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With Nigeria’s 2023 general elections almost around the corner, the country is undoubtedly confronted with a plethora of multi-faceted agitations. They are depicted in such forms as seperatist, unemployment, insecurity, hunger, and most threatening power rotation.
The issue of rotation of power among the confederating elements of the Nigerian state, is a system many believe was designed to maintain inclusiveness, sense of belonging, equity, fairness, justice and good conscience among the various components of the country, irespective of tribe, religion, region, gender and or social persuation.
In so far as the matter of rotating power at the center via the Nigerian presidency to the southern part of the country, has taken the centre stage, and in particular resonates with numerous nationalities domiciled in that region, for the sake of natural Justice and equity, there still exist, loud descenting voices in that direction. This is a hurdle that the country has to overperch smoothly if peace, unity and progress must be its lot presently and in the years to come.
In a bid to seek navigating paths from that seeming present and imminent ticking time bomb, a gathering was on Monday, April 25, 2022 convened, having very prominent citizens, statesmen, elders from particularly the South-East alongside other personages from other regions of the country converge on Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Organised by Nzuko Umunna and dubbed ,’Great Nigeria Conference’ (GNC), it had in attendance, nationalist patriots, and Presidential aspirants of the South-East extraction across various political parties. Present also were, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Pa Edwin Clark, leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum, among other dignitaries.
Led by a former Governor of Enugu State, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, in the company of Senators Victor Umeh, and Chris Anyanwu, GNC, a pan-Nigeria dialogue, canvass support for a presidential candidate from the region during the 2023 general elections.
GNC with the theme, ‘Together We Can’ held at the International Conference Centre, received total buy-in from all groups based in or linked to the Igbos.
The build up to the gathering was somehow greeted with the usual scepticism –will ndigbo make it successful as one of the giant moves to prove the sceptics wrong or would they bungle it and confirm their disunity? All tarried for the D-Day with apprehension. By 11.30 am of the fateful day, enthusiastic Igbos were being turned away from the Executive Lounge of the International Conference Centre, venue of the event because the Hall was already overcrowded.
That being the first mark of commitment of Igbos to the meeting and by extension, a demonstration of unity and solidarity of purpose, the event proceeded, thus, suemounting the first line of apprehension resolved on the positive side for the South, and Easterners.
The second apprehension was still there: what if the people came in their numbers and their leaders especially the presidential aspirants shunned the event?
By commencement time of the Conference which was 12 noon, to the conternation of observers, all the major presidential aspirants had come, and with their full human paraphernalia so much that squabbles over space and seats became loud.
Anyim Pius Anyim, the first real presidential material from Igboland to announce his intention to run for the 2023 presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was there.
In attendance also, was Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State who has declared his intention to contest next year’s presidency on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Owelle Rochas Okorocha, serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and former two-term governor of Imo state. There were Dr. Chris Ngige, Labour Minister and former Governor of Anambra State, as well as Mr. Peter Obi also of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and two-term Governor of Anambra state.
Other presidential aspirants present included, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze, Mrs. Rose Nwosu, Mrs. Offorkansi and Alhaji Yahaya Ndu. They were presented by the organisers to Nigerians and when they spoke, they left the audience and the country in no doubt that ndigbo have started speaking with one voice.
They one after the other urged Nigeria, through the political parties to zone the presidency of the country in the forthcoming general election to the South-East zone. Now that the best presidential candidates of Igbo extraction from the two major political parties in Nigeria spoke with one voice on the urgent need for Igbo presidency, Nigerians should know that the ndigbo are coming, with vigour as well.
Beyond the issue of their republicanism, was the matter of the moment, the issue of allowing the South-East produce Nigeria’s president in 2023. On this, all the Igbo presidential aspirants spoke with one voice.
But the real issue was the tremendous support the ndigbo have been receiving from non-Igbos. At the occasion, Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Pan-Yoruba Socio-Cultural organisation, Afenifere, spoke loudly and eloquently on reasons Igbos should produce the next president of Nigeria.
He has exhibited consistency in his support for Igbo president in 2023 despite the fact that the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, a fellow Yoruba man is in the race. Ayo Adebanjo represents a true friend of the Igbo race and the greatest demonstration of what many Igbos and Yorubas have wished all along –a Yoruba – Igbo solidarity and cooperation. That has been in the mind of progressives from both divides for a long time and often called hand-shake-across-the-West.
That east-west solidarity has not been as strong as expected, otherwise it would have been an adequate counterforce to the “monolithic” northern hegemony when it comes to the politics of Nigeria.
Pa Ayo Adebanjo at 95 years of age took the trouble to come all the way to Abuja to re-echo his support for Igbos, roaring like a lion.
Adebanjo has a grouse against politicians from the North whom he accused of now propounding a lot of theories, when they realised it was the turn of the ndigbo to produce the president.
Said he: “Now that it is the turn of the Igbo, they are propounding a new theory: it must be based on merit and all that. If it is the question of merit, if it has been based on merit till today, till the Kingdom comes, the Igbo alone will produce the president.
“Although, I don’t like all the people that came out from the east, for the fact that they are saying you have no people, I’m happy you demonstrated that.
“But go and unite. A house divided against itself will not stand”.
Both the Middle Belt and the South-South Zones also in like manner, supported the Igbo agitation.
Dr. Bitrus Pogu and Chief Edwin Clark, leaders of the Middle Belt Forum and the Pan Niger Delta Forum respectively, also said 2023 presidency should be zoned to the smSouth-East.
Said Pogu, a northerner himself: “For us, the debate should be a straight one between the South-South and the South-East. But the South-South has occupied the seat of president for one term and the South-East has never occupied it at all. The north that presently is occupying the number one position in Nigeria and the South-West that has been served should not entertain any thought of throwing their hats in the ring.
“After your own region has been served a consensus to stabilise the Nigerian polity and give its people a sense of belonging, it would amount to taking the food tray away in a banquet hall after dishing enough food to one’s plate. Of course, others on the queue will be well within their right to chase and deal with such selfish people.
“It is only proper that we take this thing to the south and it is the turn of the South-East to produce the president”.
Pogu equally called for greater unity among the presidential aspirants and the Igbo nation so as to block those who do not like the South-East from capitalising on disunity to abort Igbo presidency in 2023.
Commenting on the purpose of GNC in an interview with Channels Television’s programme, Politics Today, Chief Victor Umeh, said it was injustice that South-East had never produced President for Nigeria.
Said the former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA): “Nobody from the South-East has been President, it is the turn of the South to produce President now.
“The way we have shared power over the years, you will see that the South-West has produced a president through Obasanjo democratically for eight years, now they have the vice president standing out for eight years with Buhari, then the South-South has produced President through Jonathan who has been there for nearly six years”.
Asked if the region was united, the APGA chieftain said the South-East was united in purpose as the easterners would back up an Igbo presidential candidate.
He noted that the South-East agenda was for Nigeria’s presidency to come from the region.
All said, the Igbo presidential aspirants have done a lot to promote that needed unity.