FORMER Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo has warned that Ndigbo may join forces with Nnamdi Kanu and fight for the creation of an independent Biafran republic if Nigeria does not elect an Igbo president come 2023.
Although not constitutional, Nigeria’s component parts have a gentleman’s agreement that the presidency will rotate between the north and the south of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure will end in 2023 and being a Fulani northern Muslim, it is expected that the next president will come from southern Nigeria.
Each half of the country is made up of three geo-political zones, which in the south is made up of the southeast, south-south and southwest geo-political zones. However, since the return to democracy in 1999, the southwest has produced President Olusegun Obasanjo. while the south-south has produced President Goodluck Jonathan, so the next president should come from the southeast.
However, there is not unanimity on this and over recent weeks, leading Igbo politicians have warned of the consequences of electing a president from any other ethnic group come 2023. Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) has been campaigning for Igbos to secede from Nigeria and recreate the defunct Republic of Biafra that existed during the Nigerian Civil War between July 1967 and 1970.
So far, Ipob has not made any political breakthrough despite enjoying a lot of grassroot support among disaffected Igbos. However, Dr Nwodo, a former Enugu State governor, has sounded the alarm that this could change as Ndigbo have suffered grievous marginalisation in Nigeria and should be given a chance to produce a president for the sake of equity and national unity.
According to Dr Nwodo, the southeast geopolitical zone has been persecuted for over 50 years even though the region is more patriotic than any other part of Nigeria in terms of economic development of the nation. He backed a recent call by Arewa Consultative Forum leader Alhaji Tanko Yakassi, in which the elder statesman asked all Nigerians to rally round Ndigbo come 2023.
Dr Nwodo said: “Yakassi’s call is very fair and that is the correct thing. In the First Republic, the country was led by Tafawa Balewa, in the Second Republic, it was led by Shehu Shagari and then, those of us in PDP made a very strong case to move the presidency to the southeast, because even the military people were all from the north, apart from Aguiyi Ironsi who presided over for a very short time.
“We managed to convince them at the party and Olusegun Obasanjo and Alex Ekwueme contested. That was when Obasanjo won and after his tenure, he handed power to another northerner, late Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua who unfortunately died in office and the vice president completed the tenure.
“President Muhammadu Buhari will complete his eight years in office by 2023. Following equity, the presidency should come to the southeast because Obasanjo was president for eight years, now Yemi Osinbajo is also the vice president and would finish his eight-year tenure by 2023.”
He added that it would be a total disaster if the southeast not produce the next president because Ndigbo have been terribly marginalised since the end of the civil war. According to Dr Nwodo, for 50 years, Ndigbo have been persecuted for having fought for freedom.
“Anybody who loves Nigeria and who wishes Nigeria well should go for Igbo presidency in 2023 for unity, fairness, equity and for Nigeria to move forward. It is only an Igbo man who will not marginalise any part of Nigeria because we constitute the cement that hold the country together.
“We are the only tribe that you find in every nook and cranny of Nigeria, doing business and developing wherever they are as if it was their own place. I don’t believe that the Igbos are not united, there has never been a time when any region produced a consensus candidate, everybody emerged through primary elections,” Dr Nwodo added.