By Anayo Okoli, Chinonso Alozie & Chimaobi Nwaiwu
Elder statesmen Alhaji Tanko Yakassai and Chief Mbazulike Amechi, on Tuesday, canvassed for Igbo presidency in 2023, saying the South-East zone remained the only part of the country yet to produce a President.
Alhaji Yakassai, who spoke in an interview on a television programme monitored in Lagos, however, said power was not served anybody on a silver platter.
Consequently, he advised Igbo politicians to reach out to Nigerians in other zones to make the dream of producing the next President in 2023.
”I have a lot of sympathies for the Igbos as far as producing a president for Nigeria is concerned. The South-West, South-South and the North have all tasted it but the South East has not tasted the presidency.
”However, nobody gives political power to anybody. You have to fight for it. So, I expect the South East to reach out to other sections of the country for votes. By their fortune or misfortune, the South East is landlocked, not only in terms of the seas but also in its relationship with other people in the country.
”We, in the north, don’t have any problem with the Igbo. The Igbo are in every village in the north doing business. The Yoruba are more skeptical of the Igbo, so they (Igbo) should reach out to them for 2023 presidency.
”The Igbo should go out, seek the understanding of fellow Nigerians to support their aspiration for the Presidency but should not threaten or antagonise people. They should persuade them to vote for you,” Yakasai said.
The elder statesman who also counselled the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, to slow down on his agitation for the state of Biafra, said: ”We are all better off in a united Nigeria. Though the Igbos have not produced a president, they dominate the economic life of the country.”
He said though he was not too disposed to zoning and rotation of the presidency, he accepted it because it would ensure stability of the nation.
According to him, zoning and rotation will take care of all the interest groups in the country.
He argued that if the military had not interfered with the country’s political system through the 1966 coup, Nigeria would have by now done away with zoning and rotation.
On restructuring, Yakassai said no northerner was against it but noted he was yet to understand what it connoted for Nigeria.
”Restructuring means different things to different people. I have never read where anyone says he is against restructuring. Nigerians should ask the question: What would a restructured Nigeria look like?'”‘
Specifically, he said that he supports shifting the presidency to the South East in 2023 but urged Ndigbo to come together and pursue it through dialogue and reaching out.
He said Ndigbo cannot get the presidency through threat but dialogue and convincing other parts of the country to vote for them.
The outspoken elder statesman also tasked elders in Igbo land to talk to IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu to let him and his members realize that it is better for them to remain in a united Nigeria as according to him Ndigbo are everywhere in the country driving the economic development of the country.
He said he strongly believed in rotational presidency for peace and unity of the country, adding that it would cast away the fear of marginalisation being protested against by some sections of the country, particularly from the South-East.
Igbo presidency in 2023 ‘ll address that maltreatment of Igbo —Amechi
Reacting to Tanko Yakassi’s position, another elder statesman and prominent Igbo leader, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, agreed with him and redefined it by saying “to me, it’s not Igbo presidency but the president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction”
Mbazulike Amechi, Aviation Minister in the First Republic said the issue of a Nigeria president of Igbo extraction should not be an issue for argument or debate as according to him, the whole peace and progress of the future and oneness of this country depends on that.
“Tanko Yakassai has been my friend before independence and our friendship has continued. It is only on very few occasions we may not have agreed on the same views on political matters but it has not affected our personal relationship.
“To me, it is not Igbo presidency but the president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction. It is something that should not be discussed or argued because the whole peace and progress of the future and oneness of this country depends on that.
“We all fought for the independence of this country and the southeast produced the greatest number of the nationalists that led that struggle but the effect of the coup of 1966 that led to the civil war has continued and has made some parts of the country not be treated well and pushed aside; and this does not make for peace and unity of the country.
“And so, Igbo presidency in 2023 will address that maltreatment and Igbo cannot achieve it alone. It has to be an Igbo Nigerian president, Nigerian president of Igbo extraction and therefore to achieve that, Igbos have to spread out to the North, into the West, East, South and Middle Belt to achieve that from all parts of the country.
“I agree with Tanko. Ideally, the best thing everybody should be praying for is for us to produce the best man at any given time but in Nigeria.
“But because of our peculiar history and peculiar circumstances and the position of the country and ethnicities that make up Nigeria, it is only realistic that we should at least, for now, go on the system of rotating the presidency and making sure that whoever is serving touches all parts of the country.
“As for IPOB, I have been able to bring them and Ohanaeze Ndigbo together and they are enjoying peace now and I am happy that they have reconciled.
“I think IPOB is pursuing their own programme and I do not think their programme is conflicting with the issue of Nigeria presidency of Igbo extraction.
“The truth is that Igbo land and Ndigbo have not been fairly treated in Nigeria and IPOB says if you cannot accommodate us in Nigeria, let us go; Ohanaeze is fighting for justice and fairness within Nigeria.
“If IPOB is pursuing this hypothetical issue: if you cannot accommodate us in Nigeria, let us go, you cannot beat a child and stop the child from crying. Ohanaeze, Afenifere and others are appealing for a united country where equity, fairness and justice will reign and so, they are not really opposed to themselves as such.’’