By Clifford Ndujihe & Ikechukwu Odu
FORMER National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, has said that giving the South-East geopolitical zone a chance to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023 would be “the master stroke to end marginalization and all grievances” in the zone.
Nwodo, a former governor of Enugu State, also called on South-East leaders of thought to continuously engage leaders of other zones on the need to give the Igbo a chance to produce Nigeria’s president in order to end the obvious marginalization of the zone in the country.
He also condemned the modus operandi of the Eastern Security Network, ESN, floated by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, adding that “there is no need starting a fight one is sure to lose.”
Nwodo, also described as tragic, the blatant marginalization of the Igbo, which was also reflected in the recent promotion of high-ranking police officers by the Police Service Commission, PSC, adding that South-East would continue to voice out the exclusion of the zone in juicy appointments since the beginning of the present All Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government.
Said Nwodo: “The leadership of the Igbo, irrespective of party platform must come together, and negotiate with the two major political parties in the country, to zone the presidency to the South-East. They should also negotiate with other tribes and political groupings to be sympathetic to the Igbo ambition of securing the presidential seat in 2023. Inasmuch as we believe that it is our turn to produce the next president of Nigeria, which would serve as a master stroke to end our marginalization, we need the support of other zones to achieve that.
“This is the time for diplomatic engagements, at the level of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, South-East Governors Forum, South-East stakeholders and continuous social mobilization on social media and what have you. We need to be more coordinated to make other tribes know that this is an agenda the entire South-East has bought into.
“Already, we have started well by informing the presidential delegation led by the Chief of Staff to the president, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, when they visited South-East, that the Igbo need the Presidency in 2023. During that visit, the South-East leaders of thought, including governors, ministers, members of the National Assembly, traditional rulers, church leaders, women and youth leaders, who met at the Government House, Enugu State, told the presidential delegation that we want Igbo presidency in 2023.
“Part of the resolution of the Igbo leaders of thought in that meeting which was presented to the Federal Government was the creation of an additional state in the zone and that work on the Second Niger Bridge be expedited. We also want more roads. So, there is a consensus among Igbo leaders on 2023 presidency. What is most important now is how to convince the rest of the country to buy into this ambition.”
Condemning the mode of operation of ESN, he said: “we must be very careful not to play into the hands of Nigeria’s security apparatus. A former Chief of Army Staff, Theophilus Danjuma warned that if we are waiting for Nigeria’s security architecture to provide security for us, that we may as well be waiting for our deaths. If ESN is not ready to face the insurgents, the Nigerian Army, and the police, there is no need starting a fight they are sure to lose.
“Some of us have been advocating for diplomacy and strategic engagements. I believe that Amotekun that is on in the South-West is living up to its mandate. We have advocated for the same thing in our meetings with Ohanaeze Ndigbo and South-East governors. However, it is only Enugu State that seems to be serious with her Neighbourhood Watch and Forest Guards.
“To have ESN which started its operation by engaging the military in a gun duel is not sustainable. What is the crime of the innocent lives who were killed by the soldiers? We just have to be very strategic in our thinking and implementation. The modus operandi of ESN is not likely to be successful.”
It’ll heal civil war wounds, ensure final re-integration of Igbo in Nigeria —Okorie
Reacting to Dr Nwodo’s comment, former National Chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said ceding the presidency to the South-East in 2023 would help heal the wounds of the civil war, and re-integrate the Igbo in Nigeria.
Asked if he agreed with Nwodo, he said: ”Yes, I agree with that completely. That is one step Nigeria should take especially the two major parties that will actually bring about final reconciliation and re-integration of Igbo people in Nigeria since after the civil war in 1970. The promise of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation has been observed in breach since 1970.
”This is a golden opportunity to lay a solid foundation for national unity. This time as no other time in the past, all opinion leaders across political lines in the South-East are of the view that it is time an Igbo man from the South-East is given opportunity to become president of Nigeria.
”Such gesture will heal so much wounds. The division that has been the bane of Nigeria will be narrowed considerably if that is done. We are not threatening people. It is the right and proper thing to do in the best interest of Nigeria.”