Igbo leaders have demanded an apology from the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over a statement credited to him that Ndigbo should wait until after his tenure as President to have a shot at the presidency.
While expressing their displeasure, the leaders described Atiku’s comment as an insult to the collective sensibilities of the entire Igbo race.
The former vice president had, on Tuesday, during the PDP South-East Zonal Stakeholders’ Meeting in Enugu, said he would actualise the Igbo presidency if elected in 2023.
“So, why do you say I will not give Igbos a fair chance to lead the country after my tenure as president? I did that in 2019 when I brought Obi and another Obi in 2011 and for 2023, I chose Ifeanyi Okowa, another Igbo man as my running mate, even when Ohaneze said no Igbo should contest for Presidency under PDP”, he had stated.
However, the comment by the PDP’s standard bearer did not go well with many Igbo leaders who berated him for being insensitive to the political marginalisation of Ndigbo.
Recall that Chief Raymond Dokpesi had, in January 2022, during a consultation parley with the PDP leaders in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, said Atiku would only do a single term and hand over to an Igbo person.
Dokpesi, who was then the leader of the Technical Committee for Atiku Abubakar’s Presidential Campaign, assured that if Atiku was elected for a single four-year term, it would pave the way for the South East to produce the president in 2027.
Recall also that similar promises were made to Ndigbo by the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, during the electioneering for the 2019 general elections.
In December 2018, the Secretary to the Federal Government, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, restated APC’s resolve that President Muhammadu Buhari would hand over power to an Igbo person in 2023.
Mustapha, while speaking in Umuahia, at the inauguration of the South East chapter of the Presidential Support Committee, PSC, assured Ndigbo that the shortest route to producing a president of Igbo extraction was by supporting and voting for APC in 2019.
Note that since the return of democracy in 1999, the gentleman agreement was that power would be rotating between the North and the South. In that order, the South got the first shot at the presidency with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, from the Southwest. After him, the presidency went to the North with Umaru Musa Ya’adua emerging as the president. Unfortunately, Ya’adua died on the seat and his vice, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South filled in as acting president and then substantive president.
Going forward, the presidency returned to the North with Buhari almost rounding up his second tenure. Therefore, by the gentleman agreement operational, the presidency ought to return to the South once again.
But since the Dokpesi statement of January 2022 that Atiku will do a single term if elected in 2023 is not a direct commitment from the PDP presidential candidate, it can then mean that Igbo will have to wait till 2031 to be President if he decides to seek re-election in 2027 and succeeds.
The Igbo leaders argued that out of the three geopolitical zones, namely, South-West, South-East and South-South, the South-South and South-West have had their time at the presidency, leaving the South-East.
They believed that if equity, justice, fair play, and most importantly, owing to the tenets of the gentleman agreement which is in tandem with the federal character principles, the geo-political zone should have been supported by the other southern blocks who already have had their take at the presidency, but it became a tug of war, one which has generated a lot of bad blood.
Those who spoke to Sunday Vanguard noted that Atiku, who is at the centre of the problem, rather than supporting a candidate from the South-East, threw his hat in the ring to be allowed to succeed a fellow northerner who just did two tenures.
According to them, it is ironic that Atiku is now the one telling Igbos to support him becoming the president so that he would assist the region to get their turn at the presidency.
The implication of Atiku’s promise, the South-East leaders noted, is that if the ex-VP wins the 2023 presidential election and decides to go for a second term, the Igbos will have to wait until 2031 to have a shot at the presidency.
Atiku can’t be trusted – OYC
Reacting, the National President of Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, Comrade Igboayaka O. Igboayaka, regarded Atiku’s statement as a mere political chorus.
He said the PDP’s presidential candidate cannot be trusted. “We know politicians that can keep to their words and Atiku is not one of them. So what he’s doing is just to manoeuvre to get the opportunity to become the president of this country and continue his private and personal agenda.
“Again, nobody that is reasonable will ask Ndigbo or South East to support them to get power in 2031, no. It’s an insult to Ndigbo and unacceptable. I blame some so-called Igbo stakeholders in PDP that stood there and watched him making such a caricature statement against Ndigbo.
“Ndigbo have waited for more than 57 years to have a position of the number one citizen of this country. No person from South East has become the president of this country. So when you ask our people to wait, it is an insult to us.
”So the South East is politically marginalized and this is part of the things that are fueling the agitation in the old Eastern region. So it’s morally, socially, and justifiably the time for South East to produce the next president of this country. It is non-negotiable, we cannot negotiate it for any reason”, Igboayaka stated.
Don’t denigrate Igbo race – Ikoro Ndigbo
Also speaking, a socio-political analyst and convener, Ikoro Ndigbo Assembly, Ugochimereze Chinedu Asuzu, cautioned Atiku not to denigrate the Igbo race further, by such an “insulting and patronizing statement, as the presidency is not his to give.”
Asuzu said: “While Atiku is at liberty to say whatever he wants to say because there’s freedom of speech, I’ll only advise that he shouldn’t for any reason whatsoever, denigrate the Igbo race further, by such insulting and patronizing statement. The presidency is not Atiku’s to give to anyone, therefore, giving a promise that obviously is above his actualization is only being unnecessarily mischievous.
“This same patronizing statement we heard before the advent of the present occupier of the office of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari. It was part of their campaign statements during the period of the campaigns, and it’s been observed in the breach already because the APC ticket has been ceded to a southwesterner already.
“Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly a pattern of a sort that the sensibilities of the Igbos are continually being insulted by politicians of other ethnicities who believe dangling such carrots at the faces of the Igbos will earn them votes.
“We say enough of the insults because the Igbos aren’t second-class citizens or is it that we aren’t aborigines of Nigeria that we’re being placarded in that manner? Will the heavens fall if an Igbo person rules Nigeria, or is there an unwritten or hidden code that forbid the Igbos from becoming president?
“Therefore, all these fire brigades’ promises to the Igbos during campaigns of supporting them next time to be president should stop, because it’s glaring becoming utterly nonsensical and demeaning. We have our people in contention too who are qualified to be president now. So we won’t wait for that beggarly presidency Atiku will give to us, because Nigeria is not his to give to anyone, and he’s not more qualified than our people who already offered themselves for that position which if following logically, morally, ethically and otherwise, it’s the rightful time for a president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction to become a reality, and that is where we stand now.”
I pity Igbos supporting Atiku – Nwodo
Former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Dr Nnia Nwodo, while contributing, said that he pities any Igbo political elite supporting the presidential candidate of the PDP at a time many Nigerians from other tribes are supporting the candidacy of Mr Peter Obi, an illustrious Igbo son.
According to Nwodo, “Atiku has been there as vice president and has contested for the presidency severally and he thinks we should wait after several times the North has occupied that position. I don’t support that statement by Atiku. I also pity those of them who had earlier supported the struggle for the Igbo presidency and now saying another thing. I don’t know what will be going through their minds.”
Continuing, he wondered why the Igbo political elite would not sacrifice political correctness and party interest on the altar of regional interest.
The former Information Minister said that apart from the fact that Obi hails from the South East that should by equity and justice be allowed to produce the president in 2023, the former Anambra governor towers higher above other presidential contenders.
“All I feel for those Igbo, including my state governor and my brother, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, now supporting Atiku to be president after eight years of the presidency of another Fulani man when entire Nigeria is saying that Peter Obi who happens to be Igbo is the best candidate in the race, is a pity. But they are entitled to their opinion.”
Also reacting, the President of Igbo National Council, INC, Chilos Godsent, said the group was sad about Atiku’s statement and viewed it “as a total insult to the Igbo nation.”
He called on the PDP’s presidential candidate “to endeavour to study history as that may help guide his utterances in this electioneering period.”
“Consequent upon the above, the INC, therefore, request Atiku to immediately apologize to the Igbo nation for that reckless and unguided statement or we shall declare a political fatwa on him and the PDP state governors in the Igbo land”, Godsent warned.
Igbos still unhappy with PDP
Adding his voice, the leader of the Coalition of Southeast Youth Leaders, COSEYL, Goodluck Ibem, expressed disappointment over the statement by Atiku especially, at a time when Ndigbo were still unhappy about the outcome of the PDP presidential primary election.
He said: “It is very wrong for Atiku to make such a statement in Enugu when the people of South East are still unhappy with the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries that failed to zone her presidential ticket to South East after many years of unalloyed support to the party.
“Whoever may have advised him to make such statement in Enugu did not advise him rightly. Enugu remains the capital of Ndigbo and it is not complementary for him to have made such a comment there.”