2023: Scramble For VP, Suspicion Rock South East

• If We Are Not Careful, We May End Up With VP Slot – Okonkwo

• We Are Thankful To Kalu For Premiering Bi-partisan Meeting – SEFORP

• Movement For Actualising President Of South East Extraction In 2023 Has Begun – Okorie

• It’s South East’s Turn To Produce President – Osita Okechukwu

Betrayals, disunity, mutual distrust, and backstabbing appear to have started diffusing the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction come 2023 going by signals emanating from the zone.

Specifically, vested interests, as well as the lack of synergy/unity of purpose among political elite from the region, many insist, would be Ndigbo’s greatest undoing as far as South East landing the plum job is concerned.

Within the last two weeks, three stakeholders’ meetings have taken place with each of them glossing over critical issues relating to making the aspiration feasible.

After All Progressives Congress (APC) stakeholders from the zone met in Owerri, Imo State on December 30, 2020, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its zonal caucus meeting in Awka, Anambra State, followed by a bi-partisan leaders’ meeting at Camp Neya, Kalu’s country home in Igbere, Abia State.

The separate meetings brought together different camps aligned for dissimilar purposes, such that each group was seen as working across purposes with the other regarding the Igbo presidency project.

Peeved by the attempt to railroad them into the bi-partisan meeting convened by the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the southeast Governors Forum (SEGF) led by APC chieftain and governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, declined attendance.

While the governors boycotted the zonal bi-partisan meeting, they held a zoom conference where they not only dissociated themselves from the Igbere parley, but also condemned the inclusion of their names as conveners when they were not invited to the meeting.

The governors’ standoff energised speculations that the bi-partisan meeting was a scheme by National Assembly members from the zone to chart a different path to the Igbo Presidency, even as sources alleged that the meeting was Kalu’s scheme to promote a possible Ahmed Lawan Presidency that would have him as vice-presidential candidate.

In the notice of the meeting, Kalu, former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, and governors of the five South East states were listed as conveners.

According to the organisers, who disclosed that the meeting was to kick off by midday, the event was to provide a platform for members of the APC, PDP, APGA, and other political parties to put their ideas on the table.

HOWEVER, Umahi, who spoke to journalists shortly after the virtual meeting, explained that the governors were not part of those that planned, or convened the bi-partisan meeting, and regretted that their names were included as conveners without their permission.

“The Governors of South East frown at such attitude and would want to disassociate themselves from such a meeting. If there should be such a meeting, which they feel is very necessary, the governors must be seen to be informed and be part and parcel of calling such a meeting. They strongly feel that Ohanaeze is in a position to speak on such issues.

“So, they want to say that the governors are not involved and they encouraged all their people to boycott such a meeting,” he stated.

Besides the South East governors’ grouse, some stakeholders in the zone are suspicious that the meeting was far from actualising the dream of the South East, but limited to the personal political interests of the conveners.

The aggrieved stakeholders equally question the wisdom behind holding such an important meeting at Kalu’s residence, and not in one of the government facilities scattered across the zone. Additionally, they also question the failure to carry along several other leaders in the zone.

“I am not an apostle of doom, but I have my sincere doubts about the intentions of those who convened the Igbere meeting. If they were not interested in what they would personally gain, I doubt what could have prompted them to call the meeting,” Chief Ikechukwu Okonkwo, a social critic said, adding: “The truth is that none of them is interested in becoming president. They will prefer to play behind another candidate and that is the sympathy they are trying to build in the guise of asking for an Igbo president. It is such that, if we are not careful, we may end up achieving the vice-presidential slot in 2023 as a result of the activities of our leaders.”

Okonkwo cautioned the people to be mindful of what he described as “mad rush” into the ruling party by southeast politicians, stressing that, “each of them that has moved from one party to another has done so because there is a promise of what to become in 2023.”

Justifying his position that those at the Igbere meeting had only a personal agenda to push in 2023, he said: “How come none of them has indicated interest to vie for the presidency? How come they are waiting until political parties cede their tickets to the South East? Has Tinubu hidden his intentions to run in 2023? Has he not been engaging in consultations across the country? It may even interest you to know that the assemblage may have people working for him.”

He continued: “Time has come for Ndigbo to decide what they want from the country. It is these leaders that we are looking up to lead the way and position Igbo appropriately in the scheme of things. The earlier they realise that they cannot play second fiddle forever, the better for the people of the southeast zone.”

BUT for the National Coordinator of the southeast for Presidency 2023 Movement (SEFORP2023), Rev. Okechukwu Obioha, more of such meetings should be encouraged as “it has made the campaigns of our group lighter.

“We are thanking Kalu for premiering this wonderful meeting and thanking the leaders for accepting the message that SEFORP has been propagating in the last two years. That meeting has put a cap on efforts that we have made so far and has given us confidence that our labour has not been in vain, and if our people have accepted us, then we can now launch out fully.”

Obioha added that SEFORP stood to benefit from the meeting as attendees “adopted our message that the two political parties should cede their presidential slots to the South East. So, this is one of the success stories of our campaigns, and it makes it lighter for us, and the leaders of our geopolitical zone to come together despite their ideologies and pursuits. It is a good omen. We are also asking them that since SEFORP has large followership in Nigeria, and in the Diaspora, the time has come for the group to be invited to such meetings.”

THE National Chairman of the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, while reacting to the allegation that Ndigbo has never agreed on any issue, and that the quest for the presidency in 2023 was already creating fault lines, said such posture was most uncharitable.

He said: “There has never been a time in our recent history that the people of the southeast geopolitical zone have demonstrated the unity of purpose on a common cause, as being done on the 2023 South East’s bid for the presidency.

“The meeting that held at Igbere, in Abia State on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, across party lines was unprecedented and a major milestone in the annals of the southeast political journey in Nigeria. Some critical stakeholders, in obvious overreaction, took out an advertisement in a national newspaper to distance themselves from the meeting on the grounds that they did not know the agenda of the meeting. It is possible that the conveners fell short in certain aspects of consultations that they made. This notwithstanding, the meeting was a monumental success. The communiqué released at the end of the meeting established the fact that the objective of the meeting was noble, altruistic, and not designed to promote the political aspiration of any one person. I am convinced that subsequent meetings will even be more successful as noticed lapses, especially in terms of consultation, adequate notice, and publicity will be taken care of. We need everybody on board. The important thing is that a movement to actualise the Nigerian President of southeast extraction in 2023 has begun. I am profoundly proud to be part of it.”

THE President, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative (ISPHRI), Comrade Osmond Ugwu, in his remarks said: “If there is any insinuation to the effect that the South East is not speaking with one voice, such insinuation may be emanating from mischievous politicians from the other divide to discredit genuine aspiration of the Igbo people. In the alternative, such insinuation might be coming from some Igbo brothers from the South-South, who are positioning themselves to take over the position if the major parties eventually zone the office to the Igbo nationality in Nigeria.”

THE Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, who said he was not opposed to the unity of Igbo people, however, stressed that it was a difficult thing for the people of the zone to be united on an issue, stressing that no ethnic grouping in Nigeria had ever being united on issues concerning them.

“For instance, I am one of the followers of President Buhari. From inception, to be sincere, he never had the support of a large segment of the northern elite in the four elections spanning 2003 to 2015. His base was mainly the Talakawas or the masses. I am also aware that when His Excellency, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of blessed memory was running for the presidency, he didn’t enjoy the support of all northerners. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s love loss with the Yoruba is legendary. Hence no reference to hang on, as Chief M.K.O. Abiola of the blessed memory defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa in Kano.

“Accordingly, no pundit should fly the kite that Ndigbo will not produce Nigeria president of Igbo extraction because we are not united. And let no one buy in such bogey. It’s trite that when you want to deny a child his ripe apple you may concoct one excuse or the other. The truism is that it is our turn. And this will put paid to the issue of marginalisation. Our agitation in simplicita is premised on the zoning convention that commenced in 1999, which was based on equity, natural justice, and good conscience so as to engender national unity. All we are saying is that our baby should be treated like other babies to give Ndigbo a sense of belonging. We are true patriots that live and invest in all the nooks and crannies of our dear country. We have never presided over Nigeria from Aso Rock Villa. Given the opportunity, we will transform the country into a progressive state. Other Nigerians can choose whosever Igbo they like whether their girlfriend or boyfriend. We cannot impose anyone on Nigerians. It has to be people’s choice. That’s my humble position,” Okechukwu stressed.

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