Igbo Cultural Dance

Path To Nigerian President Of Igbo Extraction

2 years ago
15 mins read

The path to Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction looks bumpy but attainable. It is ironic that a Nigerian President of Igbo Extraction is always interpreted by other sections of Nigeria to mean Igbo President, in an attempt to diminish its efficacy and realization.

 

Other sections of Nigeria seem to have different criteria in assessing Igbo presidential candidates different from presidential candidates from their section of the country or from other parts of Nigeria. Some even think that Igbo presidential candidates should not even be part of our national political discourse at this time.

 

You often hear some coded ethnic insinuations like – “you can’t be talking about Igbo Presidency when you are agitating for separation from Nigeria.” Really. Who started agitations in Nigeria. Was Obasanjo not elected President when the South West wanted to secede from Nigeria after June 12? Was it not the same time that Tinubu – who has declared his intention to run for President was quoted as saying that he does not believe in one Nigeria Did Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) not take up arms against Nigeria and cause insecurity, including the bombing of oil pipelines in South West? Did South West not produce a President at the end?

 

The fact is, IPOB and ESN are children of necessities, born out of frustration, inequity, injustice by the Nigerian state and insecurity caused by actors at both state and federal levels. Why is the clamour for the Presidency by an Igbo termed ”Igbo President”? And why is a clamour for President by a Yoruba person not termed ”Yoruba President,” or one by  the Hausa/Fulani as ”Hausa/Fulani President”? Most annoying, why are Ndigbo buying into the characterization of interest by any Igbo person as ”Igbo President”?

 

Let me disembark on this digress, as this is not the focal point of this article: Like every other Nigerian, Ndigbo wants equity and fair play in all their national life. This equity and fair play are not only in the political space but also in business, in the civil service, in education, in recruitment,  in the military, in the security forces, in the judiciary and so on. Ndigbo has never denigrated competence for nepotism or abandoned merit for favouritism. This is why, in charting a path to the Presidency, Ndigbo must interrogate the qualities of every Igbo candidate.

 

In discussing Igbo presidential candidates, I’ve separated the topic into two main categories: What an Igbo Candidate Must Bring to the Table and What Ndigbo Must Bring to the Table.

 

A. What an Igbo Candidate Must Bring to the Table:

 

It is not enough to declare to be Nigerian President just for the mere fact that Ndigbo has been clamouring for Nigerian President and asking that the office be zoned to the South East. Irrespective of where a candidate comes from and more especially for an Igbo candidate, the stake is even higher than for Nigerians from other zones because a lot is expected from an Igbo. A candidate for Nigerian President must come with some salient personal qualities:

  1. Vision: Some vital questions to ask the candidates includes but not limited to – what is your vision for Nigeria. Why do you want this job. Is it to have access to the federal coffers to loot and mortgage the welfare and future of Nigeria. Is it because of the grandeur attached to the office. Is it because of the power the president wields “to do and undo”. Can you summarize your vision for Nigeria in a sentence of not more than 10 words that an ordinary Nigerian on the street can relate to and buy into. If you don’t have a vision that will positively affect the lives of ordinary Nigerians, generations yet unborn, women, youth, children, the elderly etc to lift them from where they are now to a better standard and quality of life, you have no business declaring to be president of Nigeria. If on the contrary, you will think about these demographics before making that all-important decision or signing that document, you are on a path to the presidency. Igbo presidency is not an entitlement or right. It is a calling. It is a ministry for service and not for self-aggrandizement. Everything about leadership revolves around vision. It is the vision that sets the right economic policies. It is vision that leads to investment in the necessary infrastructure for development. It is vision that builds schools and colleges. It is vision that guides a leader to think about infinite possibilities rather than short-term political gains. Vision is deciding that I as president will re-engineer our healthcare system such that myself, members of my family and cabinet cannot go abroad for medical treatment. Vision is deciding that all vehicles to be used by government and departments must be made in Nigeria vehicles. Vision is decided that all roads, bridges, civil infrastructure must be designed and built by Nigerian engineers. Vision is cultural re-orientation of Nigerians and giving them reasons to believe in and be proud of Nigeria. Vision is making Nigeria so attractive and conducive that Nigerians abroad are flocking back to live in Nigeria. Vision is making the Nigerian economy to work for all Nigerians and not just for a privileged few. It is vision that led John Kenedy to declare that in 10 years America will send a man to the moon and bring him back when there was no infrastructure on the ground to do so at that time. It is vision that led Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to turn Dubai from a desert into a sprawling wonder of the world. Vision is everything and that is a path to Igbo President.

 

 

 

  1. Local Acceptance – Community Involvement: An Igbo is not on the path to Nigerian presidency if the candidate is not known in his or her local community, his or her state or South East as a whole. Knowing you is not knowing your name but your good works and how many lives you have touched positively. Ana esi n’ulo mara nma puwa n’ezi (charity begins at home) is an Igbo adage. It is your kit and kins that will form your initial support base. If you don’t have that, you cannot grow it overnight. It means you have not been living for the people. The way you have affected the lives of your community is the way you will affect the lives of Nigerians. You can’t give what you don’t have. Compassion is a very vital quality of a leader. If you cannot envisage yourself in the position of an ordinary Nigerian, you have no business declaring to be the president of Nigeria and you are not a path to Ndigbo wants for the president. Ndigbo are compassionate people, kind and caring. That is why you see privileged Ndigbo building schools, roads, hospitals, paying school fees and scholarships and expecting nothing in return. That is the path we’re looking for to the presidency.

 

 

  1. Integrity: Is what you do when no one else is watching. An Igbo that is a path to the presidency must be a person of integrity of the highest order. Lack of integrity is what has kept Nigeria underdeveloped more than 60 years after independence. So much so that those who started school with Nigeria are now Ph.D. holders and professors (metaphorically) while Nigeria is still in kindergarten without any hope of graduation. This analogy may be funny, but it is real and pathetic. It is lack of integrity that will cause a leader to syphon money meant to pay workers’ salaries into his or her private account. Money for infrastructure stashed in a foreign bank. Our hospital looking like chemistry lab of a rural school. Money to fight insecurity used to fund elections or deposited in foreign banks. The list goes on. An Igbo as president must be a person that has no iota of corruption label on him or her. If what Ndigbo will offer to Nigeria are people of dubious means that have been or are accused of corrupt practices, Ndigbo will have no path to the presidency. On the other hand, Ndigbo will have a clear path to the presidency with people of unquestionable integrity.
  2.  Consensus: In talking about consensus, I don’t want to be politically correct. I know most people will not like my position. I’m a realist and do not want to dwell in sentiment in analyzing the chances of Igbo candidates.  For the purposes of discussing consensus and path to the presidency, I’ll focus only on PDP and APC. They are the only parties today that have a chance of winning the presidency. Below is a list of candidates from PDP and APC that so far declared their intentions or are known to have intentions even if they have not made it public. I can’t see the path or chances of any candidate outside PDP or APC.

 

PDP:

  1. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa – South East
  2. Senator Anyiam Pius Ayiam – South East
  3. Peter Obi – South East (has not declared though he was the VP to Atiku in 2019)
  4. Dele Momudu – South South
  5. Atiku Abubakar – North East (has not declared but everybody knows he will contest)
  6. Rabio Kwakwaso – North West (indicated that he may run)
  7. Aminu Tabuwal – North West (ran in 2018 and will likely run again)
  8. South West – none to-date
  9. Olusola Saraki – North Central (ran in 2018 and will likely run again)

 

 

APC:

  1. David Umahi – South East
  2. Orji Uzo Kalu – South East
  3. Ahmed Tinubu – South West.

This list may grow by the time this article hits the media space.

 

 

With the plethora of candidates from the South East, it is obvious that the path to realizing our aspiration for the president of Nigeria is through fielding a consensus candidate. The candidate must meet most if not all the criteria listed in this article and others from other well-meaning Ndigbo. If this list is sustained, it means that for the PDP the path to realizing an Igbo as president may pass through South East,  South South, South West and North Central. For the APC, the path may pass through South East, South South, North Central, North East and North West.

 

This calculation is premised on the fact that both PDP and APC will zone their presidency to the south. Even if the presidency is thrown open as is widely speculated, there are some possibilities that this analogy may still hold. Part of the reason is that any candidate outside this list that has not indicated interest by now may not be serious about running. That does not mean that all candidates that have declared their intentions so far are serious candidates.

 

  1. Sub Regional Alliances: With the political map shaping up gradually, sub-regional alliances are very essential at this point. Some candidates are taking titles from other zones to form alliances, some are using the opportunity of some misfortune in some zones to give Greek gifts in order to build alliances. Building alliances is an organic process that is cultivated over a period of time. That is why I said in a previous article that Nigerian presidency is more than a 4 year program. Those who have succeeded in their ambition built relationships and bridges over many years. It is not an ad hoc or a part-time adventure but a thoroughly thought-out roadmap. No region or zone can single-handedly produce a Nigerian president. It must be done with the support of other zones or regions. The alliance could be achieved through interpersonal relationships and or in combination with regional relationship of the candidate’s home region. Therefore, one of the paths to an Igbo being a president of Nigeria is through regional alliances.

 

  1. Record of Achievement and Past Experiences: The reason people submit a resume or CV for job interviews is because past experience is a window to future performance. The path to an Igbo being president of Nigeria is through individuals that can point to records of achievement in their chosen carrier and how those achievements have impacted lives. It will be inconceivable for a person to be aspiring to lead a country like Nigeria – the biggest as it can get in Africa when the person cannot point to any tangible experience and achievement that will be a dress rehearsal for the actual job of a president. Nigerian President is not a training ground. Moreso, with the anemic condition of the Nigerian state today, Nigerian and indeed Ndigbo needs a president that can hit the ground running while tapping from his or her past experience. Such experience must be useful in impacting the life of every Nigerian irrespective of where they live, their religion or their ethnicity. Ndigbo will have a clear path to the presidency if an Igbo candidate with a record of achievement is what Ndigbo will put forward for Nigerians to elect

 

 

Capacity: An Igbo as candidate for Nigerian president must have a personal capacity to start the journey before calling on reinforcement from others. Such personal capacity should not be from resources stolen from the public coffers or from loans through mortgage of personal assets. Capacity means the candidate can stand toe to toe with candidates from other zones. Capacity means that the candidate must have the potential to attract a financial war chest through individuals that bought into his or her vision. Capacity means that participating in the process will not cripple the candidate’s means of livelihood and leave the candidate susceptible to temptation even if he or she wins. Capacity means that the presidency will not be used to recover all the money spent in the election. Capacity means being healthy, Capacity means being mentally and psychologically alert. Capacity means putting in the long hours required to get the job of a president done.

 

 

  1. Restructuring: Nigerian was on the path of growth,  prosperity and development until the military ceased power and concentrated most of the powers and resources in the federal government. Since then, Nigeria has ceased to grow. This has led to the multitude of challenges that have bedeviled the country since 1966. As Igbo as president, most have a clearly spelt-out agenda on how to restructure Nigeria and unleash her potentials. A clearly defined vision on how to restructure Nigeria  is one of the low hanging path to an Igbo being president of Nigeria. This will not be an easy fight. That is why we need a fighter president with a strong political will that will not chicken out when the heat gets hotter and the volume is turned louder. Restructuring will win over South East, South South, South west, North Central and some part of North East. In promising restructuring, there must be a clear intention to follow through. It should not just be a campaign slogan but a purpose-driven agenda with a well-oiled machine given that the fight will not be easy as opponents of restructuring will come out fast and furious to derail it. The candidate must have a response to the oppositions that will surface. He or she must be willing to go into the trenches and do the street combat to win the restructuring war. Politicians who have promised to restructure and failed will not have credibility in the marketplace on restructuring. The big question of one Nigeria should not be left out. The entity called Nigeria must be renegotiated so that there will be a clear structure of the union or individual nationals. We cannot run away from that question or wish it away or worst still believe that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. The best thing that will happen to Nigeria is negotiating her unity. It is either we agree to live together as one country with fairness, equity and respect for one another or go our separate ways and live in peace as neighbours. The issue of restructuring will gives a determined Igbo candidate a good talking point and credibility.

 

  1. Insecurity: Is ravaging Nigeria that no region is left out. Though the degree of insecurity differs from region to region but the signature remains the same. People no longer feel safe. South East a once very safe region has been upstaged by state and non-state actors, thereby causing the region to be a hotbed of criminality and insecurity. Any Igbo candidate must start by defining how to tackle insecurity in the South East. He or she must be willing to address the Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB and ESN questions. The person must have a blueprint on how to address the issue of Unknown Gun Men and illegal drugs in the South East and other parts of Nigeria. Insecurity in the North East, North Central and the rest of the country should be part of this agenda. Tackling insecurity will include understanding the root cause of agitation for self-determination all the country and willingness to dialogue to achieve a negotiated political resolution to all the grievances. The fight against terrorism must be fought with renewed vigour including identifying the sponsors and financiers of terrorism, prosecuting them, taking the fight the enemy, seeking regional corporation and international support and of course going tough on military establishment and politicians that are benefiting from the continued huge investment in security which has not been producing the expected outcomes.

 

  1. Institutions and Corruption: The reason Nigeria is not working is because Nigerian is depending on the goodwill of officeholders, from the local government to the federal level rather than depending on strong institutions. A path to an Igbo being president is a commitment to the establishment of a strong institution. Strong institution is the greatest weapons in the fight against corruption. Without strong institution, corruption thrives as people set their own rules. Strong institutions include independent electoral umpire that is not hired and fired by the president, a judiciary and legislator that is completely independent from the executive, a police and law enforcement agencies that are not appointed or report to the president. A civil service that does not behold to the political officeholders. State treasury is not controlled by the executive either at the state or federal level. The list goes on. A commitment to build strong institutions is a sure path to an Igbo as president.

 

  1. International Exposure: The world today is a global village they said. This statement cannot be more true for the search for an Igbo as president of Nigeria. To lead Nigeria of today, a president must have considerable international exposure. This could be by having lived in the advanced countries, Schooled abroad, worked with international organizations or interacted sufficiently with citizens or systems of advanced economies. This is important in shaping the vision of the president. Onye njeje ka onye isi awo ama ihe (a traveller is wiser than a grey-haired person) is an Igbo proverb. A person’s experience is related to his or her level of interaction and interface with other climates. While we talk about regional alliances, international alliances are very important to navigate through international relationships. Therefore, an Igbo as president must have international exposure and experience.

 

  1. Courage and Political Will: It is difficult to thoroughly define political will. A simplistic definition is the ability to take a decision in the best interest of the society rather than for parochial, selfish or pecuniary interest. An Igbo as president must have a spine of steel to make tough decisions, stand up to interest groups while at the same time be compassionate. Having the will to take a decision in an overriding public interest is the path to an Igbo as president. Ndigbo needs a president that will make the right decision even if the decision is unpopular.
  2. Age: The age of an Igbo candidate is a factor. The temperature of today’s Nigerian voters is skewed towards a youthful president. The toll the presidency took on President Mohammadu Buhari has shown that the Nigerian presidency is a very demanding job that a person with less than good health cannot withstand the rigours. Nigerian youths are in revolt after the end SARs debacle. Choosing a candidate that is too old will be a huge mistake and will not appeal to that demography that accounts for more than 50% of our population. It will be a costly miscalculation to assume that the youth is not a serious voting block going by their past antecedents. Times have changed and the youth have woken up. They now feel emboldened to confront their representatives. They are rejecting financial inducements to vote for a wrong candidate. They are watching over the poll result like a hawk to make sure their votes matter and count. Who knows how far they intend to take their newfound zeal. It is, therefore, important to realize that a path to an Igbo as president must take the youths into account.

 

Having looked extensively at what Igbo candidate should bring to the table, let us also briefly discuss the other factor.

 

  1. What Ndigbo Brings to the Table:

 

  1. Consensus Candidates: Nigeria is looking at Ndigbo to provide a consensus candidate that is acceptable to most of the country. According to INEC guidelines, party presidential candidates will emerge by May 2022. Given that scenario, it means that we have less than three to four months to produce an Igbo candidate. Igbo elders, intelligentsia and apex organizations must work hard to produce a consensus candidate in the next one month or maximum two. As soon as PDP zoned their party’s chairmanship position to the north, it took the North less than 2 weeks to produce a consensus candidate who was subsequently elected the chairman of the party. Ndigbo should follow the same playbook. Nigeria will not wait endlessly for Ndigbo to get their acts together. People have started to sound the alarm and warn Ndigbo of the impending calamity if they fail to act and fast too. Failure to get a consensus candidate promptly will open the opportunity to other zones to pick their candidates and capitalize on our division to deny us the opportunity to produce a president. The ball is in our court. Time is of the essence.
  2. Regional Alliance: While individual candidates may have their personally cultivated alliances over the years, Ndigbo collective regional alliance will help to bridge whatever deficiency our consensus candidate may have in regional alliance. It will be the responsibility of Ndigbo to fan out across Nigeria to sell the candidate.

 

  1. Mobilization: While Igbo candidate may not have the deep pocket to go toe to toe with some candidates from other zones to self-fund their campaign, it will be the responsibility of Igbo leaders to mobilize Ndigbo all over the world to fund the consensus candidate.

 

In conclusion, while it might not be possible to get a candidate that meets all the criteria listed above, a candidate that meets some of the core criteria like vision, integrity, restructuring, insecurity, local acceptance and a few more will be a possible path for an Igbo to win the presidency. Ndigbo ugo ebere la na mgbagbu.

 

Engr Ezenta Writes From Ontario, Canada


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