By Ikechukwu Amaechi
I am worried about the antics of these Igbo quislings – that is what they are – who are working actively to stymie the quest for a Nigerian president of Southeast extraction. Last week, Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a quisling who led so many impressionable Igbo youths to their early graves in the name of Biafra, a man with so much blood on his hands, turned full circle when he publicly pooh-poohed the idea of an Igbo man succeeding Buhari.
This is an election season like no other. Everything is defying logic. For instance, how does one explain the fact that when the All Progressives Congress (APC) decided to sell its presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination forms at a whopping N100 million, an amount so outrageous in an economy where minimum wage is N30,000, and many thought the only reason for the ridiculous hike was to scare away “unserious” aspirants, that was when every Tom, Dick and Harry, joined the fray.
With the latest declarations on Wednesday of Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State, Adams Oshiomhole, former National Chairman of the ruling party, and Abubakar Badaru, Governor of Jigawa State, there are now 16 aspirants jostling for the APC presidential ticket and still counting.
Before Wednesday’s declaration rush, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu; Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; former Imo State Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha; former Abia State Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (who is withdrawing from the race in protest because the position has not been zoned to the Southeast); former Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; and Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, have all thrown their hats into the ring.
So far, the party has raked in N1.6 billion from the sale of presidential forms alone. And smelling blood in the waters of aspiration, the APC apparatchik also on Wednesday extended the sale of forms for all elective positions from May 6 to May 10.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is no less crowded. Seventeen aspirants bought the presidential forms after paying the non-refundable fee of N40 million. Though less than APC’s N100 million, buying a party’s nomination form at that amount is still unprecedented in the annals of party politics in Nigeria and way beyond the reach of the average Nigerian.
From the sale of presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination forms alone, PDP also raked in a whopping N680 million.
Now, the question is this: how is it that outrageous fees which ought to scare away faint-hearted politicians is doing the exact opposite – attracting them in their numbers just like ants are attracted to honey?
Is there anything our politicians know that is hidden from the rest of us? Granted, Nigerian politicians are incurable optimists and inveterate gamblers, but N100 million is a tidy sum. Without the assurance of crossing the screening hurdle, not to talk of primaries, the politicians are living out the sunk-cost fallacy of throwing good money after bad. That will be wagering taken too far.
So, what is the motivation? Is it a bargaining chip, an inducement that can be used in negotiating for a piece of the pie at the end of the day?
Or could it just be, as some people have reasoned, that Buhari having lowered the leadership bar so ridiculously (some actually insist that the bar has been completely pulled down and thrown away) because of his unbridled incompetence, everyone is emboldened to join the race knowing that no one can actually beat the Katsina scion’s catastrophic record.
These are issues that require further interrogation as we trudge on this transition arcade.
But for now, the 2023 elections have thrown up some fundamental issues that have induced feelings of hope and despair at the same time.
I am hopeful because for the first time in decades, men of good conscience, having realised the injustice meted to Ndigbo are calling for equity, justice and fairness despite the pushback from those whose sense of entitlement has blurred their vision for a greater Nigeria.
There is this feeling of nostalgia that Nigeria may not be a lost cause after all when nonagenarians, men and women who have seen it all, are still standing by the barricades, and pointing out, most unequivocally that to heal national wounds, Southeast geopolitical zone must be allowed to produce the president in 2023.
As I pointed out here last week, it is highly gratifying when a 94-year-old Chief Ayo Adebanjo shouts from the rooftop that Ndigbo must be allowed to ascend the presidential throne. His altruism is breathtaking because here is a man who stands to gain nothing personal for his advocacy other than the desire to see a just and equitable Nigeria enthroned during whatever remains of his lifetime.
Pa Adebanjo knows he is at the departure lounge waiting for his flight to immortality. In his interview with TheNiche in February, he said that much: “It is your generation that I am pitying. At 94, what I am expecting now is my funeral dirge. Baba rele! That is the song they sing for the old man they are going to bury …. When the thing happens, I would have been in my grave. I will be enjoying myself there. You will be alive and you will say that man said it and I thought he was talking nonsense.”
The same goes for Pa Edwin Clark, who will soon be 95 years. And the remarkable thing about the activism of these nonagenarians is that they are not in it alone. They have their people behind them. Middle Belt leaders are in the same boat. Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President of the Middle Belt Forum and his people are relentless in their demand that the time for a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction is now.
This week, former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, a member of the APC from Borno State, cautioned the leadership of his party and fellow Northerners that it will be unfair and a betrayal of trust if the APC zones the presidency to the North.
Individually and collectively, they are urging their people to perish the thought of contesting the 2023 presidential election and give the Southeast a chance.
But it is disheartening that at a time when other Nigerians are agreed it will be ruinous to continue excluding Southeast from the leadership table, some Igbo leaders motivated solely by filthy lucre are discountenancing zoning and effectively sabotaging the project. They are amplifying, acting as echo chambers of those who disingenuously say zoning does not matter anymore.
I am worried about the antics of these Igbo quislings – that is what they are – who are working actively to stymie the quest for a Nigerian president of Southeast extraction.
Last week, Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a quisling who led so many impressionable Igbo youths to their early graves in the name of Biafra, a man with so much blood on his hands, turned full circle when he publicly pooh-poohed the idea of an Igbo man succeeding Buhari.
Because that idea has suddenly become an anathema to him, Uwazuruike said the 2023 presidential contest should be thrown open to all Nigerians.
And guess who he is rooting for? Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State. Uwazuruike, who admonished Nigerians to shun zoning, insisting it has no place in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said he was supporting Bello because he is the best man for the job.
Really? Thousands of Igbo youths will be turning in their graves. Only if they knew!
How is Yahaya Bello better than Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Peter Obi, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa or Prof Kingsley Moghalu? To a quisling, such a question is immaterial. The only thing that matters is instant gratification.
There is also Prof. Udenta Udenta, spokesperson for the Bala Mohammed Campaign Organisation. Bala, Governor of Bauchi State, is a Fulani irredentist, who has publicly supported marauding undocumented Fulani terrorists in their quest for territorial conquest. If he is making such advocacy now, what more if he becomes president. He will be worse than Buhari. That is the man Udenta is marketing.
But the worst of the pack are the two Southeast PDP governors – Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), who are campaigning for Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, a man who has nothing but absolute contempt for the Southeast and Ndigbo.
Both governors ignored the array of aspirants from the Southeast to endorse Wike as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
This is the stuff quislings are made of. They betray the collective will of their people when it matters most. The good thing, though, is that history never forgets the role played by traitors who collaborate with an enemy force.
A lot of reasons have been advanced by these quislings as to why they would rather support a back to back Fulani presidency than advance the cause of a more equitable society.
They say the “North” had agreed not to relinquish power in 2023 and there is nothing anyone can do. I don’t know which North they are talking about and even if there is still a monolithic north, whether they alone can elect a president. In any case, the votes in the north include those of southerners who live there.
Buhari tried for 12 years with his much-vaunted 12 million votes and failed until he got the buy-in of the South. Today, Atiku Abubakar is talking about a guy with 11 million votes that should be given a right of first refusal. But he was being smart by half when he refused to acknowledge that the bulk of the 11 million votes came from the South, mostly Southeast and South-South. If he insists on running in 2023 and succeeds in muscling out the South in the primaries, those 11 million votes may no longer be there for him.
But assuming, without conceding, that the North has so cooked up the voting figures that there is nothing anyone can do, that should still be no comfort to the quislings.
As Jesus Christ told His disciples: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:21).
Even if the quest for a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction is a lost cause – I don’t see why it should be – let it not be said that those who betrayed it were Southeasterners because history will remember and the judgement for quislings is always harsh.