Last Tuesday, the crème de la crème of Igbo leaders gathered at the Igbere country home of a former Abia Governor, Uzor Kalu, for a meeting meant to galvanize the actualization of a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
The meeting, which was bi-partisan, was well attended by Igbo leaders across the country’s political divide. Among those that attended were Igbo leaders from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (AGPA), and leaders of the some of the deregistered political parties.
One of the major decisions of the parley was their call for all the political parties contesting in the 2023 general elections to cede their presidential slot to Igbo as a way of correcting the imbalance in the country’s polity
However, political observers have described the meeting as dead on arrival as it was boycotted by all the governors of the South-East states.
In the notice of the meeting, which circulated online few days to the event, the organisers had listed principal officers of the National Assembly from the region led by the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu; former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the five governors of the region as conveners.
But in their reason for the boycott, the governors had accused the ‘organizers’ of listing their names as conveners without their permission. Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, said 24 hour after the meeting that they were not involved in the planning of the meeting.
The governors had contended that if there should be such a meeting which they feel was very necessary, they must be seen to be informed and be part and parcel of calling such a meeting, stressing that the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, should be in the better position to speak on such issues.
However issues have been raised over the eligibility of Orji Kalu in calling for such a meeting going by his topsy-turvy approach to an issue he had given hard knocks. For one, Orji Kalu, according to sources, has largely been dancing naked on the issue of Igbo presidency as he had severally said that it’s not yet ripe.
For instance, the former Abia governor and Senate Chief Whip had just in November told Ndigbo to forget their agitations for restructuring of the country and quest for the presidency in 2023.
Speaking in Umuahia while paying a condolence visit to representative of Umuahia East Constituency, Chukwudi Apugo, in the State House of Assembly, who lost his mother, Orji Kalu had taken a swipe at Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for rejecting his proposal to work for the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction, but kept dissipating their energy on restructuring.
He had contended that it was not yet ripe for a president of Igbo extraction, insisting that at the right time, Ndigbo would get their fair share in Nigeria with one of their own as president of the country.
Many prominent Ndigbo had then lambasted Orji Kalu for such a position.
A legal practitioner, Fred Nzeako, had while commenting on PlusTV, described the position of Orji Kalu as not only personal, but debased and shallow in thinking. He had opined that it was a position not well thought out and one that would bring opprobrium to his personality as a former governor and ranking senator from the region.
Also a former APGA governorship aspirant, Dr. Sam Amadi, said Orji Kalu’s postion at any point in time is based on political consideration.
According to him, it is very difficult assessing Orji Kalu on his consistency, as “He does whatever he is doing based on his political calculation at that moment,” adding, Orji Kalu has no principled consistency as he might have said so at that time based on a script.”
But media practitioner, Mr. Ken Ugbechie, speaking in defence of Orji Kalu, described politics as dynamic, adding that it is wrong to judge the former governor by any opinion he holds at any point in time.
Ugbechie, a former editor of Daily Times of Nigeria, however said that there is no better time than now to begin the campaign for the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction.
He said, “Apart from being dynamic, there is also a sentimental angle to politics. You remember how Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as the president of Nigeria. The Yoruba played the sentimental card with June 12 and the northerners bought into it. The political juggernauts begged Obasanjo to accept to contest the 1999 election to douse the tension that arose from the cancellation of June 12 presidential elections, said to have been won by MKO Abiola, a Yoruba man. So a Yoruba man became president based on the sentiment of June 12. There is nothing wrong if Ndigbo apply the same sentiment in 2023.”
Ugbechie however added that the message from the Igbere meeting is what Ndigbo should be sending out now, stressing: “They need more of lobbying and networking; meet the Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani and other ethnic groups because only Igbo cannot make Igbo presidency.”
The Igbere meeting however made a clarion call for all the political parties to field an Igbo presidential candidate.
In a communiqué signed by Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, former senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim; Deputy Majority Whip, House of Representatives, Nkeiru Onyejeocha, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu and pioneer national chairman of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie, the leaders said the region has demonstrated belief in Nigeria to deserve the presidency.
The full communiqué itself read: “The meeting recalled that Nigerians across political, ethnic, and religious divides fought hard, long, and collectively to enthrone the current democratic dispensation as the surest way to engender national development and guarantee a just and equitable society where every section of the country enjoys a sense of belonging.
“The meeting observed that the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has rotated between Northern and Southern Nigeria and among the various geopolitical zones. Thus, the South West and South-South geopolitical zones in the southern part of the country have produced the President of Nigeria. Hence as power is expected to rotate to the South in 2023, the meeting noted that the South East is the only zone in the South that is yet to produce a President of Nigeria in the current democratic dispensation.
“The meeting further observed that the people of the South East have continued to demonstrate their commitment to the unity and development of the country. Not only has the geopolitical zone actively supported the emergence of a Nigerian President of other geopolitical extractions, the people are also known to be major agents of development and heavy investors outside their zone and often the next in population after the indigenes in any state of Nigeria.
Our well-pronounced presence and investments in every nook and cranny of the country represent the firmest and most practical demonstration of faith in the unity, peace, and continued corporate existence of the country, for where a man’s treasure is, there his heart lies also. “In view of the above and after exhaustive and incisive deliberations, South East political leaders resolved to:
“Recommit ourselves to the deepening of the nation’s democracy as the surest way of fast-tracking national development and building an egalitarian society where no man is oppressed for reasons of his class, ethnic, religious or political affiliation and background.
“Implore Nigerians across political, ethnic, religious, and geopolitical divides and persuasions to support the people of the South East geopolitical zone to produce a Nigerian President of South East extraction as a mark of good faith and to promote justice and national harmony. For emphasis, we deem this very important in giving every part of the country a sense of belonging and in promoting national unity and solidarity. It is the loudest reassurance of equality of all parts and that the country indeed belongs to all members of the Nigerian commonwealth
“Consequently implore all the political parties to cede their presidential tickets in the 2023 general election to the South East in the interest of justice, equity and national unity. To make good our demand and reciprocate such good faith, we have decided, as a geopolitical zone with substantial presence in every part of the country to give a block vote and throw our full weight behind any major political party, particularly the APC and PDP that zones its presidential ticket to the South East in 2023 general election. We resolved to work for such a party irrespective of our different individual political parties.
The leaders further emphasized that what they seek was a Nigerian President of South East extraction; one that would work to further unite and develop every part of the country. Such a President will be President of all Nigerians irrespective of their political, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, ensuring that all citizens and every part of the country is given a sense of belonging and treated with utmost sense of justice.
But with the discordant tunes emanating from the region, is it possible that a president will emerge from Igbo land without the region.