Several issues have been of great concern to indigenes of the Southeast geo-political zone. They range from limited appointments into top political positions, to persistently being sidelined by major political parties when it comes to the issue of presidential front runners.
In the political turf today, many Igbos are holding on to the firm belief that it is their turn to produce the next president. But in political calculations in the country, the two strong political parties are still holding their cards to their chest as regards how they want to tilt the 2023 general elections.
At the moment, the heart beat of the frontline presidential aspirants in the APC are from the Southwest and Northcentral, while the body language of the PDP is pointing up North on the likely area of choice for their presidential flag bearer. The Southeast has no hunch of any known serious contenders on any of the two platforms, but somehow their leaders still believe that the presidential ticket can be offered to the region on a platter of gold.
It is quite difficult to firmly pick what one can identify as the frontline political issue that is quite pressing to the Southeast. It is currently oscillating between the clamour for restructuring and the much touted birthright for presidency.
The quest for restructuring into equitable and efficient polity could be a worthy and reasonable campaign, but what are the strategies that its proponents, like Ohanaeze Ndigbo, are utilizing to achieve the goals? Even other socio-ethnic associations like the Afenifere, as well as the Arewa Consultative Forum, have all been postulating from the same position of the urgent need to restructure Nigeria.
However, the conceptualisation of the word is as diverse as the peoples agitating for it. Regrettably, none of these ethnic associations, including the highly vociferous Ohaneze, have made any effort to even articulate their positions through any sponsored legislative bill that could enable Nigeria effectively begin the process of restructuring. What is common are positions, statements and declarations at various meetings.
In the words of President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor, “Our position is that no matter how bad Nigerian problems may be; only peaceful solutions will be best to guarantee Nigerian unity. This can be achieved through a restructured, renegotiated, decentralised or through power devolution.”
Another South Eastern and Former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku has also criticised the present structure of federalism “where virtually all the component states are not self-sustaining and are dependent on hand-outs from the Federal Government, because they are unable to pay the salaries of their civil servants and the agreed minimum wage.”
A pro-democracy activist and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, had opined that restructuring is conceptually wrong without reviewing why it is needed, stressing that restructuring will not work in the context of a military democracy and political elite conspiracy because most politicians advocating restructuring today will abandon it when they get to power.
The legislative process remains the clear nexus through which the restructuring project can be actualised. Restructuring entails constitutional amendments, country wide consultations among the numerous states and ethnic conglomerates that constitute Nigeria before it gets to the president . It is not what a President or anyone could do with fiat.
It is baffling that agitators are all waiting for an executive bill instead of exploring the option of a private member bill through the National Assembly?
This is one way that Nigerian elites give the presidency a larger-than-life personality. Or could it mean that most agitators in the political space are using the restructuring hammer as an instrument of threat to get another thing they really have in mind?
Positions on restructuring are vague, vast and varied. Some proponents consider restructuring as the implementation of the 2014 national political conference. Others feel it is the absolute control of the resources at the disposal of each region or state. There are those who believe it is the abandonment of the presidential system of government for regionalism or the parliamentary system of government as well as the push for successive administrations to deliver good governance to the generality of the people.
As things stand, while the Southeast is more occupied with the clamour for restructuring, it appears that the North and Southwest are putting out their best arsenals and mobilising other regions toward their goals for 2023.
The Southeast might realise rather late that it is an uphill task to climb a ladder with the two hands occupied. Now, Igbo politicians probably understand that 2023 is around the corner and that in Nigeria, the argument that plays out during electioneering period borders on internal democratic ethos of how powers are to be shared. So they probably feel the zone must create a smokescreen of many advocates for rotational presidency and zonal or regional autonomy as they seek for competent personalities as flag bearers for the coming presidential elections.
But, who are those strong contenders from the Southeast region in any of the political parties that want to emerge as presidential aspirants for 2023?
There are lots of political ground works and bridge-building, across the geopolitical zones, that must be done to facilitate the emergence of a possible candidate from the Southeast. These are the ground norms.
Regrettably time seem to be running out. Yet, no serious candidate from the Southeast has so far indicated interest, even in a veiled manner.
Nevertheless, things can still be salvaged if elites of the Southeast zone can move fast. They can split their ranks into two. One group can go back to the drawing board and emerge with a tightly knitted proposed bill that can be sponsored for the restructuring of the country. The second team can come out with a practical plan that could help the region achieve the ambition of winning the presidency within a reasonable period.
It is vital that the Southeast should be convinced on what is paramount on its scale of preference. Singing discordant tunes of restructuring, secession and right to the presidency might be counter-productive in the long run.
There are other issues that should also occupy the attention of elites of the region as well. Recent killings of security opretives threatens to turn the once peaceful region imto a theatre of death.
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It is commendable that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in their recent meeting condemned the development, saying it was a serious dent on the peaceful disposition of the Igbos, and a needless distraction from their quest to have a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. The group however insisted that it was part of the systemic failures being suffered in the country.
There is heightened tension as well as palpable fear that the current attacks on security facilities and personnel could lead to militarisation of the Southeast as the Anambra State election is around the corner. There is also the Eastern Security Network being spearheaded by the defunct Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB) that made the military to clamp down in some Southeastern locations.
Some pundits opine that if the spate of insecurity is not tackled head long by all stakeholders, it may truncate any form of advancement in the Southeast, and replicate the current level deterioration experienced in the Northeast.