As the ‘Next Level’ journey begins in earnest, many stakeholders in the South-east geopolitical zone bare their minds on what they expect from President Muhammadu Buhari. Writes OKEY CHRIS.
On February 23, Nigerians of voting age returned President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) for another four- year-term. According to the official result of the poll released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari gathered what could be described as bulk votes in the northern region.
The south, especially the five south-eastern geopolitical zones voted massively for Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was the major challenger of the APC candidate.
As a result, Blueprint sought opinion of stakeholders on what President Buhari’s victory at the poll portends for the zone that claimed to have suffered neglect and marginalisation for the past four years that the current administration was in saddle.
Recall that President Buhari suffered same fate in the region during the 2015 presidential poll even when the APC defeated then ruling PDP whose presidential flag bearer was Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
Consequently, the president in one of his interviews with an international media, allegedly said there was nowhere people should expect him to give equal treatment to all the zones based on the 25% votes as against the ones that added less than 25% votes to his victory.
The statement was taken to another dimension in another forum when he visited Enugu state for his re-election campaign bid. He, reportedly, told the mammoth crowd that he gave more political appointments to his northern kinsmen because they were more qualified than the south easterners.
In what appears as his style, the president, two days after the news of his victory at the poll, told Nigerians that his second term would be tougher than the first term as he is determined to tackle his political agenda more decisively.
These and more prompted Blueprint to sample the opinion of lawyers, civil society groups and others in the region on ways forward for the Igbo nation. Speaking on the matter to Blueprint, Barr Chibunna John Akirika, an Awka- based legal practitioner and commentator, said the reality is that the entire federation voted for him.
According to Akirika, Buhari is the president of the whole country once elected because the whole country belongs to him and Igbo speaking people remain lawful citizens of that country.
“They deserve to be treated like every other tribe in the country. It will be surprising if Buhari start talking about percentage of votes gathered from each region. By virtue of Section 15 of 1999 Constitution, the affairs of the country should be carried out in a manner that reflect our diversity as a federation. The founding father appreciated our diversity. Igbo should continue to participate in the affairs of the country. We have every right to vote candidate of our choice,” he submitted.
On whether he thinks Igbo can ever produce presidency of the country considering the voting pattern that gives some states in the north more votes than the entire states in the South-east, he maintained that it was not a matter of whose tribe produce the presidency, but said the Igbo race has to re-strategise for the 2023 election, although he was yet to be convinced that the result of the 2019 presidential poll was a true reflection of how people voted.
Also speaking, the chairman, Human Rights, Liberty Access and Defenders Foundation (HURIJE), and national publicity secretary of Campaign for Democracy (CD), Uzor A Uzor, said the credibility of the election was in question as it lacks legitimacy.
“It will be difficult for me to recognise the emergence of this government. But Igbo should work hard for 2023. Politics is about negotiation and influence. They should negotiate with other tribes. The problem we have is not because we are marginalised but because of disunity. I am begging Ohanaeze Ndigbo to work hard to reunite us. Igbo have produced president of International Criminal Court, Commonwealth of Nations and others. All we need is unity and love,” Uzor said.
He insisted that Igbo can win the 2023 presidential poll in any political party including the APC, where there are prominent individuals like Rochas Okorocha, Chris Ngige and others with their teeming followers.
To the chairman, Anambra state chapter of Young Democratic Party (YDP), Barr Henryking Onyedikachukwu Adibe, President Buhari should be magnanimous in victory since three states out of five in the region gave him 25% votes cast.
Adibe, who further advised the president to learn from his past mistake of side-lining the Igbo, insisted that no tribe should be marginalised for any reason, adding that why people from the zone voted massively for former President Jonathan was because they saw him as their brother who deserved a second term and APC did not make any promise to them.
“Other reasons Igbo don’t vote for APC are that PDP is a national party and her tenure in governance discovered many Igbo men and women. More worrisome is the way APC- led federal government handles the issues of Fulani herdsmen attack and so on. But we don’t have to discourage people from joining other political parties. Let Igbo people in APC get good things for us, while Igbo in APGA, PDP and other political parties get good things for us,” he added.
On the possibility of Igbo producing the presidency under APC or other political parties, the he enjoined people of the zone to embark on massive voter education as voter apathy is beclouding their voting choice.
He called on his people to improve on their voting strength as number of registered voters in Kano alone surpass those in the entire region, while Anambra state where there are over two million votes, did not record large number of vote at the just concluded general election.
Adding his voice to the discourse, Barr Jerry Emebie, a legal practitioner, advised the Igbos to brace up for whatever that might happen in the next administrations.
Emebie, who said President Buhari might change his attention to the Igbo race due to the fact that the election that brought him for a second term was still been questioned by the electorate, appealed to the president to extend his hands of fellowship as Igbo can never be intimidated.
“To be honest with you, I am not interested in an Igbo man becoming the president of Nigeria, because even if an Igbo becomes the president, the structure and institution of governance have been designed to make them to fail. It is not even likely to happen considering the present political structure. The north has the structure to win with any help from the west,” he maintained.
But the publicity secretary of APC in the state, Mr Okelo Madukaife, maintained that the South-east and South-south will benefit significantly from Buhari’s re-election regardless of their contributions to his election.
According to Madukaife, “It portends the completion of the Second Niger Bridge to ease traffic at the gateway into the two regions from the western axis, good roads and good roads constructions. It also means an extension of the East West railway line to pass through Onitsha to Aba junction, where it intersects the Eastern line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri with spurs to all state capitals in the South-east.”