nigeria under President Buhari is a huge monumental failure which can never be redeemed again. We have seen the hypocritical handwriting, which was as a result of the secret and deceitful pact/agreement reached and agreed by the Hausa/Fulani representing Arewa and the Yoruba representing Oduduwa against the people of old Eastern Region on the platform of APC.
“It is very obvious and clearer that President Buhari will hand over the relay baton of APC to a Muslim-Yoruba man after his tenure. They are seriously working on this Islamic agenda, which no APC bigwig from the old Eastern Region can stop. Chibuike Amaechi, Rochas Okorocha, Ogbonnaya Onu, Chris Ngige and others from Igbo land that later joined APC as a national party are all political errand boys and stooges of the real owners and controllers of APC.
“With President Buhari’s body language and Osinbajo’s consistent defense of his master, the appointments of all security service chiefs from Buhari’s Islamic kinsmen, his continuous defense and protection of his foot soldiers popularly known as killer Fulani herdsmen, his insensitivities against non-Muslims and inability to protect the citizens are all clearer signs and evidences that Buhari is executing an arranged and planned agenda that is detrimental to non-Muslims in Nigeria.
“The rot, imbalances and inequalities in education sector where there are special and preferential laws for northern citizens against the southern citizens, the economic harsh policies against the people of Eastern Region, the continuous tribalism and sentimental hatred exhibited against the people of Eastern Region and Christians in Nigeria are all manifestations of the worst government Nigeria has ever had.
“MASSOB still maintains and insists that President Buhari will remain the last president of Nigeria. His secret pact with Bola Tinubu and other top selected Islamic leaders in Nigeria will never be achieved. Nigeria is already sitting on a time bomb, which will likely explode soon. The consciousness of future survival of the people of Biafra, Middle Belt and Oduduwa have been reawakened for total defense of our lands and our people from every maneuvering of Buhari and his kinsmen.
“Historically established, Yoruba forefathers led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo actually betrayed the trust and confidence, our fathers bestowed on them. They eloquently proved that they couldn’t be trusted politically,” Madu stated.
Also, the President General of Ndigbo Unity Assembly (NUA), Dede Uzor A. Uzor, called on Ndigbo to reject the APC in the forthcoming general election in 2019 as it has become glaring that the party and its leadership do not have the interest of the South-East at heart.
Uzor said that Saraki’s revelation, which has not been denied by Tinubu had confirmed the fears of the majority of Ndigbo that APC and its leadership had no good agenda for the Igbo right from inception.
He said that the vociferous campaign by some notable APC chieftains from the other zones were veiled acts of “deceit and treachery against Ndigbo.
“We are shocked by this vaulting ambition of Bola Tinubu. This in effect shows him as an ethnic irredentist and a self-centred leader, who doesn’t have the interest of Nigeria at heart. He is not a statesman. He is not a patriotic leader.
“We have said it again and again that a lot who parrot ‘One Nigeria’ do not actually believe in it. If Tinubu and Buhari actually believe in one united, indivisible and indissoluble Nigeria, they would not be imagining returning power to the Yoruba so soon after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo just finished eighth-year tenure under the present dispensation.”
He called on Ndigbo to be extra vigilant, obtain their PVCs and join forces with other progressive Nigerians to vote out the APC in the forthcoming presidential election.
“Ndigbo should reject APC and its politics with unfulfilled promises. They should form and build their own political future. The era of disunity and individualism should stop. Ohanaeze Ndigbo should organise an ‘All Igbo Summit’ to fashion out Igbo political position or agenda,” Uzor said, adding that the era of Ndigbo playing second fiddle should end for good.
He stressed that Ndigbo constitute a big nation with large population and, therefore, few elements should not determine their political destiny.
“We have come of age. Enough of this political and economic marginalisation” he said.
But at the other end of the spectrum, APC chieftains of Igbo extraction made light of Saraki’s revelation and reiterated the need for Ndigbo to key into the country’s political power architecture in a pragmatic way.
The 2016 Anambra State APC governorship running mate, Mr Dozie Ikedife (Jnr), had a strong word for proponents of the ‘Nigeria President of Igbo Extraction Campaign as he said: “For us to seriously lay claims to the presidency in 2023, we have to come to the table with good numbers in the next general elections. Tinubu has the right to aspire to be the president and he is working hard to make sure that Buhari gets a lot of votes from the South-West.
“It is the votes from the South-West that will help him sustain his ambition to become president. This is about democracy. We in the South-East are also working hard to bring in numbers. So, at the end of the elections, the numbers will help us in our argument. Be that as it may, I don’t want to join issues with what Saraki said. It is up to Tinubu to come up to deny or confirm it.”
The young Ikedife noted that if the APC performs well in the South-East in the 2019 general elections and elects people into governorship, the national and state assemblies, then “we will have the right to aspire for an Igbo man to be Nigerian president in 2023.”
To make this wish realizable, Ikedife said that APC chieftains and stalwarts from the South- East have been knocking on the doors and mobilizing the Igbo at the grassroots to be more interested in the party.
“And if you go by the zoning arrangement, you will understand that the South-West has produced a president in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo while Goodluck Jonathan took the slot of the South-South. What remains now is for the South-East to produce a president and that is expected to be actualized in 2023. But don’t forget that power is not given; you work for it. Politics is all about negotiations and alliance. And what is important to those of us in APC in the South-East now is to align properly,” he said.
Also the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu, an ardent supporter of President Buhari, a chieftain of APC in Enugu State, and one of the leading voices canvassing that the South-East should support Buhari to return to power in 2019 for the Igbo to ascend the presidency in 2023, however, added a caveat, saying that Buhari has never promised to swing power to the South- East in 2023 if re-elected with Igbo support in 2019.
His words: “Tinubu is one of the most grounded politicians in the country today and as you know, the South-East is laying claim to the presidency in 2023 only on moral grounds, which hardly matter in politics. It’s still uncertain if the South-East will support Buhari in 2019, but the political climate in the South- West points to that direction. If Tinubu is really nursing a presidential aspiration in 2023, do you think the South-East stands a chance in the APC?
“One knows that in law, they say you don’t interpret a word or statement that is unambiguous. We never said that Presi- dent Buhari promised us to han- dover to South-East or handpick one person from amongst us. What we have said repeatedly is that the zoning convention presents the most pragmatic and reasonable opportunity for a president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction, based on equity and natural justice.
“So, the point we have been making is that the only snag holding us is for the South-East to vote for Buhari so as to reinforce our position. It is more than a moral position, especially when Saraki did not say that Buhari promised Asiwaju. It is a contest and we are not known to shy away from contests, especially democratic contestation.
“On Tinubu’s astuteness and grounding in Nigerian politics, I will be an idiot to underrate him. So, nobody can dispute Asiwaju’s political dexterity, someone whose lieutenants are today not but stand on good stead in the Federal Government. This is why I am beckoning on my people to board the Buhari victory-train and not repeat the mistake of the past, which is that we didn’t negotiate as Asiwaju did for his people. Let’s learn from our past mistakes. For me, it is our turn if we play our cards well.”
More support flowed in for Asiwaju Tinubu from another chieftain of the APC in Kano State, Senator Rufai Hanga, who also weighed in on the raging issue.
With a long range missile, Hanga fired a shot to demolish and dismiss Saraki’s revelation as a non-issue, saying that he found nothing wrong with the alleged intent of Asiwaju to return presidential power to the grip of the South-West after Buhari’s second tenure.
His words: “What is wrong with that? He is a politician and every politician is out for something. Everybody has his own way of doing things. If you have a way of getting what you want, I don’t think
it is something one can begin to make noise about. For me, I don’t see anything wrong in Tinubu contesting. That is my own opinion. People say he is a schemer, he is doing this and doing that, because he wants something. What is wrong with him scheming to get what he wants? After all, politics itself is about scheming. What is wrong with Tinubu being the president? He has proved himself by setting a pace for development of Lagos, he laid a new foundation for the state and he has been able to fish out successors who are building on what he started and doing excellently well. Every concerned Nigerian will want to see what happened to Lagos happening in Nigeria. Whether you like him or not, you have to give him respect for that. He is the architect of modern Lagos.”
For the former APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Timi Frank, the Igbo presidency project in 2023 would be a mission impossible. He opined that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the APC to hand over power to an Igbo president in 2023.
Warning the Igbo to perish the thought of 2023 presidency, Frank insisted that the Igbo should rather believe Saraki’s revelation than trust any promise from the APC-led Federal Government, stressing that when the chips are down, APC will deny ever making such promise as it has done with its campaign promises.
“Let me tell you the truth about Igbo presidency: if there is anybody the Igbo should believe at this point, the person should be Saraki. I can confirm to you that APC is made up very desperate set of people that cannot hand over power to any Igbo man in 2023.
“I can say that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, was only trying to do his job of convincing the Igbo to vote for Buhari in 2019 with that promise of 2023 presidency. There is an accord in APC between the North and South-West that if Buhari wins in 2019, he will hand over power to the Yoruba in 2023. For Saraki to confirm the plan, be sure that it is exactly what will happen in 2023. Saraki is a man who does not talk flippantly and carelessly.
“In all honesty, the Igbo should take that promise from the Federal Government with a pinch of salt and stop deceiving themselves that Igbo presidency in 2023 is a possibility. Let us even accept that the promise is true, should the Igbo take a party like the APC seriously when it never fulfilled any of the campaign promises to Nigerians.
“It is detrimental and stupid of the Igbo to believe that APC will hand over power to them in 2023. Mark my words, APC will deny that they didn’t make such promise to the Igbo when 2023 comes. They will say that they only begged the Igbo to vote for the ruling party,” he warned.
Also the APC Deputy National Chairman, South-East, Emma Enukwu, warned that the clamour for Igbo presidency in 2023 is not automatic or cast in stone.
He further agued that with six states in the South-West geo-political zone inside his pocket, Asiwaju has strategically positioned himself to wrest the ticket from the Igbo, stressing that “the sentiment of equity, fairness and justice has no place in a democratic setting.
“Politics, we must know, is a game of interest. There is nothing wrong if the SGF said that the Igbo should work towards 2023 and Asiwaju is showing interest. If the Igbo are serious about 2023, such will be determined by the efforts and hard work they put in and the number of votes they bring into the APC basket in the 2019 presidential election.
“Nobody brings power to anybody’s doorstep. If the Igbo want to be president in 2023, they have to work assiduously for it because it will not come on a platter of gold. Promising Igbo president in 2023 is the wish of the Federal Government, but it is left for the Igbo to actualise it. They can only do that by voting massively for the APC in the 2019 elections. They should not forget that Tinubu has already gotten six states in the South-West into his pocket. With that, he has every reason to say that he wants to be the president in 2023. We cannot have only one APC controlled state in Imo and be challenging somebody with six states. Politics is a game of numbers and interest.
“You talked about considering equity and natural justice, but I will boldly tell you that there ought to be no elections in the first place if we must take those things into consideration. There is also no need democratising the country. It is the number of votes you have that translates to democracy,” he said.
Corroborating the views of Enukwu, the APC National Auditor, Dr George Moghalu, argued that though Asiwaju’s interest is still in the realm of speculations, the possibility
of an Igbo president in 2023 should still be predicated on their active contribution to the APC platform that will guarantee them the ticket.
“Let it be on record that Tinubu as a human being has right to indicate interest for any position. Anybody can aspire for any position even though many of us believe that the right thing to do is for an Igbo man to go for the presidency in 2023. That is why we are encouraging our people to know that taking everything into account, supporting Buhari in 2019 remains our surest bet for an Igbo presidency in 2023.”