Finally, Igbos Speak with One Voice on Zoning 2023 Presidency to S’East



Chuks Okocha writes that presidential aspirants from Igboland across political parties have come together to push for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction 

Despite available facts and their efforts to prove otherwise, the Igbos of the South-east of Nigeria have failed to convince other Nigerians that they are united in the pursuit to better their lots. From all indications, they will have to live with that stigma for some time.

 However,  the Igbos seem determined to continue to pull off some great marks of solidarity to demonstrate that they can be united.
One of such efforts was the recent “Greater Nigeria Conference with the theme ‘Together We Can’ held at the International Conference Centre in Abuja on Monday  April  25, 2022. It was an initiative of an Igbo Think Tank, Nzuko Umunna, which received total buy-in from all groups based in or linked to the Igbos. 

The purpose of the conference was for leaders of the South-east and friends of the zone to come together and make the case for all political parties in Nigeria to zone their presidential tickets to aspirants from Igboland.  

The build up to the gathering was greeted with the usual scepticism –will the Igbos make it successful as one the giant efforts to prove their attackers wrong or would they mess it up and confirm their disunity? All waited for the D-Day with apprehension. By 11.30 am of the fateful day, enthusiastic Igbos were  being turned away from the Executive Lounge of the International Conference Centre, venue of the event because the Hall was already overcrowded. 

That was the first mark of commitment of Igbos to the meeting and by extension, a demonstration of unity and solidarity of purpose.
With the first line of apprehension resolved on the positive side for the South&easterners, the second apprehension was still there: what if the people came in their numbers and their leaders especially the presidential aspirants shunned the event?

 Surprisingly, by kick-off time of the C/conference which was 12 noon, all the major presidential aspirants had come and they came with their full human paraphernalia so much so that squabbles over space and seats became loud.
There was Anyim Pius Anyim, the first real presidential material from Igboland to announce his intention to run for the 2023 presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

 Also in attendance was Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State who has declared his intention to contest next year’s presidency on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Owelle Rochas Okorocha, serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and former two-term governor of Imo state. There was Dr Chris Ngige,  Labour Minister and former Governor of Anambra State; there was Mr Peter Obi also of the Peoples Democratic Party and two-term Governor of Anambra state..

The roll call of the presidential aspirants present included: Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze, Mrs Rose Nwosu, Mrs Offorkansi and Alhaji Yahaya Ndu. They were paraded by the organisers for Nigerians to see and when they spoke, they left the audience and the country in no doubt that Igbos have started speaking with one voice.

One-by-one, they called on Nigeria, through the political parties to zone the presidency of the country in the forthcoming general election to the South-east zone to the applause of the people in the hall. What a demonstration of unity. Now that the best presidential candidates of Igbo extraction from the two major political parties in Nigeria spoke with one voice on the urgent need for Igbo presidency,  Nigerians should know that the Igbos are coming and forcefully too. 

Beyond the issue of and their republicanism, was the matter of the moment, the issue of allowing the South-east to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023. On this, all the Igbo presidential aspirants spoke with one voice.
But the real issue was the tremendous support the Igbos have been receiving from non-Igbos. At the occasion, the leader of the Pan-Yoruba Socio-Cultural organization, Afenifere, Ayo Adebanjo spoke loudly and eloquently on reasons why Igbos should produce the next president of Nigeria. 

He has been consistent in his support for Igbo president in 2023 despite the fact that the Vice  President, Yemi Osinbajo, a fellow Yoruba man is in the race. Ayo Adebanjo represents a true friend of the Igbo race and the greatest demonstration of what many Igbos and Yorubas have wished all along –a Yoruba – Igbo solidarity and cooperation. That has been in the mind of progressives from both divides for a long time and often called hand-shake-across-the-West.

 That east-west solidarity has not been as strong as expected, otherwise it would have been an adequate counterforce to the “monolithic” north’s ‘menace’ when it comes to the politics of Nigeria.
Since Independence, there have been flashes of west-east cooperation that had died and allowed the long history of acrimony to continue to reign. Back-stabing between Awo and Zik (Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe), between Awo and Biafra war time leader, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; between NPP and UPN, etc and of recent;  hostilities against Igbos in Lagos for voting for PDP in 2019 presidential election and the resultant threat to drown Igbos in Lagos in the Lagos Lagoon. 
But there were the Col Babafemi Ogundipes,  Adegoke Adelabus, the Adeniran Ogunsanyas who showed loyalty to Igbos in politics. 

There were also, Chief S.G. Ikoku,  Mrs Oyibo Odinanmadu and Chief Philip Umeadi who were very close confidants of Awo and played their politics with Yorubas. Adebanjo has been extremely committed to the 2023 Igbo cause, just like writers Segun Adeniyi and Akin Osuntokun as well as activists like Deji Adeyanju, and a host of others. They equate perfectly the support and loyalty of Chief Joe Igbokwe and Ben Akabueze (both Igbos) who have held more strategic positions in/for Lagos state than many  Yorubas.

Pa Ayo Adebanjo at 95 years of age took the trouble to come all the way to Abuja to re-echo his support for Igbos. He roared like a lion. 
Adebanjo has a grouse against politicians from the North who he accused of now propounding a lot of theories, when they realized it was the turn of the Igbo to produce the president.

Said he, “Now that it is the turn of the Igbo, they are propounding a new theory: it must be based on merit and all that. If it is the question of merit, if it has been based on merit till today, till the Kingdom comes, the Igbo alone will produce the president.

“Although, I don’t like all the people that came out from the east. But for the fact that they are saying you have no people, I’m happy you demonstrated that. 

“But go and unite. A house divided against itself will not stand,” the elder statesman admonished.
In like manner, both the Middle Belt and the South-South Zones also supported the Igbo agitation.

Dr Bitrus Pogu and Chief Edwin Clark who are the leaders of the Middle Belt Forum and the Pan Niger Delta Forum also said 2023 presidency should be zoned to the south east.

Said Pogu, himself a northerner: “For us, the debate should be a straight one between the South-south and the South-east. But the South-south has occupied the seat of president for one term and the South-east has never occupied it at all. The north that presently is occupying the number one position in Nigeria and the South-west that has been served should not entertain any thought of throwing their hats in the ring.

“After your own region has been served a consensus to stabilize the Nigerian polity and give its people a sense of belonging, it would amount to taking the food tray away in a banquet hall after dishing enough food to one’s plate. Of course, others on the queue will be well within their right to chase and deal with such selfish people.

“It is only proper that we take this thing to the south and it is the turn of the South-east to produce the president.”
Pogu equally called for greater unity among the presidential aspirants and the Igbo nation so as to block those who do not like the south east from capitalizing on disunity to abort Igbo presidency in 2023.

To be fair to the Igbo presidential aspirants, they have done a lot to promote that needed unity.

Anyim Pius Anyim, the first Igbo presidential aspirant to declare his interest set the pace when he declared late last year in Enugu that more Igbos should join the race. Then he was the only one. Following that call, about 16 prominent Igbos have joined the race. Anyim’s leadership role in the quest for Igbo presidency in 2023 remains indelible.

 His entry into the race late 2021 ended the ridicule from uninformed Nigerians that Igbos have no credible candidate to present. He also led the much talked about solidarity of Igbo presidential aspirants when he initiated the meeting of four Igbo presidential aspirants on PDP platform namely: himself, Mr Peter Obi, Mazi Ohuabunwa and Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze where they met on 9th of April, 2022 and later told Nigerians that they agreed to work for the emergence of Igbo President in 2023 regardless of which of them is chosen.

Anyim who read the press conference said, “we have agreed to work together as a team to ensure that a south easterner emerges as PDP flag bearer.

“We intend to consult with other zones on this issue and it is based on fairness and equity.
“In doing so, it is important to note that we have always supported other zones and we now expect them to reciprocate”, the four aspirants stated.

Even the organisers of the GNC in their vote of thanks acknowledged the exceptional financial contributions made by Anyim to the successful hosting of the conference.

One-by-one, they called on Nigeria, through the political parties to zone the presidency of the country in the forthcoming general election to the South-east zone to the applause of the people in the hall. What a demonstration of unity. Now that the best presidential candidates of Igbo extraction from the two major political parties in Nigeria spoke with one voice on the urgent need for Igbo presidency,  Nigerians should know that the Igbos are coming and forcefully too. 


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