By Ikechukwu Amaechi
This is an election season like no other. Everything is defying logic. For instance, how does one explain the fact that when the All Progressives Congress, APC, decided to sell its presidential nomination form at a whopping N100 million, an amount so outrageous in an economy where the minimum wage is N30,000, and many thought the only reason for the ridiculous hike was to scare aware “unserious” aspirants, that was when every Tom, Dick and Harry, joined the fray.
With the latest declarations on Wednesday of Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta, in Akwa Ibom, and Dr Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, in Abuja, there are now at least 14 aspirants jostling for the APC ticket.
That number includes Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; former Imo State Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha; former Abia State Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (who claimed he is withdrawing from the race because the position was not zoned to the Southeast); former Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole; and still counting.
The PDP is no less crowded with 17 aspirants who picked the party’s nomination forms at the equally whopping sum of N40 million.
The question that is concentrating on the minds of many is this: how is it that an outrageous fee which ought to scare aware faint-hearted politicians is doing the exact opposite – attracting them in their numbers?
Is there anything they know that the rest of us do not know? Granted, Nigerian politicians are incurable optimists and inveterate gamblers, but N100 million is still a tidy sum. So, why are they throwing that kind of money away without caring a hoot? Is it a bargaining chip, an inducement that can be used in negotiating for a piece of the pie at the end of the day?
Or could it just be, as some people have reasoned, that Buhari having lowered the leadership bar so ridiculously (some insist that the bar has been completely thrown away under his watch), everyone is emboldened to join the race knowing that no one can actually beat the Katsina scion’s record? But for me, the 2023 election raises a bigger and more fundamental issue. I am hopeful even as I despair.
I am hopeful because for the first time in decades, men of a good conscience, having realised the injustice meted out to Ndigbo are calling for equity, justice and fairness despite the pushback from those whose sense of entitlement has blurred the vision for a greater Nigeria. It gladdens the heart that Nigeria is not a lost cause when nonagenarians, men and women who have seen it all, are still standing by the barricades, and pointing out, most unequivocally that for inclusiveness and to heal the wounds of the past, Southeast geopolitical zone must be allowed to produce the president in 2023.
As I pointed out here last week, it is gratifying that a 94-year-old Chief Ayo Adebanjo, is shouting from the rooftop that Ndigbo must be allowed to ascend the presidential throne. What is even more gratifying is altruism. Chief Adebanjo stands to gain nothing personal for his advocacy other than the urgent desire to enthrone a Nigeria that can still work in his lifetime.
In his interview with TheNiche in February, Pa Adebanjo said: “It is your generation that I am pitying. At 94, what I am expecting now is my funeral dirge. Baba rele! That is the song they sing for the old man they are going to bury …. When the thing happens, I would have been in my grave. I will be enjoying myself there. You will be alive and you will say that man said it and I thought he was talking nonsense.”
The same goes for Pa Edwin Clark, who will soon be 95 years. And the good thing is that they are not even doing the battle alone. They are speaking on behalf of their socio-cultural organisations and the people they lead. Middle Belt leaders are in the same boat. Dr Pogu Bitrus, President of the Middle Belt Forum and his people are relentless in their demand that the time for a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction is now.
This week, former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, a member of the APC from Borno State, cautioned the leadership of his party and fellow Northerners that it will be unfair and a betrayal of trust if the APC zones the presidency to the North. But it is disheartening that at a time other Nigerians have agreed that to continue excluding Ndigbo from the leadership table will be ruinous, some Igbo leaders motivated solely by filthy lucre are the ones saying zoning does not matter. They are amplifying, acting as an echo chamber of those who disingenuously say zoning does not matter anymore.
I am worried about the antics of these Igbo quislings – that is what they are – who are working actively to stymie the quest for a Nigerian president of Southeast extraction. Last week, Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, a man who led so many impressionable Igbo youths to their early graves in the name of Biafra, turned full circle when he publicly pooh-poohed the idea of an Igbo man succeeding Buhari.
Because that idea has suddenly become anathema to him, Uwazuruike said the 2023 presidential contest should be thrown open to all Nigerians. And guess who he is rooting for? Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State. Uwazuruike, who admonished Nigerians to shun zoning, insisting it has no place in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said he was supporting Bello because he is the best man for the job.
Really? Thousands of Igbo youths will be turning in their graves. Only if they knew! There is also Prof. Udenta Udenta, spokesperson for the Bala Mohammed Campaign Organisation. Bala, Governor of Bauchi State, is a Fulani irredentist, who has publicly supported marauding undocumented Fulani terrorists in their quest for territorial conquest. If he is making such advocacy now, what more if he becomes president. He will be worse than Buhari. That is the man Udenta is marketing.
But the worst of the pack are the two Southeast PDP governors – Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), who are campaigning for Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, a man who has nothing but absolute contempt for Ndigbo. Both governors ignored the array of aspirants from the Southeast to endorse Wike as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
This is the stuff quislings are made of. They betray the collective will of their people when it matters most. The good thing, though, is that history never forgets the role played by traitors who collaborate with an enemy force. A lot of reasons have been advanced by these quislings as to why they would rather support a back to back Fulani presidency than advance the cause of a more equitable society.
They say the “North” had agreed not to relinquish power in 2023 and there is nothing anyone can do. I don’t know which North they are talking about and even if there is still a monolithic North, whether they alone can elect a president. In any case, the votes in the North include those of southerners who live there.
Buhari tried for 12 years with his much-vaunted 12 million votes and failed until he got the buy-in of the South. Today, Atiku Abubakar is talking about a guy with 11 million votes that should be given a right of first refusal. But he was being smart by half when he refused to acknowledge that the bulk of the 11 million votes came from the South, mostly Southeast and South-South. If he insists on running in 2023 and succeeds in muscling out the South in the primaries, those 11 million votes may no longer be there for him.
But assuming without conceding that the North has so cooked up the voting figures that there is nothing anyone can do, that should still be no comfort to the quislings. Why? As Jesus Christ told His disciples: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
(Mark 14:21). Even if the quest for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is a lost cause, and it is not, it should never be said that the traitors were Igbos because history will remember and the judgement will be harsh.