Youth groups hail ex-president

By Willy Eya and Vincent Kalu

Reactions from prominent Igbo indigenes have continued to trail the statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the next president of the country should come from the South East zone.

The ex-President gave the support when the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ogun State chapter, led by Bishop Tunde-Akin Akinsanya, visited him at his Hilltop residence, in Abeokuta for a special New Year service.

He noted that injustice and marginalisation are the instigators of conflicts along ethnic and regional lines in the country.

Speaking on the issue, nearly all those interviewed by Daily Sun agreed with Obasanjo that no time is better than 2019 for Nigerians to support a president of Igbo extraction.

Leading the pack was former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who said that the former president was calling for Igbo presidency because he understands the dynamics of the nation’s politics.

He said: “Obasanjo is key to Nigeria’s politics; you may not like his social behaviour, you may not like his political behaviour, you may have many things you don’t like about him, but what you cannot take away from him is that he understands Nigeria’s politics.

“I think God reveals things to some of them because it is obvious what he said is a reality. Some people know it already and have been hoping on it. But one of the things you can praise him for is the knowledge that Buhari has debased Nigeria in seriously pushing down things out of Nigeria. Everywhere, at Aba, without any provocation people were killed; at Onitsha, while they were carrying their Bible, they were killed; now again for something not concerning Nigeria, but Trump, 50 young men were massacred for no just cause. They were not carrying sticks, not to talk about knife or gun.”

Also, former gubernatorial aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Imo State, Brady Nwosu, said Obasanjo is being clairvoyant because of the prevailing wind that is blowing in the country, adding that he was making a very bold statement.

Said he: “With the election of Chief Nnia Nwodo as Ohanaeze president, there is great hope that the Igbo are coming together, and are no more singing discordant tunes. This is more or less creating fear in some ethnic groups.

“There is tension in the country, and in 2019, it may not be easy for one party to win the election, and there would be cohesion and realignment.

“The president of Igbo extraction has always been possible, and with the agitations, there is the need for the South East to produce the president.

Obasanjo has worked with some Igbo people and he knows that the race has what it takes to take the country out of the woods, more so, he has realised that the Igbo have the interest of Nigeria deeply etched in their hearts.”

Former Abia APGA gubernatorial candidate, Reagan Ufomba, noted that the Igbo are one of the tripods in Nigeria’s politics.

He said: “The Hausa has ruled, as well as the Yoruba. We preach equity, and so, the Igbo should have it by 2019. I was disappointed when some of our leaders supported the South South, but it was understandable.”

Another former guber aspirant, Ziggy Azike, said the reality on ground is that the major political parties have zoning arrangement and that after the election, the PDP zoned the Presidency to the North in 2019, while the APC is still running.

He said: “After 2019, that is when the zoning formula favours the Igbo. However, there are some Igbo who are highly qualified for the presidency in spite of what the zoning arrangement of the parties are.

“This is a country in crisis and when a country is in crisis, you look beyond political arrangement for convenience. With the way the country is going, it requires tacticians to take the country out of trouble.  It is when things are normal that you talk about zoning, but when you are in crisis, you need experts; people who have shown capacity and capability to deliver the goods.

“The truth about it is that what Obasanjo was telling Nigerians is that they should consider our present economic predicament, as a critical war situation and leave it in the hands of those who have gone through the war, and have suffered recession and depression, and have proved to be overcomers of any form of adversity.”

Former factional National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APGA), Chief Maxi Okwu, took exception to the support from the former president.

He described Obasanjo as a faulty messenger and recalled that the former president stopped former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and former governor of Rivers State from achieving their dreams of leading the country.

“When did Obasanjo suddenly start loving the Igbo?  To me, some progressive Igbo, like us see that the issue before us is not that of who becomes Nigerian president; let them restructure the country and allow us to develop at our own pace.

“We are seeking restructuring and if that fails, can we now begin to think about being asked ‘do you want to stay in Nigeria or not?’ – Referendum. This is what we want. Nigeria’s presidency is not the issue even to all Nigerians.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of youth groups in the South East has hailed the public expression of support by Obasanjo for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. They urged other eminent Nigerians to take similar position in the interest of justice and fair play, stressing that a support for a President of Igbo extraction in 2019 will help strengthen the unity of the country.

In a joint statement signed by the National President of Igbo Youth for Good Governance, Dr. Benjamin Okeke  and the National President of Igbo Youth Initiative, Comrade Wilfred  Eze  yesterday, the associations commended Obasanjo for extending his sympathy for the Igbo cause describing him  as the new father of democracy.

The youth groups stressed that his support for Igbo Presidency has given Igbo hope that they would find realignment and fairness within a united Nigeria.

According to the statement, an Igbo presidency would settle the differences and issues yet to be explained and reconciled within the major ethnic groups of Nigeria, especially to the inquisitive youths of Ndigbo.

“We commend President Olusegun Obasanjo for joining the likes of former military heads of state, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Yakubu Gowon who had earlier called for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction.

“Ndigbo have credible and de-tribalised personalities who have the capacity to govern Nigeria and an Igbo presidency will boost the unity of Nigeria.”

The statement also implored other elder statesmen and national figures to take similar step in supporting the national call for a competent Nigerian President of Igbo extraction.

Since the reintroduction of democracy in 1999, only the South East is yet to produce the president of Nigeria. In 1999 and 2003, former vice president Alex Ekwueme contested the seat on the platform of the PDP and lost.

In 2007 also, former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji  Uzor Kalu, contested for the presidential seat on the platform of the  party he founded, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).

The business mogul is one of the front liners in the call for Igbo presidency. He joined the APC, as according to him, the Igbo have to be in mainstream politics.

Writing on “Igbo after 2011 elections: What next?” the former governor had stated: “I have known a long time ago that Nigerian politicians, no matter how you choose to look at them, are not yet grounded in the art of diplomatic and political fineness. They still play politics of the stomach and are not always ready to keep to promises reached. “You could recall that before the 2011 elections, Igbo were in the forefront of the campaign for a Goodluck Jonathan Presidency. They threw their hat into the ring with so much confidence and faith that a Jonathan in Abuja would serve their interest best. They consulted widely and built bridges of friendship with other geopolitical zones in an effort to realize this lofty dream. They went a step further to bar any Igbo from contesting the presidency until 2015.

“In difference to this collective call, I subsumed my own presidential ambition and supported it. Even though I had felt differently at the initial stage about the whole project, I chose not to play the spoiler’s role. For those who know me personally, I have always chosen a seemingly unpopular cause whenever issues of national consideration come to play.

“In this instance, I was a bit sceptical because of the outlandish approach our people adopted. They were a bit hasty and naïve. In truth, whenever any issue that concerns a people’s future crops up, common sense and wisdom should take the centre-stage, rather than undue pandering to emotionalism.”