Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere, the apex socio cultural bodies of the Igbo and the Yoruba were yesterday united in chiding politicians from their ethnic zones advocating a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari as the fastest route for the presidency to come to their zones. The two groups in separate assertions said that they were more preoccupied with the restructuring of the country than the allotment of the presidential office.
The two socio-cultural groups spoke in response to Thursday’s call by Mr. Babatunde Fashola, minister of works, power and housing to the Yoruba to vote Buhari for a second term.
He had said at a town hall meeting organized by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture that voting for Buhari would amount to the presidency returning to the Southwest in 2023.
His call came against the campaign by many Southeast supporters of the president that a second term for Buhari was the surest and quickest route for the Igbo to become president in 2023.
Amidst the rivalry by the Southwest and Southeast for 2023, the secretary general of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Z. Sanni yesterday also gave a warning to the two zones that the North may not be ruled out of 2023.
In a coded warning to the two zones, Sanni affirmed that 70 out of the 76 candidates for the 2019 presidential election were southerners! Meanwhile, the 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party, NCP, Mr. Martin Onovo alerted that Fashola’s call could be his way of positioning himself for the 2023 contest.
While some Igbo leaders have said that their support for Buhari’s second term was to ensure a payback from him for an Igbo person to become president in 2023, they have, however, put aside the prospects of APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who publicly withdrew himself from the 2019 contest only because of Buhari’s interest.
The minister of labour, productivity and employment, Senator Chris Ngige who is one of the Igbo leaders canvassing a second term for Buhari reiterated his stance last night, but with the provisio that Igbo must vote overwhelmingly for Buhari in 2019 to be able to negotiate well for the 2023 presidential ticket.
Besides Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the ACF, leading political figures from across the country weighed into the debate roused by Fashola yesterday.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on its part said that Fashola’s assertion should be a revelation of what he described as the deceit of the All Progressives Congress, APC on the issue. Among those who spoke were former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife of Anambra State, former Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, Chief Chekwas Okorie, chairman of the United Peoples Party, UPP, leading lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, among others.
Buhari’s Southwest, Southeast advocates on fool’s errand
Responding to the debate yesterday, Afenifere speaking through its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said:
“Both the Buhari advocates in southeast and southwest are not in tune with the mood of both zones.
“The mood of both zones is not Nigerian presidency in 2023, but restructuring in 2019. If we restructure the country in 2019 and everybody have the autonomy to run their lives as they want within corporate Nigeria, both zones may even say that they don’t want the presidency in 2023.
“In the First Republic, Ahmadu Bello refused to be prime minister of Nigeria; he sent his lieutenant to be the prime minister of Nigeria while he stayed back as premier of Northern Nigeria.
“So, both Fashola and Ngige and the rest of them saying that Buhari is the fastest route to 2023 are not in sync with the mood of their zones.
“The mood of their zones is that the fastest route to recovery for Nigeria and for every section of Nigeria is to restructure Nigeria in 2019.
“It is a mere diversion that resonates with nobody. The Yoruba had the presidency for eight years, did it make any difference? The South-South had it for six years. What did it do for them? The North that has had it more than any other region what has it done for the ordinary Northerner?”
Ohanaeze More Focused on Restructuring than on who becomes president or vice-president
Speaking in the same vein, Ohanaeze Ndigbo speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, stressed that the disposition of Ohanaeze was not in favour of who becomes the president, his vice and other political positions but on the restructuring of the country.
The statement read in part: “On the contradicting pronouncements of the present Government and other consequential revelations, promising the South East and the South West of the 2023 presidency, permit me to encapsulate that to truth, the present government is to build on sand.
“For the umpteenth time, the disposition of Ohanaeze is not in favour of who becomes the president, his vice and other political positions. The stand of Ohanaeze is hell bent on restructuring.
“Without restructuring the much an Igbo president or vice could do is to enrich few privileged individuals.
“Even if he desires he would not have the leverage, opportunity or manifest impetus to impact on the generality of the people.
“The way in which the constitution is designed is not favourable to the less privileged regions. The only soothing balm, as it stands now, is restructuring the political system.
“In a country running a federal system of government and yet the respective states cannot legislate on virtually everything is unacceptable. This is because even in the concurrent list the Federal policy preponderates over those of the States, while the residual list is virtually empty and insignificant.”
ACF Not Interested, but throws mines ahead
Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Elder Anthony Sani has said the northern socio-cultural group would not dabble into the issue of power shift in 2023, saying it was for the political parties to decide.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard in his personal capacity on the matter, Sani said “The answer to that question is not within the purview of ACF. It is matter for political parties.”
He, however, made a revelation which could justify the outflow of Northern presidential candidates in 2023 against the assumption by the South that it would be the turn of either of the three regions at that time.
He said: “Take for example, of the about 76 presidential candidates, about 70 are from the South.”
PDP is vindicated – Ologbondinyan
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said Fashola’s statement has vindicated the party that neither Buhari nor the APC is serious about Igbo quest for Presidency.
He said: “When we said they were not serious about supporting the South-East for the Presidency, we were called all sorts of names.
“Our brothers and sisters in the South East zone, with this charge by Fashola now know they will be supporting a wrong cause if they throw their weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
“They should not allow themselves to be used and dumped because the ruling party has no agenda or plan for them. The earlier they realized this, the better.”
National Vice Chairman of the PDP, South East, Deacon Austin Umahi on his part said Fashola’s statement was an eye opener for the Igbo people in the APC.
“That’s an eye opener to our so called brothers and sisters who are in the failed APC for their selfish interests and leaking pockets.
“Rebranded and repositioned PDP does not only have Nigeria’s collective interest but South East in particular. I am convinced that as a party built on fairness and equity, South East surely stands a better chance to take her equity share in Nigeria’s project come 2023, God willing.”
Power Is Not Served ala carte – Ngige
Responding to the Fashola claim last night, Senator Ngige said that much emphasis would be placed on the number of votes garnered for Buhari by the people of Southeast for them to be accorded the presidential slot in 2023.
He advised Ndigbo to massively vote for Buhari, saying that while it was morally right to give the people an opportunity, political power is however not given for the asking of it.
“Power is not served alla carte. You must go for it. It’s not given.
“If the Igbo of Nigeria stay in their cocoon in the South East and not join in working for the winning party i.e the APC, the party could try to choose its Presidential candidate from anywhere in the South where the 2019 votes shows as its stronghold irrespective of the fact that morally the Igbo will rightfully say it’s their turn in 2023.
Wake Up Call
The Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu one of the early champions of a second term for Buhari as the surest route to the emergence of an Igbo person as Nigeria’s president saw Fashola’s call as a wake up call to the Igbo.
He said: “Babatunde Fashola’s statement is a Wake Up to Ndigbo to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari is the only Northerner whose exit in 2023 is certain. Every other Northerner presidential can only pledge or promise four years.
“Fashola’s call for South West to vote for Buhari is not out of place, for politics is local. The truism is that Fashola has sounded a Wake-Up-Call for Ndigbo to vote for Buhari if we are interested in the president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction come 2023.
“Ndigbo have three advantages to clinch the 2023 presidency – equity, natural justice, and good conscience.
“The zoning convention favours Ndigbo for our two brothers in the southern belt – South West and South South had benefited for eight and six years respectively.”
Chime wants Igbo Ministers To also market Buhari
Immidate past Governor of Enugu state, Mr. Sullivan Chime now a chieftain of the APC also faulted Fashola for supposedly promoting tribal politics.
“It’s sad and unfortunate that our people are promoting tribal politics. If Fashola is telling the Yoruba people what President Buhari has done for them, what we should do is that the ministers from this area should as well come and tell our people what Buhari has done for us.
“Maybe we are in the dark, maybe he has been doing things. So they need to come and give us reasons we should vote in Buhari.
“Fashola has his own constituency and I don’t see anything wrong with it. He is a Yoruba man and he spoke to Yoruba people, I also expect the Igbo ministers to also come and speak with Ndigbo.
“Personally I have my own reasons, more than a million reasons I should vote for him and not PDP. What is on board now is 2019.
“It’s not time to consider who will be there in 2023. In any case, if we are thinking about going to Abuja in 2023 we should first and foremost do the one thing we are sure about, support this man. We will know that the position will be vacant in 2023, that is the surest way we can know how we will go in 2023.”
Ezeife, Ozekhome chide Fashola
Third Republic governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife on his part bemoaned Fashola’s comment, noting that the minister would have been correct if the rotation of the presidency were between the Fulani and the Yoruba.
“Fashola is my friend, he is working for Buhari. But I think he is senior enough to be one of those who regret the myopia of Yoruba and Igbo which has brought Nigeria down to what we are seeing now and for him to start this battle again I think some people have to call him to order.
“Let me say one thing, if we elect Buhari for a second term what is the guarantee that Nigeria will outlast two years of him being in office.
“So I totally appeal to people not to pretend not to understand the game being played and not to yield to it. I don’t really think there is anything to worry about, all we need to do now is to pray to God to control the minds of the INEC people and force them to do justice.”
On the insinuation that the All Progressives Congress, APC, had penciled down the South East to produce President after President Buhari’s second tenure in respect to the spirit of rotational Presidency, he said:
“If the rotation is between Fulani and Yoruba, then he is right but that is not the rotation.
“The rotation is North and South and within the North there are people and within the South there are people.”
On his part, human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Barrister Mike Ozekhome chided the former Lagos state governor, saying he lacks the capacity to speak for the South West.
“Fashola cannot speak for the Yoruba race where you have Afenifere. The Igbo people are in the true spirit of equity, egalitarianism and good conscience entitled, to the next Presidency of Nigeria,” he said.
Yoruba Youth Council Chide Fashola: Our Agenda is Restructuring, not presidency
The Yoruba Youth Council, YYC has upbraided Fashola over his assertion as they charged him to justify the call for another term for Buhari against his performance in office just as the group said it was more concerned with restructuring than the feeble advantages of having another Yoruba president.
The group in a statement signed by its National President, Eric Oluwole Teniola in Akure, said:
“President Buhari had no solution to any of the problems confronting Nigeria as a nation.
“We observe with consternation that Mr. Fashola, who is a beneficiary of the social economic crisis which the ruling elite has plunged the Nigerian youths could start serving as an adviser at this critical period if our nation’s existence.
“Yoruba youths also remember with consternation, the statements credited to Mr. Fashola that Nigeria’s power problems could be fixed in six months; three years of his reign as the minister in charge of power has not solved our perennial power problems.
“We want him and his likes who are feeding Nigerians with propaganda from the seat if power to know that the youths have learnt from history and will strive hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past in our resolve to revamp the economy of Nigeria.
“The same presidency Mr. Fashola is promising Yoruba youth in 2023 is what the current minister of labour and productivity, Chris Ngige promised the South Easterners. Another attempt to perpetrate the ethnic division of the country?
“We want to say expressly that nothing can stop our collective resolve to ensure the restructuring of Nigeria in order to find solutions to myriads of problems facing our country.
“We again call on Presidential candidates who are committed to the restructuring agenda to show commitment by signing an agreements documents to ensure restructuring of Nigeria within six months of their assumption to office.
UPP has zoned 2023 presidential ticket to Southeast – Chekwas Okorie
Chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie on his part said yesterday:
“For us in UPP, we are not presenting a presidential candidate this time for good reasons and so for 2023, we have already sounded a notice that we are going to present a south-east presidential candidate.
“So nobody crowns you a president, not even Buhari has the power to crown anybody president. The most important thing is that your people must be prepared to work for it and lobby other parts of the country because no section has succeeded in making a president.
“Buhari tried it three times with mainly support from his side but he couldn’t make it until his support base expanded.
“So, the Igbo are desirous of the president. We have good reasons to ask other parts of the country to concede to us but it is not something you do based on sentiment or expect them to give it to you out of their own milk of human kindness. You must play the right politics to get it.”
Chairman of the South East Caucus of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, Prince Emeka Okafor on his part dismissed Fashola’s position on 2023 saying it was a persona view of the minister even as he urged other geopolitical zones not to see Ndigbo as stupid and toothless bulldogs.
Okafor urged the Works, Power and Housing Minister to be circumspect in his speeches so as not to ruffle the feathers of Ndigbo.
“If Nigeria should remain united we should know how to share power. Every right thinking person in this country should know that the Igbo have suffered so much and it is their turn to produce the President in 2023”, the IPAC leader said.
He accused Fashola of being selfish which he said is one of the major problems of the political class in the country.
“They should not think that the Igbo are stupid; that Igbo don’t have teeth to bite. If they think like that they are wrong. They should not push Igbo to the wall”, Okafor cautioned.
Fashola is positioning himself ahead of 2023 – Onovo NCP Presidential Candidate
In his reaction, the former presidential candidate of Nigeria Conscience Party, NCP Martin Onovo described Fashola’s assertion as capable of undermining power sharing agreements across the country even as he inferred that the minister may be positioning himself as a possible candidate in the 2023 election.
“It is unjust to exclude any part of Nigeria from power. If he knows what he is doing he should apologise. A large number of reasonable Nigerians understand that such statement is basically unreasonable.
“I suspect he is positioning himself ahead of 2023 because as a minister, he is an agent of the president. So for him to make such statement suggests that there is an ulterior motive as he may have information we do not have as a serving minister.
“In other words, Fashola is playing a game of political exclusion. It is not about region, the entire nation including the Northern Elders Forum are united against Buhari.”