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The Igbo presidency

The Igbo presidency
October 14
10:12 2021

BY ZAYYAD I. MUHAMMAD

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The debate that the presidency should move to the south in 2023 has gained momentum. Also, presidential hopefuls from the north like Atiku Abubakar, Sule Lamido, Governor Bala Mohammed, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso are also effectively playing their games.

The calls for power to shift to the south have further triggered permutations and realignments in the polity. Both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) have strong candidates from the south. But these candidates have their respective baggage and the parties have internal squabbles that must be resolved.

The APC has its stronghold in the north-west, south-west, north-east and north-central — four of the nation’s six geopolitical zones. The PDP has strong structures in the six zones with a stronghold in the south-east and south-south. However, the APC has moved into the south-east in full force. Prior to the 2015 elections, nobody had ever thought that the APC will someday have even a ward councillor in the south-east, but today, the party has two state governors, senators, house of representatives members, state house of assembly members, local council chairmen, councillors and formidable party structures in all the five south-eastern states.

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Come 2023, the APC has no reason to retain power in the north, but there is strong politicking by some governors and other bigwigs in the north to retain power. This will mean the APC contravening the unwritten agreement between the north and the south on power rotation. In any case, the APC does not have a strong presidential candidate from the north. This is a big plus to the presidential hopefuls from the south — south-east in particular. Furthermore, the south-east has a strong case to present based on a plank of a fact. The south-east is the only geopolitical zone in the south that had not produced a president or vice-president on any political party platform since 1999.

If APC picks its presidential candidate from the south, especially the south-west, the PDP may attempt to outwit this by looking to the north for its presidential candidate. This, as well, will put the PDP in a catch 22 situation on how to explain this to the south, especially the south-east and the south-south.

PDP has good candidates in their own ‘rights’ from the south-east and south-south. Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and Peter Obi from the south-east, and Nyesom Wike from the south-south. Obi does not have friends in the north and has never tried to pull an appeal from the north, directly or by proxy.

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His deportation of other Nigerians to their states, when he was governor of Anambra state, was used against him in the north during the 2019 electioneering campaign, and it worked. For Wike, his words, “Rivers is a Christian state”, will be used against him in the north, like Governor El-Rufai’s Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna can be used against him.

This is how local politics impact a candidate’s wider political opportunities. Some young people in the north are also campaigning for the Enugu state governor but the IPOB issue will be a big hindrance in the north, but it is not insurmountable. Advocates of secession appear not to understand Nigeria. There are massive inter-marriage, friendships, business links, and political alliances, etc, between many northerners and many Igbo.

Some nationalistic politicians from the south-east have started a move to convince other Nigerians to support the region to produce the Nigeria President of Southeast extraction in 2023. Some of the bigwig presidential hopefuls are Governor David Umahi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Baywood Ibe, Ken Nnamani, Chinedu Nwajiuba, Sen Osita Izunaso, and many others. These politicians have their own political baggage and controversies. Though people like Chris Baywood Ibe are new faces without any political baggage and controversy-free.

A thorough understanding of how Nigerian politics works is paramount in achieving the political goals of a group, a region, or individuals. There are so many conflicting interests in Nigeria, but there are always windows for alliances, give-and-take, a hand of friendship, and convincing others to support a particular political cause or an individual’s. For the 2023 presidency, the south-east should present a candidate with a new face, who has friends, is controversy-free, has no political baggage, and is well-known across the country. For both the APC and the PDP, it will be an opportunity to reunite Nigeria and rekindle the historical political alliance between the north and the south-east. The Igbo presidency is possible through the spirit of one Nigeria.

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Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja, [email protected], 08036070980

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