Thursday, August 11, 2022


Igbo presidency? Not when Nigeria is at the mercy of the north

Igbo presidency? Not when Nigeria is at the mercy of the north
January 14
09:39 2022

A national consensus for Igbo presidency cannot evolve until the core north forgives the Igbos for the killing of Sardauna of Sokoto by Nigerian soldiers of Igbo extraction in the 1966 coup,” – Doyin Okupe.

When the former aide of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe made the above statement in March 2021, it generated a lot of controversies that warranted the Ogun state-born politician to delete the tweet and tender an apology. There were backlash, criticism, and war of words as a result of that statement.

If the future is uncertain, history definitely is not. Past events teach everyone that is willing to learn mistakes of the past, the outcome of it, and how to prevent a repeat. People that forget their history, whether quickly or slowly, will be lost and their relevance is forgotten.

I am not engaging in a debate of ethnicity or tribalism, but taking a careful look at how history has been incessantly repeated with reckless arrogance from one side, and negligence of the other side. It will be inequitable to say the Igbos have not made attempts to become president civilly and peacefully, it will equally be erroneous to say that the Igbos are folding their hands and hoping to be handed the number one office in the land on a platter of gold.


No, history tells us that though the Igbos took a back seat in Nigeria politics immediately after the civil war, they have always shown up in democratic regimes. In 1993, Sylvester Ugoh, a former governor of the Bank of Biafra, came out as the vice-presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention. Ugoh and his party’s presidential candidate Bashir Tofa lost the election to Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Also, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu contested in the 2003 presidential election under the All Progressives Grand Alliance and pulled over 1.2 million votes. In fact, in the 2007 presidential election, there were at least 10 Igbo candidates vying for the seats at the Aso Villa including Orji Uzor Kalu and Ojukwu running for president and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke running for the vice president to Muhammadu Buhari. In 2011, the number reduced to seven, and in 2015, it further reduced to six. However, in the last election of 2019, the number of Igbo candidates increased to 14. So history tells us that the Igbos have always made effort, like every other region, to become president of Nigeria.

The political history of Nigeria points in one direction, and that is the fact that the country is at the mercy of the north, in terms of leadership and politics. This may not have been an issue for me, but the fact that politics controls every other sector of Nigeria’s life and existence shows that the north is holding Nigeria by the jugular.


Many people claim that the north has vowed, decades ago, not to allow the Igbos to become president ever again, while we grapple whether to believe that conception or not, we can see that candidates from the eastern part of the country have only struggled, gotten close, but never clinch that seat. As a matter of fact, it appears to be much easier for a bull to go through the eyes of a needle than for an Igbo man to become president of Nigeria.

Nigeria is yet to move forward from the civil war, it is yet to move forward from all the military coups that pitted one tribe against the other, it is still trapped in the old grievances and differences, it is still wallowing in the cynicism for many decades. And that is why the acrimony, especially in leadership, between the north and other regions, is recuring. As much as we don’t want to have this conversation, it is what it is. Nobody can erase history, and subconsciously, we are following the footpath already laid before us by the colonial masters and our forefathers who fought against each other for power.

But come to think of it, all major tribes in Nigeria have carried out coups, been part of coup plotters, or have been accomplices of a coup during the military regime. The first military coup in Nigeria was carried out by majorly the Igbos led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna who executed the prime minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello among other over 20 top personalities. In recrimination, the northern soldiers carried out a bloodier coup six months later and assassinated the first military head of state Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and many innocent Igbo soldiers and civilians. The outcome of this was the civil war.

That civil war put an end to the hope of the Igbos of ruling Nigeria ever again. One would have thought that since the major tribes in Nigeria have all been involved in one coup or the other, and these tribes were all victims of the 1967-1970 civil war, all past beef and hatchet would have been buried and a new page of trust and equality would have been opened. In any case, if the Igbos use the opportunity of occupying the number one seat to plot and effect a secession from Nigeria to Biafra Nation, the gains and losses are mutual for both parties.


It’s like in a divorce situation. Both individuals have lived together and enjoyed the union but if one is disgruntled, insists on leaving, and finally gets the divorce, both are victims. Both persons will suffer damages and both have the opportunity to rebuild and bounce back better. This forced marriage of Nigeria is not yielding equal opportunity between the north and especially the Igbos, and it is only expected that one party will be malcontent and seek a divorce.

After the civil war, many coups followed, Yakubu Gowon was ousted by Murtala Muhammed in 1975, that was a northerner against another northerner. One year later, Muhammed was assassinated in a coup plotted by both northern and western officers and Olusegun Obasanjo became the head of state. Ibrahim Babangida ousted Muhammadu Buhari after a coup, both are northerners and the world did not come to an end. Every tribe in Nigeria has fought against another, so why is the sin of the Igbos so unforgivable many decades after it was committed, while the sins of others have been blotted out and their red garments are now as white as snow?

Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, the north has been in the corridors of power and has not left up until today. In fact, since the seat of power was moved from Lagos to Abuja by Babangida, northerners have taken the Aso Rock seats as a birthright. Obasanjo chose Abubakar Atiku as his vice president. When Obasanjo left, Umar Musa Yar’Adua became the president. When he died and Goodluck Jonathan succeeded him, Namadi Sambo, from Kaduna state became vice president. Then in 2015, Buhari made a return, and here we are today.

Will heaven fall if we have a president and vice president who are both not from the north? Something like Tinubu for president and Orji Uzor Kalu as the vice president. Will Nigeria’s growth be badly affected if we have a president and vice president from other regions other than the north? Something like Kingsley Moghalu as president and Bukola Saraki as vice president. No, heaven will not fall, they will complete their tenure and leave as other former presidents did.


It is time to start looking in this direction. We do not need to forcefully include a northerner as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate of a party. We do not need to feel like if a northerner is not represented in a running ticket, then that election is already lost even before it is held. All Nigerians should be and feel equal and emerge on a platter of merit. Aso Rock belongs to all tribes, regions, religions, and languages in Nigeria. It is not a property of one group.

I must say that Doyin Okupe’s statement above is just a reflection of his experience at the Aso Rock, what he has seen and heard from people on the corridors of power; people who feel entitled to the presidency. Nigeria needs to be liberated from the colonialism of the north. An incessant pretense that there is equity in leadership, whereas the reality shows otherwise will continue to hurt rather than heal old wounds.


My biggest wish for the 2023 presidential election is to see Bola Ahmed Tinubu, now that he has announced his interest, select an Igbo man as his running mate. I really crave that in order for me and millions of others to have a sense of belonging that the presidency is not the birthright of the north. I crave to see the Peoples Democratic Party choose their presidential candidate from the eastern part of Nigeria and his/her running mate hails from the southwest or south-south or middle belt.

I yearn to see my craving being fulfilled so as to completely bury the notion that Nigeria leadership has been deliberately hijacked by the north.


Israel is a Nigerian journalist and can be reached via [email protected]

Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

1 Comment

  1. Comfort Mbah Foundation
    Comfort Mbah Foundation April 24, 17:35

    The Co-Founder of Comfort Mbah Foundation John Emenike Mbah has enjoined people of the South East to rally round former Governors of Abia State and Anambra State Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, Mr. Peter Gregory Obi for President of Nigeria

    He said that people give support to the God fearless leaders like Orji Uzor Kalu and Peter Gregory Obi who can look the Federal Government eyeball to eyeball and demand what is due to them.

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