2019: How far can Ndigbo go?

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THEO RAYS previews the forthcoming 2019 general election and argues that for Ndigbo to make something out of the election and Nigeria generally, they must learn to participate actively in the political process.

Whatever you sow, you reap – Holy Bible

It is no longer news that Ndigbo were not part of the process that produced MuhammaduBuhari as President of Nigeria. This is because they did not vote for Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 election. Neither is it news that Buhari, perceiving democracy as a winner-takes-all slugfest, completely leftNdigboout of his administration as his payback for that lack of support from Ndigbo. Indeed, only that Buhari did not give Ndigbo appointments, he also did not execute meaningful development projects in the Igbo South East.

Nearing the end of his first four years in office, Buhari’s only clear-cut project in the South East, which people can point at is the on-going haphazard rehabilitation of Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, being done with Sukuk fund.

The second Niger Bridge project, which the present government inherited from its immediate predecessor, is yet to see the light of the day. After claiming that over 40% of the project has completed, the federal government announced the release of fund for the project to start afresh!

Observers say that what the federal government is doing withthe Second Niger Bridge project is more like the more you look, the less you see. I his comment, an observer, Chief Pius Anaekwe accused the federal government of outright dilly dallying as there is no concrete action towards completion of the project.

“They told us that the project was almost half-way done, the next thing we heard was the release of fund by Federal Executive Council, (FEC). The announcement was contrary to our expectations. What we expected is the announcement of date for commissioning of the project,” he contended.

Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Anambra State branch, Comrade Vincent Ezekwem, described the FEC announcement as a “cheap gimmick” for 2019 from APC, which, according to him, is aimed at drawing the attention of the South East to APC.

Comrade Ezekwem is of the opinion that the release of money for the bridge project now is rather too late on the side of APC government and whether the money is used for the purpose of completion of the project, it is not enough to convince the South East towards APC in 2019.

Indeed, the Second Niger Bridge, restructuring of Nigeria as being championed by OhanezeNdigbo, Igbo Vice President and Igbo Presidency in 2023 will characterise the campaign of APC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and coalition groups in the South East, for the 2019 polls. Be that as it may, Ndigbowho have, to a very large extent, been marginalised by the present administration, have to use their tongues to count their teeth asthey prepare to face the 2019 electoral battle. The above four campaign points are critical to the South East and, therefore, cannot be over-emphasised.

The question now is, how far can Ndigbo go in 2019? What are their prospects in the 2019 general election? It is clear that all the six geo-political zones in Nigeria hope to use the 2019 polls to advance their political interests.

However, what will determine the fate of each zone is what the people of the zone could do to sow into the election. Ndigbo, therefore, will have to work hard to sow massively into the election by mobilizing enough votes for their preferred candidates in the presidential and National Assembly elections.

The first and most important task for Ndigbo ahead of 2019 is for political leaders in the zone to educate every adult Igbo person, both at home and elsewhere in Nigeria, on the need to develop interest in politics and accept it as part of his responsibilities to himself and society.

Ndigbo believe so much in self-help–money, personal achievements and things like that and while these are positive attributes, nobody goes very far in politics believing that these are the only things that matter.

The people should be made to understand that the environment, where they live and do business, is shaped by political leaders. The traders at Onitsha Main Market, Ariaria Aba or NkwoNnewi should be made to understand that the prices of goods they import from China or the ones they buy from Lagos, including the ones they manufacture themselves, are determined by what political leaders do in office.

Parents should be told with a loud voice that the quality of education of their children largely depends on the programmes of those who are manning positions of authority. Farmers, market women, youth, artisans, mechanics, vulcanisers, among others, should be made to know that the chances of having food on their table, electricity, pipe-borne water or boreholes, good roads and jobs depend on what political office holders do.

Poor participation in politics is part of the problem of Ndigbo in Nigeria. In most cases, traders at Onitsha Main Market don’t know the name of Onitsha North Local Government Area Chairman.

Political participation involves knowing what the politicians and their political parties do, being aware of what is happening in the system, being part of the processes, being a registered member of a political party, having the voter’s card in your pocket and making out time to attend political meetings, making contributions and endeavouring to come out and vote on election day.

In democracy, power belongs to the people but unless the people know the nitty-gritty of democracy, they cannot be in a position to reap the benefits of democracy. Igbo political leaders should go to the mountain if mountain does not go to them by going after the people at their doorsteps in schools, markets, churches, palaces, town hall meetings, village square meetings, club meetings, civil society meetings, meetings of corporate organisations, professional bodies, youth groups and women meetings to educate them on politics and politicking ahead of 2019.

The second task before South East political leaders is to avoid the mistakes made by PDP leaders in 2015. Political observers allege that in 2015 PDP, leaders both in the Southeast, South South and South West along with other stakeholders mismanaged the campaign fund released by former President Goodluck Jonathan for mobilising the electorate in the 2015 election. Observers allege that most PDP leaders pocketed the money along with the rice, clothes and other campaign materials meant for mobilisation of the electorate in 2015.

According to observers, while APC supporters were busy donating cash and yam to raise fund and mobilising the electorate including under-aged voters in various parts of the north to vote for Buhari, Jonathan’s supporters were busy diverting money for personal purposes. Some of them who are facing corrupt charges for diverting campaign fund in 2015 denied that they were given anything during campaign.

An observer and current affairs analyst, Dr EjikeNwangwu is of the view that Buhari couldn’t have won the 2015 polls if the money released by Jonathan to mobilise votes was properly used.

Going into the election of next year, Igbo political leaders along with church leaders, traditional rulers, town unions and market leaders should endeavour to be selfless in managing campaign fund. As the 2019 election approaches, it is not out of place to point out that most of the above listed leaders have targeted some personal projects for execution with campaign fund. After mismanaging the campaign, they will end up attacking Buhari for not giving appointments to Ndigbo.

Easily among prominent Igbo personalities who can be said to have the interests of Ndigbo at heart are Chief ChekwasOkorie and Chief RommyEzeonwuka. Both have at different times vehemently argued that Ndigbo are not, have never been and will never bea minority tribe or region in Nigeria. Both Okorie and Ezeonwuka are of the view that considering the fact that the Igbo are the second largest population in every State in Nigeria after the indigenes, the South East can’t be a minority region in country.

Analysts say the prospects of 2019 are favourable to the South East but the possibilities of transforming them into reality lies on the level of political participation most especially the amount of votes the people can unleash into the ballot box during the polls. Both Second Niger Bridge, Igbo Vice Presidency in 2019, 2023 Presidency and restructuring are possible and they are not too much for the Southeast as dividends of democracy. Igbo leaders should, therefore, weigh the APC and PDP options to ascertain the most favourable among them.

Under Buhari, APC has said no to restructuring. So,Ndigbo should not vote for Buhari if they wish to continue to clamour for and possibly achieverestructuring. The issue of Igbo Presidency 2023 as being mooted by some Igbo APC leaders cannot be trusted because the proponents are not strong enough in APC to have their way.

One of the proponents of Igbo APC Presidency in 2023 such as the Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha is struggling to find his feet in the party. Governor Okorocha has said that it is his turn to occupy Aso Rock in 2023 but how he intends to achieve it only he knows.

Okorocha’s interest and the permutations of other Igbo APC leaders notwithstanding, the proponents of Igbo Presidency under APC in 2023 should have it at the back of their mind that they have a super force from the South West led by the national leader of the party Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to contend with.

It won’t be easy to convince or wrestle the Presidential ticket of APC from Tinubu and co who were the brain behind the birth of the party and have remained loyal and committed to the party to the extent of winning two more additional States of Ondo and Ekiti for the party.

Those who are preaching Igbo 2023 Presidency under APC should first of all deliver the five southeast States to the party by electing the governors of Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo under the platform of the party in 2019.

And then ensure that Governor Willie of Anambra State also converts Anambra to APC or at worst deliver Anambra votes to the party. Moreso, they have to ensure that enough members of the National Assembly from Igbo land are elected under the platform of the party. By doing this, they will be in a stronger position to wrestle the APC Presidency in 2023 from their rivals.

On the other hand, the PDP, which has signed a memorandum of understanding with R-APC led by Senate President and other 37 political parties to field one presidential candidate, is said to be dangling Igbo Vice President and restructuring to the South East zone.

Igbo PDP big shots such as the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and former Governor of Anambra State Mr Peter Obi are said by political observers to be the leading choice for running mate for the PDP leading presidential aspirants such as former Vice President AtikuAbubakar and Senate President, Senator BukolaSaraki.

Atiku is said to be eyeing Peter Obi as running mate while Saraki is interested in his second in command in the Senate, Senator Ekweremadu as running mate for the 2019 race. In addition to Vice President and restructuring, PDP will likely completethe Second Niger Bridge if elected back to Aso Rock in 2019. It will make a good story for the party to finish the project it started in 2014 or thereabout at the expense of APC, which may have wobbled and fumbled on the project for four good years.

The 2019 ball is in the court of Ndigbo to make a choice between APC and PDP and in so doing pump in votes into the ballot box. The issue of massive participation of Ndigbo in 2019 general election doesn’t border on the agitation of Biafra. Agitation for Biafra too calls for political awareness and participation among the Igbo. To secure or restore Biafra, Ndigbo have to conquer Nigeria and its allies through stronger participation in politics in all its ramifications.