Four years may seem far off but the political space has already been lit by discussions over whether the North will willingly welcome a power shift to the South. If it does happen, many believe it would only be fair for the rest of Southern Nigeria to cede the Presidency to the Southeast.
The question of Igbo presidency has been on the front burner of political discourse since the return of democracy in 1999. There have been several calls from groups and individuals especially from the South-east geopolitical zone for the Igbos to be given the opportunity to produce a President. The Igbos, however, have long attributed their political predicament to marginalization in the scheme of national affairs. More so, the renewed agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu – for the restoration of the Republic of Biafra has been seen, in several political quarters, as a frustration birthed out of the calls for the presidential pendulum to swing to Ndigbo. From clear political indices and analysis, the presidency has been rotating between people of the Hausa-Fulani extraction, Yoruba people, and recently, the Niger Delta region – filled with minority groups – had a taste of the presidency at the hands of former President Goodluck Jonathan. This has prompted a sense of political abandonment that makes the Igbo nation restless and agitated to have one of their own occupy that exalted office in Aso Rock.
Based on the premise that Ndigbo have been seen to have a strong political attachment to the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is widely believed that if they must produce a President come 2023, they will have to come through the PDP. It could be recalled that in the recently concluded 2019 general elections, PDP won in the five South-east states – in the presidential election – and all the elected governors in the zone are from the PDP. Moreover, it was reported that the cause of the conflict that ensued between the Yorubas and Igbos in Lagos, during the governorship election, was based on the persuasion given to Igbos by Yorubas to vote for Babajide Sanwo-Olu, of the APC, because they were aware of their likelihood to vote only for Jimi Agbaje because he was a PDP candidate. These point to the Igbo inclination towards the PDP.
Ripples Nigeria x-rays some prominent politicians that Ndigbo might put forward for the 2023 presidency.
The former two-term governor of Anambra State and Vice Presidential candidate – with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar – under the PDP, at the just concluded presidential election, Peter Obi, is one of the possible presidential candidates that Ndigbo can put forward, within the PDP, for 2023 presidency. Obi appears to be among the few politicians who have held public office without a corruption case to answer. He gained notoriety with his stingy style of dishing out resources for projects while he was Anambra State governor. Obi has been at cross purposes with his governorship successor, Governor Willie Obiano. Thus, it was not surprising that he (Obiano) did not support him during the electioneering period. Obiano obviously supported the reelection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Having contested for the presidency with Atiku, he is deemed to be experienced with the kind of politicking obtainable at the presidential level. Thus, if he is being pushed forward by the Igbo community, in PDP, to contest in 2023, he will not be swimming in an all new political waters.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was reelected for the fifth time to the Red Chambers, to represent Enugu west senatorial district – of Enugu State. He is the highest ranking Igbo political office holder. When Atiku chose Peter Obi as his Vice Presidential candidate, there were reports that Ekweremadu was not happy with the pairing. He thought that based on the virtue that he is the highest ranking Igbo political office holder, he should have been chosen – as Atiku’s running mate. The name – Ekweremadu – only rings a bell in his senatorial district. He does not have that political network that inspires a presidential aura. He is up on the list of the possible politicians in the PDP that Ndigbo can put present for 2023 presidency.
However, just like most Nigerian politicians, Ekweremadu is not corruption-free. In March 2018, the federal government applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order of temporary forfeiture of no fewer than 22 properties purportedly owned by him – in Abuja, London, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. On August 1, 2018, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detained him for questioning. He has long denied all the accusations.
The outgoing governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, is one big Igbo politician who stands a chance at the presidency in 2023. He is an experienced head in presidential tussle as he has contested for the presidency several times. The embattled governor who failed in forcing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, on the people of Imo State as his successor by all means, can likely defect to the PDP before 2023 to contest for the presidency as he is not finding it rosy with the APC especially with the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
In the last National Assembly elections, Okorocha, contested for Imo West senatorial seat. He is yet to receive his Certificate of Return (CoR) from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) due to the confession of the INEC Returning Officer – in his senatorial district – Prof. Innocent Ibeawuchi that he was forced to declare Okorocha the winner of the senatorial election. “I was compelled to announce the result which was inconclusive. I am a man of integrity and it is not true that the governor slapped me but I was held hostage by agents working for him (Okorocha). I was manhandled and I thank God I came back alive,” Ibeawuchi said.
This is not the best time politically for Okorocha. He has since being suspended from his party – the APC – by Oshiomhole, for alleged inter-party affairs. Okorocha has always nursed a presidential ambition. He stands tall as an Igbo presidential hopeful.
Orji Uzor Kalu
The former two-term governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, popularly known as OUK is not a member of the PDP but in the game of politics, anything can happen. Thus, he may defect to the PDP before the presidential election in 2023 if he has the opportunity of being projected to run as the party’s presidential standard bearer. Before his defection to the ruling APC, OUK, who was recently elected the Senator representing Abia North senatorial district, was one of the founding members of the PDP. He once contested for the presidency in 2007 under his political party – Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA). Thus, he is not a new comer in the game.
Since late Chief Alex Ekwueme served as a Vice President (1979 to 1983) to late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the Igbos have not had the opportunity of coming closer to the presidency. Thus, the serious calls for an Igbo President. Peradventure APC decides to move power to the South, it is mostly likely to be given to the South-westerners due to their support for President Buhari reelection. A leading Northern politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, recently, during an interview with The Interview, noted, “I don’t see any possibility that the party (APC) will think of giving its candidacy to the South-east, against the support it got from the South-west. Apart from the votes, don’t forget that APC also enjoyed material support from the South-west.” Therefore, when this situation plays up, OUK might definitely defect to the PDP for 2023 presidency.
Apart from the fact that OUK has faced series of backlashes due to his university certificate scandal, he is enwrapped in a 39-count charge brought against him by the EFCC on October 31, 2016, accusing him of defrauding Abia State to the tune of N7.2b while serving as the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007. He is being prosecuted alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
The first executive governor of Abia State and Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, is one Igbo son that has been in the mainstream of national politics for years. The Ebonyi State political heavy weight was once the National Chairman of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). He is not a new comer in the business of presidential tussle. He was the standard bearer for the All Peoples Party (APP) in 1999 but he stepped down for Olu Falae when his party merged with the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for the presidential contest which Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP won.
In 2016, a Non-Governmental Organisation under the auspices of Human Rights Foundation International, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/857/2016 asked an Abuja division of the Federal High Court to issue an Order of Mandamus compelling President Buhari to immediately sack Onu and his counterpart, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and for the EFCC to investigate an allegation that both ministers attempted to induce Justices of the Supreme Court to subvert the cause of justice.
Onu, being an experienced political man can be made to defect to the PDP and contest for the 2023 presidency. Only time will tell.
The former presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), at the just concluded general elections, Kingsley Moghalu, is a likely candidate for Igbo presidency come 2023. Though he is not in PDP at the moment there is a possibility that he may join the party – PDP – when the game gets hot and he is needed. The professor in International Business and Public Policy, who served as deputy governor of financial system stability and the director of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2009 to 2014, is alleged to have played a leading role in the fraudulent and anti-people bail-out of banks that was led by the then CBN governor, Charles Soludo. He has a deep political romance with the PDP as he was one of the CBN technocrats who worked with the then PDP government.
The former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, is one woman that has made credible, national indelible marks. Popularly known as Mama Due Process, Ezekwesili, has guts and she is fearless in the pursuance of her goals. After the kidnap of the 276 Chibok girls in April 2014, in Borno State, she used the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) to draw the attention of the international community to the incident. The former Vice President of the World Bank’s Africa division, has an experience in the presidential tussle. He contested for the presidency in the last presidential election under the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) – though she later stepped down, two weeks away from the election, due to varying values and visions within the party. She was, however, accused of looting her presidential campaign donations – an allegation she denied.
Former CBN governor and Professor of Economics, Charles Soludo is one political mind that cannot be overlooked in the South-east region – despite his political silence lately. The former governorship aspirant in Anambra State is also another person that the Igbos can put forward within the PDP for 2023. It is very likely that the PDP may have to settle for an Igbo man because of the issue of their political marginalization which has been making the round in different political quarters over the years and due to their strong alliance to the party. Just recently, the Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who is good in making controversial statements, said that the presidency would elude the South-east come 2023. This is already a strong indication that Ndigbo have to watch it as the politicking for 2023 is already in the top gear.
Soludo, however, was once immersed in allegations of bribery involving Securency Pty Limited of Australia and officials of both the CBN and the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting (NSPM) PLC over the supply of polymer substrate to Nigeria.
The reelected governor of Ebonyi State and the Chairman of South-east Governors’ Forum, David Umahi, is another person that Ndigbo can dish out from the PDP to accomplish the Igbo presidential dream come 2023. Umahi assumed a bad image in the eyes of the press when he was alleged to be behind the brutal beating of The Guardian newspaper Ebonyi State correspondent, Charles Otu, on June 3, 2017. The governor is widely seen as an undercover supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. In all the five South-eastern states, President Buhari gained more votes in Ebonyi – which further gave weight to the believe that though he is in the PDP, he supports the President.
Umahi has a case at the EFCC where he is being investigated for N400m arms funds which former President Goodluck Jonathan purportedly allocated to the PDP in his state during the build up to the 2015 presidential election.
The former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is one Igbo woman who has distinguished herself at the national and international fronts – having spent 25 successful years at the World Bank. Okonjo-Iweala has proven managerial skills which can be channeled productively into governance. She can be the right presidential hopeful that Ndigbo can project for the 2023 presidential race.
Okonjo-Iweala was painstaking in her dealings while she was a minister and was largely scandal-free. She recently even wrote a widely well-received book titled, Fighting Corruption is Dangerous. Since exiting her second spell in government, having served in the Olusegun Obasanjo regime and later in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, she has returned to international work and was only recently appointed to the board of Twitter. Presenting her for the presidential race would be interesting.
The former deputy speaker House of Representatives and governor-elect of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, is another Igbo son that can be moved for the presidential contest in 2023 under the platform of the PDP. During the Farouk Lawan bribery scandal that rocked the House of Representatives in 2012, the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL) made a call for the arrest of Ihedioha and asked him to make public all he knew as they relate to the conversation he had with Lawan on April 23, 2012 shortly before the commencement on the plenary debate on the Fuel Subsidy Report. His administrative might will be tested once again when he gets sworn-in on May 29.
Theodore Ahamefule Orji
The former two-term governor of Abia State, Simply known as T. A. Orji, is another likely presidential hopeful that Ndigbo may position for 2023 presidency. Orji was reelected to the senate to represent Abia Central senatorial district – of Abia State. He is reported to have not accomplished any meaningful feat – in terms of development – for the people of Abia State especially in the infrastructural development of Aba – Abia State’s commercial hub.
Orji, who was governor from 2007 – 2015 was interrogated at the EFCC office, in November 2018, in Abuja. He was invited over the allegations that he mismanaged about N27bn. The invitation by the EFCC was learnt to have stemmed from series of petitions written against him shortly after he left office in 2015. The allegations leveled against him includes: alleged diversion of billions of Naira disbursed to Abia State by the Central Bank of Nigeria for Small and Medium Enterprise, diversion of money from the Ecological Fund account, which should have been used in tackling erosion and other disasters peculiar to the state, diversion of money from Abia State Oil Producing Development Area Commission – an agency of government set up for the development of the oil producing areas of Abia State.
Orji alleged used the funds to acquire buy properties in Abia, Port Harcourt and Abuja – some of which the EFCC is reportedly planning to confiscate. The EFCC had invited officials from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks and other agencies to make statements on the former governor’s corruption case. More so, it was reported that the EFCC, in December 2018, arrested the son of the former governor, Ogbonna Orji over allegations of money laundering.
2023 is Time for Ndigbo
Igbo presidency is long overdue. As one of the major ethnic groups in the country, they deserve to be given the opportunity of producing a President in 2023. During the presidential campaigns of President Buhari, the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, during a stakeholders meeting held at his country home, Uburu, Ohazara LGA of Ebonyi State, said, “it is important to point out that South-east remains the only geo-political zone that is yet to produce an elected President of Nigeria and this is what everybody is aware of.”
It is uncertain that the North will respect the principle of zoning by deciding to give the South-easterners a presidential opportunity. Already, the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has declared that the North would present a candidate for 2023 presidential election, as zoning and rotation of power have collapsed. Thus, any region with the political strength can claim the presidency. This points to the fact that if they, Ndigbo, really need the presidency in 2023, they should be pragmatic about it and go to work as soon as possible – producing a President is no easy business.
The PDP appears to be the only possible route to Aso Rock for Ndigbo. The ruling APC does not look like they will favour them. From all indications, if the APC decides to zone power to the South, it would most likely go to the South-westerners. Therefore, it is time for Ndigbo to strategise on how to make use of the PDP platform to attempt to mount a credible charge for the presidency come 2023. But 2023 is still far away, so much can and will still happen in-between. We wait!
By John Chukwu…
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