This piece has no aim of hurting anyone’s ethnic sensibility but to bare my mind and draw attention to a very likely political doom that would befall politicians of South-Eastern extraction, as regards their opportunity to preside at the presidency of Nigeria, should they fail to seize the rare opportunity that Obi-Datti presidential candidacy presents to them in the oncoming 2023 presidential election.
In the current political scheme of things in Nigeria, ahead of the 2023 presidential election, discerning minds from South-East are asking: where is Rochas Okorocha? What has become of Ogbonnaya Onu? Is Ken Nnamani still nationally relevant in politics? Where is Chris Ngige? Is Dave Umahi duly rewarded by APC? As Ike Ekweremmadu languish in jail in far away UK, aren’t his properties being seized in Nigeria by the government? Didn’t he boast that he will be on ground to tell Igbos to vote for Atiku? Where is Anyim Pius Anyim since after the PDP primary? What of Andy Uba? Is Orji Uzo Kalu still among Nigeria’s power brokers? What of Jim Nwobodo? Chimaraoke Nnamani, Achike Udenwa, Sam Egwu? The list goes ob.
They are (or were) the political first eleven of South-Eastern extraction. How the mighties have fallen! Who played them; how and why? Is it right to say that some of them were used and dumped and relegated to the political peripheries by those who found them useful as stepping stone to power and afterwards, a threat to be kept abay? Weren’t some of them blackmailed and harassed with EFCC and the courts for the numerous skeletons they have in their political cupboards?
In the South-Eastern league of politicians there are politicians who currently play in the second division. Their future political prospects depends on their wise political decision in the 2023 election. Amongst them are: H.E. Emeka Ihedioha, Osita Chidoka, Obiora Okonkwo, H.E. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, H.E. Chukwuma Soludo, Sen. Victor Umeh, Prof. Kingsley Muoghalu, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, et al.
As providence and hardwork would have it, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) and two-term former governor of Anambra State H.E. Peter Obi is the primus inter pares in the line up of politicians above. It is pertinent to note that Peter Obi did not earn current political pedigree as a result of his wealth or his status as a former governor or even by his being a former member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). After all, Jim Nwobodo was a former governor, so was Achike Udenwa, Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Chris Ngige, Rochas Okorocha, Orji Uzo Kalu, Chimaroke Nnamani, Sullivan Chime, Martin Elechi, Ikedi Ohakim, Willie Obiano, and even Andy Uba. Which beg the question: Are these former governors of South-Eastern extraction still part of power brokers at the centre? With their combined political force, they could not even exert influence on the people of South-East, hence, even them observe the sit-at-home on Mondays in South-East.
Peter Obi earned his political pedigree in Nigeria based on his proven integrity and un-soiled public records. To grasp the idea better, try to imagine any of the politicians mentioned above, as the flag bearer of the Labour Party for the 2023 election and ask yourself if they would have survived the corruption probe, media scrutiny, intellectual assessment, and ethnic profiling that Peter Obi has been subjected to. Much still, if they would have gained the trust of the North much as Peter Obi seem to be gaining thus far ahead of the election.
Peter Obi left PDP and went into a relatively obscure political party and yet in a matter of few months he turned the LP into the fastest growing political party in Nigeria while simultaneously leading the biggest political movement in Africa – the Obidient movement. He has consistently been on the lead ahead of other major presidential candidates in all the pre-election polls conducted by different bodies. That, he has achieved without financial war chest that is anything near those other presidential candidates. Again I ask: Why didn’t any of the aforementioned South-Eastern politicians enter other smaller political parties and replicate the Peter Obi’s effect there? The answer is, they are not Peter Obi. There is only one Peter Obi and he is a rare breed of politician.
Prior to the presidential primaries by PDP and APC, there was so much noise for “Igbo presidency”. Puerile and hypocritical arguments were advanced by some of the aforementioned South-South-Eastern politicians. But only the gullible believed them. Time has unmasked their real motives. It has always been about their political interests and not about the Igbos or South-East.
The presidential candidate of LP and Harvard alumnus Peter Obi has shouted it to the roof tops that he needs no sympathy vote from anyone on the grounds of his ethnicity or religion. He is running to be the president of Nigeria for all Nigerians and considers himself much qualified than all who are in the race. Hence, he urge Nigerians to assess all the presidential candidates and choose for whom they are convinced is most competent and trustworthy. What a daring statement!
Those whose intentions for “Igbo presidency” were never pure, having crashed out of the race have revealed themselves for who they truly are – selfish and anti- Igbo and South-East for their open opposition to Peter Obi’s presidency. Since they so much advocated for presidency to be zoned to the South-East, now that a presidential candidate from the south-East is leading in the polls, why aren’t they throwing their weight behind him? No! They won’t because their real intention was to ride to power on ethnic sentiment. So, if it won’t be them, then let it not be anyone else, not even Peter Obi.
I make bold to assert that in the current political configuration in Nigeria, it will take only Peter Obi to open the way for South-East to the presidency. No insult meant but none or maybe I am yet to see any living South-Eastern politician with the capacity, untainted public record, and national appeal to play the role of a pathfinder for the region to the presidency. Those who attempted, Rochas, Umahi, et al, we have seen how they crashed out even before the real game started.
There is so much mistrust of the South-Easterners in Nigeria as a result of the civil war. And that is rather unfortunate given that they have given a lot to Nigeria. But this piece is not for ethnic sentiments, which explains why I chose to stick to the use of the designation “South-East” and “South-Easterners”, rather than Igbos, keeping in mind that there are Igbos is South-South and North-central. Peter Obi is riding to power on the shoulders of the Nigerian masses particularly the youths, as against those who wish to be carried to power on the shoulders of their political godfathers and career politicians.
Hence, should Obi win, he would be better disposed to work for all Nigerians than for power brokers, and that would give cause for Nigerians to say post-2027 that South-East gave the country the best leadership she has had in recent decades, thus making it easier for Nigerians from other regions to allay their fears and misgivings against South-Easterners and express confidence in giving other politicians from South-East extraction further chances at the presidency sometime again.
The “don’t-trust-the-Igbo” or “Igbo-will-avenge-the-civil-war” narratives will be put to rest by Obi’s unifying achievements as president. That would be the most concrete way of uniting the country than the usual unifiers’ rhetorics at campaign grounds. Based on antecedents, Peter Obi would be committed to working for Nigerians. What Nigerians want is good governance and on that is what he has promised them. Needless to say that he has a name and reputation to protect as he did while he was a governor.
Perhaps, another interesting prospect of Obi-Datti presidency would be the natural extinction of the old brigade politicians. As Peter Obi has promised that his government will be about the youths. In my view, should he win, he ensure that he groom younger politicians who share in the ideals of true democracy, competency, and integrity, to get into political offices and replace the gerontocrats lest he finishes his tenure and Nigeria returns to the old order.
May I exhort politicians of South-Eastern extraction to toe the path of right reason, common good, and patriotism and desist from the unwarranted opposition to Peter Obi’s presidency. May they be guided by the Igbo adage that says: “Egbuo Dike na ogu ulo, orue na ogu ezi achoba Dike” (those who conspire to kill their warrior in internal fight, shall be without warrior on the day they’ll face their enemies from without).
By Celestine Kezie Jr.