In the People Democratic Party, PDP whose convention comes up 30-31st October which is a few days’ time, the front runners for the presidential tickets are already very well known.
Ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar who had faced- off with the incumbent president Mohammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential contest with significant impact, is on top of the pecking order. This has been confirmed by Oyo state governor and secretary of the PDP convention committee, Seyi Makinde who revealed the identity of the other presidential candidates during a recent Channels television interview.
“…PDP has eminently qualified personalities that can lead this country successfully. Some have indicated interest, like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, like Governor (Aminu) Tambuwal, like Governor Bala Mohammed.”
Curiously, former Senate President, and ex Kwara state governor, Bukola Saraki who was a serious contender for the presidency in 1999 was not mentioned. Just as no Igbo man/woman whose region is supposed to present the next president in 2023 is featured in governor Makinde’s list of PDP presidential candidates that would slug it out in presidential primaries.
With respect to the ruling party, All Progressives Party, APC, the man with the appellation, National Leader, also known as both the Jagaban of Borgu and Asiwaju of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who served as governor of Lagos 1999-2007 is clearly the leader of the pack.
So it is almost like an entitlement for the man also nicknamed the Lion Of Bourdilon to become the president of Nigeria in 2023. That is simply because he played a pivotal role in the emergence of President Buhari as president in 2015 via his ability to swing the very critical south-west or Yoruba votes in favor of the then-presidential candidate, Buhari. Since it is the nature of politicians to give and later demand a return on lOUs, it appears to me that it is now payback time between Buhari and Tinubu. To actualize the presumed presidential ambition of Tinubu, South West Agenda For Asiwaju, SWAGA, a well-oiled campaign organization that has been founded by Tinubu’s ardent supporters has been making waves.
The criticality of Tinubu’s role in making Buhari president is accentuated by the fact it happened after Buhari’s three previous failed attempts (in 2003, 2007, and 2011) to win the presidency.
As someone contended elsewhere, it would not be far-fetched for observers of Nigerian political developments to come to the conclusion that Tinubu has been waiting for seven years to gain a foothold in the presidency of Nigeria. That is after the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN that Tinubu leads, struck the deal with then-candidate Buhari’s, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC between 2013/14 to harness Yoruba votes for Buhari’s victory in 2015.
Considering that the Asiwaju had to give up his initial ambition to serve as Vice Presidential candidate to Buhari in 2015, which is owed to the fact that the concept of a Muslim president and Vice President is a sort of anathema in Nigeria, his burning ambition to succeed Buhari as president must have remained aglow.
But how the burning desire can be converted into reality is a lump currently lodged in the throats of both the Asiwaju who is yet to verbalize his apparently lifelong quest, and his political godson, Yemi Osinbajo, that is being coy about his interest in the plump job of being president of the republic.
Be that as it may, a presidential campaign organization, ostensibly without Osinbajo’s public endorsement known as ‘Osinbajo Support Movement’ (OSM) has
created a website as far back as May to chronicle the achievements of the Vice-President and public garner support for him. Without being told, the emergence of OSM is in pursuit of the cause of elevating the current Vice President to the next level-the presidency.
To consolidate the publicity that had been achieved with the website, in the course of President Buhari’s daughter’s high octane wedding ceremonies recently held in Kano, the streets of the ancient city were adorned with posters pitching Osinbajo for president and incumbent Kano state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje for vice president with the carefully crafted message:
“If power rotates to the South, Osinbajo is best placed to unite, heal and inspire our great nation. We also firmly believe that Ganduje’s antecedents as Governor of Kano make him the perfect Northern vice presidential candidate to Osinbajo; one who will advance and protect the interests of a Northern Nigeria plagued by poverty and insecurity.”
By and large, it can be stated without equivocation that the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 from the ruling party prism appears to be beaconing on the current Vice President, who is a prodigy of the Jagaban, Bola Tinubu.
Keeping in mind that it was Tinubu that conceded the role of Vice President to Osinbajo by virtue of the fact that he was his trusted ally, would he be willing to concede the presidency to him this time?
Osinbajo, who is a high-ranking Pentecostal pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and an astute legal scholar has been on the saddle as Vice President since 2015 and Tinubu his erstwhile boss has been on the sideline.
If the feelers in the political space are anything to go by, Osinbajo is not resisting the allure of change of nomenclature from Vice President to President-a natural progression that very few mortals can resist. But would his mentor, and if you like, an earthly master concede the presidency to him? That is the elephant in the room.
In my calculations, although Osinbajo may be able to garner the votes of a vast number of Christians nationwide by virtue of his being a member of the Redeem Church (believed to be the largest Pentecostal church denomination) he does not appear to possess what it takes to take on his former boss in political warfare and win in the main political battleground, south-west. It is perhaps why the Vice President has been demurring from advancing his purported presidential dream from the subliminal level to the realms of reality.
Even when the block votes in the northwest are mobilized by Ganduje backed by Buhari for Osinbajo/Ganduje presidency, the nature of politics in Nigeria is that the block votes of the southwest are also required to secure the presidency which only Tinubu appears to have the capacity and ability to procure.
So, once again, the man often referred to as pastor/professor may have to predicate his presidential ambition on the will of God.
The third personality from Yoruba land that may be nursing presidential ambition in 2023 is the present Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi who is also an ex-minister of solid minerals development.
As the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, he has chalked up some national influence enough to earn himself national name recognition. Again, like Osinbajo, he is one of Tinubu’s surrogates who honed his political skills in the days of NADECO-the Yoruba political pressure movement that is one of the forces that pushed for the exit of Sani Abacha as Nigeria’s military head of state(1994-8).
So, Fayemi’s reported ambition may also be in abeyance, which is in line with the wisdom to engage in dalliance with Tinubu political family as a political tactic, so as not to cross paths with the APC national leader, who is apparently believed to hold the ace in Yoruba politics.
Now, our country, Nigeria is anchored, metaphorically, on a tripod formed by Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo nationalities, with each representing one of the three legs on which Nigeria stands.
They jostle for the presidency by the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani nationalities gleaned from mainstream and online media sources has been catalogued in the preceding paragraphs.
But shockingly, alarmingly, and embarrassingly absent in the milieu are activities or information about the potential presidential or even vice-presidential candidates of Igbo origin from the ruling or main opposition parties jostling for the presidency in 2023.
So, where are the Igbo candidates?
Yes, Kingsley Moghalu, ex Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN deputy governor, and presidential candidate of one of the small political parties in 2019 may be angling for the presidency again in 2023. But, for the obvious reasons of lack of nationwide political structures, and inability to raise the humongous financial resources which by some estimates can be as high as one hundred billion naira required to execute a presidential campaign, Moghalu has zero chance. The underlying reason for that assertion is that he is not vying for the presidency on the platform of the ruling APC or main opposition, PDP whose affluent members-governors, legislators, and ministers could have provided the financial resources and political structures once a candidate is adopted by the party. Basically if becoming the president of Nigeria in 2023 is in Moghalu’s gaze, it would have done his political career greater good, if he had joined the ruling or main opposition parties.
The other Igbo politicians of notable national status weighty enough to contemplate contesting for the presidency of Nigeria are Orji Uzo Kalu, ex Abia state governor, currently a senator; Ken Nnamani and Anyim Pius Anyim, both of whom are former senate Presidents at different times. To further give him more heft, Pius Anyim also served as Secretary to the government of the Federation under Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency.
But the aforementioned Igbo politicians who were on track to entrench themselves politically at the national level, have recently been literarily ‘damaged’ and have thus become political liabilities via their indictments by the EFCC for financial malfeasance. That is the case with Orji Kalu who was jailed under curious circumstances for corruption. But he escaped a long jail term by the whiskers when he was soon after discharged and acquitted. Pius Anyim has also been recently grilled by the anti-corruption agency, EFCC for alleged involvement of a company where he has a beneficial interest in an aviation ministry contract.
Regarding, Ken Nnamani, he has been in the cold politically for nearly fifteen years since he was compelled by his political leader( Chimaroke Nnamani, then governor of his state, currently a senator ) from seeking re-election to the senate after he played a prominent role in scuttling president Obasanjo’s presumed third term agenda in 2007. That much was revealed in Nnamani’s recently published memoir.
In a piece titled: How To Become President Of Nigeria which l wrote and published on the back page of Thisday newspaper on Monday, September 20, 2021, and on numerous online newspapers, l had made a case that the Igbo nation may be suffering from a dearth of ‘presidential materials’.
ln the piece, I listed elder statesman, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the owner of defunct Champion newspaper, and Iwuanyanwu Babes-football club (socioeconomic endeavors which gave him national name recognition) as a potential presidential candidate of Igbo extraction. But he is currently past his prime in terms of age and political relevance.
Another Igbo personality that l had also beamed the light on is Peter Obi, who is the 2019 vice presidential candidate of the PDP and former governor of Anambra state. He too is currently under the yoke of the recently leaked Pandora papers(a catalog of illicit financial flows into a tax haven in Monaco) which has put him under the scrutiny of Nigerian anti-fraud agencies which are getting under his skin in a bid to ferret out information to determine if the former state governor breached the code of conduct rules in public service by not disclosing some of his wealth tucked away in secret foreign jurisdictions.
In my interactions with multiple members of the Igbo ethnic stock, l get the sense that they desire, as desperately as can be imagined, to be the tribe calling the shots in the presidency from2023.
This was affirmed by the president-general of Ohaneze Indigbo, the region sociocultural organization, George
Obiozor had passionately made a case for the Igbo presidency of Nigeria after president Buhari exits the Aso Rock villa in 2023. Here is how he put it: “We support the Igbo president with open arms. It is the most important thing that will happen to Igbos. Finally, it is our turn. And we are going to work it so hard,” Obiozor further made the following emphasis:
“We will talk to other parts of Nigeria to give us a chance. Because it is right, reasonable, deserving, and timely. It is wonderful to consider it done by this time. Igbo presidency is our agenda.”
Another Igbo elder statesman and former Anambra state governor (1992-3) Chukwuemeka Ezeife had also lent his voice to the call for the next president to be Igbo.
Said he ” power comes from God but we (Ndigbo) have been doing our homework, reaching out to our brothers from the Northern, Western, and South-South part of Nigeria to support us in 2023. Ordinary Nigerians from the other geopolitical zones want an Igbo to be the next President for equity, justice, and fair play”.
Although, there has been a deluge of rhetorical statements that can be likened to the roars of lions from Igbos at home and in the diaspora about 2023 being a watershed year for a member of their ethnic group to be the president of Nigeria on the premise of the fact that both the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani nations have had their turns in the presidential power rotation arrangement introduced since 1999: in terms of the physical mobilization of Igbo voters and the actual preparation of Igbo candidates, there has not been any significant evidence to match the vigor displayed in the media. Rather the hoopla in the mainstream and social media without commensurate practical action on the ground makes the Igbo appear like whimpering kittens as far as the struggle for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 is concerned.
The clearly un-Igbo tame and timid attitude has been in part attributed to the resistance being put up by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, separatist movement via their seat-at-home order in Igbo land; and their disruption of political activities in the South-East through other civil disobedience actions which are having crippling effects on the socio-economic and political activities in the region.
The political inactivity in Igbo land with respect to the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 is quite the opposite of the preparatory activities towards the forthcoming November 6, governorship election in which both president Buhari and INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu have vowed must hold on schedule, despite the IPOB threat.
Somehow, the quartet of Andy Uba of APC, Val Ozigbo of PDP, Chukwuma Soludo of APGA, and Ifeanyi Uba of YPP representing the main political parties have been ramping up their campaigns.
Given the scenario above, and if the Igbos are really not politicking for the presidency like their Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani counterparts, (which is evident by the reality on the ground) the prospect of an Igbo presidency in 2023 that may already be in peril, can be given a shot-in-the-arm through a strategic partnership that would provide political structures and financial muscle.
That is what informed my proposal in the earlier referenced article: “How To Become The President Of Nigeria” that the Igbo should align with Atiku Abubakar as PDP presidential candidate in 2023 to achieve the dream of Igbo presidency in 2027.
My proposal is underscored by the belief that it would be unlikely that the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who has become a veteran in presidential contests since 2003 with enormous practical experience, would seek his re-election in 2027 if elected president in 2023 via an Igbo alliance and PDP support.
Unless, other northern contenders like Aminu Tambuwal or Bala Mohammed are willing to serve only one term and hand over to an Igbo Vice President, which is a highly unlikely scenario simply because of their relatively young age compared to the former Vice President who would be 75 years next month, Igbo quest for the presidency of Nigeria may remain a mirage.
In my view, a partnership with Atiku Abubakar as a pathway to Aso Rock Villa remains the most viable trajectory for an Igbo man/woman to become president of Nigeria in 2027 on the PDP platform. That is because, Atiku Abubakar is liberal, broad-minded, business savvy, and has links by marriage to all the three major ethnic groups-Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo in Nigeria. It implies that Atiku Abubakar’s presidency would likely be more inclusive than the nepotistic-a trademark of the current government in power that is fueling the current gale of separatism.
The point being made here is that under Atiku Abubakar’s watch as president, separatism would be consigned to the dustbin as inclusiveness becomes a major plank in government policy. With inclusiveness becoming a centre point of public policy in Nigeria, secessionist tendencies would die a natural death in the manner that Niger delta militancy ceased after the late president Umaru Yar’adua took strategic steps to stabilize the volatile region via his offer of Amnesty to former militants after meeting some of their demands.
The existential reality in Nigeria’s current political equation is that the Igbos need help to actualize their quest for the presidency of Nigeria. As Atilla, the Hun advised, “choose your enemies wisely and your friends carefully.”
It should be obvious to the average Igbo that they can not ascend the throne in Aso Rock Villa by themself. And they must accept that their mastery of business can not overnight translate into the political savviness that is required for someone of Igbo extraction to become the number 1 citizen presiding over our country in Aso Rock Villa seat of power from 2023.
So an alliance with the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar whose political fortune has been built since the time that he first contested against former the late MKO Abiola in Social Democratic Party, SDP primaries held in 1992, remains the most viable political catapult that can propel the Igbo nation into Aso Rock Villa, after Alex Ekwueme’s partnership with Shehu Shagari for the presidency of Nigeria (1979-1983). It is disappointing that it is the last time the Igbo enjoyed worthy political significance in a country that they have indisputable ancestry.
Without adopting or resorting to the application of such cold calculations, the Igbos demand to have someone from their ethnic stock as number occupant in
Aso Rock Villa would very likely remain a mission impossible as the demand would continue to be elusive beyond 2023 and even 2027.
As a follow-up article to How To Become President Of Nigeria, l wrote another piece titled: “A Citizen’s Guide on How To Become President of Nigeria” also published on the back page of Thisday newspaper on October 22, 2021 and other mainstream newspapers, including Daily independence, Vanguard as well as online platforms, the following points were brought to the attention of readers:
“Although presidential power play is largely about popularity, it also significantly utilizes conspiracies and alliances as the oxygen and blood for positioning popular candidates for victory in presidential polls.”
In light of the above reality, which ethnic nationality or nationalities in the Nigerian Union is the Igbo building alliance or conspiring with, overtly or covertly? None in my opinion. But l stand to be corrected.
Now, I have read some news items indicating that some ethnic nationalities in the middle belt have been co-opted into the agitation for the Igbo presidency in 2023. The pertinent question is: does the north-central political zone hold significant votes compared to southwest or northwest that are the most prolific sources of votes in our present political configuration? Again, the response is a negative affirmation.
Even as the political link-ups being weaved like spider webs between the Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani politicians as reflected by the subterranean alliances are being tagged conspiracy theories since they are yet to be acknowledged by the key actors, there are practically neither conspiracy theories nor alliances between the Igbos or any other major tribes for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023.
It is disappointing that while the eastern region is prevaricating or pussyfooting on the strategy to adopt in order to achieve her over 50 years aspiration for self-rule, or at least get critically involved in running the affairs of the only country that can call their own, the southwest and more appropriately, the Yoruba nation, leveraging the ruling party, APC platform is at the cusp of taking the slot of the south for the second time in the presidency rotation calculus which commenced with president Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. And I get the uncanny sense that the APC is more oriented towards rotating the presidency to the southeast in 2023 than the PDP, as such it may end up specifically zoning the presidency to the Igbos even as the PDP by all intents and purposes are likely to throw it open. But the easterners may not be able to positively convert the opportunity if offered by the APC because their house has not been literarily put in order.
Perhaps, the Igbo nation would be jolted from its reverie if it is reminded of how one time Vice President of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme of blessed memory suffered the negative effect of Igbo republicanism when multiple fellow Igbos contested against him and split the votes in the PDP primaries held in Jos, Plateau state in 1998.
Although the election of Goodluck Jonathan to serve as Vice President under Umaru Yar’adua’s presidency (2007-10) and his subsequent elevation to the position of president (2010-2015) in the aftermath of Yar’adua’s sudden death offered a window of opportunity for the Igbos to have a say in the country, 2023 represents an epoch for them to be on top of the pecking order in Aso Rock Villa. Beyond the feeling of accomplishment amongst the Igbos that may be elicited by an Igbo presidency, it is even being canvassed in some quarters that it would also moderate their separatist tendencies that have severely damaged the fabric of the unity of our beloved country in the manner that the concession of the presidency to the Yorubas in 1999 via the fielding of both Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae as the presidential candidates of the two major political parties, healed the wound inflicted on the collective psyche of the Yoruba nation by the annulment of June 12, 1993, presidential election; presumably won by their son, MKO Abiola; the assassination of his delightful and heroic wife, Kudirat and his subsequent passage while in the custody of government in the course of his struggle to claim his presidential mandate.
In the likely event that the Igbos have forgotten.
It would interest them to know that of the five presidents that have led Nigeria -Shehu Shagari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’adua Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and Mohammadu Buhari currently in the saddle, only two have been from the south. Both of them- Obasanjo and Jonathan made it to the presidency directly or indirectly following the sudden death of their principals- either via assassination or natural causes.
In other words, they rode on the apron strings of northern Political leaders who got selected after a military putsch, as is the case with Murtala Muhamed and Obasanjo (1976-9) or got elected president via a general election following the death of an elected sitting president, which is what happened with the Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan presidency(2007-15).
It is also pertinent to bear in mind that Obasanjo did not get elected president in 1999 on the voting strength of the Yoruba nation. Rather, he became president despite being rejected by his Yoruba kith and kin that preferred his opponent, Olu Falae.
So he only became no 1 citizen through the political engineering reportedly driven by the duo of former military head of state Ibrahim Babangida and ex-chief of army staff, TY Danjuma. The pair of whom are leading members of the northern intelligentsia or the so-called Kaduna mafia.
It is the foregoing political developments that have informed my unique perspective that it would be more pragmatic for the Igbo nation to be fully conscious of the dynamics of politics in our country in order to be guided and thus be appreciative of the propriety of weaning itself off the utopian idea of winning the presidency without the type of strategic alliances espoused in my earlier proposition.
Allow me to indulge you by being a bit prescient as l reference an AriseTv interview with late northern political power broker and bridge builder, late Isa Funtua in January 2020 where he made a prediction that the Igbo can not be given the presidency on a platter of gold:
“They want to do things on their own and because they are Igbo, we should dash them the presidency?”
The straight-talking Isa Funtua further made the following declarative statement about the Igbos :
“Nobody will carry you like a newly born baby.
With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand that when the South-West chose to remain on their own as opposition, they did not go near (national) power”
With the benefit of hindsight, my candid advice to the Igbo nation is that it is time for them to collectively pull themselves out of their current state of lethargy and do their spadework if they truly want to be the ethnic nationality calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa in 2023.
Need l say more?
Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, an alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.
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In the People Democratic Party, PDP whose convention comes up 30-31st October which is a few days’ time, the front runners for the presidential tickets are already very well known.