Every day the quest for the South East presidency is becoming clearer and clearer to some doubting Thomases and Joneses on why the major political parties ought to zone the presidency to the only zone yet to get the plum post since 1999 when this present political dispensation came on board. The argument is becoming persuasive and convincing that the best way to go in 2023 is to allow Ndigbo of the South East to produce the next Nigerian president and heal the wounds of past political exclusion and ostracization.

Apart from Maj-Gen Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi’s short military rule of January 15 to July 29, 1966, no Igbo man has ruled Nigeria from 1960 when Britain allowed us to preside over our political affairs to 2023. At independence, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi State became the Prime Minister until the first military coup of January 15, 1966, which Aguiyi foiled and became the first military ruler of Nigeria. His regime was brutally terminated on July 29, 1966 by the counter coup which brought Gen. Yakubu Gowon into power.

Gowon’s assumption of power witnessed massive killings of Southerners, especially Igbo and other people from Eastern Region. With opposition to Gowon’s ascension to power on account subverting seniority in the military, Nigeria witnessed months of political instability which led to utter confusion, anarchy and massive lawlessness until Ojukwu declared Eastern Region independent of Nigeria in 1967 with the new name of Republic of Biafra. After many futile peace talks in Aburi, Ghana, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and other countries in Africa the Nigeria/Biafra civil war started in 1967 and ended in 1970, with much carnage and destruction of Eastern Region.

Not less than 3 million Ndigbo were killed during the war. Gowon from Plateau State ruled Nigeria from 1966 to 1975 when he regime was overthrown in a military coup led by Gen. Murtala Muhammaed. Muhammed ruled till 1976 when he too was killed following the aborted coup led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo succeeded Muhammed and ruled Nigeria as a military head of state from 1976 to 1979 when Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected the first executive president of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, Shagari’s government was toppled by Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari in 1983. In another coup of 1985, Buhari’s regime was overthrown and Gen Ibrahim Babangida assumed power. Following the protests that greeted the annulled June 12 1993 election won by MKO Abiola, Babangida stepped aside and set up the Interim National Government(ING) of Ernest Shonekan which was also shoved aside almost immediately by Gen. Sani Abacha. Nigeria came under Abacha’s despotic rule until his death in 1998 when Gen. Abdusalami Abaubakar assumed power and returned the country to multiparty democracy on May 29, 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became the President to assuage the South West for the annulment of June 12 election won by Abiola, their kinsman. President Umaru Yar’Adua became the president in 2007 after eight years of Obasanjo. Sadly Yar’Adua died in office three years into his rule and his deputy Dr. Goodluck Jonathan took over and ruled Nigeria till 2015 when Buhari won the election. Now that Buhari is concluding his eight years rule in May 2023, is it not fair fellow Nigerians that power which naturally is zoned to the South should of right and equity and justice be given or be zoned to the South East going by the ongoing analysis as well as history of Nigeria’s leadership whether in military or democratic rule?

If the truth must be told, the facts available are in favour of a Nigerian president of South east extraction or what some have labeled the Igbo presidency. This is indeed one Igbo project or Igbo problem which Nigeria must not shy away from. In The Trouble with Nigeria, Chinua Achebe wrote, “A distinguished political scientist from a “minority” area of the south pronounced some years ago that Nigeria has an Igbo problem. Every ethnic group is of course something of a problem for Nigeria’s easy achievement of cohesive nationhood.”

While Nigeria has addressed the problems of some other ethnic groups to a very large extent, that of the Igbo is left unaddressed as if it does not exist. In 1999, Nigeria rose from its slumber and addressed the political neglect and humiliation of the South West arising from the unwarranted annulment of June 12 election won by Abiola. In the same manner, Nigeria must strive to heal the wounds of the civil war and Igbo exclusion from Aso Rock by ceding the 2023 presidency to Ndigbo of South East. It is as simple as that and it is doable. But some Nigerians, because of greed and vaulting political ambition and avarice are complicating the issue and erecting walls of complexity around it.

In Democracy Matters, The New York Times Bestseller, Cornel West wrote, “The fight for democracy has ever been one against the oppressive and racist corruptions of empire. To focus solely on electoral politics as the site of democratic life is myopic. Such a focus fails to appreciate the crucial role of the underlying moral commitments and visions of fortifications of the soul that empower and inspire a democratic way of living in the world.” Although West spoke specifically to American democracy with its racist undertones, he could as well be speaking about other democracies, including those in Nigeria and other African nations where tribal domination is rife. On the hypocrisy of American democracy, West wrote poignantly that “The American democratic experiment is unique in human history not because we are God’s chosen people to lead the world, nor because we are always a force for good in the world, but because of our refusal to acknowledge the deeply racist and imperial roots of our democratic project. We are exceptional because of our denial of the antidemocratic foundation stones of American democracy.” It appears that West had Nigeria in mind when he wrote these eloquent lines that spoke to Nigerian democracy. Where he put race or racist, we can substitute with tribe and tribalistic. Nigerian politics since independence has been overtly defined by tribe and to some extent religion. This is one issue some Nigerians failed to acknowledge.  Another troubling feature of Nigerian democracy is the monetization of the process now that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is selling its presidential nomination form for a whopping N100 million while the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sells its presidential form for N40 million. While it is good to have many political aspirants for the 2023 presidential titanic contest, if it holds at all, the mad rush of every John, Iniobong, Ekaete, Bola, Ngozi, Amina, Musa, Segun and Emeka and Caro into the race is a cause for worry. Where are they getting the colossal N100 million and N40 million to purchase the nomination forms? I hope EFCC officials are keenly watching the development as well as the NDLEA operatives.

However, it is encouraging that the South East presidency project is getting more support with each passing day. Despite those who are yet to be converted to be part of this project aimed at further uniting the nation, it is gratifying to note the notable contributions of elder statesman and a Chieftain of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Edwin Clark, the leader of Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the leader of Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Poju Bitrus and others.

These patriotic Nigerians have said it loud and clear that it is the turn of the South East region to produce the next Nigerian president in 2023. Let other regions emulate the good stand of these eminent Nigerians. Nigerian will be better off with a president of South East extraction now than ever before. Nigeria is broken and it needs men who can mend it. And to further cement the Southern unity, all other presidential aspirants from the South should subsume their ambitions to the South East presidency project.

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