‘How Buhari’s ‘new’ gov’t should address Igbo concerns’

Posted by News Express | 23 June 2019 | 979 times

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The 2019 General Elections in Nigeria have been won and lost, and now that it’s time to share the gains, politicians from across the divide have become temperamental over who gets what. The voice from the South-East is so audible.

Its chieftains are asking for ‘key’ positions in the Buhari government amidst reproach by some party members that the Igbo cannot reap where they did not sow. The impression is that the Igbo did not vote for the APC in the 2019 elections, from the governorship to the presidency, but supported the PDP. As such, they are not being “seriously” considered in the formation of the federal cabinet, more so that President Muhammadu Buhari has started making appointments. Many pundits posit  that last week’s stories in the  media that a former Minister of Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, is being touted for the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) were actually planted to test the waters.

Every state must have a minister, according to the Constitution, but it is at the discretion of the president to pick the people he wants to work with from each state. And besides, the ruling party normally zones other key positions without prejudice to federal character, but bearing in mind  what each geopolitical zone brought to the table, considering that “juicy positions” are seen as rewards for hard work.

But in all his years of running for office since 2003, Buhari always failed woefully in the South-East. In 2015, despite his purported wide acceptability, Buhari polled only 198,248 votes in  all the five states in region-Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra and Imo.

His outing in 2019 was better. He polled 403,968 votes in the South-East, the highest ever in all his contests, despite the fact that the opposition PDP fielded Mr. Peter Obi as vice presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar.

But despite the feat, many APC chieftains believed the South-East does not have the audacity to ask for any other thing beside what the constitution says they should be given- ministerial positions and the sundry appointments into boards and parastatals.

However, evidence abound that apart from the position of SGF, the South East is also angling for the presidency in 2023, a move that pushed the region into collusion course with the former  Minster of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who reasoned that because the region did not support the APC in last election, they should forget the 2023 presidency.

Reacting, the Ohanaeze Youth Council in a statement by its Secretary-General, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, said “Amaechi had come out to dance naked in the public place.”

The Director-General, Voice of Nigeria and chieftain of the APC, Chief Osita Okechukwu, said APC achieved 100 per cent votes increase in 2019, compared to the 2015 performance in the entire zone.

Okechukwu said the result could have been much better if not for the negative role said to have been played by the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Indigenous People of Biafra ahead of the elections.

He said: “These groups deceived our people with Alhaji Atiku Abubaka’s restructuring gimmick. One is at a loss why they placed more premium on restructuring than the emergence of Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction in 2023. I think 2023 is more pragmatic and reasonable than Atiku’s promise to restructure the country.”

The raging debate for recognition Chief Mbazulike Amechi, 92,  one of the few surviving nationalists and a former die-hard member of the defunct Zikist Movement, a militant youth wing of the NCNC, seemed to have hit the nail on the head when he questioned our reporter: “Why should the Igbo want to make inroad into, and  become  part and parcel of the APC-led Federal Government which they did not work for?’ The elder stateman wondered why the N’digbo would want to benefit from a Federal Government they didn’t actually contribute immensely to its success.

“It is Amechi’s considered view that the Igbo should not go begging for positions in the current  government, rather “they should begin now to strategise, consult and negotiate on how to give Nigeria a president of Igbo origin in 2023.”

Amechi said giving the Igbo political appointments is not as important to them and Nigerians as enabling them to give Nigeria a president who will manage the affairs of the country bearing in mind that every section of the nation counts. Does where the votes went matter?

In the first tenure of President Buhari’s administration, the feeling of the Igbos was that of marginalisation or “being side-lined” or “disconnected” from the running of the government, leaving them with no sense of belonging.

That action was perhaps justified. After all, the Igbo didn’t vote “massively” for the APC or Buhari, hence they had to pay the price of putting all their political eggs in one basket. The majority of N’digbo reportedly pitched their tents in the camp of the PDP and voted for Atiku, and he lost, thereby leaving them in a political dilemma.

But Chief Mbazulike Amechi believes that once a president is elected, he automatically sees the entire country as his constituency, without necessarily making any section feel side-lined, alienated or marginalized. Rather than the Igbo begging for positions, Amechi is of the view that they “should come back and plan how they can become a force to reckon with in Nigerian politics.”

He added that nobody “will donate the presidency” to N’digbo if that is what they think. It’s not done that way, you have to work for it,” he remarked. He added: “They have to organize themselves, they have to strategise, they have to negotiate, they have to consult widely across the country.

They should come and let me tell them how to go about doing the necessary negotiations and consultations that will cut across the entire nation to enable them produce Nigeria’s president of Igbo origin in 2023. But if the Igbo politicians feel too big to approach me, they can then forget about me and let’s see how everything will end.”

‘Dictating’ to the president from cubilcles The Founder and National Chairman of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said it is rather ridiculous that in Nigeria people speak from their cubicles in order to dictate to the president who to appoint minister or service chief or SGF even when such people know that certain appointments are constitutional and/or  also within the powers of the president.

He recalled that a few days ago, the South East governors met with Buhari on how to consider the Igbo in the formation of the new cabinet he told them that he would make an all-inclusive cabinet not based on persuasion or pressure from any individual or group.

Okorie said: “President Buhari said he would constitute a more balanced executive without being persuaded. All we need to do is to encourage him to live up to the promises he made. When some of us told N’digbo not to put all their eggs in one political basket, they called us names. Now that APC has won, they don’t have the same advantage as those that supported the party massively.”

How to beat marginalisation, he said N’digbo should get themselves  out of their “marginalisation” syndrome which has become an ordinary political mantra that is no longer fashionable. “N’digbo have to go into wide consultations with other ethnic nationalities in view of 2023.

And how they go about this will determine their fate in future politics of the country. The Igbo should take their destiny in their own hands or allow those who have been deceiving them to continue,” Okorie told Daily Trust Saturday in an interview.

Similarly, the National Deputy Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze N’digbo, Mr. Chucks Ibegbu, said even though some Igbos voted for APC while others voted for PDP in the presidential election, “President Buhari should run an all-inclusive government. He shouldn’t see any section of the country as his enemy. He should not deny any part of the country whatever is a constitutional right.” ‘Buhari should carry every part along’ Ibegbu, who recalled that Ohanaeze’s position before the 2019 polls was to support any candidate or party that wins the election, added that Nigeria was built on a tripod.

“Mr. President must be kind enough to carry along every part of Nigeria, he should give all sections of the country a sense of belonging.” Ibegbu said what N’digbo expects from Buhari’s administration is to address the infrastructure deficiency in the South East, equality in state creation in the zone, regional appointments in federal agencies, and service chiefs.

“The South-East zone should be considered in all these appointments,” said Ibegbu, who also claimed that the zone is losing N2 trillion every year as a result of not having additional states  to equate it with other geo-political zones that have more than five states. On the unconfirmed story that Mr Onu is being considered for the position of SGF, Ibegbu said: “If they give it to him, he deserves it. He is one of those who have paid their dues in the politics of Nigeria.”

A chieftain of the APC and former co-ordinator for the Buhari-Osinbajo Campaign Organisation in Enugu State, Chief Matthias Omeh, said definitely, the  N’digbo would have their statutory representations in the Buhari cabinet, adding that because they are disadvantaged by the number of states in the South-East, they appear to be underrepresented in the cabinet.

Omeh said there are federal ministries with large parastatals, insisting that the Igbo would appreciate if they are considered in the ministries with large parastatals. Emphasising that a winner should be magnanimous in victory, Omeh advised Buhari to regard himself as the father of the entire country, and not to “punish one of his sons who is considered weak and deny him his legitimate rights.”

Omeh, a former Commissioner for Agriculture in Enugu State, further  commented on the probability that Dr. Onu could be considered for the post of SGF. He said such development would be wonderful, stressing, “It’s fantastic, because of the feelings of the people of the zone.” But he said he was yet to believe the credibility of such stories since they emanated from social media.

An elder statesman and former Secretary General of Ohanaeze N’digbo, Chief Nduka  Eya, told Daily Trust Saturday that he was least excited about the touted idea of Onu being considered for the post of SGF.

Eya said: “Making Onu SGF is not important. Nigeria has passed this stage of ethnic nonsense. We want a president who will give Nigerians equity, justice and fair-play. If Buhari does it, he can be president for 100 years, and I won’t complain.” Eya , however, asked the Igbos to put their house in order and stop playing the sycophancy game for those who are not interested in Igbo unity because they know that if N’digbo unite, they would feel threatened.

He further said: “Why must Igbo beg for presidency? Did they beg Igbo for their own presidency? I recall that the Igbos ran this country after independence and the country worked. Go and read your history books, the Igbos should rally round their five governors, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Ohanaeze President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, the senators and galvanise their forces so that the Igbo can be one united body. Without unity, they can’t achieve anything politically.

I am so angry with this nation and our Igbo people because of their behaviours.” Time bomb? South East leaders are being accused of not being consistent with their agitations over the years, a development that keeps them perpetually disadvantaged. “How can you give a sensitive position to someone who wants to secede, someone who does not believe in the oneness of Nigeria,” a legal practitioner, Barr. Aliyu Ibrahim, asked. “If you meet three different Igbo leaders, their perception about Nigeria is different, and their youth are always beating the drums of war, asking that they want Biafra. So, I think the South East should re-appraise itself to be taken seriously,” he said.

However, the Executive Chairman of a non-governmental organisation, Centre Christian Foundation for Social Justice and Equity (CFSJE), Mr. Joseph Sangosanya, said Nigeria may be sitting on a time bomb if the South East is continuously excluded from the scheme of things. He said: “The issue of democracy is not who voted or did not vote for me.

This is democracy and not ‘votercracy’. Democracy is for all of us. When we talk of true federalism, every unit or component part of the federation must be represented if democracy is to have its full meaning. If you are excluding anybody, it means that you are not practising true federalism,” he said.

He added; “Buhari has been very unfair to the people of the South East. In fact, I say he has been parochial, I am saying the obvious. The South East should be represented as a component part of the federation, whether they voted for the ruling party or not.

At least they should be given the Secretary to the Government of the Federation if we are to ensure fairness and equity. This is one imbalance that should be addressed because we may be sitting on a time bomb. For us to be truly Nigeria, there has to be balance.”

Daily Trust Saturday sought the views of  Comrade Divine Nwankwo, a public affairs analyst and  chairman of a civil liberty organization in Abia State who said the APC has not been fair to the South East considering the votes they got from states well dominated by the opposition PDP and APGA.

“When you talk about  leadership positions in the National Assembly, you are talking about Nigeria. At that point, political parties play secondary role. Elections are over and it’s time for the main business, and I expected federal character to come into play.

“The National Assembly represents Nigeria on the floor,  all geo political zones should be well represented in the sharing of leadership positions,” he said. He said the agitation for Biafra has nothing to do with the composition of the leadership structure of the National Assembly.

“Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, representing Enugu West Senatorial District and a fifth timer, lost to Sen. Ovie Omo-Agebe from the South South. But, notable groups like the Ohanaeze N’digbo Youth World Wide led by its President General, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro,  say the five states in the South East and their indigenes in other states of the federation voted for President Buhari in 2019 than in previous elections.”

Mazi Isiguzoro explained that the increase was made visible with the tactical support of some trusted stakeholders of Igbo origin in the APC and the five governors of the zone.

He  added that the division experienced in the apex body of Ohanaeze N’digbo also helped. Isiguzoro highlighted  that the consequence of the exclusion of people of the South East by the APC-led federal  government in 2015 was the Biafra agitations in the zone and beyond.

“When major appointments eluded the people of the South-East in 2015, it brought back Biafra agitation which threatened the unity of the country and political hatred for the APC and that’s why some Igbo are drumming warnings of civil war,” he said. “And what we, under the umbrella of Ohanaeze N’digbo Youth Worldwide, are saying is for Mr. President to prove these detractors who led N’digbo in a vain pursuit in the 2019 presidential election wrong by appointing N’digbo to occupy some key ministries like Transport, Education, Health, Foreign Affairs, Defence and SGF,” he said. (Daily Trust)

 

 


Source: News Express

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