By Anayo Okoli, Joseph Erunke, Ikechukwu Odu, Chinoso Alozie & Chimaobi Nwaiwu
Northern elders have thrown their weight behind Igbo presidency, insisting that Nigeria’s 2023 presidency should rotate to the South East zone.
The northern elders explained that their position was borne out of the need for every part of the country to be fairly and equitably treated in the nation’s political affairs.
The northern elders’ call was an apparent response to the demands of prominent Igbo elders, including former Aviation Minister in the First Republic, Mbazulike Amechi, former National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo and Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, among others, who sought the assistance of other zones to actualise Igbo presidency in 2023.
The elders, who said the Igbo had been marginalized in the scheme of things in the country, appealed to both the ruling APC, and the main opposition PDP, to field candidates of South East extraction.
On the other hand,the Northern elders appealed to all other zones in the country to back the Igbos in their long quest to produce a president, even as they vowed to canvass their position to all stakeholders in the Nigerian political projects, with a view to achieving Igbo presidency.
The elders, operating under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Elders for Peace and Development, in a statement by their national coordinator, Zana Goni, and National Women Leader, Hajia Mairo Bichi, insisted that the Igbo of South East should produce next president to maintain the culture of rotational presidency between the North and South, which they said has “helped to douse political tension in Nigeria.”
“We, therefore, recommend that it be continued for now for the good of the federation,” the statement quoted the northern elders as saying.
The elders said since President Buhari was from the North, the right thing was that “after his eight-year tenure, the next president should come from Southern Nigeria and since South West and South South have occupied the office in the current dispensation, the South East is next in line in the spirit of the rotation, fairness, equity and justice.
“This will bring an end to the manifest marginalisation of the South East. This will foster national unity, and also bring to a close the bitterness of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war which has lingered for 50 years since the end of hostilities and engender unity.’’
They thanked the elite and leaders of the South East extraction for not taking cessation as an option, despite the inglorious activities of leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, which it accused of attempting to destabilize Nigeria’s unity, hiding under the delayed Igbo presidency.
The elders also tasked other zones to cue-in by supporting a president from the South East, vowing that it was either Igbo presidency or nothing.
They stated further: “We wish to thank Igbo elites and leaders for openly coming out to denounce the treasonable activities of the leader of outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra,Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who hinged his action on the delayed emergency of Igbo presidency.
‘’Even though the APC said they will do North-South zoning, it has become a culture in Nigeria that no zone is allowed to continue beyond eight years. You can take that from the time of Obasanjo.
“If all the major geopolitical zones in the country, and especially the major ethnic groups in the country have all been presidents, and in all fairness, justice and equity, we should be looking at the South East to produce the president.
“There is no denying the fact that the Igbo have contributed greatly to the development of this country. It is time for us all to reciprocate their good gestures through mass support for the next president to emerge from the South East. This is the time for it.
“At a time that our national unity is so threatened, we believe that a detribalised tribe holding the presidency at this time is the surest way of restoring Nigeria’s unity.
“The Igbo, 50 years after the war, have been so marginalised. To heal that wound and to put that war behind us, we think if the country reaches out to them by supporting them to produce the 2023 presidency, it will be the masterstroke to heal the wounds. And finally, if that wound is not healed and is made deeper, it can only promote tribal groups.
‘’When it was given to the Yoruba to heal the wound of Abiola, Obasanjo emerged in one party and Olu Falae emerged in the other major party. It was not like they just went into the room and came out with these people. They went through party primaries to emerge.
‘’Last time, you saw the primary that produced Atiku, you saw the primary that produced the president and two Fulanis came on board. The rules will not change. If you zone to the South East, the two parties will have towed that route so that interested candidates from the south East can slug it out. Eventually, two people will emerge. The country will vote for them and whoever is better will carry the day.
‘’We are asking for a Nigerian President of South East extraction. We are not asking Nigeria for “Igbo President because that will amount to asking Nigeria to possibly alter geo-political-zones-based rotation arrangement for Presidency in Nigeria.
“We are asking Nigeria to stay true to it. Igbos in South East will give their aspirations resounding support when presidency rotates to their geo-political zone”.
We tasked Ohanaeze Ndigbo (umbrella organization of Igbos worldwide), to reach out to great Igbo leaders to make contacts with leaders from other geo-political zones and interest groups for support for South East president.
‘’In 1993, General Sani Abacha created six geopolitical zones in Nigeria-South East, South West, South-South, North East, North West and North Central, the elders added that the creations were to help streamline the way the country was structured.
“The creation was for the purposes of using the zones as yardsticks towards ensuring equity, justice and fair play in the sharing and allocation of Nigerian economic, political and social resources among the component parts of the country.
“We have observed that since the inception of the six geo-political zones, it has become a standard for component parts of each of the zones to lean on this arrangement in demanding for fair play in interactions for allocation of resources.
“The Northern elders desire to stand on this zoning arrangement to make a point on 2023 Presidency that is of grave importance to South-East geo-political zone in particular and Nigeria in general.’’