LAGOS — AFTER much debates, series of meetings and horse-trading, majority of leaders of the South-East geo-political zone have reached consensus on the acceptance of the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, as zoned to the area by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, hierarchy, according to Vanguard checks. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, umbrella body of Igbo socio-cultural organisations, is expected to make a pronouncement on the issue very soon.
Prominent Igbo leaders including governors; former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme; Ohanaeze and South-East PDP leaders, have been brainstorming on the issue.
The consensus is anchored on what a source described as ‘superior argument’ that in practical terms the SGF is better than the House of Representatives Speaker, which the zone is demanding on account of its massive support for the PDP at the Presidential and National Assembly polls.
Another factor that is swaying the decision in favour of accepting the SGF slot is the need to ‘help President Goodluck Jonathan to succeed’ after playing leading roles in getting him elected.
However, the leaders are against a leading Abia State politician, who had served severally as a minister and party leader since the return of civil and being pushed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, emerging as the SGF. They would rather prefer a more credible person, perhaps, a former leader of the National Assembly from the South-East to occupy the strategic post.
In the past couple of days, Igbo leaders have been intensely divided on the issue. Veteran journalist and former Editor of New Nigerian Newspapers, Chief Innocent Oparadike; Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said that the speakership was more useful than the SGF, who holds the job at the absolute mercy of the President.
Imperial chief of staff
Indeed, Okechukwu said the SGF was irrelevant when “there sits on the throne of the President, an imperial chief of staff. More so, the office is not listed on the order of protocol and the occupier can be fired at the whims and caprices of the President.”
Former Governor of Anambra State and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, senator-elect in Anambra, Dr. Chris Ngige shares this view. Speaking on a television interview yesterday, he urged the South-East to insist on the speakership, which he stressed was better than the SGF, a mere appointee of the President.
However, some Igbo leaders told Vanguard that the SGF was more strategic and could position the Igbo better in the scheme of things in the country.
Those who shared this view include Second Republic politician and Anambra State chairman of defunct Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP, Chief Guy Ikokwu; former National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, chieftain, Chief Chuba Egolum and Chief Hyde Onuaguluchi.
Ikokwu, who was also a stalwart of NADECO and pioneer chairman of PDP in Anambra State, said the SGF was a powerful post because the occupier controls appointments, oversees the day-to-day running of government and is closer to the President than the Vice President.
He said: “Why did they remove Babagana Kingibe as SGF. They felt he was too powerful. If the South-East is going for the presidency in 2015, the nearest that will help them is the SGF. What is speaker? The Speaker is junior to the Senate President.”
Ikokwu said that apart from the presidency, SGF was another prime post that the South-East had not held. He noted: “We have tried vice president. We have tried Senate President thrice and Speaker twice. What did the South-East gain from them? Let’s embrace SGF.”
Besides, the politician, said the South-East had a duty to help Jonathan succeed.
Speaking in like manner, Egolum, said, “SGF is more strategic. He is there in the presidency and knows what is happening. All appointments go through him. Ministers report to him. He has votes and it is more broad-based than the speakership.”