Although the 2023 presidential election is still three years away, the act of politicking, alignment, realignment, horse trading and complete alliance had already begun. New political blocs are formed and old ones either crashed or cemented.
Some South East politicians have indicated interest for the presidency. From their body language, at least, about six Igbo have revealed they would bid for the highest political office in the land in 2023.
They include: Senators Orji Uzor Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, Governor Dave Umahi, former governor, Peter Obi and few others. Based on the current political dynamics in the country, Ndigbo must reach out to the other zones. Since charity begins at home, can Ndigbo rely on the support of the South-South zone?
Before now, Ndigbo, as it has been stated elsewhere, can be said to be the only tribe among the three major tongues of Hausa/ Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo that do not have friendly neighbours as political associates. Whereas the Yoruba will easily flow with most Edo and Kwara for an alliance, just as the Hausa/Fulani usually count on the Middle Belt, particularly Niger, Nassarawa and Kogi, Ndigbo cannot rely on their next door neighbors for any political affiliation.
Indications are rife that the South
East and South-South have not been the
best of neighbours politically, although
they have many things in common. A
published report stated it that the South
East / South-South disharmony could
be described as an old
mark that has refused to go
Indications are rife that the South East and South-South have not been the best of neighbours, politically although they have many things in common. A published report stated it that the South East / South-South disharmony could be described thus: “It has been an old mark that has refused to go. It is now an ancient pathway to the stream – it can hardly be ignored, disregarded, or avoided. But it can be made better, brighter and more attractive”.
Tracing the matter to its roots, the report noted that the animosity between the former two Eastern brothers was deep and well rooted. It first reared its ugly head in 1942 following the crisis that engulfed Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), the country’s first genuine nationalistic organization.
The NYM president, Dr. Kofi Abayomi resigned his position for a political position and a struggle for succession ensued between Ernest Ikoli, the vice president, an Ijaw, and Samuel Akinsanya, another founding member, a Yoruba from Ogun State.
Zik and most Igbo in the association supported Akinsanya while Awo and most of his Yoruba followers threw their weight behind Ikoli. Eventually, Ikoli won. Rather than congratulating Ikoli, Zik and his Igbo tribesmen left the association enmasse and NYM crashed almost immediately. What happened next was an accusation of bias by Ijaw people against Zik and Ndigbo. The Ijaw claimed Zik led Ndigbo to stop their next-door neighbour while supporting a distant Yoruba man.
But the truth of the matter was that Zik went against Ikoli because of business interest. At that time, Ikoli was publishing the Lagos Daily Service which was giving Zik’s West African Pilot a tough fight in the market. On that basis, Zik correctly interpreted the support of Ikoli as a support to his political as well as business enemy. But the deed was already done, and the enmity exists till today.
About nine years after the 1942 ugly event, another political fart was cruelly released in 1951, thereby compounding the already estranged East and South relationship. According to an account, that year, Zik, perhaps, in his conviction that he was indeed Zik of Africa and Nigeria’s greatest political evangelist, wanted to achieve a huge political fervour. He dramatically and sensationally left the Eastern House, his home base, and raced down to Ibadan, the capital of Western Region, and contested for the position of head of government business on the platform of NCNC.
The account enthused that Zik and his NCNC won the highest number of votes and seats in that election. That victory was well documented as well as highly celebrated. However, it was never allowed to be. On the day of swearing in, Awo, invoking tribal sentiments rather than nation stability, convinced most of the Yoruba members in NCNC to move over to AG and Zik was denied that electoral victory.
In anger and frustration, Zik rushed to Enugu and caused the sack of Professor Etta Eyo, an Efik in today’s Cross River State, who was already in charge as head of government at the Eastern Region and installed Michael Okpara. With that, the South East, South-South dichotomy became worse. In spite of Michael Okpara and Zik’s genuine intention in promoting, appointing and carrying along notable Eastern
Minorities’ politicians along, they still complained of exclusion. For instance, Okpara appointed both N. I. Akpabio and I. S. Imoke as commissioners in his cabinet. The former supervised education ministry while the latter was in charge of health. Recall that their children ultimately emerged as governors of Akwa Ibom (Godswill) and Cross River (Liyel) states several years after.
Two, Okpara built the great Trans Amadi Avenue in Port Harcourt, constructed the imposing Presidential Hotel also in Port Harcourt, put in place the Adapalm plantation that still exist in Rivers, completed the Obuduh Cattle Ranch which was modernized by former Governor Donald Duke.
He started the construction of the Port Harcourt -Mbiama Road, the highway that links Rivers and Bayelsa states together today. There was the Michelin Factory as well as the Cement Factory in Port Harcourt. So, the allegation of marginalization against the South-South from Opkara cannot be substantiated.
It is on record that the three Igbo leaders of Zik, Ironsi and Ojukwu never discriminated against the South-South when they (Zik, Ironsi and Ojukwu) held sway as president, head of state or Eastern governor/ head of state of Biafra. For instance, under Zik, Mathew Mbu was a minister/ambassador. Ironsi made Kurubo a service chief while Ojukwu had Philip Effiong as his second -in – command. Even, the man who suggested the name Biafra to Ojukwu was a Bayelsa man who later took a high chief title.
During the Second Republic, Ndigbo were really disappointed that the two states of Rivers and Cross River were won and controlled by the NPN rather than NPP, the Zik party that had Igbo inclination.
Again, Ndigbo were shocked that of all the regions in Nigeria, it was in Port Harcourt that their hard-earned property was declared abandoned! It was also in Port Harcourt that roads and streets bearing Igbo names were changed from Umu to Rumo, hence, you now have Rumuola instead of Umuola, etc.
No matter how anybody looks at it, both parties have one case or the other against each other.
Both should let go. Both should come together and draw a map on how to work together, discuss together and forge ahead together. The political leaders of both zones should understand that whatever affects each of the sides easily deals heavily with the other.
Here, the example of President Goodluck Jonathan comes to play. Ndigbo “adopted” Jonathan as their son. Even at that, when the all-powerful Nigerian oligarchs decided to mow down Jonathan, they labelled him Igbo to make his downfall very easy.
As a matter of fact, 2023 should bring South East and South-South together for the benefit of both zones and Nigeria as a country.
Right now, the four leading political giants from the South-South zone en route the 2023 general elections are Governors Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Senator Godswill Akpabio and Chief Rotimi Amaechi. These four men must as a matter of priority, work hand in hand with Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Chief Nnia Nwodo for the realization of the Igbo presidency project of 2023. Amaechi and Akpabio are APC chiefs just as Okowa and Wike are of the PDP.
The erstwhile president, Goodluck Jonathan who is now more or less a global figure now, should see 2023 as an opportunity for rewarding Ndigbo for the tremendous support they gave to him while he reigned as president. He is expected to lead the Igbo presidency campaign by using his contact and connection to reach out to other ethnic groups. He has to do this with the best of intentions.
Luckily, not too long ago, the Ijaw leader and First Republic minister, Pa Edwin Clark, provided reasons why Ndigbo should be allowed to produce the next president of Nigeria. Speaking on quantum pressing national issues on Channels Television, Clark who does not incline to Igbo sentiment, shocked his audience as he delved into the intriguing Nigeria’s leadership and sensationally, even vehemently, made case for Igbo presidency in 2023, a vexed issue.
Dramatically but dutifully, Clark, a proud Ijaw icon, painstakingly reminded Nigerians that the Igbo were Nigeria’s pathfinder. Graphically and historically, the First Republic politician, in an emotional ridden enlightenment voyage, stated the obvious. It was vintage Clark. Certainly, it was a return from amnesia- Nigeria and Nigerians have continually suffered an acute illusion of memory loss – a malady only the truth can ultimately diagnose and subsequently heal. Clark made case for Igbo presidency and highlighted Ndigbo’s contributions to Nigeria’s advancement.
The question still hanging on the lips of many is will the South-South lend their support to the South East just like the later did to their son, Goodluck Jonathan.