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Ndigbo and Buhari: What happened?

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

Igbo leaders including Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Prof. Charles Soludo, and Prof. Pat Utomi according to reports are converging on Enugu today to deliberate on the lot of Ndigbo during the Muhammadu Buhari era.

Today’s meeting should have been a non-issue had something come out of a pre-inauguration get-together between the then President-Elect, Muhammadu Buhari and the deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ekweremadu.

Senator Ekweremadu, then and still the highest political office holder from the Southeast, according to normally reliable sources had visited Buhari before the inauguration to wish him well. The visit was significant given that the Southeast returned the lowest proportion of votes for the victorious All Progressives Congress, APC presidential candidate, Buhari.

Those familiar with the meeting said that Ekweremadu without making apologies for the way the people voted for Goodluck Jonathan had enjoined the incoming president not to look at the country based on how they voted, saying the people of the Southeast were more than willing to support the new administration.

How disastrous Ekweremadu’s olive branch turned out to be was well reflected in the actions of the new regime which after 30 or so non-statutory appointments did not find an Igbo man in a place of trust.

Remarkably, the only place where the tribe managed to foist itself, the office of Deputy Senate President, largely became the point of discord that led to the instability that bedevilled the Senate for most of the first year of the Buhari administration.

For the first time in a long time, Ndigbo are noticeably absent in the National Defence Council of the country and among the top political echelons of the administration. What some thought as the bitterness of the administration towards the Southeast was seen in a seeming Freudian slip during Buhari’s 2015 visit to the United States when he was quoted as saying that he would not compensate those who voted 5% for him in the same way with those who voted 97% for him.

The Southeast polled 198,248 votes for Buhari in 2015 representing 1.3% of the 15,424,921 votes he used to win the election.

However, a surface examination of the votes largely ignores the very poignant role that the zone played in the emergence of Buhari as president.

In 2011, Buhari scored a wretched 20,335 votes in the Southeast which accounted for 0.11% of the 12,214,853 votes he scored in the country.

In the same year, Jonathan polled 4,985,246 votes in the Southeast representing 21.8% of the 22,495,187 votes he scored in 2011.

However, in 2015, Southeast contribution to Buhari’s votes jumped ten-fold depressing the proportion of votes for Jonathan who polled 2,464,906 votes representing 19% of his total votes in the 2015 election.

The steely effort of the Southeast in suppressing Jonathan’s momentum significantly helped Buhari because had the Southeast voted for Jonathan the way that they voted for him in 2011, the Buhari victory could have been a mirage.

Besides, by late 2014 one of Buhari’s leading apologists, Osita Okechukwu revealed that the Southeast contributed the largest amount of the six geopolitical zones in the crowd funding project that was initiated to support the Buhari presidential campaign.

“We are happy to announce that when the managers of the First Bank of Nigeria warehoused fund unveiled N54 million so far realized, Ndigbo topped the list of the highest donors; a unique account that has GMB as the only signatory,” Okechukwu said in a statement in late 2014.

Many people are also ignorant of the significant roles played by some Igbo persons in the emergence of Buhari as president. One of those whose names has continued to echo is a long-time associate of Buhari’s, the economist turned journalist and subsequently businessman, Chief Ikechi Emenike from Abia State who served as director of field operations of the 2015 Buhari campaign; a position that gave him coordinating responsibility over all the state coordinators for Buhari.

Who will also forget the morale-boosting role played by Chief Ogbnnonya Onu? At one of the lowest points in Buhari’s life in the early 90s when he lost his mother and while under the watch of those who deposed him from power, Onu as governor of Abia State was said to have surreptitiously provided logistics at that time.

So given all these why do the Igbo believe that they have never had it so bad? However, those in the know say that the anguish of the Igbo is not unique. All over the country, many of those who were in the frontline of the Change campaign are asking what happened? It is a question that Buhari would answer when he returns to good health by God’s grace.


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