By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan
The Number One, single most important, Office in Nigeria is that of the President of the Federal Republic. By whatever nomenclature, the President is the Head of State as well as the head of the Federal Executive Council. He is also the Commander-in- Chief of the nation’s Armed Forces. He is elected every four years for not more than two terms.
At Independence in 1960, Nigeria stood on a tripod – the Eastern, Northern and Western Regions. Shortly before attaining a Republican status in 1963, a fourth Region, the Midwest, which later became known as Bendel State, was created.
History recognizes the Midwest as the only entity in the entire country that was constitutionally created – by a referendum – all other States, being military contraptions.
Even where the sharing of the nation’s wealth has silently been on the basis of the Old Regions, that highest office in the land has never, and will probably never, touch ground in the Midwest. The three other Regions have been busy appropriating it to themselves.
Rather than filter the position to the most deserving, some single individuals in the North and the West, have had to occupy the position two times each as exemplified by the cases of General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976 – 1979) and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 – 2007); and General Muhammadu Buhari (1983 – 85) and Ahaji Muhammadu Buhari (2015 till date).
When it suits them, the Big Brothers have argued that military rule is an aberration and that the heads of government under the military junters cannot be counted in the scheme of things. This is just being clever by half. The rulers and the ruled are Nigerians. They must appear on the roll call:
· Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1960-1963)
· President Nnamdi Azikiwe (1963 – 1966)
· General Yakubu Gowon (1966 – 1975)
· General Murtala Mohammed (1975 – 1976)
· Major General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976 – 1979)
· President Shehu Shagari (1979 – 1983)
· General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (1985 – 1993)
· Chief Earnest Shonekan (1993)
· General Sani Abacha (1993-1998)
· General Abdusalam Abubakar (1998 – 1999)
· Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999- 2007)
· President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-2010)
· President Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015)
· Ahaji Muhammadu Buhari (2015 till date and still running)
Wittingly or unwittingly, the two bigger blocks have left the Igbo behind in the power equation. Ndigbo of the South-East deserve to produce the President of this country. But they will still wait for their time. Some prominent Igbo sons in the ruling party claim that they will not give the presidency a shot in 2019. They would rather support President Muhammadu Buhari to do his single remaining term and get out of the way.
Meanwhile, the truth is that Ndigbo are likely to actualize their presidential ambition on the platform of the PDP became that’s where they are. Even if Buhari wins the 2019 contest, it will not significantly be with Igbo votes. As at now, in the South-East the APC is in power only in Imo State and that is being threatened, particularly with the recent defection of Senators Ifeanyi Ararume and Osita Izunanso group from the APC to APGA. For the APC, this was one defection two many and the APC should have done everything to avert it. The major fear here is that Imo may even slip off the grip of APC.
In essence, baring a political tsunami in which Ndigbo will empty themselves into the APC in less than six months from now (we don’t see that happening!) the South-East will still remain predominantly PDP.
Under an APC presidency, it would be fool-hardy to expect the party to throw the presidential ticket into a zone where it is not just weak but also where it is almost totally absent. Indeed, no political party would take such a risk as it would be a political hara-kiri and a sure prescription for failure.
It is easy to cite the case of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who won the 1999 presidential election without the votes of his people.
Clearly, things were different then. First, we were coming directly from a military rule and political formations had not taken firm root.
Secondly, Nigeria needed a clean break from the Northern hegemony; and more so, a Yoruba President was needed as atonement for the M.K.O. Abiola debacle. In essence, any warm body of the Yoruba extraction would have won that election.
What now looks like a bias against Ndigbo can be broken under a PDP Central Administration. This, it appears, is the only place where Ndigbo can solidly stand to be counted.
In the circumstance, the only attractive option before Ndigbo is perhaps to stay where they are; pray hard; and work assiduously for the victory of the PDP in 2019. That’s the only way they can reasonably aspire to the presidency in 2027 – not before then! In fact, under an APC administration, we see the Yoruba going for broke in 2023!
Whatever happens sometime, someday, Nigeria will have an Igbo President. We cannot say the same for the minority areas. The type of accidents that brought General Yakubu Gowon and President Goodluck Jonathan to power could occur only once in a generation. They are not to be prayed for, either.
Barring such, an Edo man, for instance, can never aspire to that Number One position because of the accident of geography. Indeed, geography determines destiny in Nigeria. Our Northern and Western brothers may never know how it feels to constantly realize that in your own country, there are certain positions you can never aspire to, no matter how good you are or how hard you work; and for the few fringe positions to which they say you are entitled, you still have to work ten times as hard, to be one-tenth as good, as your counterparts from the other places.
Is anyone still wondering why the clamour for restructuring will never end in this country? And, shall we ever get there?