Nigeria: Isa Funtua - Friend or Foe of Igbo Presidency?

opinion

... any Igbo person is free to reach a conclusion about how Funtua was being arrogant, and who in the freaking world did he think he was and all such heated reactions. All said and done, though, Nigerians know that Ndigbo don't kiss rings or anything else. But who says that to accomplish a goal, they can't play ball?

The Sun newspaper recently reported on the anger in the South-East following Mallam Mamman Daura's statement against the rotation of the presidency. From 78-year-old businessman and politician, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; from former governor of the old Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife; from MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu; from former minister of Aviation, 91-year-old Mbazulike Amaechi; and from John Nnia Nwodo, president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, came a chorus of strong condemnation of Mamman Daura's statement.

But I think that there is a little displacement of anger over Daura's non-adversarial call to ditch zoning or what he carefully diminished as "turn-by-turn" presidency. True, one interpretation is that his sudden dislike of zoning is against the Igbo 'turn' in Aso Rock; but he is not the first member of the powerful kitchen cabinet to do so. Ismaila Isa Funtua The first to do so, in apparently insistent terms, was late Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua, (may he rest in perfect peace) when he declared in January this year on Arise Television's popular The Morning Show that "Nigeria is not turn by turn limited." I concluded at that time that the decision of the kitchen cabinet to jettison zoning, after the second term of an administration in which they held court, could be seen as anti-Igbo.

It is rumoured that some members of the 'cabal' or kitchen cabinet of the Buhari administration are more powerful than ministers and other members of the formal government. But Funtua told The Morning Show that he was not a member of any cabal; instead, he royally claimed that "I'm (a) cabal myself!" Go figure.

Another interpretation is that Funtua and Daura were simply testing the waters for keeping the presidency in the North. Although a calculated and selfish act for 2023, this is in no way a capital offence in politics. So, let's assume that the two men were sincere about their concern for competence in Aso Rock.

A competent president must have the skills and capacity to govern well. I can name a million Igbos who foot this bill. So, the issue of a competent onyeigbo to be Nigeria's president does not arise. But Daura or Funtua could have told you the same truth with poise. And needless to add, this category of Ndigbo has a million peers in every ethnic group and zone of the country.

Funtua's statements were construed by the journalist, Mr. Fredrick Nwabufo, as an invitation to Ndigbo to kiss the signet ring before they can get the presidency. Indeed, Funtua may have hinted as much in that interview. Was he reaching out for alliance or demanding allegiance?

This means that Daura and Funtua's call for competence, rather than rotation, can be interpreted in another way. In a strong ThisDay newspaper article of January 7, Funtua's statements were construed by the journalist, Mr. Fredrick Nwabufo, as an invitation to Ndigbo to kiss the signet ring before they can get the presidency. Indeed, Funtua may have hinted as much in that interview. Was he reaching out for alliance or demanding allegiance? Was he being a friend or a foe? Hear him, as quoted in that ThisDay article:

"They (Igbo) should belong. They should join the party. They want to do things on their own and because they are Igbo, we should dash them the president? That was the reason I said is it turn by turn Nigeria Limited?"

And:

"With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand that when the South-West chose to remain on their own as opposition, they did not go near the power. To a large extent, the North, in terms of religion and culture, is closer to the South-West than to the South-East. When Ekwueme contested (for the PDP ticket), Chief Olusegun Obasanjo defeated him."

It is worth remembering that Funtua was a member of the Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995, where he served on the Alex Ekwueme-inspired committee on zoning and rotational presidency, which resolved that rotation of power between the North and South should be in the Constitution.

And:

"I know Nigerian politics, you chose your candidate who will be able to bring votes to you to win election, not on regional basis, not on tribal basis. Is he going to be the president of the North, East, South-West, South-South or whatever? If the Igbo wants to be president, then they must belong. If you don't belong, then you can't be the president."

It is worth remembering that Funtua was a member of the Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995, where he served on the Alex Ekwueme-inspired committee on zoning and rotational presidency, which resolved that rotation of power between the North and South should be in the Constitution. That recommendation was not adopted.

Still, any Igbo person is free to reach a conclusion about how Funtua was being arrogant, and who in the freaking world did he think he was and all such heated reactions. All said and done, though, Nigerians know that Ndigbo don't kiss rings or anything else. But who says that to accomplish a goal, they can't play ball?

Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja.

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