Outgoing Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi mired himself in controversy last week when he ruled Ndigbo out of the contest for 2023 presidency.
Amaechi, who was President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign Director general in the last election, had stated that Ndigbo cannot come to the table to demand the presidency slot because they did not vote All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election.
“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 the presidency should go the Southeast since the South-south, Southwest and Northwest have produced a president. What argument would the Southeast come up with now to convince anybody that they deserve the slot for 2023 president?’ he was quoted as saying.
Amaechi is not alone here. A disengaged former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal was the first to flag similar reasoning. He had said that the presidency would be domiciled in the north for many years more.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who told the Southeast to forget the presidency in 2023, toed same line.
It was not the first time Amaechi had made allusion to the alleged fragile support his party, the APC and by extension President Buhari had received from Ndigbo, as part of what had kept the zone away from the centre of politics of the country.
At a public lecture held at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (UNZIK) in March last year, the Minister who was the guest lecturer deviated from the issue of the day to begin to canvass Igbo support for Buhari in the 2019, as a leeway to their political and economic survival.
He had said: “We are not here for campaign; we are here for an academic exercise. If we were here for campaign, I would not be putting on this (academic gown), but we must tell ourselves the truth about what Buhari has done.
“You (Igbos) did not vote for Buhari, true or false? You voted for PDP and what did they do for you? PDP abandoned the Enugu-Onitsha expressway since 1999, but Buhari is working on it with dispatch, true or false?
“Buhari is working on the second Niger Bridge, he is working on the Otuocha-Ibaji-Abuja road, he is working on the Abakaliki-Onueke road, he is working on the Oji-Achi-Naku road in Enugu State; he is working on Ozalla-Akpugo-Amagunze road. He is also working on Aba-Ikot Ekpene road.
“Under Buhari, all major cities of the south east are captured in the existing railway project. Name one government that has done up to this within two years. Our problem is that we are just being emotional.”
In the build up to the 2019 elections, one campaign message that promoters of APC and Buhari brought to the Southeast was that voting him (Buhari) in the election would guarantee power to the zone in 2023.
Boss Mustapha, Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) was the first to drum this charge publicly at a function in Owerri, Imo State capital, where he represented the president. He had assured those present that with Igbo support for the reelection of Buhari, it would pave way for the zone to get presidency in 2023.
Mustapha had agreed at the event that the zone remained the only one that was yet to taste presidency among other zones of the country.
He was not the only government functionary that carried the message. Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, his counterpart in the Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama and Buhari’s man Friday and Director general of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, were loud with the message.
In fact, Okechukwu had insisted that anything short of that would mean elongating the hold on power by the North and in the long run, giving other zones opportunity to make such demands in the future.
Sources said this development accentuated the urgency to deliver Buhari and ensure that he received the maximum votes that constitutionally would guarantee his victory in the 2019 polls.
It was gathered that the desire to enthrone Buhari affected the chances of the PDP in the zone, as prominent Igbo politicians, who yielded to the campaigns worked for the success of the APC candidate.
The outcome of the election showed that for the first time, the Southeast, which is dominated by the PDP could not raise two million votes for the party even when the Vice Presidential slot was ceded to it. Buhari secured over 400,000 votes in the zone unlike in 2015 where he got less than 200,000.
Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi came close to confirming this recently in an interview with the Guardian when he stated that the zone decided to give Buhari 25 percent votes, “so as not to be seen as if we don’t like the president.”
At a post-election meeting of stakeholders of the APC last month in Enugu, attended by Science and Technology Minister, Ogbonnya Onu, former governor Orji Uzo Kalu and House of Representatives members produced by the party, the party leaders had patted themselves on the back for the performance of the party in the presidential election.
Chike Okafor, a House of reps member from Imo State, stated that there was significant improvement on the way the party had previously been perceived in the zone, even though he lamented it had not truly been rewarded for its increasing support for the APC.
He had produced figures to justify his claims: “In 2015 elections Buhari scored 198,248 votes against 2.4million votes of the PDP.
In 2019, Buhari scored 403,000 votes against PDP’s 1.4million votes. We have four elected members in the House of Reps and when all the contentions are settled, we are likely to have three elected senators from the zone. This is an improvement and an indication that our people are beginning to accept the APC as an alternative.”
Okafor stated that the only way the party would reciprocate the support and deepen its stronghold in the zone was to carry it along in the scheme of things in the country.
Why The Anger
CENTRISTS believe that a zone does not need to vote for a political party in power to have a say or partake in the accruals that should benefit the people. Those who hold this view insist that with the multiplicity of political parties in the country, any zone was free to vote its choice, adding that such was the beauty of democracy.
A political analyst, Ikem Onuoha said: “Such views being adduced by Amaechi is satanic. Nigeria is not a one party state and it has never been in the conventions that you must vote a party at the centre to have stake in the country; otherwise former president Olusegun Obasanjo will not win his reelection after he was rejected by his zone. Goodluck Jonathan did not emerge because of the support from the South-south, so also was late Musa Yar’adua”
Another school of thought insists that the likes of Amaechi (if he is truly Igbo) should be speaking for his people, especially in the face of the ongoing marginalization and barefaced plots to continue to deny it opportunity in the scheme of things in the country
This school is worried that a kite is already being flown as part of the game plan to retain power in the North by 2023 and that the services of the likes Amaechi who claims to be an Igbo is being employed to actualize it.
Allusion was lent to this by the President emeritus of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, when he held that: “Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi is behaving like an overgrown baby who is fighting to retain his toys. His toys are the stranglehold of power over the good people of Rivers State. He actually lost the toys four years ago but in his dreamlike state, he is the god of not only Rivers State but also entire Igboland… his Igboness persona is a political one.
“In 2015, Buhari went on campaign in Aba, Amaechi asked the crowd to vote for his choice and ended with the question: “Am I not an Igbo man? He did not deliver Rivers and indeed Igbo land.
Today, in his unbridled pomposity, he has ruled Ndigbo out of the 2023 presidential race. The Igbo never depended on the hangers-on in the corridors of power to rule this country. Azikiwe, Ekwueme and Ojukwu did not look for the endorsement of pedestrian politicians to go for presidency.
“Amaechi is one of the instruments used in knocking the Southeast and Southwest against each other. The original plan is for power to remain in the North and the hangers-on in the corridors of power are always around to destroy our moral.”
National Chairman of the United Peoples Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, who supported Buhari during the election, described the position of Amaechi as “scandalous”
He stated: “The next election will be a fresh contest, not a logical follow-up and it will be based on equity, fairness, and justice and I do not see any other area that is to get it based on this facts if not the Igbo.
“There is a remarkable improvement in the voting pattern of the Igbo for President Buhari; he had more than 25 per cent in three states of the Southeast. What did he get from Rivers State that belongs to Amaechi? APC was a total failure in Rivers State despite all the militarization of the area.”
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, through its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Chucks Ibegbu cautioned the Minister not to engage in a matter that was beyond him and avoid being used by the powers that be against his people.
Reminding him that Southeast was scandalously removed from the railway remodeling of the country under his watch, he stated that: “No Hausa man or Yoruba man of such calibre as Amaechi will say such thing against his own people.
See what Northern elites did when Jonathan lost election in 2015; even those in his party. I’m disappointed with Amaechi for that comment, no matter his frustrations and accusations against Ohanaeze, Igbo votes or no vote for Buhari has nothing to do with this. Nigeria’s Presidency is a combination of turn by turn and agitation. Its Igbo turn after the North, whether it’s Buhari or Atiku”.
But the “suspended” Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Okwukwu said that Amaechi was right. He insisted that Southeast played themselves out of the 2023 presidency by failing to vote for the APC in the elections, adding that Amaechi was not allowed to participate in the meeting of Ohanaeze Ndigbo where Atiku Abubakar was endorsed for the presidency over Buhari.
Uwazuruike, however, dismissed Okwukwu as an “acolyte” of Amaechi, stressing that, “This is why he echoes Amaechi.”
OKORIE stated that there is an ongoing political engagement in the Southeast, aimed at bringing together all political parties headed by the people of the zone to form an alliance and speak with one voice.
Besides, a Movement has taken off in earnest in the zone to galvanise views and present a formidable platform aimed at actualizing the presidency of Igbo extraction after Buhari in 2023.
Tagged, “Southeast for President 2023 Movement” and led by a former National Chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), Rev Okechukwu Christopher Obioha, the group believes that Nigeria has no reason whatsoever to deny Southeast the presidency.
The Movement, which has taken off formally in the 36 states of the federation, Abuja, and in the Diaspora is to pressure leading political parties to cede their presidential nominees to the Southeast zone in 2023. They would also reach out to other zones of the federation to enlist support for the project.
Okechukwu said during the inauguration in Enugu: “We have set ourselves up to peacefully mobilise, canvass, consult, lobby, negotiate to create awareness that 2023 is the right time after the turn of the North, for Nigerians and indeed the Southeast indigenes to accept that, equitably, justifiably and in fairness, a qualified Southeasterner must become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2023.”