Nigeria and the Igbo Presidency

13 October 2021

Abuja — The debate that the presidency moves to the south in 2023 has gained momentum. Also, presidential hopefuls from the north, Like Atiku Abubakar, Sule Lamido, Governor Bala Mohammed, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso are also effectively playing their games.

The calls for power to shift to the south have further triggered permutations and realignments in the polity. Both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have strong candidates from the south. But these candidates have their respective baggage and the parties have internal squabbles that must be resolved.

The APC has its stronghold in the Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Northcentral - four of the nation's six geo-political zones. The PDP has strong structures in the six zones with a stronghold in the Southeast and Southsouth. However, the APC has moved into the southeast in full force. Prior to the 2015 elections, nobody has ever thought that the APC will someday have even a ward councilor in the southeast. But today, the party has two state governors, senators, House of Rep members, state house of assembly members, local council chairmen, councilors and formidable party structures in all the five southeastern states.

Come 2023, the APC has no reasons to retain power in the north, but there is strong politicking by some governors and other bigwigs in the north to retain power. This will mean the APC contravening the unwritten agreement between the north and the south on power rotation. In any case, the APC does not have a strong presidential candidate from the north. This is a big plus to the presidential hopefuls from the south, southeast in particular. Furthermore, the southeast has a strong case to present based on a plank of a fact- the southeast is the only geopolitical zone in the south that had not produced a president or vice president on any political party platform since 1999.

If APC picks its presidential candidate from the south, especially southwest, the PDP may attempt to outwit this by looking to the north for its presidential candidate. This, as well, will put the PDP in a catch-22 situation on how to explain this to the south, especially the Southeast and the Southsouth, why the north after eight years of being in power.

PDP has good candidates in their own 'right' from the southeast and Southsouth. Enugu State's Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Peter Obi from Southeast and Governor Nyesom Wike from the Southsouth. Obi does not have friends in the north, and has never tried to pull an appeal from the north, directly or by proxy. His deportation of other Nigerians when he was governor of Anambra state was used against him in the north during the 2019 electioneering campaign, and it worked. For Wike, his words- 'Rivers is a Christian state' will be used against him in the North, like Governor El-Rufai's Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna can be used against El-Rufai. This is how local politics impact a candidate's wider political opportunities. Some young people in the north are also campaigning for Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, but the IPOB issue will be a big hindrance in the north. But it is not insurmountable. Advocates of secession appear not to understand Nigeria. There are inter-ethnic marriages, friendships, business-links and political alliances, etc., between many northerners and many Igbos.

Some nationalistic politicians from the Southeast have started a move to convince other Nigerians to support the region to produce the president of Southeast extraction in 2023. Some of the bigwigs forefront presidential hopefuls are Governor David Umahi, Orji Uzor Kalu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Rochas Okorocha, Chris Baywood Ibe, Ken Nnamani, Minister of State for Education, Dr Chinedu Nwajiuba, Sen Osita Izunaso, and many others. These politicians have their own political baggage and controversies. Though people like Chris Baywood Ibe are new faces without any political baggage and controversy-free.

A thorough understanding of how Nigerian politics works is paramount in achieving the political goals of a group, a region, or individuals. There are so many conflicting interests in Nigeria, but there are always windows for alliances, give-and-take, a hand of friendship, and convincing others to support a particular political-cause or an individual's. For the 2023 presidency, the southeast should present a candidate with a new face, controversies-free, no political baggage and have friends and is well-known across the Niger. For both the APC and the PDP, it will be an opportunity to reunite Nigeria and rekindle the historical political alliance between the north and the southeast. The Igbo presidency is possible through the spirit of one Nigeria.

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