Posted by Lawrence Njoku | 26 May 2019 | 1,748 times
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.
•Excerpted from a report by The Guardian.
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