THE clamour for the next president to emerge from the South-East zone has been a long agitation from the people of the zone. They argue that it is one of the things that would reduce the current massive agitation for Biafra Republic by the youths from the area, an agitation that has almost ruined the zone.
However, it is worrisome that some politicians are bent on working against the collective pursuit. Notable politicians as Senator Orji Uzor Kalu who initially declared his interest to run for the position suddenly chickened out. Together with Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, the Senate Chief Whip started championing the presidential ambition of Senate President Ahmad Lawan from North-East.
Orji Uzor Kalu and Uzodimma’s move has drawn the anger of Ndigbo
Nonagenarian, foremost Igbo leader and First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, angered by the action, has dismissed them and other Igbo politicians supporting non-Igbo aspirants as people with “no political relevance and cannot make any difference toward the project of Nigerian President of Igbo extraction.”
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, Chief Amechi, who said that though anybody has the right to support an aspirant of his or her choice, expressed joy that the South- East aspiration has been getting good support from leaders from other zones.
Mbazulike therefore, urged aspirants of South-East extraction not to lose sleep over the actions of those politicians he said have no electoral value. He charged them to redouble their campaigns and continue to dialogue with people from other ethnic nationalities in towards realising their ambitions.
“It is the delegates to the parties’ national convention that will decide or determine who will be their parties’ flag bearers not people who are not in the convention or anybody by the side. The delegates will decide who will be candidates of their parties for the contest.
“What we are talking about is getting a candidate from South- East to contest. We are saying that it is the turn of the people of South-East not necessarily Igbo.
“We appreciate notable Nigerians who have been honest and vocal in demanding and insisting that it is the turn of Ndigbo of South-East to produce the next president of Nigeria; we appreciate them, people like Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Edwin Clark and many others, even from Middle Belt. They have been honest and genuine in their demand for Nigerians to support and allow the people of South-East to produce the next president of Nigeria,” Amechi said.
On the issue of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and some Igbo politicians supporting and canvassing votes for non- Southeasterners, Chief Amechi said: “Orji Uzor Kalu and his likes have the right to support anybody they want to support for the President of Nigeria in the 2023 Presidential election. They are, however, not so relevant in Igbo land; they can’t make any difference.
“While I agree that Nigeria can go on with or without Igbo, I however believe it is necessary that we have a big united country where rights are respected and where equity prevails. If such people who have no relevance in South-East are saying otherwise to the demand of their people, how do you blame them? They cannot make any difference and so nobody should lose sleep about their actions and utterances, you may not even know what is their plans.
“What I think those Igbo politicians singing different tones while our brothers from other parts of the country are speaking and canvassing for support for us to produce Nigeria president of South-East extraction is that, the fact that they are making such campaign shows they have their own agenda and you don’t blame them.
“You don’t know where they are going. Some are looking for the position of Vice President, if a Northerner wins, some are doing that to be relevant, while some are also doing that to get candidates from the North and East to split their votes. So, it depends on some uncertainties.
“The only thing is for the South-East aspirants to exploit the situation, to understand what the situation is; both in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC, and adjust strategically. They should take a strategic advantage of the development and continue their outreach with other stakeholders in Nigeria.
“South-East aspirants should go on with their campaign, outreach and discussion with other stakeholders. On May 29 last year, I called a meeting in my house here and told the members of the two leading political parties from South-East that the only way they could make it is to reduce the number of aspirants to one or two from each party.
If they swell up the place, they lose their votes and give the other people chance to beat them and in the process they will all fail. But if they unite and rally behind one or two aspirants, when that one succeeds, he makes sure he accommodates the others. That is the sensible thing to do, but if they want to say that it is either me or nobody, then there may be nobody among them.”
The elder statesman however, reiterated his readiness and willingness to welcome the aspirants to support them with strategies on how they should pursue their aspirations.
“No doubt some have been visiting me, some have been talking with me on telephone, however, I am open to all, and if anybody comes I will receive him and offer my advice. I am still open to them individually and collectively. I will only advise them to collectively come so we can discuss together, it does not stop them from doing what they want to do individually and collectively. Let them have the benefit of my being around and experience in this time.
“Generally speaking, there are two stages to the presidency, the party nomination and the convention and of course the voter, and the Supreme God. If the people of South-East get all these right and the real person for the contest emerges, we can get the seat of the President.”
Also, the Chairman Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuayanwu, declared that it was expected of every Igbo politician to support presidential aspirants from the South-East zone and not those from another region of the country.
According to Iwuayanwu, it was what was agreed by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo so that the struggle to actualise the Igbo presidency will be achieved.
“I will speak on this matter later and it will be in detail but what I want to tell you now is that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has said that we need a President of Igbo extraction.
“So, we expect every Igbo person to support Igbo presidential ambition, especially now that the Southern brothers and Middle Belt are supporting us. They have not changed their support. Everybody agreed it is the turn of Igbo.
“Some of them were giving excuses that we have not come to see them but in 1999, Nigerian leaders came together and gave the presidency to the South-West, just like the same situation the Igbo are now facing, and it was agreed then that the presidency should be given to the South-West zone and it was given to them,” Iwuanyanwu said.
Former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, cautioned Igbo politicians supporting political aspirants from other zones to stop sabotaging the common interest of the Igbo.
Nwodo, a former Governor of Enugu State, stated that South-East zone has massive and convincing reasons why they should be given a chance to produce a president for the country in 2023.
While urging the recalcitrant politicians to retrace their steps, he added that they have not been able to convince anybody on their reasons for sabotaging Igbo agenda.
“We have massive and convincing reasons why presidency should be zoned to the Southern Nigeria, and if that is done, why it should be micro-zoned to South-East.
“All our politicians in South-East and Southern Nigeria who are not supporting this project have not been able to convince anybody why they are doing so. I want such politicians to answer the clarion call of the people they are representing in politics,” Nwodo said.
Kalu under fire for supporting Northern presidency
Meanwhile, Senate Chief Whip and Senator representing Abia North, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, has come under fire for his sudden support for the North to produce the President in 2023, citing the refusal of the two major political parties to specifically cede their presidential tickets to the South-East as reason for his action.
The former Abia Governor and chieftain of the ruling APC, shortly after pulling out of the presidential race, declared support for Senate Presiden Lawan, who he described as a friend.
Kalu’s action is seen as sabotage against the collective interest of Ndigbo.
Hitting Kalu for his “embarrassing position”, Igbo youths under the auspices of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders COSEYL, said they were disappointed in the former governor.
Similarly, the Traditional Prime Minister of Ibeku ancient kingdom, and Kalu’s former ally, High Chief Uche Akwukwuegbu (Bawas), said personal interest was the real motive behind Kalu’s sudden position.
To Chief Akwukwuegbu, Kalu is shrewdly positioning himself for a juicy office in the event that power is retained by the North beyond 2023.
His words:”Orji’s move is a gambit. He knows that he is not serious about it. He only wants to ally with the North to get his better share.
“Orji Kalu doesn’t want to lose out which is not the best for us as a people. There must be sacrifices. Then if he caves in so easily when does he think other regions will find Ndigbo worthy of the position?
“I love the courage of other Igbo presidential aspirants still in the race because without a formidable fight nobody will give it to us.”
In the same vein, COSEYL dismissed Kalu’s excuse for backing the North against Igbo interest as very lame and selfish.
President General of the umbrella body of all youth groups in the South East geopolitical zone, Comrade Goodluck Ibem, expressed dismay over Kalu’s position.
Igbo youths expressed disappointment that Kalu decided to drum support for the North at a time some eminent Nigerians like Chief Edwin Clark, and Pa Ayo Adebanjo, from outside South-East are lending their weight behind power shift to South-East East.
“We are alarmed over the decision of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. The reasons he adduced do not hold water given the fact that in 1998 Jos convention, Dr. Alex Ekwueme contested stiffly for the PDP presidential ticket but because there was an understanding to zone it to South-West in order to pacify the zone for the cancellation of June 12, 1993 election won by Chief M. K. O Abiola, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo won the party’s primaries.
“So, for Senator Orji Kalu to say he is backing the North to produce the next President of the country against the will and mood of the nation is not the position of the people of South-East.
“Our position remains that the APC, PDP and other political parties should zone their presidential tickets to the South-East for equity, fairness and Justice.
“South-East should be treated the same way South-West was treated in 1999 when it was agreed that all parties should zone their presidential tickets to the South-West. Our own should not be different. We have equal rights and stake in this country like other Nigerians.”
Nwobodo, Kalu yet to be forgiven over roles at Jos Convention
Further investigations revealed that Kalu and Chief Jim Nwobodo are yet to be forgiven by Ndigbo over their infamous role at the 1998 PDP Jos convention that denied late Dr Alex Ekwueme the opportunity of picking the PDP ticket.
Vanguard News Nigeria