• Movement Launches Ebonyi Chapter
The gathering at Abakaliki, Ebonyi state capital, last Tuesday could pass as one that signposted the seriousness in the desire of Ndigbo to produce a president of Nigeria from the southeast zone in 2023. It could also pass as an effort to change a widely held narrative of why the presidency had eluded the zone.
Last Tuesday witnessed an unusual movement into Abakaliki for the sole purpose of inaugurating the state chapter of the Southeast for President 2023 Movement.The Movement was conceived soon after the 2019 general elections to advance the quest and argument that Southeast should be allowed to have its turn at Aso Rock Villa from 2023.
Originators of the Movement have insisted that part of the injustices that had gone on in the country since independence was the manner in which power had rotated, leaving a segment of the country. They had said that the country comprised six tripods and that in the allocation of political power, especially at the presidency; it should rotate within the tripods.
This has however not been the case, as Southeast has not tasted the presidency. Thus, promoters of Igbo for presidency in 2023 believe that allowing zones that are yet to produce president to do so was a way of righting the wrongs in the country.
To show the seriousness in their struggle, the group announced its intention to showcase strong presence in all states of the federation, Abuja and in the Diaspora, with the aim of advancing the call and enlisting the support of other Nigerians to ensure Ndigbo realised presidency in 2023.
Ebonyi State chapter came handy on Tuesday because the people of the state cutting across, political, religious, traditional among others embraced it after the official flag-off of the Movement in Enugu two months ago.Rev. Okechukwu Christopher Obioha, the national coordinator of the Movement, told The Guardian that part of the corruption that had gone on in Nigeria was the inability to concede political power at the centre to the Southeast.
He stated that Nigeria, as presently constituted revolves around six geo-political zones, arguing that while every other zone had produced president of Nigeria, Southeast had not been given the opportunity.He said: “Prominent elements of this zone put their lives on the line to ensure that Nigeria became independent. Through these years, several Southeastern leaders have cooperated and assisted every head of government and president to reach their enviable heights.
“Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe fought for independence. Dr. Alex Ekwueme cofounded the G18 and later G34, which gave birth to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among others; in all these, even with the denials, they remained true to service. But the Nigerian State has not repaid for all these and the sound beats from other zones about 2023 does not appear they want to support us.”
As such, the Abakaliki event was to give fresh impetus and different dimension to the struggle for presidency. A source stated that inaugurating state chapters throughout the federation was one way to advance the campaign, stressing that it had never been so with other efforts made by the zone in the past for the office.
The source added that the state chapters would peacefully mobilize, canvass, support, consult, lobby and negotiate to create the awareness that 2023 is the right time after the turn of the north, for Nigerians to accept that equitably, justifiably and in fairness, a qualified southeast must become the president of the federal republic of Nigeria.
It disclosed that attempts to make a go at presidency would amount to nothing if Ndigbo are not united in the pursuit, adding that, the state chapters would further unite varying interests within the Igbo circle.
Okechukwu, a former national chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD),while inaugurating the state chapter did not mince words when he reminded the gathering about the need for unity and restoration of Igbo values as necessary ingredients that must count in the project.
“There is a wide held notion that we are the architect of our own problems. Nigerians have used one thing or the other to divide us. We have also quarreled within ourselves and end up losing what will benefit our people. We want to say we are no more ready for quarrels. We want to say we are Nigerians and that we have equal rights with other segments of the country.
“This zone has been boiling since the end of the civil war because of marginalization, injustices, suppression and neglect. The zone therefore needs to be assuaged. It was done for the Southwest and South-south and now that President Muhammadu Buhari will serve out in 2023, it should be the turn of Ndigbo. This is equity, this is justice, and this is fairness.
“This will form the basis and bedrock of a new Nigeria and one Nigeria. There will be no more war; neither will there be a winner nor the vanquished. Our mission is to ensure that every political party especially the two major political parties and any Third Force will cede their presidential nominees to the southeast zone in 2023. Considering that no zone can produce the president except she aligns with other zones, we must seek support of the five zones in the country,” Okechukwu said
A former Minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo, who was the keynote speaker at the event, had gone memory lane to reveal that marginalization of Ndigbo in the scheme of things did not start with the series of denial it has had over the presidency of the country.
Nebo had explained how thriving businesses operated by the zone were destroyed during the war with others declared as abandoned property, adding that the compensation that the people of the zone received was 20 pounds irrespective of his investment.
“That was the period of enslavement and the imposition of a systematic poverty to hold our people down permanently. They were however surprised that, five years after, Igbos gained prominence in commerce and transport sectors. That is the source of envy against Igbos because they feel we have everything and that giving us power will mean giving us everything. But we must not let go because we are Nigerians, we live in Nigeria and we have as much right as any other tribe in this country.
“We must demand that which rightly belongs to us. That is the fact that we are entitled to the presidency of the country and nobody should try to deny us the position. We know we have political leaders who have not represented us well. But we will not despair. This is a struggle that should involve all and sundry,” Nebo said.
Ebonyi State chairman of the Movement, Kennedy Ogba urged the people not to be distracted by avalanche of critics to the call for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
Branding such call as part of injustice in the system, he added that “No nation develops in injustice; hence our resolve to unite to fight the country’s worst enemy – injustice.
“We are not advocating for a separate entity. We are peacefully advocating for the complete adherence to the principle of rotation, which has been used in the political and economic distribution, and which principle has favoured all other five geopolitical zones of Northeast, North-central, Northwest, Southwest and South-south and reduced Southeast as insignificant.’
On benefits of allowing Southeast to produce the president in 2023, he said: “Our campaign is for the good of all. Nigeria will experience an unprecedented economic boom – employment, industrialization and infrastructure development. Nigeria will experience love and freedom. A Southeast president of Nigeria is the antidote that Nigeria needs this time of our history. All the mysterious woes that have crippled the socioeconomic landscape will be addressed when the sin of injustice is removed.”
Ogba observed that realising the quest would not be an easy one, as according to him, “our adversaries want to continue to inflict injuries on the nation to continue sucking our resources. The adversary has enslaved the minds of few leaders whose zones have taken several turns in Aso Rock. These few greedy leaders who have nothing to contribute in building of Nigeria want to continue leading at the expense of the Southeast.
“We are however, determined, we are resolute, we are strong in God who inspired this project. We shall shout it loud and clear till the whole world hear us. 2023 is the year when presidency will rotate as usual to Southeastern Nigeria. It is clearly and justifiably the turn of Southeast, being the only zone yet to be voted into the presidency.”
Home Front Challenges
BEYOND the claims of being just and fair, there are voices of political leaders of the zone, especially among folks of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that the zone does not deserve presidency in 2023.Former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha believes that the zone shot itself out of the presidential contest in 2023 when it failed to vote Buhari.
Okorocha had explained to all that care to hear him that voting Buhari in the 2019 general elections would have been the bargaining point for Ndigbo to argue for the position.Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu had earlier agreed that returning president Buhari to office in 2019 was the shortest route to Igbo presidency in 2023. It is doubtful if he still holds that position at the moment.
Senator Orji Uzo Kalu, said that Ndigbo are suffering because they did not vote Buhari and APC in the 2019 elections. He said the quest for Igbo president in 2023 might not be feasible because the zone supported the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the advice from persons like him.
Kingsley Ochinanwata, a public affairs commentator noted that struggle for personal aggrandizement had always hindered Ndigbo from realizing the goal, instead the people have continued to marginalize themselves.
“Now, where in Igbo land have you ever heard that someone from Anambra State is the governor of Enugu State? It’s highly absurd and very painful to conclude that we have been the ones shooting ourselves in the leg. We have left the substance and have laid quality emphasis on the shadow. Time has come and that time is now when we the Igbos will embrace unity in our little diversities so as to forge ahead in solidarity,” he said
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, however said that holding the voting pattern adopted by Ndigbo in 2019 against the zone was unfair. “In 1999 Obasanjo was not voted by his people, it did not make him abandon them. We have strong feelings that not every Katsina or Fulani indigene voted Buhari in 2019, so why the noise about Igbo votes? Ndigbo have the right to rule this country and nobody should attempt to deny the zone because of voting pattern. We have made our decision and the elections are over. Let us solve the ongoing injustices and save the country,” the deputy national Publicity Secretary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chuks Ibegbu said.