In the Ohanaeze youth that visited Buhari, we have seen the worst of the youth from the South East.

Levi Obijiofor

As the general election approaches, strange things are beginning to unfold in the South East region of Nigeria. It is incomprehensible how the minds of Ohanaeze Ndigbo youth have been twisted by politics. The youth, whom we associate with the capacity to systematically scrutinise national issues with the scientific precision of a coroner, have fallen short of public expectations. The youth visited President Muhammadu Buhari last week. Rather than show their capacity to reason, they exposed their character flaws, their limited understanding of the powers associated with a President, their superficial knowledge of the processes of lawmaking, their lack of political sophistication, and their inability to see beyond their noses.

Ohanaeze youths meet Buhari, demand 2023 presidency

The Ohanaeze youth made headline news not because of any outstanding contributions they made to their region’s development but because of their weird, unintelligent, and dim request to Buhari to guarantee them that there would be an Igbo President in 2023. How could Ohanaeze youth direct that kind of request to Buhari, a man who does not hold the power to determine which region of the country should produce a President? They should have known better.

The power to determine who will be Nigeria’s President in 2023 does not rest with Buhari or indeed with any member of government. The youth cannot, out of their own ignorance, confer on Buhari the powers he does not have. Buhari might be President but he does not wield the authority or divine power to guarantee the Igbo that one of their own would become Nigeria’s President in four years. That would be stretching optimism to a nonsensical level.

Elections provide an opportunity to citizens to elect their President and lawmakers. By asking Buhari to guarantee the position of President to the Igbo in 2023, the Ohanaeze youth assumed wrongly that Buhari has a super vote that would override the decisions of millions of Nigerian citizens who will vote in 2023. How could this so-called group of future leaders put on public display their inadequate knowledge of the election process? This kind of ignorance cannot be a defence but a form of intellectual disorder. The youth that visited Buhari must have been hurriedly put together to convey the wrong impression that Igbo youth are fully in support of Buhari’s re-election bid.

As the elections approach, you can expect to see more mediocre groups making unscheduled visits to Aso Rock to express their solidarity with Buhari. In the Ohanaeze youth that visited Buhari, we have seen the worst of the youth from the South East. They are far from the best the region can muster. This is the season of politics. In times like this, mind managers go to work to stitch together bumbling youth and burnish their public image by arranging for them to visit high-profile politicians.

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Here is what the leader of the Ohanaeze youth wing, Kingsley Dozie Lawrence, said when his group visited Buhari: “We, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Wing, are partners-in-progress in the Nigerian project and will extend hands of partnership to any administration that guarantees the interest and welfare of Ndigbo. There is no gainsaying the fact that President Buhari’s administration has impacted the Igbo in some positive ways, but there are still areas the Igbo need more impacts.”

That was an empty statement that lacked verifiable facts. If, in the past four years, Buhari made a huge impact on the Igbo or indeed on the region, it should not be difficult for this leader to enumerate Buhari’s achievements in the South East.

Not only did the Ohanaeze youth request Buhari to guarantee that an Igbo would become President in 2023, they also asked for the creation of a new state in the South East region. The requests were not only idealistic, they were also ill-advised, thoughtless, weird, and cannot be granted by Buhari because he lacks the power to grant such demands. For example, Buhari does not have the sole authority to create a new state in Nigeria. As a military dictator, he might do so in a fiat but not in a democracy where the Constitution has defined the roles of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. In our democracy, the National Assembly has a constitutional role to play in the creation of any state.

The latest of the unscheduled visitors to Aso Rock have demonstrated their lack of knowledge of the processes of lawmaking in Nigeria. The visit to Buhari by the Ohanaeze youth is similar to a previous visit by a group of female parliamentarians in late May 2018. During their visit, the female legislators made a strange request to Buhari, whom they asked to consider appointing a female running mate during the 2019 presidential election. Buhari told them in a rather courteous manner that their request was a threat to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The request by female parliamentarians was particularly wacky because the office of the Vice President was not vacant at the time. The female legislators were absolutely mindless to have asked a President who had relied so much on the vast knowledge and sharpness of mind of his deputy to dump that deputy in preference for an untested and probably inexperienced female politician. Since the inauguration of Buhari’s government in 2015, Vice President Osinbajo has proved to be the strong intellectual wall on which Buhari’s government has leaned.

While it is true that women are disadvantaged in various ways across cultures, it must also be noted that the female lawmakers took their case to a wrong arbitrator. Buhari does not have the authority to reduce the difficulties that constrain women’s ability to achieve their objectives in life. The women thought they could use their gender to achieve what they could not attain through hard work. They created the impression that if a woman was not picked by the President as a running mate, the chances of a Nigerian woman emerging as a vice presidential candidate or indeed as President would be dimmed. In various parts of the world, women contest elections and win, notwithstanding the obstacles placed on their way. Nigerian women should aim to break through the well-known glass ceiling that prevents them from attaining the highest political position in the country. If they do not help themselves, no one would do it for them.

In a democracy, every qualified citizen has the right and freedom to vote for or against a presidential candidate. How citizens would vote in 2023 is well beyond Buhari’s knowledge, foresight, and power. Buhari cannot promise Igbo in 2019 that they would produce a President in 2023. It is not possible, owing to a combination of factors.

As President, Buhari cannot decide in 2019 the ethnic group that would produce Nigeria’s President in four years. Any promises made today could be overturned in four years. In that case, the promises become unsustainable, shaky, and flawed. Between 2019 and 2023, a lot of things could change. Politicians who make promises today may not be alive in 2023 to fulfill their pledges. Life can be tenuous and unpredictable.

Needless confusion over 2023