Will Southeast go with Obi?

Posted by Steve Ezoechi | 23 February 2019 | 1,337 times

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•PDP VP Candidate, Peter Obi

 Every four years, Nigerians get the chance to review their political decisions, correct their errors or reinforce their political positions as to who governs them. No matter how much of a minority group a people may be or considered to be, no one can miss the political statement of the aggregated block voting pattern of a people. The Southeast is home to the Igbo, one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria with their unique peculiarities in character and politics.

No Nigerian living or dead can honestly wave off the Igbo man as insignificant in the socio-economic and political life of Nigeria. The people of the Southeast may be resilient and capable of living through hard times and political conspiracies, to the point of appearing oblivious to the machinations of their oppressors, yet it does not imply that they do not know their place, plight or potential at every point in time in Nigeria.

Presidential candidates have traversed the region, made promises and eloquent presentations seeking the votes from the Southeast – for validation or revalidation – but no matter how eloquent the presentations are or how auspicious the promises may sound, the events of the last four years in the country as it affects the welfare and interests of the Igbo nation are largely going to shape how the Southeast will vote in the 2019 election.

To say the least, the vast majority of Igbo people from the Southeast no matter where they reside are convinced that the Igbo nation has suffered grave injustices in Nigeria and that under President Muhammadu Buhari in the last four years, the subjugation of the Igbo nation has assumed an alarming dimension.

 

States in the Southeast often fall within the list of the first ten educationally advanced states in Nigeria but when it comes to employments and appointments, they are treated as ‘unqualified’. There may have been marginalization before the Buhari administration but the Southeast states are largely united in their belief that the Buhari administration accentuated the marginalization and deepened the indignities against the Igbos of the Southeast.

The military invasion of Southeast codenamed Operation Python Dance targeted at the separatist pro-Biafra groups who are making a constitutionally guaranteed demand for self-determination will for a long time remain a sore point for the Buhari administration and a touchy issue for the Southeast. While the globally acclaimed terrorist Fulani herdsmen sustained their raiding and killing campaign from up north through the North Central, the government of Buhari is perceived as shying away from any decisive action against the killer herdsmen but in a space of 24 hours, the government secured an order proscribing IPOB and also designated the group as a terrorist organization in spite of the fact that there is no record of violence anywhere at the time, against IPOB.

This also portrayed the Buhari administration as prejudiced against the Southeast. Consequent upon that, in just one day, about 28 persons were extra judicially shot and killed in Umuahia, the home of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Military harassment was rampant and some videos showing soldiers maltreating civilians and subjecting youths of the region to heart-rending indignities went viral on the social media.

The worst of it all was that the atrocities of the soldiers received tacit endorsement from the presidency and military high command as there was neither an investigation of the assaults on civilians nor a reprimand of the soldiers operating outside their rules of engagement. At a point, no South-Easterner held any significant command position in any of the country’s security agencies, what more being a service chief. Appointments were lopsided and clearly tilted against the interests of the Southeast in clear violation of the provisions of the Federal Character clause in the country’s constitution. Ministerial appointments, board appointments, employment into Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA) of the Federal Government unapologetically took the same pattern as the security architecture of the country.

With the perceived subjugation of the region over the years, it would not be too complex a task to discern that the Southeast may constitute the bulk of the 5 per cent of Nigerians who are ranked the lowest in Buhari’s priority list (97% – 5%) for apparently ‘voting amiss’ in 2015. Wittingly or unwittingly, the proverbial national cake has to a large extent been feeding some regions of the country while leaving others excluded, thus fuelling anger and discontent. It is expected therefore that a great number of the people of the Southeast will convey their grievances through the ballot.

Predictably, former Governor Peter Obi, the Vice Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will most likely be the face of the Southeast in Saturday’s presidential election and a representation of their aspirations as a people. But not without opposition in the region. In spite of the opposition of Governors Willy Obiano of Anambra state and Rochas Okorocha of Imo state to the Atiku/Obi presidential ticket, Ndigbo in their usual nature will defy any leader whose political interests and aspirations do not rise above self-sided considerations. Understandably, Rochas Okorocha is of the APC stock and ordinarily should vote for his party.

The Southeast understands also that Okorocha is eying the Presidency of the country in 2023 and appreciates the fact that if Atiku/Obi ticket wins on Saturday, Obi will be better placed than any Igbo man to run for the presidency of the country. So Okorocha is largely perceived as being fixated more on his political future than the welfare and future of the people of the Southeast. For Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra state, Saturday may be an opportunity to get evens with Obi. And not a few persons think it justified. Obiano’s antagonism of Obi since the last two years when they parted ways as friends and political associates has gradually evolved into intense rivalry. During the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra state in which Obiano was seeking re-election, Peter Obi spared nothing within his reach, in his battle to truncate Obiano’s reelection and oust him from office. Obi openly and relentlessly backed the PDP governorship candidate in Anambra state, Mr. Oseloka Obaze against Obiano.

The pressure of the contest at the time was rather intense on Obiano and to hold on to his seat, Willy Obiano fought the battle of his life. It is believed that the pressure of the contest may have forced Obiano to embrace Buhari who under dramatic circumstances restored his official security details which were withdrawn by the then Inspector General of Police. At the end of the Anambra governorship election and with his second term in the kitty, Obiano’s bond with Buhari began to grow. With his scores with Obi yet unsettled, Governor Willy Obiano will rather see Buhari return as President, even if the Southeast groans, than see Obi elevated above him politically. Working against the Atiku/Obi’s ticket would also place Obiano in the good books of Buhari and if things go Buhari’s way today and he considers Igbo presidency after his second term, Obiano may be one of those Buhari may back for the project. This apparently must have informed his unfathomable insult on the person of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, for endorsing the Atiku/Obi ticket on behalf of Ohanaeze. But it is on record, that the resolve of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to endorse Atiku Abubakar was unanimous and to a large extent, unprecedented in recent history.

It was always a difficult task to get a vast majority of the elders to agree on a candidate. But on this occasion, 23 out of the 24 elders that attended the ‘Imeobi’ session voted in support of the endorsement of the Atiku/ Obi ticket. And the President General of the Igbo apex body is by no means apologetical about the political stance of Ndigbo. So it came as a shock to many well-meaning Igbo men when Governor Willy Obiano in his frustration with the apex Igbo group referred to Chief Nnia Nwodo as ‘idiotic’.

The backlash that followed his slur on Nwodo remains a vivid reflection of how serious the subject of Atiku/Obi and true Igbo leadership has become to majority of the people of the Southeast. The most recent reaction came from the Deputy National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Ejike Uche who though his party had endorsed Buhari for President, could not stand the crude utterance credited to the Anambra state governor which he described as dishonourable and absolutely reprehensible. In a chat with our correspondent, Chief Ejike Uche said: “For Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra state to refer to the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo as ‘idiotic’ reflects the quality of governors we have in the Southeast. Yesterday, it was Governor Rochas Okorocha running his mouth against Ohaneze Ndigbo all in pursuit of parochial personal interest. Please inform Mr. Obiano that President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo is not an opportunist, but a sterling product of the London School of Economics.

Inform him also that Nwodo became a Federal Minister at the age of 31 and is derived from an outstanding family background.” Uche continued: “Obiano is merely fiddling with a state already put in order by Peter Obi. If not for Peter Obi’s landmarks, Obiano would still be groping in the dark by now. Nevertheless, we now know the real enemies of Ndigbo.

For Obiano to pour such dishonourable invectives on Nwodo, is most unfortunate and goes to suggest that Anambra state has no governor, but merely a gangster as governor.” It, therefore, needs no saying that those governors in the Southeast that seek to upstage Obi by their support for Buhari are, rightly or wrongly, largely perceived as pursuing personal political agenda. Peter Obi on his part represents what any people or nation will desire in a leader – A technocrat, a thoroughbred entrepreneur, experienced, accountable and effective in the management of human and material resources with a verifiable track record of integrity. Obi is celebrated across the Southeast as one of the governors of the region in recent history that left a verifiable legacy of excellence in governance. Obi is a sought after leadership and management expert across the country and would draw the right people and a large vote haul from the Southeast, to his party.

The recent endorsement of the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar cannot be unconnected to the person and pedigree of Mr. Peter Obi who has been a known advocate for the opening and widening of the economic space in Nigeria. In a recent interview, the President General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, noted that the Igbos have suffered innumerable indignities under the Buhari administration, adding that the endorsement of Atiku Abubakar was a reflection of the position of a vast majority of Ndigbo across the country. Nwodo stressed the urgent need to elevate the art of governance in Nigeria and broaden the space for commerce and participatory governance by all the federating units of the country. Obi is versed in these areas, and with Atiku eager to recreate his successes in private business in public office, and of course narrow down the marginalization gap, the Southeasterners who are known for their enterprise would easily be drawn to back the Atiku/Obi presidential ticket.

These, however, detract nothing from the fact that the present administration has made some positive gestures to the region in the area of infrastructure, prominent among which are the ongoing construction of the second Niger bridge and some of the federal highways in the Southeast. Not many of these roads have attained any substantial level of work after four years.

The Enugu-PortHarcourt expressway has not attained up to 35 per cent work especially with the vexatious Lokpanta stretch of the road yet untouched. The second Niger Bridge has over the years been a tool of political exploitation of the Southeast and it had been expected that under the present administration who rode on the massive goodwill of the people to power, substantial work would have been attained in four years. Beyond the efforts at infrastructure, what is of paramount consideration to the average Igbo man is his pride and sense of dignity as a Nigerian which in the last four years have been thoroughly battered. What the Igbo man seeks is inclusion – political and socio-economic – and to these, the Buhari administration has paid the least attention. With the reviews coming in after four years of the Buhari administration, the Southeast has little to cheer about.

There is yet the present need and hunger to restore the dignity of the region. And Saturday’s presidential election presents another opportunity to the Southeast to renegotiate their lot in Nigeria. The most trending street parlance in the Southeast in recent time has become: ‘If the Southeast is not good enough for Buhari’s attention, the votes of the southeast should also not be good enough for Buhari’.

 

Sourced from a New Telegraph report


Source: News Express

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