By Comfort Obi
The apex Igbo Socio/Cultural body, Ohaneze Nd’Igbo, is very angry with the Minister for Transport, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. Forget that the Minister is from Rivers state, he is Igbo. His part of Rivers State is Igbo. He speaks Igbo. So, nobody can deny him the membership of Ohanaeze. But the group’s anger with him has boiled over.
So, what is the Minister’s problem with his people?
It stemmed from an interview he granted the Saturday Sun of May 18. Entitled “Igbo Have Nothing To Bargain For 2023 Presidency”, it was a hope dampener.
Having watched every zone in the country produce the President, the zone was really hoping to belong in 2023. But here is an inner caucus member of the ruling political party, and one of their own, telling them to forget it. Why?
Amaechi says the zone did not vote for President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2019 presidential election. For that, the zone does not deserve it.
Amaechi: “I don’t know what they (Igbo) will do now for voting against the APC. They cannot come to the table to demand the Presidency slot. For people like us in the APC, if the Igbo had come and voted Buhari, they would boldly tell Mr. President and, the National Chairman of the party that Presidency should go to the South-east since the South-south, South-west and North-west have produced Presidents. What argument would the South-east come up with now to convince anybody that they deserve the slot for 2023?”
Since Amaechi’s comments, reactions have been coming like claps of thunder.
Chief Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Nd’Igbo, thundered: “I think the issue of Igbo presidency is bigger than him. This is not a matter of careless talk.” Meaning: Amaechi is just one careless “talker.”
Chief Chekwas Okorie, the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, he, an unapologetic supporter of President Buhari during the 2019 presidential election, dismissed Amaechi as ignorant of the talks going on already around 2023.
Chekwas: “It is sad Rotimi Amaechi is making such a statement. It is a statement he ought not to make. It is a statement that will do him a lot of damage, if not now, in the future. Who Will benefit the presidency in 2023 if not the Nd’Igbo? There is a serious political engagement in the South-east as I speak, and Amaechi is not privy to it” True? You wish!
Dr Sylva Ebigwei, a former President General of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo intellectual group, bellowed: “Amaechi should know that Nd’Igbo do not need the presidency to fly. Rather, what they need is restructuring.” But the Minister has a supporter in the suspended Ohanaeze scribe, Uche Okwukwu. Amaechi is right, he says, Ohanaeze misled the Igbo.
Perhaps, because Amaechi is Igbo, those condemning him must be doing so with a feeling of betrayal. Otherwise, he said nothing new. A number of people had either said so before now, or hinted so. Amaechi’s problem stemmed from his bluntness, the raw manner he put it. And, the reason he gave for why the Igbo would not be considered for the presidency in 2023, under the APC.
The truth is: The Igbo were never on the cards. The party, using especially, the Minister for Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, and the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, VON, Osita Okechukwu, repeatedly made that false promise to the Igbo.
While both men made it a campaign issue, asking South-easterners to vote Buhari, as the APC would zone the office to them in2023, both Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, put a lie to their claims. Both told their people of the South-west, to vote APC, as the zone has since been promised the Presidency. I believe them. But, I can be naive.
A couple of months ago, two Northern high profile politicians had asked the South-east to perish the thought of getting the presidency in 2023. First to speak was former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal. He was quickly followed by the fire-eating former House of Representatives member, Dr Junaid Mohammed. Lawal even went further to say that the presidency would be domiciled in the North for many more years. He could be right. When it comes to that, the North is together, something that will never happen in the South.
The three zones in the South will never come together. They will fight one another to a standstill. And if it is restricted to the South-east, forget it. The Igbo will so fight one another, that the bloody Iran – Iraq war will be a child’s play.
When the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, picked his running mate from the South-east, almost all the who-is-who, politically, in the zone wanted to be picked. And when they did not get it, they sabotaged its success.
Which is why Amaechi’s reasoning on why the South-east is not qualified for the Presidential slot, under the APC, in 2023 is faulty.
Let me start from his own contribution.
The South-east is Igbo. And, Amaechi is Igbo. From when the Minister decamped to the APC, in my own calculation, no other governor contributed more than him, in cash and/or kind to the President’s victory. Amaechi was the Director General of the Buhari Presidential campaign in 2015. Meaning that he was in the war front for Buhari. He was the General who led him to victory.
It is difficult for him to admit, but one of the reasons he was picked was mainly because of the financial backing he was ecpected to give the project. True or false, the Rivers state government, strongly accuse him of squandering the state’s resources on the 2015 Buhari project.
In 2019, he may not have contributed, financially, as much as he did in 2015, but he remained the DG, whose ministry also boasts of very rich parastatals. I submit that for his contributions alone, the Igbo, whose son he is, deserves the Presidential slot in 2023.
In addition, because of his activities, the PDP presidential candidate was not able to garner upto one million votes in the 2019 election, the first time that was happening.
Everything considered, Amaechi does prominent South-east sons in the APC, and some of them in other political parties, including the PDP, a great injustice by his assertion. They worked for the election victory of the President.
For the first time, Buhari scored 25 per cent, and more, in, at least, three South -east States. Some prominent PDP members, including a couple of governors, worked for Buhari’s victory. Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state not only worked against his own party’s presidential candidate, General Gbor, he worked, very hard, against the Atiku/Obi ticket. Imo State’s Rochas Okorocha, and Senator Hope Uzodinma, one of the heroes of the freedom Imo state is celebrating today, worked for Buhari, and so did Senator Ifeanyi Araraume. As stated earlier, almost, all PDP governors in the South-east, and a number of PDP South-east sons, worked for Buhari.
Their grouse: Atiku did not choose all of them, at the same time, as his running mate in place of Peter Obi. Chekwas Okorie openly endorsed, and worked for President Buhari’s victory. And so did a couple of Igbo billionaire businessmen. These people worked for Buhari for two reasons.
Some did because they had been brain-washed into believing that the APC would zone the Presidency to the S.E. after Buhari. Now, it has exploded on their faces. Others did because they were envious of Obi. If Atiku had won, they would have preferred suicide to standing up, in reverence, as Protocol demands, each time Obi entered a function where they were already seated. Indeed, one of them asked that the slot be given to the South-west, instead of Obi, because he, himself, had been ruled out. Another promised to give the Atiku campaign a whooping five billion Naira, if he would drop Obi for his preferred candidate. Mr Minister, these are stakeholders in the Buhari victory. Their contributions should count.
There are two things I don’t believe in. One of them is federal character. It has been scandalously abused. It has ruined everything we need to move our country forward. Merit has been murdered on its alter, be it in education, Civil/Public service, Military, Police, or the Paramilitary. Even in sports. I don’t care where the best comes from, as long as we are saved the nightmare that has become our lives.
I don’t also believe that a zone needs to vote for the political party at the centre to have a stake in the country. To think so is primitive. Nigeria is neither a one party state, nor a Banana Republic.
If it were so, how did President Olusegun Obasanjo win a second term in office when his zone refused to vote for him during his term in office? Why did the other zones not throw him out based on that?
It is such a shame that even before the take-off of the President’s second term, politicians are already fighting over 2023. These guys are annoyingly upfront. Those of them in the South-east, whom I discussed earlier, sabotaged the Atiku/Obi ticket over 2023. After Atiku’s promised one term, if he won, they reasoned, Obi could become the President. Impossible, over their dead bodies, they swore. Give it to the Igbo in 2023, they will sabotage it. They will never agree on a candidate.
But back to the Amaechi controversy. He is free to express himself. However, I don’t agree with his reasoning. Many prominent Igbo contributed to Buhari’s victory. And, even if they did not, they did no wrong. Their zone should not be stigmatized over that. They are stakeholders in this country. They need not vote for a particular candidate, or party, just so their zone would produce the President. That’s a no brainer.
And, in any case, 2023 is still far. Once there is life, a saying admonishes, there is hope. One never can say now, which party, or zone, would produce the President. It is no zone’s, or political party’s, father’s farmland.
It is our collective farmland.