By Ikechukwu Amaechi
FINALLY, the political silly season is upon us. Every discerning Nigerian knew it would come sooner than later. We are all involved because in his book, “Politics, a Treatise on Government”, Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, posited that man is a “political animal” being a social creature with the power of speech and moral reasoning. And the season came with a bang. I doubt if anything else will matter in Nigeria, going forward.
Governance has ended and Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency has prematurely entered the lame duck period. Sadly, it is rather too early because ideally, that ought to happen after a successor has been elected, during which time the outgoing president and president-elect usually embark on a transition of power.
In other words, the appellation refers to a politician who remains in power but will soon be replaced by a newly-elected successor. But we all know that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is finding it difficult to navigate itself out of its internal contradictions and is yet unable to hold its National Convention. But the president’s body language suggests that he cannot wait to go back to Daura to tend to his cattle.
In the coming days, weeks and months, Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, will become the political mecca of politicians seeking elective offices. Because of the nature of our home-grown democracy where the president is a tin-god, every aspiring politician must head to Aso Rock to get permission to run.
And the pilgrimage has started in earnest. Former governor of Lagos State and the self-acclaimed national leader of APC got the ball rolling on Monday, January 10, when he went to Aso Rock to inform Buhari of his decision to pursue his life-long ambition of being Nigeria’s president. The next day, Dave Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State, also put his hand to the plough. A day after Tinubu declared his ambition, Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, came out smoking.
“I do not see Tinubu’s aspiration having any effect on a President of Nigeria coming from Igbo area. It has no effect because we are talking based on what Nigeria should be, based on what people should believe. Obasanjo had been president for eight years.
Osinbajo is about to conclude eight years as Vice President. Yet, no Igbo man since independence has been democratically elected as President. So, it is always good to think of what is reasonable and what is more sellable. That thing is almost like dead on arrival because it is not going to work,” Kalu said during an interview with Channels Television. The political rhetoric din will only get louder.
One thing is certain, though. That noise cannot drown the demand of the Southeast region for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction.
As we move closer to the 2023 elections, that issue will resonate louder. Can the two dominant political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and APC purposefully cede their presidential tickets to the region as it was the case in 1999 when the three main political parties deliberately ensured that the Southwest produced the president? While the PDP conscientiously gave its ticket to General Olusegun Obasanjo, the Alliance for Democracy, AD, and the All Peoples Party, APP, went into an uncommon alliance where Chief Olu Falae, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Finance Minister in the General Ibrahim Babangida military junta, a Yoruba man from Ondo State, paired with the late Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi of the APP, Nigeria’s former spy chief and Federal Commissioner of Internal Affairs, from Zamfara State.
The idea was that head or tail, a Yoruba would emerge president in 1999. Why can’t the same arrangement be made in 2023 so that a Southeasterner can emerge the next president? All manner of excuses, most of them ridiculous, are being given by various interest groups why that should not happen. While some insist that power is not served a la carte, others say it is taken and not given as if Ndigbo are not working very hard to convince other Nigerians to look in their direction in 2023. Yet, some others patronisingly talk about lack of political unity in Igbo land and how the people do not speak with one voice.
Some others are busy ridiculing Ndigbo, asking whither their presidential aspirants. Yet, others have thrown up the issue of trust. Such people ask whether someone from the Southeast can be trusted with power when the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, are agitating for an independent, sovereign homeland. But they forget, most conveniently, that Buhari was elected president in 2015 even as Boko Haram was fighting for a sovereign Islamic State. And today, even as terrorists are wreaking havoc in the North, many northerners are jostling for the presidency. None of those defining Ndigbo by the activities of IPOB see any issue with that. To them, it doesn’t matter.
But it should matter because these innuendoes are deliberate acts of mischief deployed as a tool of disinformation to wheedle the unwary.
How can anyone claim that if Ndigbo are given the presidency in 2023, it will be the surest and easiest route to the balkanisation of Nigeria? How can a people who have investments in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria at the same time be plotting to torpedo the Nigerian project? What then happens to all their investments outside Igbo land? Truth be told, some Nigerians are trying to hide behind their fingers in a desperate attempt to stymie the enthronement of equity, fairness and justice in our body-politic. It will be a shame if that is what Nigeria is all about because as Pius Anyim, former Senate President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and a presidential aspirant on the platform of the PDP, noted in Enugu last week: “If the presidency is zoned to the Southeast, it will satisfy the just demand of equity and fairness. If it is not zoned to the Southeast, it will remain a burden on the conscience of the nation.”
But beyond that, the PDP owes the Southeast an obligation to pay them back for their loyalty and steadfastness with the presidential ticket if fidelity to a cause means anything to the party apparatchik. Why do I say so? Simple! That the PDP is still standing tall today is because of the enormous sacrifice the Southeast has made in keeping the party going even when others abandoned it. Take for instance, Anyim. In his Enugu speech, he boldly declared: I would like to state that I have stood with our party, the PDP, in good and bad times. Like most loyal party members, I have had my moments of elation, as well as some difficult times but I never moved. I have never switched parties. Therefore, I make bold to say that I can be entrusted with the vision, mission, values and principles of PDP as a committed party man.”
How many of those rumoured to be nursing presidential ambition, particularly from the North can boldly say the same? Take former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, for instance; PDP only matters to him as long as he can hijack it as a platform for contesting elections. When it is not available, he abandons it. After being Vice-President for eight years on the PDP platform, he decamped to Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in 2007 to run for the presidency, only to return to the PDP thereafter. When he could not have his way in 2014, he abandoned the party again and not only helped in founding the APC but also defeating PDP in the 2015 elections. Today, he is being touted as the man to lead the PDP again in the 2023 political battles.
Whatever happened to loyalty – loyalty to ideas, to principles, to supporters and a political party? The same thing can be said of all the other aspirants from the North – Senator Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP for four years; Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano State and Minister of Defence, positions he held as a PDP stalwart.
They all left PDP when the party needed them most. They helped in dislodging the party from the political high horse where it was comfortably perched for 16 years. Today, without any qualms, they are back. When the North abandoned the PDP, the Southeast and South-South stood firm. It is only moral that they should be compensated with the party’s presidential ticket in 2023 if loyalty means anything in the opposition political party.