Ndigbo should ask one valid question: what would the great Zik do if he were alive, as a pragmatic and student of real politics?

Osita Okechukwu

Permit me to clearly state that my message is that President Muhammadu Buhari’s forthcoming presidential election of 2019 shall provide an olive branch, which the South East should pluck by voting for him. The reelection of Buhari will be based on his uncommon massive infrastructural development, 5,000 kilometres of federal roads, 5,000 kilometers rail lines and additional 5,000 megawatts and self-sufficiency in food production, which one dubbed Buhari’s roads, rails, agriculture and power (RRAP) projects. RRAP projects have a completion cycle of three to five years.

His winning the 2019 presidential election will not be based on his region of origin nor his religious faith, as falsely posted. For God’s sake, we must compare the upside and downsides of the Buhari’s administration before taking a position. Accepted, the downsides include the skewed appointments and the killings, which have defied solutions. The killings are very painful and cause anguish, of which Buhari is not happy. However, the downside cannot blind us to the upside, among which is the provision of critical infrastructure that will open the frontiers for our economic development and cushion the gross unemployment that is one of the causative factors of insecurity and resistance to restructuring.

When Ohanaeze, my brothers in the South East and others talk feverishly in favour of restructuring, they do not ask why majority of northerners are opposed to the concept. They sometimes forget that no northern candidate can take a position outside that of Buhari. Mr. President parades the lowest common denominator of the North. And he is the only one who will frankly state his position, openly, no matter the political capital he will lose. That is why he is called Mai Gasikya (The Truthful). All the promises of other northern presidential aspirants that they will restructure fall flat with the correct permutations of Nigeria. How will they manipulate the National Assembly, until and when the Buhari’s RRAP projects gain prominence?

It is painful that a lot of us lose sight of the fact that, in the Abacha 1996 and Jonathan 2014 constitutional conferences, states like Ebonyi, Enugu, Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and a host of others rejected restructuring. This means that it is only the provision of material conditions that can reassure the weak that their future is guaranteed that will make restructuring of any hue in our polity possible.

Now, before going into the details of my demonisation by Levi Obijiofor, may I posit that he is one of the columnists I admire a lot, because he has remained as constant as the Northern Star. He has thousands of readers, who read his articulate articles, given this wide audience. It became imperative that, for the avoidance of doubt, one had to set the records straight, as per his submission that, “the assumptions on which Okechukwu based his argument are weak, absurd, and laughable. He insulted all ethnic groups in the country when he assumed that Buhari has the authority to think and decide for voters across the country. It would have been understandable if Okechukwu had pleaded for Buhari’s reelection on the basis that it would guarantee him the possibility of retaining his job as the director-general of the VON. Beyond this, Okechukwu’s argument is baloney and must be disregarded.”

May I once more maintain that I am not ashamed to state that 2023 presents the best and most pragmatic option to produce Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction. Methinks that my position is in no way fallacious, illogical and ludicrous as Obijiofor naively submitted. He may be one of those Igbo elements suffering from delusion and narcissism; yet they celebrate the alliances with the North constructed in the past by the great Zik. Repeat: Buhari’s reelection is the quickest and most practical pathway for an Igbo politician to become President in 2023 and not for Okechukwu’s job.

Buhari, outside his sterling performance in the provision of critical infrastructure, is the only northerner who has four years left, as outlined by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Going by the zoning convention, this is an olive branch, which Buhari’s reelection gazettes and which Ndigbo should earnestly pluck. I sincerely maintain that voting President Muhammadu Buhari is the fastest route to actualise an Igbo becoming president in 2023.

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My framework of analysis is predicated on the subsisting zoning convention of the president between northern and southern regions. It is not as erroneously alluded by Obijiofor that Buhari has the authority to single-handedly make an Igbo president. Far from it. If Obijiofor had worked closely with Buhari, maybe he would have noticed that the man is a truly convert democrat, who stands with the position of the majority of members of the party.

The truism is that there subsists since our return to civil rule in 1999 the zoning convention of the president between northern region and southern region. It was initiated out of enlightened patriotic and nationalistic interest by northern political elite, who craved for peace and harmony in our dear country. It is not a law but a convention with its moral weight, like the law with its legal teeth, it most of the time moves mountains.

This is my thesis, not badly articulated analysis. For one, neither speculated nor implied that Mr. President has the sole power to pick the president who would succeed him in 2023. Most importantly, nowhere did one suggest that, if the Igbo refused to vote for Buhari in 2019, no politician of Igbo descent would ever become Nigeria’s president. As a Christian and student of politics, how on earth can one foreclose any tribe ever presiding over the country?

My thesis took into account the historical perspective that equity and natural justice indices favour Ndigbo, as the only geopolitical zone in the South that has not produced the president since 1999. Our South West brothers had eight years, 1999 to 2007, and South South brothers had five years plus, 2010 to 2015.

Accordingly, voting for Buhari will be the necessary supplement to equity and natural justice, summing up the ingredient of harvesting the zoning convention. If Obijiofor has been in politics for 40 years, like me, or any appreciable period, he would have known that, in choosing Buhari’s successor in 2023, one of the major factors to be considered by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be the voting strength of each of the geopolitical zones in the South.

As an experienced politician and one who read Political Science, I am only advising my people, not fooling, threatening or blackmailing them as Obijiofor insinuated. The truism is that 2019 is an opportunity for Ndigbo to join Buhari’s victory train, especially when we remember that the dilapidated federal roads in the South East, the Second Niger Bridge and other critical infrastructure abandoned by our darling baby, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the midst of unprecedented oil windfall, have a new look.

Ndigbo, without being immodest, have nobody to blame, if we fail to vote Buhari in 2019, but ourselves. We must remember that if we had not put all our eggs in one basket and voted for Buhari in 2003 or 2007, when he chose two of our prominent sons, Rt. Hon. Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of blessed memory, he could have won with his 12 million vote-bank. He won in 2015 when the South West wisely added the critical vote supplement to his vote-bank.

Consequently, Ndigbo should ask one valid question: what would the great Zik do if he were alive, as a pragmatic and student of real politics? Zik would definitely shun sentiments, think out of the box, pluck the Olive Branch and follow the pragmatic route of the Japanese and Germans, who, after World War II, moved on with the Americans. The Japanese were not bogged down sulking over the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Germans were not bogged down sulking over the devastation of their people and their critical infrastructure. Today they’re giants.

Okechukwu is a member of the APC