NDIGBO AND 2015
The quest to produce a president of Igbo extraction has become a common feature in the build up to every Nigerian election season, and the year 2015 is not expected to be any different. Already, there have been calls by notable Igbos on the need for the South East political zone to produce the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Tongues are already beginning to wag on who among the Igbos has the interest and aspirations of the Nigerian plum job.
The truth remains that the Presidency has eluded the Igbos since after the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the first President of Nigeria. Ever since then, the Igbos have continued to play supporting roles in Nigeria's political drama. To achieve the highest political office in the country, one may be tempted to ask, what efforts are the current Igbo leaders making? And more expediently, who could be the expected gladiators in this quest? Let us take a look.
Governor Rochas Governor Okorocha: Rochas is the charismatic and a rising superstar governor of Imo State. His philanthropic liberality and demonstrated exploits have endeared him to the hearts and minds of the people of Imo State in particular as well as across tribal and religious divides in general. Those were the ingredients that enabled him to cause what has been described as a political earthquake in Imo State in the last governorship election.
His popularity and grassroots' mobilization proved too powerful for an incumbent Governor, Ikedi Ohakim, to contain. But regional mass support has not always translated to electoral support in Nigeria (a good example was late Awolowo), especially for a candidate from an opposition party to the ruling behemoth, PDP. And if the truth be told, the opposition as a whole still has a long way to go before it could be taken seriously in any quest for the Nigerian Presidency. Moreover, Rochas has served only one year as a governor and is still far from actualizing his campaign promises to the people. This Johnny just come status in the public executive cadre plus his current non-PDP affiliation put his possible aspirations in some question. Rochas, in short, is still a work in progress but a good one to watch.
Governor Sullivan Chime: Chime is the current Governor of Enugu State. He engineered the PDP juggernaut that decisively won virtually every seat of government in elections held in Enugu State within the past 2 years. The Governor has a track record of overcoming daunting political onslaughts, and hopefully this will embolden him when he decides to take a shot at the Nigerian Presidency. If records and political tactical firepower are anything to go by, Chime has so far positioned himself as the most feasible Igbo presidential candidate.
As a sitting Governor of Enugu State, the capital of old Eastern Nigeria, the epicenter of Igbo land and the purest PDP real estate east of the Niger, Chime seems to be the only Igbo politician who has laid a serious groundwork for 2015 considering the obvious fact that the last two Presidents have been former PDP governors. Governor Chime appears to have the resources necessary to sustain a serious Presidential campaign. The Governor is said to have well-oiled political machinery which can line up potential boosters from a broad spectrum of political and traditional leaders across Nigeria. Whatever he may lack in pizzazz, he makes up for in good luck, opportunism, location and perhaps, momentum. But, The Governor has some obvious hurdles to scale should he plan on contesting for the Nigerian Presidency in 2015. Critics worry that he lacks the political deftness cum gravitas needed to govern Nigeria, as evidenced by his nonstop battles with virtually every political who is who from his state.
Senator Ken Nnamani: The former Senate President is a viable candidate for the Presidency and has the moral audacity and the experience to lead Nigeria. Senator Nnamani's popularity and credentials in the national politics of Nigeria soared very high after as the Senate President he helped scuttle President Obasanjo's ambition to foist his third term agenda on the Nigerian Nation. But that was then. Nevertheless, the Senator has managed to make himself a household name in all the corners of Nigerian politics. However, his later association with IBB, who is widely known for his cancellation of the June 12, 1993 elections that was judged in some quarters as one of the fairest elections so far in the country, will always be viewed as a betrayal by some of his potential admirers and would be supporters. Besides, the current jury verdict on Ken is that he may lack the resources, hutzpah and wherewithal necessary for the execution of a serious presidential run, but time and efforts will tell.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu: This amiable and photogenic Enugu state born politician is the Deputy Senate President and can occupy Aso Rock, if given the chance. He is dynamic and profoundly intellectual. He also has the resources and broad national connections that can assist to propel him to winning the Presidency. However, Ekweremadu is viewed with suspicion among some South easterners in general and some Igbos in particular. Critics portray him as a self- centered politician and some even describe him as a well lubricated wind vane.
His friends and associates defend him religiously and contend that he has been misunderstood and unfairly characterized. Further, since he is also from Enugu State, Ekweremadu first has to contend with the wishes of his state governor, who has shown more overt commitments to the 2015 Presidential project. Political observers are still guessing who will be vanquished if and when Senator Ekweremadu gets into a political contest with his state Governor who has an intimidating resume of always standing whether the dust settles or not.
Governor Peter Obi: As a two-time Governor, Obi has impeccable credentials to aspire for the Nigerian Presidency. He is a dogged politician, has the needed resources, and can fight the fight. In fact, Governor Obi can fight any fight to a logical conclusion. Also significant is the reported closeness between the Governor and the current occupant of Aso Rock. Yet, Obi's challenges regarding any quest for the Presidency remain daunting. To begin with, the jury is still out regarding the Governor's handling of the political capital and/or mandate that was given to him by the people of Anambra State in 2003.
Obi won the Governorship of Anambra State flying the Flag of his current Party, APGA. Since assuming office, he has not apparently done much to direct or develop the Party. In sum however, Governor Obi cannot be taken lightly by any standards. Should Governor Obi decide to enter the Presidential sweepstakes, it will be interesting to watch him maneuver once more from a State that is filled with political lions, tigers, foxes and lambs. The biggest obstacle for Governor Obi is that like Rochas Okorocha, he is not a member of the PDP.
Senator Pius Anyim: This Ebonyi State born politician shot into political limelight in Nigeria in 2003 when he won a seat in the Senate and subsequently became the Senate President. Anyim seems to have a rich pedigree.
The former Senate President is currently the Secretary to the Federal Government. Most importantly, he is viewed by some as independent minded and trustworthy. However, like other Igbo Senate leaders before and after him, Anyim has little or nothing to show the Igbos for the years he was at the helm. Also, it is believed that any chancy moves on his part can irritate his current boss, President Jonathan, whose second term agenda and plans for 2015 remain unclear. Senator Pius Anyim may find it difficult to bite the fingers that appear to be feeding him.
All things considered, the year 2015 remains a challenge for the Igbos in the Nigerian Presidential quest. In the turbulent political landscape of Nigeria, laced with political landmines, achieving the Igbo Presidency will not come on a platter of gold. Thus, it is absolutely incumbent on every prospective Igbo leader to make the desired efforts to ensure that no stone is left unturned from now till the Nigerian Presidency returns to the southeast after eluding the zone for over 50 years. There is no question that the Igbos can achieve this desired objective with a concerted effort, and there may be no better time than 2015.
Onwuchekwe writes from USA.