2015 Presidency: Igbo leaders sing discordant tunes

As the debate over the next zone to produce the president of Nigeria gathers momentum, Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, takes a look at the position and preparedness of the South-East zone to produce the country’s president in 2015.


When Dr. Dozie Ikedife, a former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, reportedly declared that Ndigbo will contest the 2015 presidential election only if President Goodluck Jonathan is not seeking reelection, little did he know he was fanning the ember of discord among the leaders and people of the South-East region.

Formed in 1976 by a group of eminent Igbos led by frontline legal luminary, Professor Ben Nwabueze, Ohaneze Ndigbo is seen as the umbrella body of all pan-Igbo organisations. As such, when its leaders talk, their utterances are usually taken very seriously within and outside the region.

As if not to leave anyone in doubt about its pro-Jonathan stance, Ohanaeze, speaking through its newly elected leadership confirmed Ikedife’s position recently, when it said it would go along with Jonathan’s decision to either run or not in 2015.

Addressing a maiden news conference in Lagos, the newly elected National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Tonnie Oganah, said the President was constitutionally empowered to seek re-election at the expiration of his tenure except he declined.

“After Jonathan’s tenure is completed either in 2015 or 2019, it will be the turn of the Igbo for the Presidency. What we are saying is that the Igbo, being a major player in the country, are entitled to the Presidency and it is their turn. If President Jonathan declines to run in 2015, it then makes it quicker for the Igbo. The bottom line is that an Igbo man will succeed Jonathan whether in 2015 or 2019,” Oganah said.

But just as politicians and other stakeholders across the country were beginning to see the pronouncement as the collective position of the South-East region on the forthcoming general election, dissenting voices started emerging from the region, suggesting that Ohaenaeze’s position may after-all be an unpopular one among Ndigbo.

Socio-political groups like the Ikenga, Igbo Mandate Group (IMG) and Njiko Igbo, have all come out to refute the claim by Ohanaeze that Ndigbo are willing to forfeit their presidential pursuit if President Jonathan is desirous of another term in office come 2015.

For Njiko Igbo, there is no going back on the quest to have a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2015. The group said majority of the people of the South-East are opposed to Ohanaeze’s support for Jonathan at the expense of what it called the collective dream of the Igbo people.

The acting National Publicity Secretary of the group and former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial aspirant in Imo State, Mr. Brady Nwosu, said the organisation’s position was in line with its objective to promote the place of the Igbo nation in the Nigerian project.

Nwosu said while the leaders of Njiko Igbo  believe in the corporate existence of Nigeria, they also believe there should be equity in the country, especially as it concerns the presidency of Nigeria.

“Right now, our brothers from Ijaw have already attained the presidency and we have not and the Igbo nation is a major political bloc.

“Our group believes that an Igbo man must become president in 2015. An Igbo has never been opportuned to be president of this country. It is our turn to produce the president in 2015,” Nwosu said.

But the Ohanaeze Ndigbo feels different. The group said there is no reason Ndigbo should be against Jonathan’s ambition in 2015. The organisation declared that it is not ready to obstruct the President’s quest for another term irrespective of how other stakeholders in the region view the development.

Acknowledging that the orgnisation shares the agitation for Igbo presidency, Oganah said they will expect political parties to have the Igbo Presidency in mind in selecting their flag bearers for the presidential election.

He said “all Ohanaeze and indeed the Igbos want is to get their fair share of leadership of the country. But such expectation is subject to the decision of President Jonathan to run or not to run in 2015.

“Either way, we are not against him. We will urge Nigerians to give him the necessary support needed to make life better for Nigerians until his tenure expires,” Oganah said.

But the Njiko Igbo would want the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to take stock of political development since the inception of the present democratic dispensation. The group said given that the South-East contributed substantially to the emergence of presidents from other geopolitical zones, it is imperative for the other zones to reciprocate by supporting an Igbo man to be Nigeria’s president in 2015.

Not to be left out of the raging controversy, the Oganiru Ndigbo Foundation recently distanced itself from calls on Jonathan to contest the 2015 election, warning those using the name of the Igbos for such pronouncements to desist or prepare to be ostracized.

The group said while Ndigbo are not at war with Jonathan, there is absolutely no reason, at this time, to endorse him or any other politician for 2015 election, especially as Ndigbo has already expressed interest in producing the next President of Nigeria in 2015.

“Whereas Ndigbo overwhelmingly supported the election of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 elections, we remain of the view that the President should not be distracted by relevance-seeking political jobbers with such calls, even when he is yet to deliver on his major promises to Ndigbo,” they said in a statement.

The statement was signed by Emeka Maduewesi (Leader), Uche Onuh Lucas (President-General), Maxi Okwu; Okey Igbokwe, Onyema Uche and Obichi Ikechi, on behalf of others.

They drew attention to Jonathan’s failures so far to honour promises made to the Igbos, including construction of the second Niger Bridge within his first tenure; to convert Enugu Airport to an international hub; and to give roads in the South-East urgently needed attention within his current tenure.

“As at today, none of these promises have been fulfilled,” the statement said.  “Second Niger Bridge is still in the “drawing board” and no international flight has yet landed or taken off from Enugu Airport. South-East roads remain the worst in the country.

They also contended that in the sharing of national resources, Ndigbo are yet to get any favors from the Jonathan regime.

“No single refinery out of the six promised by Jonathan is located in the South – East even though three South-East states, Abia, Imo and now Anambra are oil producing states,” they said. “Revenue allocation is heavily skewed against Igbo states with one state receiving more monthly allocation than all the five South-East states.

Commenting on the debate, Presidential adviser on inter party relations, Senator Ben Obi, said it is proper for the Igbos to wait for President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision on whether to run or not before taking their own decision on the 2015 presidential race.

The senator, who spoke in Awka during the week, observed that although some individuals and organisations had insisted that the Igbo were already working towards taking over from Jonathan in 2015, there is need for them to allow the president to make his intention known first.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo, of which I am a caucus member, has said it loud and clear that it is the turn of Ndigbo to produce the president in 2015. Indeed, we are highly interested in the 2015 presidency, but that is if President Jonathan decides not to run. If, eventually he decides to run, then Ndigbo will have to consider the situation and weigh the options. I do not have any right to question the decision of Ohanaeze to insist on presenting a candidate because the group has a leadership which we all follow.”

Obi said it is the duty of the leadership of Ndigbo to champion the cause of the people, while other people he described as foot soldiers would join, adding that when the leaders do not make the much needed move, others would have nothing to do.

But former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, is of the opinion that Ndigbo should be allowed to provide leadership for Nigeria and Nigerians in 2015. Kalu said anyone who would emerge president from the South-East would have dynamic leadership qualities that could turn around the economy.

He said that Ndigbo, having excelled in various fields of endeavour, with qualified people who can bring their vast experiences in the private and public sectors into play if given the chance to rule the nation, should be given the nod to rule the country.

Given the ongoing scenarios in the region and the expectation that more organisations and individuals will soon join the fray, Nigerians are waiting with keen interest to see what will become of this renewed aspiration for the presidency on the part of the South-East region.