The meeting of South-east All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders last weekend re-echoes the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023, ANGELA NKWO-AKPOLU writes
As the 2023 elections draw nearer, there has been heightened calls for a president from Igbo extraction, albeit discussed in hush tones.
Already a former governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam hinted that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would zone the seat to the north, in a bid to reclaim power from the All Progressive Congress (APC), a statement which drew reaction from some chieftains of the party from the zone.
For Ndigbo, the main political actors are divided into three broad groups: those angling for a president of Igbo extraction; those clamouring for a restructuring of the country; and those seeking the declaration of a Sovereign State of Biafra.
As the ruling party, all attention is focused on the APC even as her stalwarts from Igbo land position themselves for the plum job, even while intrigues continue.
However as a caucus, the South-east leaders of the APC appear to have united without some key members to speak with one voice even as they fail to make it categorical.
Former Governors Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State appear to be non-aligned with the other South-east leaders of the APC, though it may not be exactly correct.
“South-east is witnessing a new dawn with the high performance of her leaders,” those were the words of former president of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, at the meeting of South East APC leaders held in Owerri, last week.
The meeting may have been a tacit response to the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction. Again it is to address the fears of Ndigbo that their representatives in the national caucus of the party were not asleep.
Leaders of the APC from the South-east stock met last weekend with a resolve to put their best feet forward as a people, irrespective of party lines.
The former president of the Senate, who doubles as the South-east leader in the APC National Caretaker Committee, Nnamani, assured that the party was united in the region more than ever before.
Others at the meeting were minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige; minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema; minister of State, Mines and Steel Development; Dr. Uche Ogah; minister of State, Education, Dr. Emeka Nwajiuba; and Sir Frank Ibezim.
Also in attendance were the deputy governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku, and the chairman of APC Imo State, Chief Marcellenus Nlemigbo, while others were excused.
At the meeting, the leaders debunked claims of marginalisation of Ndigbo, which according to them, is a mere speculation and the figment of imagination of those who are not well informed.
The meeting may have been a hint that the members are united and will provide solidarity for themselves.
According to Nnamani, the visit was to show solidarity to Governor Hope Uzodimma who is currently the only Igbo governor elected on the platform of the APC.
Nnamani said they did not only come to wish Governor Uzodimma well but to tell him they are impressed with what they saw on ground, “believing strongly that there is a lot of hope in the person Hope as the governor of Imo State”, a hint of a passmark.
Further, he enjoined the media to report positively and shun negativity in most cases, even as he reassured the people of Imo State, South East and APC that currently, “South East is witnessing a new dawn with the high performance of her leaders”.
Governor Hope Uzodimma viewed the meeting as a gate-way to integrate Ndigbo into the National political and socio-economic grid as well as the policy framework of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to him, the APC Igbo leaders in the South East are properly equipped to direct and guide the Igbos to ensure that whatsoever is due to them from the Federal Republic of Nigeria gets to them.
He hinted that the APC south east leaders were consulting to ensure that the South East embraces and integrates into what is coming from the Federal Government through proper alignment with its policies and programmes for the greater benefit of the people.
Though they did not confirm clamour for an Igbo President come 2023, Uzodimma said what should bother the Igbo is “Nigerian President of Igbo extraction and not Igbo President of Nigeria.” He added “South-east is part of Nigeria, South-east leaders exhibit all qualities and capabilities for good governance and as such believe that APC as the ruling party in Nigeria will make the right decision at the appropriate time”.
Dr. Chris Ngige who spoke on behalf of the South-east ministers who attended the meeting, maintained that the region enjoys effective representation, “getting what is due share for the South-east.”
Ngige listed projects, both completed and ongoing, which the South-east has benefitted from the APC-led government at the centre to include: the credit empowerment Scheme, the N-power project, Home School Feeding programme, East Coast Rail project running from Lagos-Benin-Onitsha-Nnewi to Owerri.
Further, he said that South-east is equally benefitting from the Sukuk Project which has resulted in the reconstruction of Enugu-Port Harcourt and Enugu-Onitsha express road, saying “As long as we are there, the South East and the Igbos in general will never lose any of their rights.”
The meeting may have ended but one thing is obvious, the APC stalwarts are united on one agenda, that the region is now more united than ever to work in the interest of the region and with the federal government. It is expected that more engagements will follow soon.
Yet, one cannot wish away the presence of Senators Orji Uzor Kalu and Rochas Okorocha in the new move for united voices, especially since Okorocha was the only Igbo Governor (as at then) who reached out to join APC.
Can the perceived non-alignment of these senators be considered a crack in the quest for Igbo inclusion for the office of the president, only the days ahead will prove if the leaders of thought are united or divided over their ambitions.