•Power shift to S-East will end agitation for Biafra —Ohuabunwa 

•Presidency to S-East will douse agitation; integrate Ndigbo into mainstream of governance in Nigeria —ADF •S-East can produce Nigeria president without prejudice to agitation —Emekesiri, IPOB founder

 •IPOB is a minority opinion, can’t stop Ndigbo as president —Ohanaeze Ndigbo

•Biafra agitation not an excuse to deny Ndigbo presidency —Prof. Igwe

•Igbo must build bridges of friendship, alliances with other zones —Ozobu

•Politicians using IPOB to play games with Igbo —Nwafor 

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Peter Okutu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie, Ikechukwu Odu & Steve Oko 

ENUGU—BY this time next year, Nigerians will elect a new president to replace President Muhammadu Buhari whose tenure ends on May 29, 2023. 

As Nigeria  marches towards 2023, the clamour by the people of the South-East region to produce the next president is gaining momentum. And a number of aspirants from the zone have already indicated interest to contest for the office. But some Nigerians, precisely from the North, are opposed to the South- East zone having the presidency. 

Their argument is that the youths of the region are agitating to leave Nigeria and have Biafra Republic. The youths of the region said they are not happy due to massive neglect and injustice from the Federal Government. Those against them said the agitation for Biafra shows Igbo youths do not believe in the same country their leaders are aspiring to lead. However, many leading Igbo voices have defended the clamour for presidency to shift to the zone, arguing that it will help resolve some of the reasons the youths are agitating.

One such group, Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, dismissed the position of those against presidency shifting to the South-East. They argued that the agitation for self-determination by IPOB or other Igbo youths cannot be the excuse for denying Ndigbo the opportunity to produce the president in 2023. In fact, they pointed out that such agitations ought to be doused by fully integrating Ndigbo into the mainstream of governance in Nigeria, which a president of Nigeria from the zone will do.

According to the spokesman of ADF, Chief Abia Onyike: “The initial idea was to zone the presidency to Southern Nigeria, but even at that, it ought to be the turn of the South-East to produce the next president. But people like Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu declared their intention to run and started consultations. 

What it means is that Southern Nigeria is not organised. If we are talking of equity and justice, another South- Westerner should not be running for the presidency even when Obasanjo had served as president for eight years under democratic rule and three years under military rule. And even now, the incumbent Vice-President is a Yoruba man.

“While commending some elder statesmen such as the Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo for speaking out in support of Igbo presidency, I want to say that Tinubu’s selfish and self-serving political adventurism must be responsible for the Northern elements in PDP to begin to show interest in the presidency.

“If the South can be so stupid to abandon equity and justice, then let the North continue. 

Tinubu should be blamed for the current situation. I will personally vote for a Northern candidate to stop Tinubu, until the South puts her house in order.”

According to Adebanjo, the 94-year-old elder statesman and leader of Afenifere, it is in the spirit of federal character and equity for the Igbo to produce the next president of the country. He argued that the South-West produced former President Olusegun Obasanjo who led for eight years and Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo who has served for almost eight years.

Adebanjo added that the South- South had also produced the president in the person of Goodluck Jonathan who was in office from 2010 to 2015. The Afenifere leader said all the while, the South-East had been denied the presidency.

A United Kingdom-based solicitor, who is reputed to be the founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB; Mr. Emeka Emekesiri said that any person from the South-East region can aspire to become the president of Nigeria without prejudice to the Igbo quest for self-determination by due process of law, politics and diplomacy.

Emekesiri , who sits as chairman of the Governing Council, Customary Government of IPOB insists that nobody from the region should be denied the opportunity to be the Nigerian president in 2023 because of the youths who are clamouring for Biafra.

He regretted his original vision for IPOB changed and hijacked by charlatans against the original objectives.

Emekesiri said:”In a situation where a person can be killed by unknown gunmen disguised as freedom fighters for having a different opinion on the methodology for self-determination, it becomes difficult to answer this question freely and willingly.

“From the beginning of the struggle for self-determination by Indigenous People of Biafra by legal methodology commenced in 2012 in the Suit No FHC/OW/CS/102/2012 in the Federal High Court Owerri, we made it clear to the Igbo leaders and the Nigerian authority that the struggle for self-determination by the Biafrans must be anchored on the rule of law, politics and diplomacy.

“We stated clearly in the originating summons that we are Nigerians by citizenship but Biafrans by indigenous identity just like the Scottish people are British by citizenship but Scots by indigenous identity.

“The original IPOB is led and headed by the elders with clear vision of self-determination by the rule of law. As Nigerian citizens, we are entitled to participate in the Nigerian politics and enjoy every citizenship right accorded to other citizens. At the moment, the Biafrans are a people living in Nigeria. We are a non-sovereign nation within a sovereign nation. We must therefore respect the sovereignty of Nigeria as we seek for our independence.

“In commencing the struggle for self-determination by legal methodology, I conducted a research-work for seven years and published the book entitled: Biafra or Nigerian Presidency- What the Igbo want, which contained the master plan for the struggle. They have no time to read books with analytical and critical minds to have deep knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Many people parading themselves as freedom fighters are ignorant and have continued in their ignorance causing untold problems and hardships to the same people they are seeking to deliver.

“There is scientific basis for my postulation in Chapter 15 at Page 300 of the book that 95.2 per cent of the people of the South-East region of Nigeria want freedom, either as an autonomous self-governing region in Nigeria just like Scotland in Britain, or an outright independent nation just like Eritrea outside Ethiopia.

“However, having considered all the factors at both national and international levels, we opted for freedom within Nigeria by way of devolution of power to the six geopolitical regions so that every region would be free to govern itself and develop at its own pace within Nigeria just like the four nations that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

“For this reason, we have submitted our Memorandum to the National Assembly for the restructuring of Nigeria by way of devolution of power to the six geopolitical zones. This is the yearning of the majority of  Nigerians and not only the people of the South-East region.  Majority of Nigerians do not want the country to break up but to be restructured by way of devolution of power to the regions.

“With this understanding therefore, any person from the South-East region can aspire to become the president of Nigeria without prejudice to our quest for self-determination by due process of law, politics and diplomacy.

“As politics in a multi-ethnic society requires skillful negotiation for power and consideration of equity and justice by everybody who desires peace, it is our opinion that other geopolitical regions in Nigeria should concede the presidency to the South-East region. A good political negotiation should be a win-win situation for everybody.

“The agitation by Igbo youths for self-determination of Biafra should not be a reason to deny the South-East the opportunity to present a candidate to occupy the seat of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Scotland was not denied the opportunity to lead the United Kingdom as Mr. Gordon Brown became the Prime Minister of Great Britain despite agitation for independence by the Scottish people.

“However, the South-East region of Nigeria should be allowed to present the most credible candidate and not have a stooge or an errand boy imposed on Nigeria by their political opponents in the name of a president of Igbo extraction.”

The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nsukka Local Government Area chapter, Enugu State, Prof. Damian Opata, described the opinion of members of IPOB as minority which cannot stop the aspiration by Ndigbo to produce a president for Nigeria come 2023.

Prof. Opata argued that IPOB does not have the  support of majority of Igbo elites and doesn’t equally enjoy dominance in the realm of Igbo politics, adding that aspiration to become the president of Nigeria is a freedom project.

The don equally said that part of the re-integration process of Nigeria after the civil war was to give every law-abiding citizen of Nigeria a chance to become the president of the country. He said that the Igbo have committed no crimes by aspiring to become the president of Nigeria.

“The agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra is a minority opinion. Even if it is popular, it is not supported by the majority of the elites in Igbo land. It is not equally supported by the majority of established political traditions in Igbo land; be it chieftaincy, councillors or lawmakers from Igbo land. It is not in the dominant realm of Igbo politics.  

“The Igbo came out of the civil war with Nigeria and part of the re-integration of Nigeria into a unified federation where all people have aspiration to actualise their ambitions was to give all ethnic groups the chance of becoming the president of Nigeria. But the reality of the situation is that Igbo have been excluded and social exclusion is not a tenet of democracy. Even the constitution of Nigeria advocates for equality of representation among the geopolitical zones,” he said.

However, Igbo youths on their own are accusing politicians from outside the region of planning to use the Biafra agitation by the IPOB to deny Igbo the opportunity to produce the next president of the country. The leader of Youths for Igbo President in 2023, Mr. Kingsley Nwafor said that what the politicians from other parts of the country are doing bordered on hatred, adding that citing IPOB agitation as reason for not nominating Igbo persons as candidates in the major political parties would be unfortunate.

He said: “Initially, politicians from other parts of the country were saying that Igbo people should consult widely and negotiate with politicians across the country if they are serious about 2023. As we speak, at least five notable politicians of Igbo extraction have indicated interest in the race and have been traversing all the states of the federation.

“When they saw that the Igbo presidential aspirants were gaining so much popularity across the country, the two major political parties, APC and PDP, started talking of zoning between North and South, instead of zoning it specifically to the South- East which has not produced any president since 1999.

“The latest story we are hearing is that APC has zoned the president to the South -West, while PDP is seriously contemplating giving the ticket to a Northerner, even when the outgoing president is from the north.

“We must recall that Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West was president for eight years and the incumbent vice-president is also from the South-West. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South has also occupied the presidential seat for six years. Ideally, there ought not to be an argument as to which zone should produce the next president but the South-East.

“However, the politicians are doing everything possible to scheme the Igbo out of the race. It is really unfortunate that Nigerians were yet to trust the Igbo 52 years after the civil war, despite the enormous investment the Igbo had made in all parts of the country.”

The National President, Igboezue International Association Nigeria and the Diaspora, Chief Pius Okoye, said that anybody or group who is using agitation of Igbo youths for Biafra as reason for denying the Igbo people the chance of producing the next president is the greatest enemy of justice and the supporter of disintegration of Nigeria.

According to Okoye, Northern youths and other youths of different ethnic groups in Nigeria have done worst things that threatened the unity of Nigeria than what they think the peaceful agitation for the actualisation of Biafra by some Igbo youths under IPOB and MASSOB have done.

Okoye cautioned that denying the Igbo the opportunity to produce the next president of Nigeria is merely postponing the evil day, expressing fear that there may be worst agitation by the Biafra agitators.

The Igbo National Council, INC said the agitations by IPOB should not be counterproductive to the actualisation of the 2023 president of South-East extraction. The President of the group, Chilos Godsent said that the group is not in doubt that the region would get the Presidency in 2023.

“INC believes that IPOB agitation for self-determination does not and will not be counterproductive to the popular demands to support South-East Zone to produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023. We, therefore, call on all the major political parties to zone their presidential ticket to the South-East zone.”

A chieftain of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Richard Ozobu, in his opinion, said that the prevailing violence and the agitation for Biafra by the IPOB in the South- East zone has made it difficult for other Nigerians to trust the Igbo presidency project.

He urged Igbo leaders to rise to condemn the banditry and killings going on in the South-East states and assure other Nigerians that the Igbo believe in the Nigerian federation.

In his words: “If the Igbo want power, they must make other Nigerians trust them. We must show we have the capacity because nobody can give you power on a platter of gold. It is never done. Even if it is your turn to be president, you can’t sit there watching without building alliances. We must enter into alliance with other sections of Nigeria and assure them that their interest will be protected if they support the Igbo to emerge president. We must also assure them that we believe in the Nigerian federation. Without the Igbo going into alliances and gaining the understanding of Nigerians, we will go nowhere.”

Ozobu lamented that the IPOB agitation had placed a collateral damage on the Igbo aspirants for the presidency and urged the governors of the South-East zone to seek the assistance of the Federal Government in ending the violence ravaging the zone.

“When you talk of the South-East, there is a collateral damage candidates of the zone would have. Within the South-East, there is what I call a fallout of the IPOB threat. 

The banditry and killing is against Igbo interest. It is not totally what ESN was supposed to be. The situation in the South-East has become an internal threat within the country. The security problem in the zone is in the hands of the governors, if they can’t handle the situation as we are witnessing, they should be bold to invite the Federal Government. 

The problem is what have we done with the IPOB problem in our land? You are from Anambra State, what are you doing about the violence in the South-East? This will make it difficult for any Igbo from the South-East states to emerge president. Most of our politicians are running away from the question, but we are already suffering collateral damage on the issue of Igbo presidency because of what is going on in our land. 

The Igbo leadership should come publicly with facts and truth that Nigeria belongs to all of us. Nigeria belongs to all of us. They also need to emphasize Biafra is not the reason for the absence of development in Igbo land. With diplomacy, the civil war would have been avoided; Nigeria would have been a better federation.”

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